155 days ago on the eve of Indian Wells competitive tennis came to end. This last week tennis returned in Palermo and now tennis returns to the USA ahead of the smaller than usually American hard court swing kicking off for the very first time in Kentucky followed by the New York double of Cincinnati and New York.
It is important to remember that the pandemic is far from over and is more prominent all over the world now than it was a few months and we wouldn’t be able to be at this stage of watching live tennis without sacrifices made and the incredible work from key workers around the planet. It is important now more than ever this work continues.
The Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky is staging what would have been the Citi Open in Washington which couldn’t go ahead and the big names have come out in preparation of a trip to New York,
Serena, Vika, Venus, Sloane and Coco Gauff are just some of the big names in Lexington for what is set to be a fun week of tennis with some incredible match-ups, the tennis gods have delivered!
Venus Williams v Victoria Azarenka (winner gets Serena, potentially)
It is great to have tennis back and to see great match-ups but in round one of a tournament to have Venus v Vika and maybe Serena in round two is brutal.
Vika and Venus have always had some good battles. It’s bene over a year since they last met in Auckland with Venus winning 6-3 1-6 6-3 at the beginning of 2019. Prior to that win you have to go all the way back 2015 for their previous meetings with Vika winning on both occasions in Doha and Madrid.
The two wins for Vika in 2015 were her only two against Venus having lost their previous four in straight sets.
It will be an interesting battle between these two, the form book goes out the window but it will be fascinating to see where everyones game is at. I don’t want any of them to go home but I would love to see Vika find some form.
Quite incredibly for a couple of reasons Vika has only played one singles match in 347 days which was a 2-6 2-6 defeat to Zidansek in Monterrey.
Amanda Anisimova v Catherine Bellis
In the second quarter we have another fascinating battle between Amanda Anisimova and CiCi Bellis.
CiCi made her US Open debut at the age of 15 in 2014 and went onto build incredible momentum in 2017 breaking into the top 50. The following year it was tough for her as she was plagued by multiple injuries and had four surgeries on her wrist, arm and elbow.
For just 18 years old, Amanda has such a strong game. She was a French Open semi-finalist last year and put on that masterclass performance against defending champion Simona Halep. Amanda has had some good results since but also an incredibly difficult time for her as her dad passed away before the US Open.
Another one of those matches where it is good to see both players, I’d like to see CiCi hit those strides from 2017 again but I do feel on her day Amanda Anisimova strikes the ball better than most.
Jo Konta v Marie Bouzkova
The last time British number one Johanna Konta played on the WTA tour was in Monterrey.
Jo went out in the semi-finals 3-6 4-6 and her opponent that day was Marie Bouzkova her round one opponent in Lexington.
Over the course of lockdown we have seen a lot of the British players in action down in Roehampton but we’ve rarely seen Jo. She played in the latest version of the Battle of the Brits but lost to Jodie Burrage. On the final day Jo was no where to be seen except for a cardboard cut-out of the number one who had no intention of playing but was surprisingly not present for the team.
It’s going to be a tough ask for Jo, I didn’t feel like she was too pleased with her level in Roehampton.
Marie will bring strength and dictation from her forehand and Jo will have to settle into her own rhythm very quickly try to push the Czech onto her backhand.
Ons Jabeur v Caty McNally
Ones was one of the standout players early on in the season. The Tunisian made the quarter finals of the Australian Open at the beginning of the year. Her tennis was fearless and it was a delight to watch Ons mix power with skill and caused havoc for her opponents.
Her match against Simona Halep is Dubai especially in the third set was up there as one of the most intense battles of recent times. It was one of those, how did you not win matches but it was epic from both players.
Caty McNally is also someone who plays fearless tennis. The 18 year old isn’t fazed by much and that was noticeable in her US Open performance against Serena. The teenager held her own well and had that perfect mentality of if you’re going to beat me it’s not going to be handed to you.
Up 6-5 but down 0-40 the teenager saw out the set but then Serena turned up as she did to win in three sets but a great indicator from McNally who was 17 at the time that she is one to watch out for.
Who else is playing?
Aryna Sabalenka is the second seed, watch out for the Belarusian who knows how to cause an upset.
Britain’s Heather Watson is in action against Jennifer Brady who caused some upsets in January.
Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff will also be in action but against qualifiers, a draw which contains the exciting Canadian Leylah Fernandez!