The least “starry” of the Montreal quarter-finals could well end up being one of the most evenly contested. Coco Vandeweghe might not be a household name just yet and Ekaterina Makarova is probably familiar only to serious tennis fans, but both women have a prime opportunity to reach a maiden Rogers Cup semi-final when they face each other on Central tonight.
Vandeweghe has had to work harder than any other player to make the last eight. After winning two qualifying matches and beating the more experienced Shuai Zhang in round one, she edged two top ten players in ultra-tight three setters. Those top ten players just happened to be Serbia’s finest, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.
Vandeweghe’s battle with Ivanovic lasted almost three hours and could easily have ended with the opposite result. But the American just about managed to keep a rein on her nerves to win the second set at the sixth time of asking, before breaking twice in the decider to win 6-7(7), 7-6(7), 6-4. Against a very vocal and animated Jankovic on Thursday night, Coco fended off a late fightback by the seventh seed to eventually triumph 7-5 in the third. The 22-year-old is on her best winning streak since she qualified for and won the title in ’s-Hertogenbosch back in June.
While Vandeweghe earned some stripes by upsetting former world number ones back-to-back, Makarova went one better by dumping out the current Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova. In a rain-interrupted third round clash on Banque Nationale, the Russian played smart, solid tennis and withstood a typical mid-match Kvitova storm to emerge a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 winner. It was Makarova’s fourth win over a top ten player in 2014.
Vandeweghe may have the more powerful game, blessed with a formidable serve and versatile backhand, but most of the other cards are stacked in Makarova’s favour for this one. Even accounting for her doubles exploits, she has spent less time on court than Vandeweghe, who admitted to feeling tired after the Jankovic marathon. Makarova has the lefty advantage, is a better mover than her 6’1” opponent, and her experience on the doubles court means she’ll be more comfortable moving forward. Moreover, Makarova has beaten Vandeweghe in both of their previous meetings.
Conscious of her depleted energy levels, Vandeweghe will probably try to keep the points short by pounding her flat forehand to the corners. In response, Makarova will do her best to defend and extend points, the better to draw errors from her young rival. There’s no doubt that Vandeweghe has the ability to earn another scalp, but her heavy legs will make it very difficult. We’ll tip Makarova to take this in two competitive sets.