The WTA China Open dominates proceedings on Monday in this joint ATP/WTA event, with 12 ladies singles matches on the schedule for today.
It wasn’t a great start to the tournament on Sunday, as Jie Zheng failed to take three set points in the opener of her clash with Maria Kirilenko, while a rusty Sabine Lisicki went unpunished by a lacklustre Chanelle Scheepers.
Many of Monday’s matches are scheduled for an early start, but there are five first round matches that being played at a more palatable time for those of us in Europe.
Lauren Davis vs Carla Suarez Navarro
This match should be one that Davis will be looking forward to for a spot of revenge, or at least to salvage some pride, having been subjected to the dreaded double bagel by the Spaniard on home soil at the US Open last month.
The diminutive Davis will have her work cut out again though in conditions that will surely be more suited to Suarez Navarro and this looks a pretty awful match up for Davis on the evidence of New York, which in theory should have suited her better than Carla.
Davis has done well in qualifying here, but she did lose out to Britain’s Johanna Konta last week and her weight of shot may not be hard enough to cause CSN many problems in the stodgy conditions here in Beijing. The 1.73 on Suarez Navarro minus 4.5 games on the handicap appeals.
Victoria Azarenka vs Andrea Petkovic
The world number two won this Beijing title without dropping a set last year and she’s back to defend her crown after suffering from illness in Tokyo, where she was very much below 100 percent in her loss to Venus Williams.
I can’t imagine that Beijing is the best place to be if you’re feeling below par, but Vika says she’s feeling fine, so we’ll have to take her at her word. Her opponent today at around 12pm UK time has struggled to get back to her former heights after injury and has shown little since reaching the Washington semi-final in week 31.
The German has had problems keeping her best level in matches of late and if Azarenka is back to fitness she should have few problems getting past Petkovic. They have met twice previously, with the Belarusian winning each, but neither match holds much relevance today.
This is all about Vika and she should win this with a 5.5 game handicap at around 1.70 if she’s healthy. Last year here she won all of her six matches by at least six games and that run looks set to continue.
Lucie Safarova vs Kaia Kanepi
The tall Estonian appears to have got her excuses in early ahead of this match after complaining about the smoggy conditions following her first round win over Julia Goerges. Safarova on the other hand is on a really good run at the moment after lifting the title in Quebec City and going on to make the last eight in Tokyo last week.
She backed that up by defeating Sam Stosur for the second time in a week in the first round here and she holds a 5-2 head-to-head career series lead over Kanepi also. Kanepi has played only four hard court matches in 2013 since coming back from injury and Safarova can keep her good run going here at 1.57.
In the other late matches, Monica Puig may offer some value at 2.33 underdog against Polona Hercog, but the talented Puerto Rican, who turned 20 at the weekend, has failed to fire of late and Hercog has the advantage of having played two matches here in qualifying already to get used to the unique conditions.
Finally, Sara Errani should find conditions here more to her liking than last week in Tokyo where it was probably too quick for her and after a poor spell of form this hard court swing she may do OK in Beijing. Misaki Doi hasn't the weapons to hurt her.
Back Suarez Navarro –4.5 games to beat Davis at 1.73
Back Azarenka –5.5 games to beat Petkovic at 1.70
Back Safarova to beat Kanepi at 1.57
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