US Open 2015 Preview – Simona Halep v Victoria Azarenka

Simona Halep has already had to battle to get to the quarter finals and now faces another battle to get to the semi-finals against former world number one Victoria Azarenka who has been playing very well in Flushing Meadows having making the final on two previous occasions and knows what it takes to get to the final in New York.

The head to head between the two players shows that Vika has dominated the previous meetings winning in straight sets 6-3 6-1 6-1 6-1 against the Romanian however what the head to head doesn’t show that both players have had different fortunes over the last couple of years with Halep’s rise up the rankings and of course Vika’s struggles with injury and form over the last couple of years.

I don’t think it would be fair to look at the head to head and see Halep once upon a time lost two matches in straight sets against Vika only winning four games and make a prediction on the match. There is potentially a lot more to this one and it could be the match of the tournament which in my opinion so far was Azarenka/Kerber, Konta/Muguruza or Keys/Serena.

What interests me the most about this match is that Azarenka forehand.

I’ve spoken a number of times about the Azarenka forward and it does remind me at times of Murray’s but from a more attacking position. From a neutral position on the court Vika has the ability as the graphic above shows to be able to get great top spin and angle off the forehand but when you are playing against one of the best movers on the tour this shot has to be spot on. Halep is strong off forehand down the line and my favourite shot is the backhand down the line which she can produce out of nowhere!

If I were Halep I’d be targeting the backhand corner of Azarenka making her scramble to keep the ball in play and if Halep can get enough depth on the forehand from the middle of the court into the backhand corner and force a slice return from Azarenka then Simona has the option to close the point at the net or continue to dominate from the baseline.

To be honest there hasn’t been anything so far during the tournament which stands out from either player’s game as a weakness. If I had to be picky I’d probably be a little worried about Halep’s second serve which can sometimes be a bit short and also Halep did seem a little tired and cramping but hopefully she recovers in time for this quarter final.

I can’t pick a winner. I’d like to see both players win. It would be a great confidence booster after both have struggled at times this year. Something they do have in common though is both players have lost 11 matches this year, so who will lose their 12th match of the year first?

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