10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Women’s Early Round Matches • Western & Southern Open • Osaka, Barty, Andrescue, Halep, Gauff, Vika All playing

By: Thomas Cluck

The biggest tournament ahead of the U.S. Open, the Western & Southern Open, did not disappoint in setting up a great week in Cincinnati, with a popcorn-filled women’s draw for the WTA 1000 event. The final big tuneup of the U.S. Open Series before the year’s final major in New York City in a couple weeks’ time sees no Serena or Venus Williams- the top two players in the world Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka are playing- but a bevy of other stars to choose from leading to some compelling, blockbuster early matchups.

While a potential Osaka-Coco Gauff second round has everyone talking- Gauff drew possibly the trickiest player on tour in qualifier Su-Wei Hsieh- it’s a battle between the last champion in Cincinnati Madison Keys in 2019 and 11 seed Petra Kvitova that immediately jumped off the sheet to many. 

Keys has struggled for form in 2021 but has always played her best tennis on home soil in the US while Kvitova, also quite inconsistent this year, has achieved some success here before as well with two semifinal appearances but has struggled for match wins of late. Kvitova and Keys will take to Center Court second on Monday.

Monday’s night session matchup of three-time major champion Angelique Kerber and Greece’s Maria Sakkari also promises to be exciting as Kerber plays her first match since an encouraging Wimbledon semifinal showing helped turn around her season while Sakkari looks to keep her good form she showed up north in Montreal going in Mason. 

Two feisty, competitive Americans will headline the night session on Grandstand in Ohio at the Lindner Family Tennis Center as one of the WTA Tour’s current form horses Danielle Collins, fresh off two titles in Palermo and San Jose and a win over Simona Halep in Canada the last three weeks, faces her countrywoman from the US Shelby Rogers, in what should be an exciting match with potential for fireworks- especially with King’s Island across the highway from the site. It’ll be a rematch of their first round just two weeks ago in San Jose that Collins, the eventual champion, won comfortably 6-4, 6-3. 

A rematch of the Tokyo Olympic Games Gold Medal Match casually awaits in round one as well with Gold Medalist Belinda Bencic facing Silver Medalist Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday. Sloane Stephens also faces qualifier Caroline Garcia of France, a former top ten player, defending champion Victoria Azarenka plays one of 2021’s breakout names Liudmila Samsonova, and Gauff faces Hsieh all on Tuesday.