The Rogers Cup is still underway in Montreal, however with the nature of the WTA tour majority of the players are already heading to the fourth Premier 5 tournament of the year in Cincinnati. Two of the first round match-ups of the draw have caught my eye, so continue reading on for previews of Ka.Pliskova-Radwanska and Konta-Sabalenka…
Cincinnati, First Round
1.  Karolina Pliskova (No.9) vs Agnieszka Radwanska (No.33)
After last week’s horror show against Kiki Bertens in Montreal, will 2016 Cincinnati champion Pliskova be able to regain some form and confidence? If she is to go deep in the draw this time round, she’ll first have to defeat someone she has never beaten in seven previous attempts – Radwanska. Pliskova has said before that a win against Radwanska could be even better than the No.1 ranking jokingly, but this is certainly not the right time for her to play Aga as the Czech has been pretty lacklustre in all departments of her game, especially the serve which was so good a few years back.
Radwanska hasn’t had a really bad year – it’s been the niggling injuries and the lack of confidence that had derailed her in the first part of the season. Even amidst these, the Pole has still been able to produce some highlights – a second win over a World No.1 over Halep in Miami and a semifinal run in Eastbourne was OK. Cincinnati will be Radwanska’s first tournament since Wimbledon.
Head to head: Radwanska leads the head to head 7-0 – Pliskova has not even won a single set in this match-up. However this will be their first match-up since 2016, before Aga’s drop down the rankings.
Thoughts: Expecting a close one as Radwanska will probably be feeling some rust having not played for four weeks, yet I do not think Pliskova has the confidence or the game right now to take advantage of it. This one will probably come down to Pliskova as Radwanska usually produces a solid display against an aggressive player. I think with the mental baggage she has against Radwanska, the Pole might just win this…
Final Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska d. Karolina Pliskova in three sets
2. Johanna Konta (No.43) vs Aryna Sabalenka (No.39)
The winner of Pliskova-Radwanska will then play the winner of this match-up. This time last year, Konta was No.7 in the world while Sabalenka was battling in qualies and was ranked No.110… the tables have truly turned around as the Belarusian is now ranked four spots higher than Konta in the rankings. Sabalenka has made an outstanding rise up the rankings and her best results of the year have been runs to the final in Lugano and Eastbourne. Sabalenka could have been in another quarterfinal, in Montreal this week after a huge win against No.2 Caroline Wozniacki, but lost a tight three-setter to Elise Mertens in which she had match point opportunity.
Konta has shown signs of resurgence since the grass court swing but has yet to post that deep run in a huge tournament. Konta has been steady in her US hard court tournaments with wins over Serena Williams in San Jose and Jelena Ostapenko in Montreal, yet wasn’t able to back it up much further with exits in the quarterfinals and third round respectively. Konta still has much work to do, especially during the crucial moments of matches, if she wants to return back to the heights she achieved in 2017.
Thoughts: This is a first time match-up which sounds really exciting! Both players can hittt the ball, though Sabalenka does contain the more raw power and is the more fiery player on court. With power though, you need to learn how to contain it, and that’s what Sabalenka’s been working with her coach and she has been learning so quickly. Sabalenka is the more dynamic player, yet I think Konta could be a tad more solid. On the fence but heading for the former…
Final Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka d. Johanna Konta in three sets