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PREVIEW: 2024 WTA Tour – San Diego Open selected Ro32 & Ro16 matches

Carline Wozniacki faces Anna Blinkova in the round of 32 and Beatriz Haddad Maia takes on Katie Boulter in the round of 16 at the WTA Tour’s San DIego Open. Damien Kayat previews.

Caroline Wozniacki - Australian Open 2024

Carline Wozniacki faces Anna Blinkova in the round of 32 and Beatriz Haddad Maia takes on Katie Boulter in the round of 16 at the WTA Tour’s San Diego Open. Damien Kayat previews.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2024 WTA Tour – WTA 500
San Diego Open
Barnes Tennis Centre, San Diego
Selected Ro32 and 16 Matches
27 – 28 February

27 February: Round of 32
Caroline Wozniacki 73/100 | Anna Blinkova 21/20

I really had my doubts about Caroline Wozniacki’s comeback when she announced it in that first-person Vogue article last year. The 33-year-old hadn’t played on the WTA Tour for three years and times had certainly changed. The former World No.1 and 2018 Aussie Open champ was the elite defensive baseliner of her day, absorbing pressure and counterpunching effectively. 

But women’s tennis has become much more like men’s tennis of late, with an emphasis on aggressive, first-strike play. I didn’t really think Wozniacki would thrive on return. But she surprised me at Flushing Meadows, beating the likes of Kvitova and Brady to reach the final 16.

She pushed eventual champion Coco Gauff to three sets, ultimately justifying her decision. But why has she played so little tennis this season? She suffered an early elimination in Auckland before an underwhelming second round showing at the Aussie Open (this will be her first tournament since then).

It frustrates me that someone will lose their place in upcoming Slams to a player who has participated in two completed matches this season.

Anna Blinkova is quite the contrast to Wozniacki. The 25-year-old Russian is far more direct, looking for more winners and hitting her fair share of unforced errors in the process. Also, Blinkova enjoys coming to the net to finish off points.

Wozniacki treats the net like a demilitarized zone that has to be avoided at all costs. This could prove a crucial year for the somewhat erratic Russian. Blinkova won her only title at the 2022 Transylvania Open and she reached a career-high ranking of 34th in 2023.

But her inconsistency has cost her and she has dropped down to 51st in the world. She did enjoy a famous win at this year’s Aussie Open, beating Rybakina for the second time in her career. That match featured the longest Grand Slam tiebreak in the Open Era (Blinkova won the decisive tiebreak 22-20).

You have to have real talent to take down Rybakina on those surfaces. But she has been abysmal on either side of that 3rd round run, winning only one of five matches in her other tournaments this year.

Verdict: Wozniacki to win in three sets 7/2

This will be their first career meeting. I think this is going be a nice contrast in styles, with Blinkova looking to dictate play while Woznaicki hangs back at the baseline in her usual defensive posture.

Blinkova may be able to put the Dane under pressure with her willingness to come to the net. But I think the Dane will grow into the game and her ability to constantly retrieve the ball should force Blinkova into numerous errors.

28 February: Round of 16
Beatriz Haddad Maia 5/10 | Katie Boulter 31/20

It has really been a long and challenging road for Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia. She almost gave up on the game after a series of debilitating injuries and a notable doping suspension. But she rose back to prominence in 2022, winning back-to-back grass-court titles before reaching a maiden WTA 1000 final at the Canadian Open.

She showed further progress last season, reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open. She then finished the year by beating Qinwen Zheng in the WTA Elite Trophy, ensuring that she finished the year with a career-high ranking of 11.

She reached the third round of this year’s Aussie Open prior to an impressive run to the Abu Dhabi semi-finals. But she injured herself in her semi-final with Daria Kasatkina and she hasn’t won a match since.

Could she rediscover her form on these North American hardcourts? Her performance at the 2022 Canadian Open suggests she could be comfortable here. She is an ultra-aggressive player who isn’t afraid to finish points at the net.

Katie Boulter enjoyed her best season as a professional last year, ending the campaign ranked inside the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time in her career. She won her first WTA title in Nottingham, leaning on that big serve to win in truly impressive fashion.

She also looked far more accomplished on the biggest stages, reaching back-to-back Grand Slam third rounds at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows. She has enjoyed a pretty humdrum campaign up to this point (notwithstanding a victory over Jesica Pegula in the United Cup).

She went out early in Adelaide before running into eventual finalist Qinwen Zheng in the second round of the Aussie Open. She beat surprise Dubai champion Paolini in the Linz Open before crashing out to Pavlyuchenkova.

So, I think it’s fair to say that she hasn’t been able to establish a rhythm this season. But she looked impressive in her opening win against journeywoman Tsurenko, clinching six of eight break point opportunities in the encounter. But she will need to improve on those eight double faults if she wishes to progress this week.

Verdict: Boulter to win 31/20

This will be the first career meeting between these two. This match really represents a great opportunity for Boulter to pick up a nice scalp. Haddad Maia hasn’t looked the same payer since picking up that injury in Abu Dhabi and Boulter- double faults aside- was tremendous in her opener against Tsurenko.

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