Definitely the highlight of the Shenzhen Open quarterfinal line-up is this fascinating first time match-up between Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka. Between experience and youth, and counter-punching vs aggression, who will win? Read on for the dedicated preview…
 Simona Halep (No.1) vs Aryna Sabalenka (No.73)
Simona Halep endured a huge scare in her second round match against Duan Ying-Ying – the Romanian had to fight from a set down to secure her second three-set win over the Chinese player. Duan played some hard-hitting tennis to bamboozle the World No.1 in the beginning, but went back into her shell afterwards as a stream of errors and a possible injury caused her the match as Halep rallied to win the last 12 of 15 games, hitting 21 winners to 13 unforced errors. The win also secured Halep the No.1 seeding for the Australian Open.
Aryna Sabalenka is definitely a player who can cause all types of players some problems and she showed that aggressiveness last October, where she made a maiden final appearance in Tianjin, barely losing out to Maria Sharapova, but she managed to claim her first WTA 125K title in Mumbai at the end of the season. Sabalenka has brought her form into the 2018 season, where she dismantled her first two opponents in Monica Niculescu and Danka Kovinic. Her win against Niculescu was particularly surprising, as many hard-hitters struggle to adapt with Niculescu’s unorthodox forehand slice. However she didn’t even let the Romanian use her slice as Sabalenka continually rushed Niculescu into her shots with her deep, penetrating groundstrokes. This young player is definitely a player of the future and is one to keep an eye on in 2018.
Head to head: This is a first-time match-up between both players.
Stats: Sabalenka has won her last 15 of 19 matches, whilst Halep has won her last 12 of 18 matches.
The last time that Halep has lost a match to a player outside of the world’s top 70 was to Maria Sharapova in the US Open. Apart from that, her last lost was to Laura Siegemund in Stuttgart.
Thoughts: Sabalenka has loads of power and feistiness, which has been compared to Maria Sharapova, and will definitely cause a lot of trouble for counter-punchers like Halep if she is her good form. I believe Sabalenka will get off to a good start, riding on her good form, but Halep’s dogged defense should wear her down in the end. Sabalenka’s nerves can get the better of her as well – most notably in the Tianjin final against Sharapova, Sabalenka had set points in both the first and second sets, but were unable to capitalise on them and eventually lost in straight sets. I think the three-set win against Duan will give Halep a lot of confidence into this one and she will able to win in two tight sets.
Shenzhen predictions are here, you can find them at the menu at the top of the blog as well. Thanks for reading! 🙂