Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: WTA Premier: Charleston Open Preview

WTA Premier: Charleston Open Preview

Sloane Stephens

Damien Kayat takes a look a two Round of 16 matches from the Charleston Open: Coco Gauff vs Lauren Davis and Sloane Stephens vs Ajla Tomljanovic.

Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Coco Gauff  29/100 | Lauren Davis 5/2
This should be a fascinating all-American tussle in the wake of the last round of results. Davis is riding high following a stunning victory over second seed Sofia Kenin. It was her third victory over a top 5 player and it also improved her career head-to-head ratio against Kenin to 2-1. The 79th ranked Davis is now just one victory away from matching her career-best finish in this event: she reached the quarterfinals in 2015 only to succumb to eventual finalist Madison Keys. She will need to regroup following that epic two-and-a-half-hour tussle with Kenin. It’s easy to underestimate how huge that Kenin upset was. Davis- who has a title in Auckland to her name- has never exactly threatened to explode onto the tennis scene. She is a methodical worker who relies on quick feet and a steady backhand. She will hope that these clay surfaces are able to keep her in with a shout against her more fancied opponent. 

American teen phenom Coco Gauff had to survive her own three-set marathon against Liudmila Samsonova. Incredibly, this is the first time that she has advanced to the final 16 in a WTA clay-court event. Lest we forget, Gauff was the 2018 junior singles champion at Roland Garros. So, clay certainly falls within her purview. Gauff has already shown signs of increasing maturity in 2021. She reached the semi-finals in Adelaide prior to a quarterfinal run in Dubai. She seems to have rebounded from a disappointing post-lockdown 2020. As I have said previously in relation to Gauff, all the new restrictions must have been challenging for the younger players on tour. Gauff just needs to be more consistent. She reminds me of Shapovalov when he first burst onto the men’s scene. Explosive winners are somewhat negated by the huge unforced errors count. 

Verdict: Coco Gauff 23/100
This will be the first-ever meeting between these two. I’m always a bit circumspect when considering Gauff. There’s a part of me that would really like to fully embrace her and go for the straight-sets victory. But I just can’t do that. I think Gauff in three at 10/3 is the most likely result. Her service games are quite simply not dominant enough to guarantee a straight-sets result. 

Sloane Stephens | Ajla Tomljanovic
What happened to Sloane Stephens over the past two years? She was one of the hottest players on the planet, winning her maiden Grand Slam at the 2017 US Open. She then showed it was no fluke by reaching the Roland Garros final the next year. She has also won in Miami and finished runner-up at the WTA Finals. This is clearly a player with some raw ability. She maintained her top 10 status for much longer than deserved on the basis of defending previously acquired ranking points. But her career has really been in freefall for some time now. She has also had to contend with significant tragedy over the past year, with three of her close family members dying of Covid. But she has a few things going for her this week. Firstly, she won this event back in 2016. But perhaps of more importance was her straight sets victory over fellow Grand Slam specialist Madison Keys. It looked like she had regained some of her old magic. 

Ajla Tomljanovic is in a pretty similar place to Sloane Stephens. Coming into this event, she had lost 19 of 26 matches dating back to the beginning of 2020. In fact, the last time she won back-to-back matches on the WTA Tour was way back in September 2019. Ouch! She will feel mightily relieved for that surprisingly one-sided victory over McHale. She also showed some signs of life in Miami, trouncing Anastasia Potapova in the first round. She then gave Naomi Osaka a reasonably competitive Round of 64 match. Her go-for-broke style always makes her a dangerous opponent. But as the last two seasons suggest, it’s not the easiest course to correct when things don’t go her way. 

Verdict: Ajla Tomljanovic
Stephens actually holds an imperious 4-0 head-to-head advantage against the Aussie. But their last meeting came in this very event in 2019. The American had to come from a set down in what turned out to be an enthralling match. I’m going to count this as one of my really out-there predictions for the year. There has been just enough in the Aussie’s last few performances to suggest that an upset could be on the cards here. 

Written by Damien Kayat. 

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