Sloane Stephens of the United States plays a return shot while competing against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their women’s singles semi final match at the WTA tennis finals in Singapore on Oct. 27, 2018.
Sloane Stephens of the United States plays a return shot while competing against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their women’s singles semi final match at the WTA tennis finals in Singapore on Oct. 27, 2018.|Vincent Thian | Associated Press
Tennis

WTA Volvo Car Open Tennis: Abrams picks 3rd round matches with Wozniacki, Keys, Puig, Ostapenko, Sabalenka, Stephens, Collins, more.

Weather in chilly Charleston should warm up to high-60s today.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Caroline Wozniacki over Mihaela Buzarnescu
Wozniacki, the 5th seed here, didn’t play her best yesterday, but she didn’t need to in dispatching Germany’s Laura Seigemund in two relatively easy sets 6-2, 6-2. Seigemund on average hit more than one drop shot per game, and unlike her previous opponent, 17-year-old Emma Navarro, Wozniacki had no trouble getting to them, except for the few that went for clean winners. Woznicacki served well, and her groundstrokes were strong and deep, especially those she aimed down-the-line, which seemed really effective. Buzarnescu has won two matches here and seemed to get used to the slow har-tru surface by the time she took out American Lauren Davis 6-3, 6-2. The Romanian needed those two wins to give her some confidence, as prior to this tournament she only recorded one single win in 2019. Even with that confidence, I doubt Buzarnescu has the game to extend Wozniacki much. Because it’s on clay this match should take some time, but I’d be surprised if the score wasn’t lopsided in favor of the Dane.

Jelena Ostapenko over Madison Keys
Jelena Ostapenko escaped yesterday’s second round match with South Carolina native Shelby Rogers, who was making a comeback from injury and surgery with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 victory. Rogers was really upbeat after the match, taking only the good out of her second match back and recognizing that her result here was a good stepping-stone. Ostapenko was less than thrilled, but she was pushed to the limit, and really should be happy that she came through that match to set up this encounter with American Madison Keys. I don’t know what it is right now, but Keys is playing much worse than just being her normal inconsistent self. She, by rights, should have lost her night match against Tatjana Maria because Keys, the eighth seed, was all over the place. It wasn’t surprising to see her hitting balls eight to twelve feet out in the third set, because after she hit that far out in the first two sets it was no longer a surprise to see her being that wild. If she continues to hit that poorly, look for the Latvian to notch her first win over the new resident of Lake Nona, Florida. If Keys can regain control over her flailing groundies, she can take this match, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

Monica Puig over Aryna Sabalenka
It’s nice to see Monica Puig, the reigning women’s Olympic gold medalist from Puerto Rico, win two matches in a row. She has been inconsistent at best for the better part of two years, and if she can simply keep the ball in the court and cut down on her unforced errors, she can and will take out the Warrior Princess, Aryna Sabalenka. On the other hand, if Sabalenka, seeded 3rd here, can control her urges to pound the ball every shot and play a more patient game that is needed on these slow courts, she should overcome the American. This match will be a battle of attrition measured by who lost it rather than who will win it. I think Sabalenka loses this match and Puig moves on, simply because I think Puig will be better able to contain her worst instincts.

Danielle Collins over Kaia Kanepi
Danielle Collins showed some knowledge of how to compete on clay courts as she has disposed of both Madison Brengle and Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov in straight sets here in two completely different environments. Kaia Kanepi, however, overcame her worst nightmare yesterday in toppling 6th seeded Elise Mertens 0-6, 6-0, 7-5. After a truly horrendous start, the Estonian regrouped, and totally changed her mindset in her interesting match over Mertens. By coming back from getting whitewashed in the first set, Kanepi showed mental resiliency and physical toughness as she went on to capture the momentum and the match in three sets. But that won’t happen against the fiery Collins. The Floridian showed both that she has the ability to dominate when playing well, and that she has the mental fortitude to cash in on the tenseness of a tiebreaker win, as she eased past her 21-year-old second round opponent, Bolsova Zadoinov, 6-3, 7-6. I expect Collins to show more poise today and I expect the American to move on without much problem.

Sloane Stephens over Ajla Tomljanovic
As always, picking Sloane Stephens to win when she isn’t playing near her peak is a very dicey proposition. Stephens is such a likable player, and as a former U.S. Open champion she has shown some wonderful results, that it tends to influence my opinion on her play. But as truly special as she has been, she has also shown some wildly inconsistent play that is tough to ignore. Stephens, the top seed here, struggled mightily in finally overcoming Spain’s 22-year-old Sara Sorribes Tormo in two tie-breakers in her first match, a match that obviously could have gone either way. Stephens appeared somewhat bothered by the slow har-tru courts and the unseasonably cold weather that made the balls rocks with which she had to generate her own pace on. But the weather has changed, and the courts can’t be the mystery that they were the other night for the amenable Stephens. This match is on Stephens’ racket. If she plays poorly, she could lose. But if she plays any better than she played Tuesday night, she should push her record over Tomljanovic to 5-0.

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