Halep, Wozniacki, V. Williams and some of the new young guns in action.
Women’s Fourth Round picks
Caroline Wozniacki over Su-Wei Hsieh
Hsieh is here because Osaka laid an egg on Saturday, particularly in the third set. The world No. 1 was four points from victory in the second set tiebreaker and just folded. It happens. Hsieh plays a very unorthodox game reliant on changing speeds, directions, spins, and the height and depth of her shots, and it is singular among the women on Tour. Osaka normally would have just hit through the barrage of junk, but played poorly. Wozniacki won’t. The Dane has two good wins in a row and hasn’t given up a set yet in Miami. More importantly, Hsieh’s game won’t surprise Woz -- she’s 4-0 against Hsieh lifetime. Game over.
Bianca Andreescu over Anett Kontaveit
The women’s Tour has a new “Money Honey,” and she’s a Canadian. The 18-year-old Andreescu has already won over $1.5 million in 2019 and it isn’t even the end of the first quarter yet! She also has won more matches than any other women so far this year, sporting a nifty 31-3 record, now that she’s in the Fourth Round. Color me impressed. She’s gonna have to work hard to earn her money in this match, as she’s up against Kontaveit, an impressive Estonian. Kontaveit wiggled her way out of a bad second set against rising American teenager Amanda Anisimova and then won two tiebreakers against Ajla Tomljanovic, who had dispatched 9th seeded Aryna Sabalenka, the Warrior Princess. I think this will be a close match, but I’m going with Andreescu based on her momentum. She has had to be worked on a lot by the WTA’s physios during her matches, and if that continues, it will catch up with her -- but it won’t be until tomorrow.
Petra Kvitova over Caroline Garcia
This should be a very close match. If Kvitova, the 3rd seeded Czech, jumps out to an early lead she’ll probably run away with this in two sets. But if Garcia pushes the 6’0” 29-year-old and it’s close, I’d expect Garcia to dig out this match. I think the closer it is, the more likely Garcia will out-compete Kvitova. Frankly, the Spaniard’s two wins this week (over Azarenka and Georges) were more impressive than the Czech’s (Sakari and a tough 3 setter over Vekic), and I’d think that Garcia will be feeling awfully confident going into this match, but you never know. These two have each won 3 of their previous 6 meetings, so I’m thinking that the player who is feeling better physically and has the most confidence will take this rubber match.
Ash Barty over Kiki Bertens
I’d designate this match as my lock of the day. Barty has looked hardly bothered this week in topping Dayana Yastremska and Sam Stosur while only giving up a total of 8 games. Bertens has taken out Xiyu Wang and Viktoria Kuzmova easily, with a little speed bump in the first set against Kuzmova. But the telling stat is that Barty holds a 3-0-career record over the 6-footer from The Netherlands. Matchups mean everything, and that’s the “tell” here.
Karolina Pliskova over Yulia Putintseva
I wrote an article previewing the 2019 Australian Open in December, 2018 in which I identified Pliskova as a threat to win a Grand Slam title this year. Well, she didn’t win in Melbourne, but she has sported a very impressive 18-4 2019 record, including her two wins here in South Florida. The fifth seed has looked impressive, and although she is not the fastest or quickest woman on the Tour, she more than makes up for her lack of blazing speed by how hard she strikes the ball, stealing precious time from her opponents. Putintseva has put together a nice little run here, taking out Flipkens, Bencic and Sevastova in succession, but she has out-battled and out-competed all three of them. Pliskova is just a better tennis player, and the Russian won’t be able to out-battle someone who just has a better game than hers.
Marketa Vondrousova over Tatjana Maria
Maria put Sloane Stephens out of her misery on Sunday in a miserable 6-2, 6-3 beating. Stephens, who increasingly shows either brilliance or ineptness, was a shadow of that player who won the 2017 U.S. Open, as she played poorly and competed with little or no vigor. Still, Maria had to put the ball in the court, and she did…and a win over the fourth ranked player in the world always looks good, no matter how easy it was. Vondrousova, the 19-year-old Czech, however, has looked dominant and impressive in her wins over Strycova, Ostapenko, and Mertens, the last two who were seeded here. Neither has dropped a set in this tournament, so they both come into this match playing top-notch tennis. But Vondrousova has a much more dominant game than Maria and I think the teen will run away with this match.
Qiang Wang over Yafan Wang
Qiang Wang has lost four games reaching the Fourth Round. Okay, she had a bye, crushed Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-0, and then got a walkover from Serena Williams, so it’s not as impressive as it sounds. Still Qiang holds a 5-1 record over Yafan, all of her wins coming in straight sets, and that usually is a good indicator as to who holds the upper hand between two players. Although Yafan is having a superlative year, with a 13-3 record so far after her wins over Svitolina and Collins, her record against her compatriot is so lopsided against her that I just can’t get over it. Qiang over Yafan.
Simona Halep over Venus Williams
Call me impressed. Venus Williams is showing resilience and resolve these past few weeks as she’s winning matches against good players without being able to serve much over 90 mph, with most of them between 65-80 mph. Without her trademark dominant serve I’d think that Venus would have difficulty competing at this level, but she has proven me so wrong. She has moved well and hit her groundstrokes with power and precision, and don’t forget that she’s awfully imposing, at 6’1”, when she comes to net. She’s got a big wingspan so is hard to pass, and is almost impossible to lob over. But Simona Halep is a problem solver out there, and she’ll figure it out. The Romanian is not playing her best tennis, but as I’ve said before, the true sign of a champion is being able to win while not having your best game, and Halep is a champion. She will battle until she figures out the right angles and the right strategy, and she should make Venus pay for her hurt shoulder. But that shouldn’t hurt Venus too much -- she’s already won over $41 million.