A reenergised Victoria Azarenka will hope to continue her great run of form in Paris against Danka Kovinic. The Belarusian has struggled at Paris for a while now, never managing to get to the heights of the quarter finals and one semi final she made as she surged up the rankings. The winner of this one will play either Anna Karolina Schmiedlova or Venus Williams with the latter still incredibly vulnerable on clay courts.
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Kovinic does try and play an aggressive style but there are limits to the Montenegrin who will find it difficult to break down a player like Azarenka in these conditions. She does come into the tournament in confident form having won a few matches in Rome. Julia Goerges and Belinda Bencic were sent packing for the loss of just five games before she departed in two tight sets to Elise Mertens.
Azarenka’s mindset looks to be the key to her improvement over the past month or so. The former No.1 looks a much happier player and without the burden or expectations that her previously high level set, she looks much freer. She was at her best in New York, winning the Western & Southern Open and getting very close in the US Open final – losing from a set and a break up to Naomi Osaka. “You just can’t sometimes handle all the pressure that comes at you. I felt that maybe around June is where I started to feel like doing some new ways of approaching some situations” she said, on what had changed. “Then it kind of started from there, building up on that. I started to understand and feel myself better around June, end of June.”
This one looks like a nice opener for Azarenka, who should get to test herself and the conditions against an aggressive player – but one who likely won’t remain consistent enough to pull off the win if Azarenka maintains her current level. The 10th seed has not been the biggest fan of clay but did look handy in Rome, with her 6-0 6-0 win over Sofia Kenin the pick of the bunch.
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in straight sets