Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: 2020 WTA Tour: Top Seed Open

2020 WTA Tour: Top Seed Open

Tennis player holds racquet

The round of 16 takes center stage at Top Seed Tennis Club, Lexington, Kentucky, United States (Outdoor Hardcourts). Damien Kayat previews the respective matchups between Coco Gauff vs Aryna Sabalenka as well as 
Serena Williams vs Venus Williams.
Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2020 WTA Tour  | Top Seed Tennis Club, Lexington, Kentucky, United States 
Top Seed Open
Selected Round of 16 Matches 

Coco Gauff (15/10) vs
Aryna Sabalenka (9/20)

The huge pandemic disruption has obviously put huge strain on the lives of professional athletes.  Elite athletes are terrible creatures of habit, not used to drastic changes in scheduling and conditioning. I wonder how Coco Gauff has handled this rupture of normality. At the tender age of 16, Gauff is actually at a greater risk than anyone during this pandemic. These formative years are vital to a young player and such an extended hiatus could actually impede her evolution.  Gauff burst onto the scene with that mesmerizing 4th round run at Wimbledon last year.  Then (at the nearly unbelievable age of 15) she went on to win her maiden title at the Linz Open. She once again showed her budding Grand Slam potential by reaching the 4th round of this year’s Aussie Open: she beat Naomi Osaka en route. She beat Dolehide in straight sets in her opening match here. Gauff usually has rapturous crowd support to motivate her when times are tough. I wonder how she will cope in this antiseptic environment, especially if the chips are down.

Aryna Sabalenka has come on in leaps and bounds since bursting onto the scene as a Fed Cup starlet.  Alongside Sasnovich, the hard-hitting Sabalenka forged her reputation in some herculean feats for Belarus. Sabalenka enjoyed a brilliant 2019 campaign, despite failing again to register in Grand Slam tennis. She won three titles in China throughout the year, including the season-ending WTA Elite Trophy. She is extremely proficient on harder courts, where her ruthlessly aggressive approach is rewarded. She has shown brilliant form on the North-Amercian hardcourts before. In 2018 she reached the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Open.  She followed that up by winning her maiden WTA title in Connecticut. She has already won this year, beating Petra Kvitova in the Qatar Final.  Sabalenka is a hardcourt behemoth who will take some stopping this week. 

This will be the first ever meeting between these two. I have to opt for the Sabalenka victory.  As I said, Gauff tends to feed off the vibe of the crowds. Sabalenka’s power from the baseline should be too much for Gauff to handle. I think Sabalenka to win in straight sets has some value at 23/20.
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Serena Williams
vs Venus Williams

This would no doubt have been quite the hot ticket (in that alternate universe where there are tickets). There’s still something elemental on display when the Williams sisters clash. Tennis audiences should be totally blasé at this point: this will be their 31st career meeting.  But these remain the two women who revolutionized the game. Venus Williams has clearly played second fiddle to Serena for quite some time now. We mustn’t forget that it was Venus who led the Williams charge. Venus absolutely decimated Victoria Azarenka in her first post-lockdown match. At 40 years of age, the lockdown clearly would have helped the veteran American conserve her energy supplies.  She’s an example of someone who may have been secretly thankful for the break. She had lost all three of her matches this season prior to the shutdown. Venus will clearly be motivated to show that she can still challenge the hegemony of Serena. 

Serena hasn’t won a Grand Slam since her pregnancy in 2017. But she has lost four Grand Slam Finals in that period. So, while she hasn’t had the killer instinct of late, it’s ludicrous to think of her as a spent force. Lest we forget, she already won a title in Adelaide earlier this year. Her first-round match against Bernarda Pera never went according to plan. She had to rally from a set down and overcome her compatriot. She will clearly be using this as fine-tuning as she looks towards that US Open Final. With back-to-back final defeats (including that now infamous 2018 debacle against Naomi Osaka), Williams will want this to be the year that she finally exorcises some Grand Slam demons. 

As I said earlier, this will be their 31st career meeting. Serena Williams leads the head to head 18-12.  I’m not sure how seriously to take these matches, particularly in low-key events such as this.  This event already has the air of a glorified training session. Perhaps the smart approach would be to back Serena to prevail in three.  

Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets

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