Cincinnati Thursday: Sweet 16

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

CINCINNATI, OH, USA – Twelve of 16 seeds remain in Cincinnati, and they will all be battling for a spot in the Western & Southern Open quarterfinals on Thursday. Chris Oddo previews the must-see sweet 16 match-ups for

Thursday, Third Round

Center Court
[3] Simona Halep (ROU #4) vs. Daria Gavrilova (AUS #47)
Halep leads, 2-1

Key Stat: Halep stretched her win streak to 11 with a straight-sets victory over Annika Beck.
Eleven wins and counting. It’s plain to see that things are going along swimmingly for Romania’s Simona Halep these days. She has not lost since Wimbledon and the World No.4 picked up some extra confidence with a breezy second-round win over Germany’s Beck on Wednesday in Cincinnati. “I feel confident,” she said after working her way past Beck in 55 minutes. “I had pretty good tournaments before coming here and I feel my game.” Halep has already been in Cincinnati for a week, and says that the conditions suit her in more ways than one. “I came Wednesday or Thursday,” she said. “That helped me a lot to play today because I have many days to prepare. I like these courts. I like that they’re faster a little bit and the ball is a bit heavier. I like these conditions.” Will the conditions favor Halep when she takes on Aussie qualifier Daria Gavrilova? The 22-year-old has already won four matches in Cincinnati, the latest and most impressive over Elina Svitolina. The No.3 seed will come in as the favorite, but Gavrilova already owns three Top 10 wins this season – one of which came against Halep in Rome – and is certainly capable of the upset.

Pick: Halep in three

[5] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #5) vs. [10] Johanna Konta (GBR #13)
First meeting

Key Stat: Konta comes in with a 4-3 record versus the Top 10 in 2016.
Johanna Konta made a successful Queen City debut against World No.121 Donna Vekic and the British No.1 is happy to have another chance for a big win on Thursday against Agnieszka Radwanska. “I am very happy to have gotten through that and just give myself another shot at coming back tomorrow and keep trying to get better,” Konta said after recording her 32nd victory of the season. Konta says that her success in 2016 has been a product of hard work and learning from experience. “I keep trying to do that every time I step out onto the court, to keep basically taking everything from the match that I’m playing and try to reinvest it into the following matches,” she said. “I think I’ve been able to do a good job at just reinvesting those experiences and becoming that much tougher.” She’ll have to be super tough to get past Thursday’s opponent. Agnieszka Radwanska raced past Andrea Petkovic on Wednesday, dropping just one game in the process. The three-time Cincinnati quarterfinalist will meet Konta for the first time and will look to test the powerful Brit with her variety, creativity and defense. Will Konta be up for the challenge?

Pick: Radwanska in three

[2] Angelique Kerber (GER #2) vs. Barbora Strycova (CZE #20)
Kerber leads 4-1Key Stat: Kerber could ascend to the No. 1 ranking with the title in Cincinnati.
With Serena Williams out of the draw with a shoulder injury, the No.1 ranking is in play this week for Angelique Kerber. It’s certainly a big deal, and the media has rightfully placed a lot of attention on it, but the World No.2 is too smart to fall into that mind trap. “No, that’s not on my mind,” Kerber said after defeating Kristina Mladenovic in her second-round match on Wednesday. “Of course everybody is talking about this and asking me, but at the end it’s still a long way to go. There are really tough opponents here in the draw and I’m not thinking about this. I’m just trying to go step by step, and at the end of the week we will see how far I can get and what will happen.” Kerber will leave the ranking talk to the media and instead focus her attention on her next opponent, Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. The talented 30-year-old is fresh off a bronze medal in doubles at the Olympics, plus wins over Eugenie Bouchard and Sam Stosur here in Cincinnati. Kerber has the 4-1 edge over the Czech, but Strycova took their last meeting in straight-sets in Madrid.

Pick: Kerber in two

Stadium 3
[4] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP #3) vs. [16] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS #18)
Muguruza leads, 2-0

Key Stat: Muguruza earned her first win at Cincinnati by beating CoCo Vandeweghe on Wednesday.
Garbiñe Muguruza earned her first win at Cincinnati on Wednesday, easing past hard-serving American CoCo Vandeweghe in straight sets. Will she be able to back it up against an in-form opponent with a spot in the last eight on the line? Muguruza seems to be settling back into a dominant posture after a forgettable summer on the grass. Aside from her thumping at the hands of Monica Puig in Rio, Muguruza has won the other six sets she’s played on the hard courts. Is that enough for the Spaniard to build on ahead of what promises to be a hard-hitting tilt with Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Thursday? The 25-year-old has been a player on the rise this summer, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and claiming wins in nine of her last twelve. Though she has lost both matches she’s played against Muguruza, Pavlyuchenkova has won three of her last six against the Top 10. On the fast hardcourts at Cincinnati, this should be a dizzying display of power tennis between two players that embrace the grip it and rip it mentality.

Pick: Pavlyuchenkova in three

By the numbers…
306 – Number of consecutive weeks that Serena Williams has held the No. 1 ranking, which is third-most all time behind Navratilova (332) and Graf (377).
47 – The position of the lowest-ranked player remaining in the draw (Gavrilova).
12 – Number of seeded players that have advanced to the sweet 16 in Cincinnati.
3 – Number of qualifiers (Timea Babos, Gavrilova) plus lucky losers (Misaki Doi) in the round of 16.

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