From WTA clashes such as Kiki Bertens vs. Venus Williams and Madison Keys vs. Garbine Muguruza to ATP showdowns like Stan Wawrinka vs. Grigor Dimitrov and Gael Monfils vs. Frances Tiafoe, many intriguing matchups are set to take over the grounds of Cincinnati on Tuesday.
A number of contests have a compelling case for TC Plus Match of the Day, but we’re focusing on a head-to-head meeting that has taken place just once, and not since 2015. In a first-round encounter, Victoria Azarenka will look to get up and running against 12th seed Belinda Bencic.
For Azarenka, it’s her last chance before New York to string together a set of wins and make a statement on a surface that has provided her plenty of positive memories. So far this summer, the Belarusian has won her openers in San Jose and Toronto, only to fall in her next match. A strong run in Cincinnati could see the two-time US Open finalist earn a coveted seeding, as she comes in ranked No. 40 this week.
Azarenka won the pair's lone meeting in the fourth round of Wimbledon four years ago. (Getty Images)
Bencic has enjoyed a rejuvenation in 2019 and is on the cusp of returning to the Top 10. The 22-year-old won six consecutive matches over Top 10 opposition en route to triumphing in Dubai and reaching the Indian Wells semifinals earlier this season, so has plenty of belief when staring down any opponent across the net. Bencic is coming off a third-round appearance in Toronto, where she was outclassed by Elina Svitolina.
The Swiss possesses an excellent all-court game and will bring consistency to the table against the former world No. 1. Azarenka, the 2013 Cincinnati champion, will have to be patient in picking her moments to redirect shots and capitalize on opportunities to shorten rallies with her net game. Both have endured hot and cold moments with serving up double faults this season, though Bencic has a significant edge in service games won with a 6% lead. Azarenka has fared better on return and will hope to impose her baseline presence early to make Bencic feel the weight of her shots.
At the end of the day, this battle may be decided on who wants it more. Look for Azarenka to come out swinging and prevail in three challenging sets.