World No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka is set to return to the tennis courts for the first time amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She will take on Madison Brengle in her first-round match at the WTA Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky.
Lexington has a truly star-studded lineup featuring the likes of Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Johanna Konta and Coco Gauff. The tournament is going to be crucial in the players' preparation for the American hardcourt season, which is to be contested in New York.
Aryna Sabalenka goes into the tournament seeded second, and among the favorites. After a disappointing first-round exit at the Australian Open earlier in the year, Sabalenka bounced back to win the Qatar Open; that made her one of the few players on tour to have picked up a trophy in 2020.
Her opponent, Madison Brengle, is ranked 80th in the world. And despite a lack of silverware on the WTA tour, the American would be looking to cause an early round upset on her home turf.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Madison Brengle head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka and Madison Brengle have faced each other just once in the past. They played out an early round encounter at the 2018 Miami Open, where Sabalenka was able to easily dispatch the American 6-1, 6-4.
The all-out attacking style of tennis that the Belarusian has trademarked came to her aid during that match. She broke Brengle's serve as many as five times, and dominated proceedings from start to finish.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Madison Brengle prediction
Given their rankings and previous history, Aryna Sabalenka goes into the encounter in Lexington as the overwhelming favorite. But a dearth of recent match practice for the Belarusian might come into play.
Madison Brengle on her part has already picked up four exhibition wins after the easing of lockdown restrictions. That said, the American will have to be at her absolute best defensively if she hopes to consistently redirect the brute force of Sabalenka.
The battle between the two players will mostly be from the baseline, as neither of them relies on their net game.
Despite gaining two breaks of serve in their Miami match two years ago, Brengle was only able to win 41% of her total return points. That's a statistic she will have to improve upon considerably to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in straight sets.Published 10 Aug 2020, 21:13 IST