Fixture: (4) Victoria Azarenka vs (7) Elise Mertens
Date: 23 October 2020
Tournament: J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2020
Venue: Ostrava, Czech Republic
Category: WTA Premier
Surface: Indoor hardcourt
Prize money: $528,500
Match timing: Approx. 4 pm CEST, 7.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel
Victoria Azarenka vs Elise Mertens preview
Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka will face seventh seed Elise Mertens on Friday in the quarterfinals of the J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2020.
Azarenka's form post the lockdown has been brilliant to say the least. She had an exceptional resurgence during the North American hardcourt swing, winning the Western & Southern Open and reaching the US Open final.
The two-time Australian Open champion hit a minor roadblock when the tour switched to clay, but not before making it to the quarterfinals at Rome. Her shortcomings on the merciless red dirt were exposed by the lower-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who knocked her out in the Roland Garros second round.
Victoria Azarenka then got nearly three weeks of rest to recharge her batteries, but still seemed to be flirting with danger in her first match at Ostrava. She dropped the first set 2-6 to World No. 85 Barbora Krejcikova, before eventually finding her range and completing a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 comeback victory to advance to the last-eight.
World No. 21 Elise Mertens, meanwhile, has been one of the most consistent players on tour since the season restart. Her 17-6 win-loss record coming into the Ostrava event stands testimony to that.
The Belgian hasn't been able to win a title but she did reach the final at Prague, the semifinals at the Western & Southern Open and the quarterfinals at the US Open as well as Rome. Clearly, the change of surface couldn't do much to impede the progress of Mertens.
Her third-round exit to Caroline Garcia at Roland Garros was an aberration, and Mertens would have no doubt been itching to get back to winning ways. The 24-year-old has done exactly that in Ostrava.
Having started her campaign with a dominant 6-2, 6-3 win over Amanda Anisimova, Mertens beat Karolina Muchova 6-4, 6-2 on Thursday to reach yet another quarterfinal.
Victoria Azarenka vs Elise Mertens head-to-head
Victoria Azarenka absolutely pummelled Elise Mertens in their only previous meeting, which means she has a 1-0 lead in the head-to-head record.
The match took place at the US Open this year, and the former World No. 1 was at her breathtaking best. Azarenka didn't give the Belgian any chance to settle, completing a ruthless 6-1, 6-0 rout.
Victoria Azarenka vs Elise Mertens prediction
By sheer dint of her accomplishments and her record against Elise Mertens, Victoria Azarenka is the favorite on paper. Azarenka absolutely destroyed Mertens with her brilliant footwork and accurate groundstrokes when the two met in New York.
However, things may not be as straightforward this time. Azarenka hasn't looked as sharp lately as she was during the American swing; she lost her serve twice against Krejcikova, and had to save as many as 14 break points.
Even though the Belarusian did steer the match her way ultimately, the scoreline proves she has some work to do before the quarterfinals.
Mertens, on the other hand, hasn't been broken even once in her two matches so far. She can certainly put up a closer fight than New York if she can keep her serving stats clean.
That said, it remains to be seen how long the Belgian can keep the relentless returning from Azarenka at bay.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in three sets.Published 23 Oct 2020, 00:17 IST