Wozniacki to storm Stanford in Williams’ absence
There’s a run of big WTA action coming up with four Premier-level tournaments on the bounce happening, all kicking off with the Bank Of The West Classic which also signals the start of the US Open series as well. Reigning Champion Serena Williams, who beat Angelique Kerber in last year’s final takes a pass on this one because of an elbow problem, opening up the field.
Caroline Wozniacki steps into the void as the top seed despite not having played at Stanford ever before. How much will she embrace this? She has some big appeal this week actually, because sizing up the field, she is one of the best hard court players on offer. You can forget about her clay and grass season this term because they aren’t impactful guides.
She has been in the semifinal or better of three hard-court tournaments this season, picking up the one title. If she’s not at the quarterfinals where she could meet Andrea Petkovic, then it'll be a huge disappointment for Wozniacki and her support. I’m not one personally who ever sees a lot of stock in following the Dane. This week, though, there is a hint that she may get close to the title.
Opposing her as the main challenger for the title will be Agnieszka Radwanska. She does have a huge advantage over Wozniacki this week in that she has appeared at the event five times before and made it to the 2013 final where she lost against Dominika Cibulkova. The question about her is whether or not she will be able to ride that confidence from her great grass form in reaching the semis at Nottingham and Wimbledon and reaching the final of Eastbourne. She’s done little on hard courts to suggest that she’ll go all the way here and lost to Wozniacki in Madrid in May on clay.
Radwanska has to deal with last year’s losing Stanford finalist Angelique Kerber in her quarter and potentially Carla Suarez Navarro in the semifinal. Actually the Spaniard has been in brilliant form this season (taking out her Grand Slam appearances) as she has been in the quarterfinals of 11 of 12 Tour appearances this season. Of course, she’s better on clay but has some decent hard court stats this season.
Karolina Pliskova has gone off the boil a bit since the season shifted away from the hard courts, but the US Open series affords her the chance to get back on top of her game. The rising Czech star played at Stanford last year but was dumped out in the second round by Serena Williams so you can’t really take much away from that result.
Easy DC for Makarova?
The DC draw for the Citi Open this week looks to be a little more straightforward. Ekaterina Makarova is the top seed and the biggest threat for the title. She was brilliant on the hard court last season and made the final four here last year -- and you can’t ignore her run to the Australian Open semis this season. She should dominate the top half of the draw where the impressive Belinda Bencic is knocking around and would make for a great semi if those two were to meet.
Alize Cornet has appeal but is in a tricky third quarter with the likes of Heather Watson, Sloane Stephens and Svetlana Kuznetsova. So some attention will be thrown towards Kristina Mladenovic who opposes Sam Stosur in the first round in the fourth quarter. The winner of that match should breeze through to the final four. Even though Mladenovic trails the head to head 3-0 against Stosur, the last two meetings have been close and the one time they met on hard court was the closest of all. Stosur just won in Bad Gastein on clay but lost in the first round of Stanford at this time last year against 406th ranked player Naomi Osaka. I never find a lot of reliability in her, so edge some support to the Frenchwoman.