World No. 1 Iga Swiatek kicks off her WTA Cincinnati campaign with a match against Sloane Stephens. The Pole has lost early in her last three events, definitely dropping the aura of invincibility that she had earlier in the season. Can she get off to a good start in this tournament? We also predict the rest of the day’s matches, split between three other articles. One features Victoria Azarenka vs Emma Raducanu, the second highlights Elena Rybakina vs Garbine Muguruza, and the third features Veronika Kudermetova vs Simona Halep. Who do you think will advance?
WTA Cincinnati Day 3 Predictions
Ekaterina Alexandrova vs Zhang Shuai
Head-to-head: Alexandrova 2-1
The pair split their hard court meetings in 2019 with Ekaterina Alexandrova prevailing in Stuttgart this year. Both women scored impressive wins in the opening round–the Russian beat Leylah Fernandez, while Shuai Zhang took out Naomi Osaka. Alexandrova hadn’t played since Berlin in the middle of June but didn’t look rusty in her first match here. Before the break, she was having an excellent campaign and should have the advantage of a more imposing playstyle, aided by the quickness of the surface in Cincinnati.
Prediction: Alexandrova in 3
Karolina Pliskova vs Elise Mertens
Head-to-head: Pliskova 2-0
Interestingly, these two haven’t faced on a hard court yet. Karolina Pliskova got some form back with the semifinal appearance at Toronto and has done very well at Cincinnati historically (2016 champion). Elise Mertens can frustrate her by getting a lot of balls back and making her move, but the Belgian doesn’t really have a way of standing up to the former World No. 1 when she’s playing well. Pliskova’s serve should hurt even more in faster conditions too.
Prediction: Pliskova in 3
Aryna Sabalenka vs Anna Kalinskaya
Head-to-head: Sabalenka 2-1
That Aryna Sabalenka can keep double-faulting so much and still keep getting good results is truly a testament to how strong the rest of her game is. The 24-year-old narrowly lost to Daria Kasatkina in San Jose and Cori Gauff in Toronto. Meanwhile, Anna Kalinskaya has gone through her first three matches here without losing a set. Sabalenka’s devastating power can overwhelm her, but she’ll have to be very careful not to hand the opponent too many free points again.
Prediction: Sabalenka in 3
Iga Swiatek vs Sloane Stephens
Head-to-head: First meeting
It’s been a while since Iga Swiatek’s looked unbeatable, but it’s not like her form has fallen off a cliff. She’s lost a couple of matches recently to players who were able to attack her weaker second delivery. While the hard courts in Cincinnati certainly give someone like that a decent shot at the World No.1, it’s doubtful that Sloane Stephens in her current form is capable of doing something like that. The American’s playstyle should actually suit Swiatek quite well.
Prediction: Swiatek in 2
Main Photo from Getty.