The New Haven Open at Yale is the final WTA tournament before the US Open. A Premier event offering $117,000 and 470 ranking points to the champion, it has been a mainstay on the women’s tour for 15 years. The 2013 field features four top ten players hoping to hit peak form before travelling to New York; all eight seeds are ranked in the top 20.
Top seed Sara Errani has a lot of points to defend over the next month, having reach the semi-finals in both New Haven and New York in 2012. After a first round bye, she’ll face either Aleksandra Wozniack or Ekaterina Makarova, both of whom have beaten her in the past. In the quarter-finals, she’ll have to be at her feisty, counterpunching best whoever she plays. She could run into doubles partner Robert Vinci, who beat her in Cincinnati, or the fast-rising Simona Halep. Errani thrashed Halep in Miami earlier this year for the loss of only one game, but since then the Romanian has enjoyed a confidence-boosting, triple title-winning run.
Four-time New Haven champion Caroline Wozniacki is also back this year. The Dane looked sharp during an evenly contested quarter-final loss to Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati, playing aggressively and showing a willingness to move forward. She’ll play Shuai Peng in round one – who she blitzed 6-1, 6-1 last week – and a qualifier in round two. Many fans will be anticipating a last eight showdown between Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens. The young American accepted a last-minute wild card into the tournament, and is riding high after her defeat of Maria Sharapova in Cincinnati. The pair’s only previous meeting in Indian Wells in 2011 was a straight sets win for Wozniacki, but Stephens has improved immeasurably since then. We know that her game matches up well against erratic big-hitters, but will she fare against a rock solid opponent like Caro?
Defending champion Petra Kvitova opens her 2013 campaign against Urszula Radwanska, after which she will play either a qualifier or Washington champion Magdalena Rybarikova. Neither match is an easy one for the Czech, who has been short of confidence and consistency this summer. Her route to a title defence gets even more difficult at the quarter-final stage, where she could face a rematch with her Toronto conqueror Sorana Cristea or a heavy-hitting showdown with Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki. However, Lisicki will have a hard time getting that far. Injury and an opening round loss in Cincinnati mean that the German has played only one hard court match this summer, and she has an unenviable opener against the promising Kristina Mladenovic.
Angelique Kerber’s 2013 season has not quite matched her breakthrough 2012. Her results have been commendable but not great, and it seems that the gulf between her and the top five has widened of late. The second seed has a decent chance to make at least the quarter-finals in New Haven: after a bye, she’ll play either a qualifier or Elena Vesnina. But in the last eight she could face Dominika Cibulkova, who has beaten her in all four of their previous matches. Cibulkova is notoriously inconsistent, but she proved her hard court mettle by winning the title in Stanford last month, and her hard-hitting, go-for-broke game has proven too much for Kerber in the past.
There is no standout favourite at this year’s New Haven Open. While all of the seeded players have achieved some great things in the last year or so, they each have their drawbacks too, be it inconsistency, inexperience or lack of match fitness. But returning to a scene of past triumphs can do wonders for a player’s morale. Caroline Wozniacki has never lost a match at Yale – she retired during last year’s semi-finals with a knee injury – and in Cincinnati she showed flashes of the form that took her to the top of the rankings two years ago. None of the players in her half of the draw is likely to blow her off the court, so her usual weakness – lack of firepower – is less of a concern. She could find the going tough against a zoning Kvitova or Cibulkova in the final, but those women struggle to sustain top form for an entire match, let alone a tournament. It’s time for Wozniacki to reclaim her place at the top of the game.
Predicted semi-finals: Wozniacki def. Halep; Cibulkova def. Kvitova
Champion: Caroline Wozniacki