World number eight Sloane Stephens takes on the world number 49 Zheng Saisai in a Round of 16 match at the 2019 Madrid Open.
This will be the second career meeting between the two players. Their previous match was at the Beijing Open last year where the American got the better of the Chinese in front of her home crowd, in a rather one-sided encounter.
Will the story be the same this time, or can we expect a much tougher match in Madrid, if not an upset? It is possible we will have the latter - not just because Zheng is a very skillful player, but also because of the rather poor form of the American this year.
Stephens has not had a great season thus far, to put it mildly. She has lost early in many tournaments, at times to lowly ranked players like Stefanie Vogele and Tatjana Maria. She is yet to win a title this year. But as we know, she is a player who comes into her own in the latter stages of a tournament.
At Madrid, she has got the better of Polona Hercog and Victoria Azarenka so far. Though she needed three sets to subdue the Belarusian, it was quite an impressive performance from Stephens, especially on her serve. She won 73 percent of her points on her first serve and got broken just twice in the entire match.
For Zheng to be able to challenge Stephens, she will need to lift her game considerably. Though she had a win over former top player Alize Cornet in the previous round, her serving wasn't anything to write home about. She had a lowly 49 percent win rate on her first serve, and as a result lost her serve a whopping six times in the match. It was her return game was the main factor behind the win.
If she does not improve her serve, Zheng is likely to face another defeat against Stephens in their second match.
Prediction: Sloane Stephens to win in straight sets.Published 08 May 2019, 12:13 IST