WTA Tour: Pan Pacific Open Selected Ro32 Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

The WTA Tour returns this week as the world's best female tennis stars head our to Japan for the Pan Pacific Tour. 

Sloane Stephens 9/20 | Donna Vekic 16/10
Last year’s US Open Champion Sloane Stephens must be one of the most mercurial players on the tour. That has perhaps been exacerbated by injury issues. But she still has tasted some serious success this year, claiming the Miami title in spectacular fashion. She also reached the final of the French Open as well as in Canada. Stephens will have been annoyed by her resounding quarter-final defeat to Sevatsova at Flushing Meadows. Stephens loves these outdoor hardcourt situations and should feel extremely confident going into this match. Her booming groundstrokes seem to be amplified by these outdoor hardcourts and if she produces her best tennis there are few in the world who can stop her.

Croatian Donna Vekic has emerged from the stigma that she was purely cannon fodder for gossip and scandal on the tour. She has had a steady season and reached a career-high ranking in the process. Vekic was knocked out in the opening round of Flushing Meadows, which must have been hugely frustrating in the aftermath of that final appearance in Washington. She had an extremely impressive grass-court season that saw her shoot up the world rankings. She reached the semi-finals of Nottingham before a creditable run to the final 16 of Wimbledon. She also reached the quarter-finals in Istanbul and will feel confident of going toe to toe with the hard hitting American.

These two are evenly matched in the head-to-head ratio, with one win apiece. Their first meeting was won by Sloane Stephens on the clay in 2016. More interesting is the fact that Vekic beat Stephens at Wimbledon this year. Granted, the grass certainly is friendly territory for Vekic in this encounter, but perhaps the Croat is worth a crack at 16/10. Perhaps a better option would be to go for Stephens to win in three sets at 29/10. Stephens has the superiority on this surface while Vekic won the last encounter. Perhaps she will be able to take a set off of Stephens. 

Coco Vandeweghe 43/20 | Ashleigh Barty 3/10 
This is sure to be a hugely interesting encounter as the two are regular double’s partners. In fact, they just recently won the US Open as a pair. So perhaps form is more relative with their intimate knowledge of each other’s games. Vandeweghe will be hoping that is the case. Outside of that double’s success, Vandeweghe has endured a miserable year on tour. She has actually lost her last five matches in a row, including first round losses at both Wimbledon and the US Open. Her year seemed to be picking up some momentum with a semi-final at her beloved Rosmalen event and a final appearance at Stuttgart. But let’s not forget that Vandeweghe reached two Grand Slam semi-finals last season. She is a huge talent who has perennial battles with injury and, frankly, commitment. While she may be an underdog this week, her knowledge of Barty may be enough to see her to a surprise victory.

Ashleigh Barty is on the opposite end of the form spectrum to Vandeweghe, with a year of steady improvement in stark contrast to Vandeweghe’s slump. Barty reached the final 16 at Flushing Meadows. That came off the back of a brilliant semi-final appearance at the Canadian Open. She won the Nottingham Open and reached the Eastbourne quarters for a successful grass-court campaign. She also reached the semi-finals in Strasbourg and reached the final of the Sydney event. So it’s clear that Barty’s all-court game has greatly improved over the course of the year. The Aussie will be looking to tackle down her fellow US Open Double’s Champion and truly underline her ascendancy this season.

I feel like Vandeweghe- despite her run of horrendous form- still represents outstanding value at 43/20. Vandeweghe has the weight of success on her side and leads the head-to-head with Barty 1-0: That victory came on the hardcourts of the WTA Elite competition last year. Add to that the fact that they are double’s partners, a fact that can sometimes render form less relevant. 

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Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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