Rain halted proceedings at the Western and Southern Open once again as a couple of third round matches on Thursday were not able to take to the court. Two quarterfinals have still been confirmed already though and hopefully the matches will be able to take place tomorrow as the forecast looks terrible. Read on for previews of Keys-Sabalenka and Kvitova-Mertens…
1.  Madison Keys (No.13) vs Aryna Sabalenka (No.34)
Keys is into her first quarterfinal since the French Open and second quarterfinal of the year on hard courts after a hard fought victory over Angelique Kerber, 2-6 7-6(3) 6-4. Keys continues to blow hot and cold in many of her matches and in the third round it was the latter at first as she just hit way too many unforced errors in the first set. Kerber had a break advantage in the second but Keys clawed her way back with some aggressive and more accurate play to frustrate an increasingly passive Kerber. This was an extremely confidence-boosting win for Keys as she had lost her past five matches against the German and has struggled with the defensive-type of players during her entire career.
What kind of medicine is this girl, Sabalenka taking? She just keeps on winning and winning and it feels like she just doesn’t know what is fatigue and nerves at all. After beating No.9 seed Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday after saving match point, this time round she saved match point against No.5 seed Caroline Garcia to proceed into her fifth quarterfinal of the year. Sabalenka is 6-4 against top 15 players this year now and will have a shot at another top-15 player in Keys.
Thoughts: This could be such a heart-pounding encounter, or a completely messy one with both of their games centred on attack and hard-hitting groundstrokes – such a rare moment where Keys could be outhit by another player! There’s not a lot to be said about this one as this is a first time match-up and it will depend mostly on both players’ on court performance. I’m slightly edging towards Keys’ experience and support from the home crowd though.
Final Prediction: Madison Keys d. Aryna Sabalenka in three sets
2.  Petra Kvitova (No.8) vs  Elise Mertens (No.14)
Kvitova continues to excel in Grand Slam tune-up events this year as she is into the Cincinnati quarterfinals for the first time since 2012. After defeating Serena Williams in an exciting and thrilling three-setter, she backed up with a solid straight-set victory against Kristina Mladenovic in the next round. With Petra, you never know which version of her is going to appear on court, but here’s a stat: when Kvitova has reached the quarterfinal of an event this year, she has went on to win the title (St.Petersburg, Doha, Prague, Madrid, Birmingham).
Mertens recorded her second top 5 win of the season over Sloane Stephens as the Belgian is into her seventh quarterfinal in 2018. Was rewatching Stephens-Mertens and it wasn’t a pretty watch as both of them pretty vulnerable on serve, though there were some long rallies in the match. Mertens was almost always behind in the scoreline as Stephens broke her serve thrice in the set but everytime she was broken, she managed to find the break back in the next game. She continued to play the big points well as she was forced to save three set points in the tiebreaker, which included a stunning volley save on the first SP. Stephens lacked intensity for most of the match and didn’t serve well in the second set, which Mertens promptly took advantage of and eventually rolled through the rest of the match. Very impressive win for the 22-year old.
Thoughts: As most aggressive vs defensive matches are decided, this one will largely depend on the more aggressive Kvitova’s level. Mertens is usually really vulnerable against hard-hitting players (losses to Cibulkova, Jakupovic, Lottner during grass court swing come to mind) and on a decent-paced hard court in Cincinnati, I don’t think she really stands a chance unless Kvitova doesn’t play well.
Final Prediction: Petra Kvitova d. Elise Mertens in two sets
Thanks for reading! Check out my Cincinnati predictions here or at the top of the page!