WTA Tour: Cincinnati Masters Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

Damien Kayat previews selected round of 32 and round of 64 matches from WTA's Cincinnati Masters.

2019 WTA Tour | WTA Premier 5 | Cincinnati Masters 
Linder Family Tennis Centre, (Hard Outdoor)
Selected Round of 32 and 64 Matches | 13-14 August 2019

Round of 64

Garbine Muguruza (13/10)
vs Madison Keys (11/20)

This promises to be a fascinating clash of recent Grand Slam heavyweights, both of which have considerable points to prove. Two-time Grand Slam champion, Garbine Muguruza, has endured an injury-plagued few years that have seen a dramatic dip in performance levels. At her best, Muguruza is an all-court behemoth, able to flit effortlessly between the different demands of all surfaces. She won the 2015 China Open and also claimed this very title in 2017. But a closer look at her 2017 campaign reveals that she hasn’t been too far away from reclaiming here best form. She reached the 4th round at both the Aussie and French Open. She had to retire in the Monterrey Open final while a quarter-final at Indian Wells is a testament to her abilities on this surface.

Madison Keys is a strange one to pin down. While the hard-courts are ostensibly her best surface, she has enjoyed a lot of success on clay, including a Premier 5 title win in Charleston earlier this year. Keys has reached at least the quarter-final of every slam, with an appearance in the 2017 US Open final. But 2019 has been quite strange for the big-hitting American. She has shown her usual Grand Slam proficiency: she reached the 4th round in Melbourne and the quarter-finals in Paris. But there have also been a litany of opening-round defeats for the mercurial Keys. She is coming into this event after three straight defeats, including opening-round losses in Washington and Canada. It will be interesting to see if she can turn it around against such high-quality opposition.

Keys leads Muguruza 3-1 in the head-to-head count. Interestingly enough, two of those matches have been played in this very event. Muguruza won their last match here en route to her title in 2017. Keys won all the way back in 2012. My inkling is that Stephens is the one to back here. She is gearing up for Flushing Meadows and has to find form somewhere.  

Round of 32 

Naomi Osaka (2/9)
vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (28/10)

It says something about the schizophrenic nature of the women’s game that Naomi Osaka reclaimed the World Number One spot this week. Since winning her 2nd Grand Slam title in Melbourne, the Japanese star has only reached one further semi-final this year. Her surprising split from Sascha Bajin has coincided with a fairly remarkable dip in form. It really came to a head with an embarrassing opening round defeat at Wimbledon. To make matters worse, Serena Williams avenged that notorious US Open Final defeat with a routine straight-sets victory in Canada last week. So it’s rather strange to see Osaka claim that tenuous World Number One ranking. Furthermore, every time that she has got her hands on that prestigious accolade in the recent past she has squandered it in meek fashion. It will be curious to see which Naomi Osaka pitched up this week.

Sasnovich is obviously best known for her heroics alongside Aryna Sabalenka in the 2017 Fed Cup. They reached the final, putting Belarus back on the global tennis map. Generally speaking, Sasnovich is the type of pugnacious player who could cause Osaka huge issues in her early tournament languor. Both of her WTA finals have come on hard-courts, including a loss in the Brisbane final last year. The major issue for Sasnovich is her recent form or lack thereof. She came into this event on the back of eight straight defeats: she needed three sets to beat Sharma in the opening round. It’s rather surprising considering how promising her year began. She reached the quarter-finals in Brisbane and the semi-finals in Sydney. She then hustled her way into the 3rd round of the Aussie Open. But Sasnovich is desperately short of confidence going into this match.

And one look at their head-to-head record shows an even bleaker picture. Osaka leads 3-0, which features three straight-sets victories. So it would seem somewhat fantastical to pull for the Belarusian here. However, perhaps there is some value in Osaka to win in three at 11/4. She is notoriously fickle in the early stages of events and may become complacent after reclaiming the World Number One ranking.  

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