Damien Kayat previews two matches from the WTA Tour’s Guadalajara Open: Elena Rybakina vs Karolina Pliskova and Paula Badosa vs Victoria Azarenka.
2022 WTA Tour
Guadalajara Open Akron
Panamerican Tennis Centre, Zapopan, Mexico (Outdoor Hardcourt)
Selected Round of 64 & 32 Matches
Round of 64- 18th October
Elena Rybakina 44/100 | Karolina Pliskova 7/4
The maddening season of Elena Rybakina continues. She was forced to withdraw from San Diego last week due to illness. This is off the back of a semi-final loss to Barbora Krejcikova at the Ostrava Open.
She currently sits on a decent 38-19 record for the year. And the only tournament she has won this year is Wimbledon. Granted, she also reached finals in Adelaide and Slovenia.
But there have also been plenty of early exits for the big-serving Kazakh. So, you truly don’t know what you will get from Rybakina at present. She should theoretically be a perfect fit for these courts.
She serves amazingly and likes to take the initiative in matches. She served 17 aces in her last match Krejcikova and could prove a vital weapon on these surfaces.
Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova has enjoyed a pretty underwhelming season by her standards. She is 21-18 for the year and has picked up a decent smattering of opening-round exits.
She comes into this match fresh off a second round defeat to Donna Vekic in San Diego. That performance against Vekic was somewhat concerning. She only served two aces in relation to five double faults.
That’s not a tremendous sign for a player who thrives on a potent, accurate serve. She is actually yet to make a final this year. That’s pretty uncharted territory for the 30-year-old Russian.
But she has started to show some signs of life in the latter part of the year. She reached the semi-finals in Canada and the quarterfinals of the US Open. And she also has experience on these courts, winning two group matches at last year’s WTA Finals.
Verdict: Pliskova to win in three sets at 5/1-
This will be only the second career meeting between these two. Rybakina won in straight sets at the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships.
I think that Pliskova has a real chance here. Rybakina has been wildly unpredictable this year and Pliskova is due a deep run in a big event.
Also, Pliskova was desperately unlucky not to qualify for the semi-finals of last year’s WTA Finals hosted here.
Round of 32- 19th October
Paula Badosa 1/1 | Victoria Azarenka 79/100
Paula Badosa may need a strong finish this week to secure her place at the upcoming WTA Finals in Fort Worth. It has been a rather surreal year for the hard-hitting Spaniard.
She is currently ranked third in the world and reached as high as two just earlier this year. But she has been fairly underwhelming in a season dominated by Iga Swiatek.
She won her third career title in Sydney but hasn’t reached a final since. And she comes into this event in pretty dismal form. She has been 2-6 since reaching the semi-final of the Silicon Valley Classic and needs to find some momentum during this crucial stage of the season.
She broke a three-match winning streak in San Diego before a comprehensive loss to Danielle Colllins. But she might draw some positive juju from the environs this week. Badosa reached the semi-finals at last year’s WTA Finals hosted in this very arena.
This has been a fairly chaotic, erratic season for former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka. This after a resurgent 2021 that saw her reach the Indian Wells final (more on that later). But she has just battled for consistency this year, with injuries and off-court stress contributing to her demise.
She even walked off court after trailing to Linda Fruhvirtova in the third round of the Miami Open, refusing to wait for her trainer and basically storming off like a brat.
She put it down to off-court issues, and she has started to play some better tennis in the latter part of the season. She reached the final eight in Washington before a decent fourth round run at the US Open.
She picked up a convincing opening victory against relative unknown Elina Avanesyan. These fast surfaces should suit her ultra-aggressive style that favours flatter hitting.
Verdict: Azarenka to win in three at 7/2-
This will be the third career meeting between these two. Paula Badosa won a pulsating Indian Wells final last year while Azarenka absolutely blasted Badosa off the court earlier this year in Adelaide.
Badosa will obviously benefit from her previous experience here, and she will be hugely motivated to advance her WTA Finals claims.
But I really think Azarenka has it in her to pull off the surprise here. As I noted, she loves these types of surfaces and Badosa is struggling to win two consecutive matches.