WTA Brisbane: Final Prediction


WTA Brisbane: Will Azarenka curb Kerber?

The final has been decided at the 2016 Brisbane International, staged on the hard courts in Brisbane, Australia.

Angelique Kerber will face Victoria Azarenka for the title as both look to gather momentum ahead of the Australian Open.

Here’s my prediction as to who will win the first Premier level event of the year.


(10/4) Angelique Kerber vs (22/-) Victoria Azarenka

The first week of the year is never easy for any player as they shake off the rust from the off-season and look to implement any game changes they’ve made. Considering there has been a spate of injury related withdrawals and retirements this week from some of the world’s leading players, Kerber and Azarenka have looked as fresh as daisies marching through the draw.

Kerber finished last year ranked inside the top 10 for a fourth successive year after winning four titles from five finals. In order to return to her former top 5 best though, the German admits that she’s been working on increasing her levels of aggression both off the ground and behind her second serve.

So far this week, it’s paid off as the 27 year old has only dropped one set. That was against Camila Giorgi in the first round, who she overcame 57 63 60. After defending against the cannon-like shots of the Italian, Kerber naturally found the steady American, Madison Brengle easier to beat 63 60 in the second round. The Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was flattered by the 64 64 score line in the quarters, considering the amount of errors she made and in the semis, (13/6) Carla Suarez Navarro looked tired and indecisive as she allowed Kerber to dictate the play in winning 62 63.

Not bad when you consider that Kerber had never made it beyond the quarters in Brisbane, losing at that stage for the past three years. In fact, this week she avenged her loss in 2013 to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova during the same round.

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In contrast, Azarenka finished last year ranked outside of the top 20 for a second successive time, given yet another injury marred season. The former world number 1 and two time Australian Open champion made only one final all year and failed to progress beyond the quarter finals in the Slams.

After working on her foot and movement over the off season though, for the first time in months the Belarusian’s looked sharp all week in Brisbane and it’s no surprise too. Brisbane’s been good to her ever since she won the inaugural edition of the event in 2009, since then reaching the final in 2014 and the semis in 2013.

Unlike Kerber, the 26 year old hasn’t dropped a set all week. After crushing the Russian qualifier, Elena Vesnina 62 60 in the first round, she was expected to play (2/1) Simona Halep. However, the Romanian withdrew due to an Achilles injury so Azarenka played the Belgian lucky loser, Ysaline Bonaventure. Her heavy lefty forehand gave Azarenka trouble early on but once Azarenka found her rhythm, it was game over 63 62. US Open finalist, (15/8) Roberta Vinci was expected to test Azarenka in the quarters but the Italian’s sliced backhand failed to cut the ice as she went down 61 62. Hopes were also high for the promising American qualifier, Samantha Crawford whose huge groundstrokes had seen her beat the likes of (14/7) Belinda Bencic and Andrea Petkovic. As perhaps could be expected, Azarenka controlled the pace thrown at her in the semis and used her experience to win handily, 60 63..

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Azarenka certainly has the numbers on her side going into the final, winning 17 of the 33 finals she’s played whilst Kerber has only won 7 of 17. That being said, Azarenka hasn’t won a title since Cincinnati in August 2013, whilst Kerber won the second most number of titles last year behind Serena Williams.

Azarenka also boasts a 5-0 head to head record against Kerber with the German winning only two sets. They played twice last year and though the first was a crushing 60 63 score line in Doha, their clash in the 3rd round of the US Open was one of the best matches of the year finishing 75 26 64. Both players were lauded for their passion to win in a match featuring countless high quality all court rallies.

In this match, Azarenka will look to be the boss, attacking the return of serve in particular. It will be key for Kerber to step up and apply the improvements she’s worked on during the off-season. She must look to open up the angles wherever possible to expose Azarenka’s slower movement and go for her second serve, as otherwise Azarenka will just bludgeon it.

I expect some thrilling rallies but as Azarenka has a habit of suffocating counterpunchers such as Kerber with her relentless heavy hitting, I predict she’ll end her title drought this week.

WTA Brisbane: Final Prediction- Victoria Azarenka

Next: WTA Season 2016

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