WTA Cincinnati: Li Na vs Lauren Davis preview

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The second match of Wednesday’s night session in Cincinnati is a David v Goliath clash between up-and-coming American Lauren Davis and fifth seed Li Na. This will be their first encounter (H2H).

Davis is not yet a household name, but she has continued her ascent of the rankings in 2013. After breaking into the top 100 at the end of 2012, she qualified for Hobart at the beginning of the season and made it all the way to the quarter-finals. The 19-year-old then won an ITF tournament in Midland and reached the quarter-finals of the International event in Monterey to hit the top 70.

A few first round losses caused her to fall back slightly, but last week in Toronto she beat former US Open Svetlana Kuznetsova twice, once in qualifying and then in the main draw. On Monday at the Western and Southern Open, she recorded another huge win by taking down world number 34 Klara Zakopalova in two tie-break sets.

At just 5’ 2”, Davis is one of the most petite players on the women’s tour, but she doesn’t let her stature dictate her style of play. While she won’t blast a barrage of aces past her opponents, the Ohio native likes to play aggressively and mix up the spin on her shots. She cites hard courts as her favourite surface.

Li Na has the game to demolish Davis’ resistance, but the Chinese player can never be relied upon to produce her best tennis. She looked to be in excellent form in her first few matches in Toronto last week, edging Ana Ivanovic in a three-set marathon and dispatching Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals, but she played a stinker against Sorana Cristea in the last four, hitting six double faults and winning only 49% of her first serve points.

This will be the first meeting between the pair. Will the high-profile stage – Center Court under the lights – bring out the best in Lauren Davis or fill her with nerves? It’s the biggest match of her career so far, and the outcome could have a huge bearing on her results in the remainder of the season.

If she is close to her best, we can expect Li to dominate from the back of the court and wrap this one up in straights sets. However, she has been known to falter in the role of heavy favourite – she lost to Davis’ compatriots Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands earlier this year. If the former French Open champion throws in another sub-par, error-ridden display, Davis, like Sloane Stephens last night, could make the headlines.

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