Damien Kayat takes a look at matches from the MUSC Health Women’s Open: Ons Jabeur vs Stefanie Voegele and Christina McHale vs Sara Errani.
WTA Tour 2021
WTA 250 Series
MUSC Health Women’s Open
Family Circle Tennis Centre, Charleston, South Carolina (Outdoor Clay-Court)
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 13th April
Ons Jabeur (1) (2/13) vs Stefanie Voegele (42/10)
This will be the 2nd consecutive event held in South Carolina, with the MUSC Health Women’s Open organized with a single-year license this year. 26-year-old Tunisian Ons Jabeur is the number one seed this week. She has slowly gone about building an extremely impressive 2021 campaign. Her win-loss record currently sits at 14-7. She was immense in Charleston last week, breaking a stretch of five consecutive quarterfinal defeats en route to her first semi-final of the year. She thrashed teenage sensation Coco Gauff with consummate ease. Prior to that, she defeated Sofia Kenin on the Miami hardcourts. Jabeur rose to prominence at last year’s Aussie Open by becoming the first woman of Arab descent to reach the final eight of a Grand Slam. Her unpredictable style of play and wild varieties have made her a real fans favourite on the tour. She will be locking in on this as the perfect opportunity to bag her first title.
31-year-old Swiss player Stefanie Voegele is really going to be up against it going into this match. The veteran has never truly been able to firmly establish herself on the tour proper. Her best result came with a defeat in the 2018 Mexican Open Final. But there are a few indicators that she could be highly competitive in this encounter. Looking throughout her career, it’s quite evident that Voegele is most adept on slower clay-courts (her best ever Grand Slam showing was a 3rd round run at Roland Garros). Her most recent success has come at the ITF level on clay. She won the 2018 Grand EST Open 88 and reached the final of the 2019 Open de Cagnes-sur-mer. She is also coming off her best result of the year with a quarterfinal run at last week’s Copa Colsanitas.
Ons Jabeur absolutely trounced Voegele in their only ever encounter in Shenzhen. While the Tunisian is the massive favourite here, there are enough variables at play to keep it interesting. This is exactly the sort of match that nerdy tennis scribes relish. Jabeur is playing on slower courts and won’t get as much purchase on her groundstrokes. Furthermore, Voegele is an experienced clay-court technician. Perhaps there is some real value in backing the Swiss in this match. But the slightly smarter play may be a three-set win for Jabeur at 33/10.
Christina McHale (13/8) vs Sara Errani (4/9)
Speaking about veteran clay-court specialists, Sara Errani is the veritable prototype. The 33-year-old Italian is a former top 5 player in the world with a magnificent clay-court pedigree to her name. In 2012 she won three titles on clay prior to a run to the Roland Garros final (she would reach at least the quarterfinal stage for the next three seasons). Clearly, she isn’t that player at this moment in time. A failed drug test in 2017 saw her career virtually destroyed. There had always been rumours circulating around Errani due to her relationship with doping doctor Luis Garcia del Moral. It hasn’t been easy for the Italian to come through that huge setback. She gained even more notoriety during last year’s French Open. She mocked Kiki Bertens for faking injury after their epic three-hour match, despite the Dutch-woman leaving the court on a wheelchair. Errani reached the Copa Colsanitas quarterfinals last week and this week represents a great opportunity for her to rebuild her career (and image).
28-year-old American Christina McHale is hard not to root for. Her personality and on-court demeanour are infectious. But it’s fair to say that her results on court have never lived up to her massive potential. She has always lingered in and around the top 100 mark in the rankings. Her booming groundstrokes always give her a chance in any encounter. She has picked up victories against the likes of Wozniacki, Azarenka and Muguruza. She reached the final of the 2014 Mexican Open before winning the 2016 Japan Open. These results highlight her penchant for harder surfaces. Having said that, her last ITF victory came on the clay-courts of the Open de Cagnes-sur-mer. She enters this match with virtually no form to her name.
Sara Errani leads their head-to-head rivalry 5-2. This is a rivalry that dates back to 2008. McHale has fared better of late, winning two of their last three matches. This match has been giving me nightmares. Ostensibly, Errani should be the only option. She comes into this match in a semblance of form and she is a past master on clay. However, McHale has the power to overwhelm Errani, especially if the Italian’s notoriously weak serve shows the slightest bit of frailty. I’m opting for the American here, banking on her ability to overwhelm Errani’s powderpuff serve.