Venus Williams is all set to take on fellow former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in a highly anticipated first-round encounter at the inaugural edition of the Top Seed Open.
The seven-time Major champion asked for a late entry into the Lexington tournament. And her reward was landing in an absolutely jam-packed section of the draw - which also features sister Serena Williams and compatriot Sloane Stephens.
It is going to be a very tough road for Venus, who has already been going through a dull phase. The American has made back-to-back first round exits in her last three main draw appearances, and will need to bring out her best to break the streak against a player like Azarenka.
The Belarusian was a force to reckon with in the early 2010s, with her relentless baseline game threatening any and every opponent across the net. And while she remains tactically astute even today, consistency has eluded her in recent times.
Victoria Azarenka has posted a few good wins in the last couple of years, but hasn't been able to find any sort of form that has lasted over a series of tournaments. Recurrent injuries and nightmare draws have also contributed to a largely hit-and-miss couple of season, and she will be desperate for a good start in Lexington.
Landing in a section of the draw featuring Serena and Venus Williams as well as Sloane Stephens - all of whom have beaten her in the last few months - hasn't done her any favors though.
Venus Williams vs Victoria Azarenka head-to-head
The two women have played several epic three-setters in the past. And while Venus Williams does lead the head-to-head with a comfortable 5-2 margin, their rivalry has been fairly well-matched.
The contrasts in the playing styles of the two greats couldn't have been any starker though. Venus likes to come forward and finish points early at the net, while Azarenka is more comfortable slugging it out in the back. Venus has a thunderous forehand, while Azarenka runs around to let her backhand do the heavy lifting. Venus enjoys the benefit of a huge serve, while Azarenka is one of the best returners of all time.
All of these little details, combined with their champion personas, always make for an intriguing clash - irrespective of the venue or the stage of the tournament.
Venus Willians vs Victoria Azarenka prediction
It promises to be a great contest in Lexington, and the fans will be absolutely delighted to see the two greats play irrespective of the result.
That said, Venus Williams does seem to have a slight edge coming into this one. She has been notoriously slow to start off matches lately, but when she does get going, it often gets her over the line.
As for Victoria Azarenka, she will need to assert her presence early, or this one could be over in quick time.
Prediction: Venus Williams to win in two tight sets.Published 11 Aug 2020, 16:28 IST