The first round match between Victoria Azarenka and Barbora Krejcikova is one of the more attractive ones on paper although like many of the matches this deep into the season, there are injury concerns surrounding both players given their last tournaments both ended with a withdrawal/retirement than a loss. It has been all or nothing for Azarenka in Cincinnati with titles in 2013 and 2020 being sandwiched by a bunch of early exits.
Azarenka looks to have found her level on the tour at this point, hanging around the lower parts of the Top 20 for much of 2023. She is still capable of troubling the top players as her Australian Open semi final shows but injury remains a concern, with Montreal seeing her withdraw once more. Prior to that, she had lost two straight matches to Elina Svitolina with the Ukrainian starting work on reversing the lopsided head to head between the two.
Krejcikova has not been since Wimbledon, where she retired down 3-6 0-4 to Mirra Andreeva. She has shown that she is still capable against the top players with her few big runs this year, winning Dubai and making the Birmingham final. Her fitness has hindered her ability to be a consistent challenger at the slams but she has shown on any given week how high her level can be.
With there still being question marks over Krejcikova’s fitness, Azarenka should have the upper hand here. The Belarussian should be more match ready even with the recent withdrawal and still has the ability to deal with the angles and touch that Krejcikova offers. The last meeting will be cause for concern though with Azarenka losing easily at last year’s Australian Open, 6-2 6-2.
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in straight sets