The colder than usual temperatures in Houston sent heavily-clad players to the court at the WTA Challenger event. With a daytime high in the mid-40s, and a cold wind blowing at 14 mph, the weather was as challenging as the opponents.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands came through with a straight sets win after opening play was suspended on Monday. Also moving on is Georgia Bulldog Katarina Jokic, qualifier Cici Bellis, third seed Kirsten Flipkens and former Top 10 CoCo Vandeweghe. Thanks to eighth seed Francesa DiLorenzo’s retirement, Eugenie Bouchard moved through.
Here’s a look at four interesting matches on Day 4 in Houston and predictions for who’ll be moving on.
WTA Houston Challenger Day 4 Predictions
Fanny Stollar vs Stefanie Voegele
Head to head: Stollar 1-0 Voegele
Perhaps the best way for Fanny Stollar to continue her 21st birthday celebration (November 12th) would be with a win over Stefanie Voegele. Indeed, it’s a likely scenario after the Hungarian bounced Voegele from Las Vegas last week in commanding fashion, 6-2 6-2. Furthermore, Stollar reached the doubles semifinals alongside Eugenie Bouchard – another confidence booster.
Voegele will be looking for a different outcome in her second meeting with Stollar. The 29-year-old showed promise when she defeated Sloane Stephens in Indian Wells, 6-3, 6-0. Yet, Voegele has failed to repeat that success on hard courts. Most of the Swiss’ success comes on the clay.
I anticipate a repeat of the Las Vegas score line, and Voegele falls in straight sets.
Prediction: Stollar in 2
Danielle Collins vs Anhelina Kalinina
Head to head: Collins 0-1 Kalinina (Challenger)
It’s been a meteoric year for Danielle Collins. Since 2017, the University of Virginia alum has been on an upward trajectory. Collins’ swagger and fight makes her matches ‘must watch’ events as the 25-year-old never disappoints. The top seed in Houston begins her campaign against Ukrain’s Anhelina Kalinina.
Kalinina is playing solid, fresh off her run to the finals in Las Vegas. It was a tight three set bout that saw Mayo Hibi take the title, but you cannot underestimate Kalinina’s strong play. The young Ukrainian will certainly make it uncomfortable for Collins, perhaps even grab a set. But, Collins is the oddsmakers’ favorite to take the title in Houston. While there will be strong talent aimed at exiting Collins, I doubt it will happen in this second round clash.
Prediction: Collins in 2
Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs Allie Kiick
Head to head: First meeting
Bethanie Mattek-Sands had a straight sets opening round win. Sure, there were far too many unforced errors. But, Mattek-Sands deft drop shots, net smothering volleys and well crafted lobs left fellow American Danielle Lao without any answers. The veteran American was in solid control of the match from the start. The former world #1 doubles player capitalized in the forecourt, a strategy we’ll see throughout her Houston run.
Allie Kiick received a first round bye based on her seeding. It’s a tough start coming up against Mattek-Sands. Kiick is coming off a good run on the clay in Chile, reaching the semifinals before falling to Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto. Most of the 24-year-old American’s success has come on clay.
Count on Mattek-Sands to break down the weaker backhand wing of Kiick and use slice and angled net shots to end points on her terms. Assuming the Mattek-Sands knee holds up and her movement remains strong, Mattek-Sands moves on to the third round.
Prediction: Mattek-Sands in 2
Caty McNally vs Mari Osaka
Head to head: First meeting
Youth and inexperience are mitigated by guts and determination when Caty McNally and Mari Osaka meet in the second round of the Houston Challenger. The teenagers are certainly making a name for themselves in 2019, though Mari Osaka is overshadowed by big sister Naomi. Yet, Mari has talent which will show as her tournament experience grows.
Caty McNally hit the World’s radar with her semifinal run at the Citi Open. And, she installed herself as a true contender when she pushed superstar Serena Williams to a third set in Flushing Meadows. The teen phenom forced Serena outside her comfort level, taking away her wide serve on the deuce side. It was a mature strategy far beyond McNally’s 17 years. Since, McNally has won two doubles titles alongside rising star and good friend Coco Gauff.
While Osaka brought in a nice win against Israel’s Deniz Khazaniuk, McNally will present a much bigger challenge. The hard hitting and strategic thinking makes McNally dangerous. If the McNally serve is on, you can expect this to go quickly. Regardless, it’s unlikely Osaka sees the third round.
Prediction: McNally in 2
Main Photo from Getty.
Disagree with our WTA Houston Challenger Day 4 Predictions? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.