WTA Tour: Citi Open Ro32 Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

Damien Kayat previews two of the more interesting Round of 32 clashes coming our way from the WTA's Citi Open taking place in Washington.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands 34/10 | Sloane Stephens 2/11
33-year-old veteran Bethanie Mattek Sands is a former Olympic Gold Medalist in Mixed Doubles and is no longer a staple on the single’s tour. She has also been forced to curtail her schedule in the aftermath of that horrific injury at Wimbledon last season. She has had a fairly dismal year on the singles circuit, losing five of her seven matches thus far. She would have felt encouraged by a run to the quarterfinals of the doubles in her return to Wimbledon, but it’s almost impossible to really envisage a strong showing from the veteran this week. She has reached two WTA finals on hardcourts, but last year’s US Open Champion Sloane Stephens will be the overwhelming favourite this week.

Sloane Stephens has endured an utterly bizarre season. She had a shocking start to the season that culminated in an opening round loss at the Aussie Open. She then reached the quarterfinals in Mexico before that astounding performance in Indian Wells. She only dropped two sets in a fantastic triumph that served to remind viewers of her Flushing Meadows success last year. She then plodded along with a fairly benign clay-court season before a herculean run to the final of Roland Garros. She had yet another shock opening-round loss at Wimbledon but this week she returns to the sight of her first WTA title. She won this event in 2015 and will feel exceptionally confident as her preparations for a US Open title defense begin.

Stephens leads the head-to-head between the two Americans 4-1. Having said that, their last encounter took place way back in 2015. Stephens is a far superior player at present and looks good to win in straight sets at 11/20. Her groundstrokes should be far too devastating for the journeywoman Mattek-Sands. 

Naomi Osaka 1/4 | Bernarda Pera 49/20
Croatian-born American Bernarda Pera has had a fairly schizophrenic season thus far. She lost in a qualifier at Brisbane before beating Johanna Konta en route to a Round of 32 showing in Melbourne. She then struggled through the early hardcourt season, only for the switch to clay and the Charleston Open to revive her year. She reached the quarter-finals there prior to an impressive Round of 16 run in Madrid. But she has also struggled to get through qualifying at several events, including Birmingham and Rome. She had a dire grass-court campaign and will go into this match as the gigantic underdog.

Whereas Pera is a Croatian-born American, Osaka is a Japanese born player who moved to the States when she was three. She still identifies as Japanese despite the fact that she barely speaks a lick of Japanese. The 20-year-old had a real breakthrough with that inspirational win in Indian Wells. She beat the likes of Simona Halep and Karoline Pliskova in that event. She had reached the quarterfinals in Dubai and the Round of 16 of the Aussie prior to Indian Wells, but it was on the American hardcourts that she defined her presence on tour. She did alright on the slower clay surfaces, reaching the Round of 32 at the French. She reached the semi-finals on the grass at Nottingham before another Round of 32 appearance at Wimbledon. Osaka will no doubt be thrilled by the switch back to the American hardcourts and could potentially be entering her most exciting time of the season.

This will be the first meeting between the two women of duelling nationalities. I have to say that Osaka looks primed for further success. The success at Indian Wells will have taken some time to digest and the switch back to the faster American hardcourts will suit her game to the tee. A straight sets victory for Osaka at 1/4 looks a top prospect here - on to add to all multiples. 

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Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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