Damien Kayat previews the Sydney Tennis Classic quarter-finals featuring Garbine Muguruza vs Daria Kasatkina and Anett Kontaveit vs Ons Jabuer.
2022 WTA Tour
Sydney Tennis Classic
Sydney Olympic Park (Outdoor Hardcourt)
Selected Quarterfinals- 13th January
Garbine Muguruza | Daria Kasatkina *betting tba
Garbine Muguruza will be looking to be the first Spanish woman to reach the Sydney final since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won the title in 1998. Muguruza enjoyed a brilliant 2021 campaign- albeit without much Grand Slam success.
The 2020 Aussie Open finalist reached the final of the Yarra Valley Classic (highlighting her abilities in this part of the world). That was the first of five WTA Finals dispersed throughout the year.
She won her last three finals in Dubai, Chicago and Guadalajara. That victory in the WTA Finals brought up her maiden victory in the season-ending championships. She actually broke Anett Kontaveit’s 12-match winning streak in the annual showpiece, going on to beat the Estonian twice in straight sets.
Muguruza seems to have found something special since rekindling her coaching relationship with Conchita Martinez. I really think she’s a candidate for a Grand Slam title this year. And she dealt with first-round opponent Alexandrova with consummate ease.
She will certainly be facing a much tougher test in Daria Kasatkina. The 24-year-old Russian was much hyped in 2018, losing to Naomi Osaka in the Indian Wells final. But she seemed to lose momentum over the subsequent years, ending 2020 ranked 72 in the world.
But 2021 turned out to be a watershed season for the Russian. She reached four WTA Finals in 2021, winning the Phillip Island Trophy and ST Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy.
She seems to have brought that form into 2022, reaching the semi-finals at the season-opening Gippsland Trophy. But few would have expected her to be so devastating this week.
She has overcome a devilish draw without dropping a single set. She beat 2020 Aussie Open Sofia Kenin in her opening match, winning 73% of her first-point serves in the process.
She then overcame Elise Mertens with another dominant display. She has already beaten two higher ranked players this week and she will be going into this match without any fear.
Verdict: Muguruza to win in three
This could be an epic. These two share the head-to-head spoils at two wins apiece. But they haven’t actually played since 2018. They are well matched, with Kasatkina able to withstand Muguruza’s typically huge groundstrokes. Ultimately, I think that Muguruza will overpower the Russian over three sets. Her form is just impossible to ignore at present.
Anett Kontaveit | Ons Jabeur *betting tba
This should be a fascinating encounter between two very good friends. In fact, Anett Kontaveit just joined Twitter on the advice of Jabeur. Some useless knowledge for you.
2021 was a spectacular year for both players who coincidentally tied for the most singles victories in the year (48). Anett Kontaveit produced a rousing display in the second half of the season, winning 26 of her last 28 matches to secure the final berth in the WTA Finals.
Curiously, she actually nudged good friend Ons Jabeur out of the last qualifying place courtesy of victory at the Transylvania Open. She then beat Krejcikova, Pliskova and Sakkari to secure a place in the Championship match.
Only Garbine Muguruza- who beat her twice throughout the week- could stop the determined Kontaveit. She has certainly developed under the tutelage of Dmitry Tursunov.
Her serve has actually become a potent weapon and her groundstrokes seem far more forceful. Her next step is trying to translate that into tangible Grand Slam success. She comfortably beat Ruse in the opening match but will face a far tougher challenge in Jabeur.
Ons Jabeur has looked devastating this week. Sure, you would have expected her to cruise past Sharma in her opening match. But to withstand the Kvitova onslaught without dropping a set certainly grabbed my attention.
Jabeur will be hoping to get a small measure of revenge this week against her great friend. As I noted earlier, Jabeur was pipped to the post for a WTA Finals berth by Kontaveit. Jabeur’s season was probably more consistent from beginning to end.
She showed brilliant all-court prowess and won her maiden WTA title in Birmingham. But she never really showed the utter ruthlessness that Kontaveit showed in that closing stretch.
If only she had managed to win her Indian Wells semi-final against Badosa. Jabeur will look to mix up the tempo of the rallies with her characteristic slice while Kontaveit tends to hit the ball flatter.
Verdict: Jabeur to win in three
Jabeur seems to have the better of her rivalry with Kontaveit. She leads their head-to-head 3-1. She has won their last three matches (including two hardcourt encounters last year). Jabeur’s ability to mix up her returns does tend to frustrate the slightly more one-dimensional play of Kontaveit. Still, this promises to be an extremely tough match between two in-form competitors.