We are up to the WTA Cincinnati quarterfinals. Who will win at the Western & Southern Open on Friday? Here are our thoughts.
WTA Cincinnati Quarterfinal Predictions
Ashleigh Barty vs Maria Sakkari
Head-to-Head Record: 2-1
Both of these players had a real battle to make it to this quarterfinal showdown. Barty sneaked past Anett Kontaveit 7-5 in the third, whilst Sakkari had to come from a set and 4-1 down to defeat Aryna Sabalenka.
Barty came into this tournament needing much more time on court to prepare for an assault on Flushing Meadows, but I don’t think that a tight, stressful fight in the third round is what she had in mind. Both players in that match were making errors and the Australian will need to improve on that performance if she is to progress here.
The Greek, however, will have been delighted with her form. She won a huge percentage of points behind her serve, 81% on the first and an equally impressive 55% behind her second service. She faced only five break points whilst creating 23 chances against the usually dominant Sabalenka serve.
If Sakkari can replicate the level she produced against Sabalenka then she could win this match, and win it comfortably. Barty has a way of throwing people off their rhythm though, as she did to the Greek in Australia at the beginning of the year.
However, Barty has continued to look a little rusty for my liking and I think that Sakkari won’t give her too many looks at breakpoints, so there may be an upset on the cards here.
Prediction: Sakkari in 3
Karolina Pliskova vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Head-to-Head Record: 1-2
Last round, Pliskova took down the tenacious Swede Rebecca Peterson in straight sets. The Czech had to rely substantially on that powerful first serve to dig her out of some tricky situations as her points win percentage after a second serve was a miserable 35%.
It is great to see Kuznetsova returning to a good level of form. She always seems to want to take to the Flushing Meadows courts in decent shape if she can after her wonderful win there way back in 2004. She blitzed Sloane Stephens for the loss of just three games in the third round. Stephens could only hold serve once from eight attempts as Kuznetsova took her serve to pieces, winning 63% of the points off the American’s delivery.
It would be highly surprising if the Russian veteran could do that to Pliskova’s serve. If Pliskova can get on top in her own service games then I could see her forehand making some inroads into the Kuznetsova serve and grinding out a tough win.
Prediction: Pliskova in 2
Naomi Osaka vs Sofia Kenin
Head-to-Head Record: 1-1
Osaka will be delighted to have gotten through past such an awkward opponent as Su-Wei Hsieh in the previous round. It was a long three-setter but it would have served as excellent preparation for the US Open title defense upon which the Japanese is about to embark.
Kenin defeated Elina Svitolina in straight sets in the third round after failing to serve the match out. This is typical of the competitive mindset that seems to be a key component of Kenin’s rise through the rankings in 2019. She can never be counted out of a match.
The serve of both players could play a huge role here. Osaka sent down 15 aces without a double fault against Hsieh, which is practically four games won from one shot alone. In constrast, Kenin only had one ace but seven doubles against Svitolina. That’s a huge deficit that Kenin would have to make up through other means and could give Osaka an unassailable advantage.
The American though does seem to have ways of getting under her opponent’s skin and unsettling them and the serve alone won’t be enough for Osaka. She will need her heavy groundstrokes to penetrate to dominate the rallies.
Neither player will dominate for the whole match and it could come down to key points here and there. If this is the case then Kenin has a real shot at causing an upset. I give her a real shot at it.
Prediction: Kenin in 3
Venus Williams vs Madison Keys
Head-to-Head Record: 2-2
I don’t mind saying that I am a little surprised that Venus has made it to this stage. Although I should have known that a woman with such talent, pride, and will-to-win was never going to give it up. Donna Vekic had dominated in the previous round but Venus dug deep to mount a comeback from a set down.
Madison Keys is looking like she is back to the form that we all know she is capable of. Her run in this tournament alone has seen her beat Grabine Muguruza, Daria Kasatkina and, in the last round, Simona Halep. She was simply superb in the opening set of the Halep match and also showed great determination to close the match out in a couple of epic games at the end of the match.
What stood out from the previous round is how well Venus played on return and on her second serve. Undoubtedly she will need her first serve to perform much better to stand a chance against Keys, although historically Keys isn’t a great returner.
It feels like I’m against Venus in every round so far but she continues to surprise me. I am against her again here as I believe that Madison Keys is showing a new level to her 2019 game here in Cincinnati and that determination and quality can better Venus in this quarterfinal.
Prediction: Keys in 3
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Disagree with our WTA Cincinnati Quarterfinal Predictions? As always, feel free to leave your own WTA Cincinnati quarterfinal thoughts in the comments.