Angelique Kerber v Barbora Strycova
It has been a solid week for Barbora Strycova so far in Cincinnati with back-to-back straight set wins to move into the Third Round here. She also snapped her four match losing run to Angelique Kerber when they last met in Madrid in May, which should give Strycova a little more belief in this one as she takes on the Number 2 Seed.
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Her matches on the hard courts against Kerber have been less impressive though with three previous matches on this surface all ending in wins for the German. More worrying for Strycova would be the fact she has won a grand total of just FIVE games in those three losses which includes a 6-1, 6-1 loss in Miami in March.
Strycova has been serving well so far, but this is easily the best returner she would have faced so far and her losses on the hard courts have tended to see her struggling with this number. She has failed to get within this number in five of her eight losses on the hard courts this season and the match up with Kerber has clearly been a troubling one for her.
I’d be surprised if Strycova is beaten as comfortably as in their last three hard court matches considering the form she is in and having snapped her losing run to Kerber in Madrid. However, I think the German has the returning and defensive skills to frustrate Strycova and earn the errors that can lead to a 6-4, 6-3 kind of win.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Angelique Kerber -4.5 Games @ 186 with Pinnacle
Garbine Muguruza v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Winning the French Open was a huge achievement for Garbine Muguruza this season, but she is the latest in a long line of players that have struggled in the immediate aftermath of their first Grand Slam win. There are big things being projected for Muguruza in the coming years, but the young Spaniard will be hoping for a stronger run in the coming weeks than she’s had recently.
Muguruza is just 4-3 in matches since beating Serena Williams in Paris, but it is the manner of the one-sided losses that have been the eye-opener. In her three defeats, Muguruza has won just fourteen games which is shocking when you consider the power she has in her racquet.
Her battling win over Coco Vandeweghe on Wednesday might have given her a shot in the arm when it comes to confidence, but Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is playing some very strong tennis herself and definitely increases the level of opponent Muguruza is playing. The Russian was also a one-sided victim of Monica Puig in the Olympic Games, as was Muguruza, but her Quarter-Final runs in Wimbledon followed by reaching the same stage in Montreal has to be admired.
I am still unsure of the Pavlyuchenkova movement and she will have to serve a lot of first serves to keep Muguruza from just taking huge swings against her. Their previous two matches on the hard courts have been competitive, but Muguruza does have the superior movement and is more willing to get to the net to finish points, while the Spaniard also has the more consistent serve.
Muguruza might not have shown that much in recent weeks, but the quality is there and I think she breaks down Pavlyuchenkova in a 7-6, 6-3 win.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Garbine Muguruza -3.5 Games @ 1.85 with Eastbridge Sports Betting Brokerage
Johanna Konta v Agnieszka Radwanska
With a few more wins on the board over the next month, it looks inevitable that Johanna Konta will be able to crack the Top 10 of the World Rankings in what has been a stellar 12 months. She is going to begin to have a lot of points to defend beginning with the US Open, but Konta has joined some of the best players on the WTA Tour and doesn’t look out of place.
She has to have the target of finishing in the top eight places in the Road to Singapore and Konta has shown she can take it to the best players and not feel like she is going to come up short. A player like Agnieszka Radwanska is possibly the kind she would not enjoy playing as much as can be seen by the defeats to Angelique Kerber, but there is a real difference between Radwanska and Kerber which can see Konta being a lot more competitive in this one.
While Kerber has a decent serve and is able to turn defence into attack very effectively, Radwanska is more of a player that will look to use variation to extract errors rather than going for outright winners. If Konta can play as solidly as she has for much of the last twelve months, she should have chances to dictate the rallies and this court should allow her to penetrate the Radwanska defences.
I feel Konta is being a little underrated here when you think how well she has held herself together against every opponent she has played. There is a real feeling she can win a set in this one and that makes this number of games very appealing for the British Number 1. As impressive as Radwanska was in her Second Round crushing of Andrea Petkovic, the Polish player is just 8-6 in Cincinnati where the speed of the courts doesn’t do her many favours and I will back Konta to cover.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Johanna Konta +3.5 Games @ 1.98 with Pinnacle
Prices correct at time of writing.