2021 US Open WTA Round Three Predictions
Some reallllllllly tense matches on the WTA including Anisimova almost pulling off a huge upset. Apologies for getting this up so late. As the matches start to become a bit less “all 14 matches at the same time” I’ll be able to write while I watch. There are too many good players on the WTA right now and this is about to be the best major that the WTA has had in a long time.
Barty vs Rogers :
Barty Party is one of the nicknames I never get sick of. Ash Barty had a close moment in the second, but it is unreal how good her serving is. She has the most aces on tour for a reason, and the reason is that she has figured out how to serve aces. It is a neat trick, though a dirty one. Her opponents do get break points, but they just get noped away by T serves. Tauson is probably a weaker player than Rogers, but they have a similar approach to the game, so I’d expect a similar result. Rogers was in trouble against Cirstea, but Cirstea seemed a little bit off with her forehand today and she flew a little too close to the sun with some shots. Barty has won all 5 of their prior meetings, and she’s likely to win this one as well. Barty in 2.
Sorribes Tormo vs Raducanu :
Sara Sorribes Tormo continues to be the noisiest and most consistent player out there. Sorry Azarenka and Halep, Tormo is the best of both worlds. It’s surprising that she’s not a larger favorite here, but the Raducanu hype train keeps chugging along, or chooing along, or however trains move. Interesting spot here because Tormo will give you a free pair of sneakers but put glue on the bottom. She really gives up control of rallies all the time but then she puts every single ball back. Her use of height and her frequent moonballing is something that has embarrassed a lot of players on tour who probably felt like they were beyond that tactic. Raducanu’s match with Zhang was a good level, and she doesn’t really miss when she plays offense. Beatin Tormo will take a ton of shots in every rally, but I’m reminded that Fernandez was able to upset Tormo by played measured offense and getting to net. It’s a wait and see approach for me in this one, as Raducanu is entering new territory here and Sorribes Tormo is playing her best tennis. Tormo in 2 is what I expect, but Raducanu should be able to break serve a bit so it could go the distance. Honestly, if Emma is able to win this match it’s pretty scary given how new she is to the tour.
Bencic vs Pegula :
Bencic was pretty solid against Trevisan, whose result here will keep her going until next year’s clay season. Pegula had a similarly dominant performance against Doi. These two just played in the Olympic games, with Bencic winning in straight sets, but I feel like this will be closer. Pegula plays her best on home soil, and Bencic has been good but this is a big step up in competition and it may take her a second to adjust. As far as tactics, Bencic looks to take the ball early and execute angles as often as possible. Pegula’s counterpunching should be effective, but the Olympics win means Bencic will feel confident, despite not being in exactly the same form here as she was there. Bencic in 3.
Kontaveit vs Swiatek :
Very surprising that Swiatek won. Ferro was up a set, and a break, and playing very solid tennis. Swiatek was having trouble with the wind, and making a lot of forehand errors from decelerating her swing. At one point she was crouched in front of her chair and seemed to be crying, but she somehow righted herself and hung on to make a comeback. I don’t expect her to be in a slump forever, but it wasn’t her best tennis that ended up winning this match; it was more Ferro’s errors and Swiatek being a bit better on defense. Kontaveit had no issues in her match, and I really have never seen her play better than she did in dispatching Cincinnati finalist Teichmann. There is a good chance that Kontaveit wins this if Swiatek plays the way she did against Ferro, as she hits a very heavy forehand and doesn’t give up many errors in baseline rallies. Swiatek will need her serve to carry her through this, and it just hasn’t been there yet. Leaning into the upset here. Kontaveit in 2.
Pliskova vs Tomljanovic :
This one was tough to watch. The crowd really got behind Amanda Anisimova tonight, and she played as well as you can without winning a match. Pliskova served well throughout and is in really good form, but Anisimova’s easy power and exceptional backhand were on display and made this a very close match. She had some makable shots in the tiebreaker and just missed, but it’s good to see her playing near the level she did in that amazing Indian Wells run in 2018. Tomljanovic had a similarly solid performance, but she really benefitted from Martic’s court position and overuse of the slice backhand. It let Ajla batter away with her backhand, and although Martic got decent height on her forehands, these courts aren’t really kicking up and she couldn’t get much depth since she played most of the match from behind the baseline. She did serve for the second set, and was up a break in the first, so this was just a slightly sharper player beating one who’s regaining their composure.
I’m not sure that Tomljanovic can mirror the type of performance that Anisimova put on, but she is very very consistent from the baseline and this will make it a dogfight. As well as Pliskova is playing, she should continue her run. Pliskova in 2 tight sets.
Gracheva vs Pavlyuchenkova :
I didn’t expect Gracheva to beat Badosa, but she did it anyway. When her timing is right she really hits the ball solid and Badosa was unable to regain control of rallies. Normally I’d expect Pavs to beat Gracheva, but her match against Schmiedlova was very lackluster. She struggled to keep the ball in play, and the only reason she won was Schmiedlova playing a bit worse. The wind was a factor, but it was several levels below what you’d expect from Pavlyuchenkova, and I was surprised to see oddsmakers open her at -370 for the next match. I was expecting something like -190 at best, and if I’m being honest it almost scares me, because I think Varvara is going to win this match outright. Pavs will have a day of practice to iron out her issues, and she did win sets 1 and 3 easily, but even in set one she went down a break of serve right away. Even if Pavs plays well, Gracheva is still fairly consistent, so unless there’s some injury issue I’m unaware of, Gracheva in 2.
Kvitova vs Sakkari :
As I lay here eating pizza goldfish like it’s my job, I’m treated to a familiar matchup. These two have played a number of times, with Kvitova pretty much always getting the win. This will be Sakkari’s best chance to win though, since she has played sharp each round and has wound up in a third set the last few times they met. Most of their previous sets have been decided by early breaks, and this is why I think Sakkari has a chance here. Her serving game has improved tremendously. It’s a bit optimistic, but Kvitova wasn’t exactly dominant against Krystina Pliskova last round, and Sakkari had some tough matches through the first two rounds. Kvitova is a sliiiiiiight favorite based on past results, but this could go either way.
Minnen vs Andreescu :
Minnen take a lucky loser spot and getting to the third round is just what the dr ordered, and her results haven’t been great this year but she’s been very close to winning most of her matches. Her serve is doing well on these courts and although she hugs the baseline and tends to hit a bit slower because she’s guiding the ball in, these courts make any swing travel through. Andreescu should be a heavy favorite here in the odds, but this could be tricky. She struggled early against Davis, who really doesn’t have the offense to hurt Andreescu, and this is her deepest run in a tournament in a while. The motivation and desire are there, and despite it looking like she’s about to hit the ball 15 feet long, her backhands land in over right in front of the baseline. I think Minnen has a chance to steal a set, but Andreescu’s power has pretty much broken down everyone she’s played on tour. Andreescu in 3.
Svitolina vs Kasatkina :
Masarova was largely running on fumes, but she still made a match of it against Svitolina. Elina is one of the sharpest players on tour right now, which is what makes this next part difficult. Kasatkina should have a good shot here. She did lose the first set, but she really made life difficult on Marketa Voundrousova. Kasatkina hit her forehand with a ton of pace and height which doesn’t seem simultaneously possible, and she kept her errors to a minimum as the match stretched on. How they produce their shots is wildly different, but Voundrousova and Svitolina are similar players. Both look to outlast their opponent with defense, and both basically score being their forehands once they get inside the baseline. I don’t know if she will do it, but Kasatkina can score a big win here. For now, I’ll say Svitolina in 3, but I’d be wary about backing her.
Rybakina vs Halep :
I was a little surprised by the line for this one (even odds), but I see Rybakina has a win over Halep. She was excellent against Garcia, barely losing any games, but I watched Halep’s first two round and she seems like she’s getting near her best recent form. This isn’t the form that won her grand slams, but the one that had her scrambling in a losing effort to Serena maybe a year ago. I think these quicker courts will let her move the ball a bit better than usual, and even thought she’s only beaten Giorgi and Kucova, having experience at this stage is a big plus. Rybakina’s power seems to be able to hit past most players, but I’d rate Halep most likely to get it back. The conditions at Armstrong have still been a bit windy, and this might bother Rybakina as well since she sometimes struggles with her ball toss. Halep in 3.
Kerber vs Stephens :
Kalinina lost about 4 duece games in the first set, and quickly this became a rout. Kerber didn’t have to do much, but she also didn’t miss much. She was content to keep the ball in play, and this was really enough against Kalinina. Kalinina has tremendous shots, and a good serve, but didn’t land many first serves, and made too many unforced errors. I expect better quality from Stephens in this next round, and she’s through with a similar performance where she did play well, but didn’t have to do that much.
Gauff came into this match playing well, but she made too many forehands errors to win. Stephens is solid and she’s as fit as she’s ever been, but she doesn’t really do a ton with the ball. If you’re unable to work multiple shots to win the point, you simply can’t beat her, and Gauff spent too much time trying to knock her over. It became a very quick match, with powerful exchanges being the only thing going on. I like Gauff’s chances of becoming a top 10 player, but she’s going to have to develop a more subdued strategy against the top players because physically she doesn’t hit the ball big enough to beat them with offense just yet.
Kerber will make gets where Gauff made errors. Her serve is getting wide well, and her backhand is very solid. Stephens, on the other hand, can rally all day long. Her errors and lackluster play are more a thing in smaller events, and her fitness dictates her quality. She’s in her best form here, and I’d expect her to be prepared to steal a set if Kerber’s issue with double faults pops up (she sometimes throws her toss a little bit too far in front of her and chases it). Ultimately, I do think Kerber is playing better entering this match, and only the best of the best on tour have beaten her recently. Kerber in 3.
Fernandez vs Osaka :
Fernandez beating Kanepi may not be a finals, but it was a big step for her on a major stage. Fernandez has been quiet on tour despite winning a title. She’s good, but doesn’t grab those big wins. This is as good a chance as she’ll get. Osaka did make some errors against Bouzkova, and Fernandez is a bit quicker and in much better form that Maria. Osaka also hit some tremendous serves though, and the way she seems to drag her forehand and produce clean winners is something no one else on the tour can really reproduce. I think she is wildly overpriced at this juncture, but she should win. Osaka in 3, and if she wins in 2 I expect her to win her next round as well.
Krejcikova vs Rakhimova :
Krejcikova is good. She just doesn’t stop hitting shots, and this includes the sections of the match where she makes errors. It is refreshing to see a player believe in their shots enough that they just execute them, and she’ll need to against surprise 3rd rounder Rakhimova. Halfway through the first set (and down 4-2) the over under for the match was set at 19.5 games. Now, Alexandrova was a significant favorite before the match, so up a break, this number should be dropping, but it stayed steady. This seemed like a clear indication that they expected Rakhimova to win the second set, and I wondered why they’d risk exposure on the under with Alexandrova rolling. Rakhimova proceeded then to win 10 of the next 11 games in finish the match 6-4, 6-1. On one hand, the books clearly knew what was coming (not terribly outlandish given Alexandrova’s recent struggles and Rakhimova’s solid play) but what really makes me happy is that despite trapping the general public into thinking they were dunking on the under, the match still went under : ).
Krejcikova is the exact player who can deal with Rakhimova’s power and who has the shot tolerance to outlast her in rallies. I don’t think she’s the -1000 lock that she’s listed as, but since most bettors are just going off name recognition, Rakhimova is going to see very little investment (especially since her wins thus far have been in matches most people aren’t watching) and Krejcikova has to be accordingly astronomically priced. Oftentimes, the books are just saying “please don’t bet”. This doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk, and there’s the old adage about picking up pennies in front of a steamroller for situations like this. Rakhimova has been playing well, and Krejcikova is human. I still think she’ll win in straight sets though. Krejcikova in 2.
Azarenka vs Muguruza :
Azarenka had her hands full against Paolini, who got a lot more coverage than she normally would because rain delayed the match on Armstrong. It felt like the moment coverage switched over, she began playing perfect baseline tennis. She really could have won the second set, and the more impressive thing is that Azarenka was playing excellent. Muguruza played her stunt double in the 2nd round, and Petkovic was not exactly up to the task. There are two things at play here for me. One, Azarenka looks extremely sharp but isn’t shutting her opponents out. Two, Muguruza has a big power advantage but has lost some odd matches lately. Since both are playing well, but neither is likely to dominate, I expect this to be a very tight matchup. Aza fan, nothing would make happier than for both of these players to play great. I don’t want either of them to ruza day they lost though. I think I’m sleepy. I only try puns when I’m sleepy. Azarenka has been a bit better about moving the ball, but Muguruza has more power. I’m really not sure. Azarenka in 3.
Mertens vs Jabeur :
Jabeur is out here zipping people. It’s a scary thing. I’m not sure how these two haven’t played before, but this is likely to be a good match. Mertens struggles against power, and Jabeur blasts the ball. Jabeur’s weakness is that she goes for a bit too much when you get her on the run, and Mertens is capable of putting the ball anywhere from either wing. I tend to side with variety over power, but Jabeur employs some deft dropshots in her arsenal and has a solid serving game. Her performance against Osorio Serrano was unreal, and there was even a hug after the match. I’d hug a Jabeur. I’d hug anyone probably, but my arms are too short. I’d hug Patrick Mouratoglu, but he seems too smug for a hug. Unfortunately, Mertens is one of my favorites on tour, and it means I frequently announce her to win matches she probably won’t. If she can win here, and it’s a big if, it is a very good sign for her to make a deep run in this tournament. There are a lot of big hitters left and she’ll need to beat more if she wants to win. Likely, Jabeur in 3.
Collins vs Sabalenka :
If you want some insight into the useless suspicious side of sportsbetting, look no further than the line for this match. Sabalenka is listed at -222, which seems a little bit low. Step 2 is knowing that Collins just beat her first two opponents soundly, and that she plays her best tennis in the US Open. Sabalenka struggled a little with Stojanovic, and Collins’ ball movement could pose a problem for Sabalenka, who thrives when she gets a second to set up. It’s hard to look at numbers and say the #2 seed is going to lose, but that is somewhat what I expect here. -222 is the low end of Sabalenka’s price-range (you won’t usually see her lower unless she’s actually an underdog like against Barty, or playing one of the other top 10 players). I’m leaning into the upset here. Collins in 3.