It has been a wet and rainy tournament at the Ladies Open Lugano and that means it is behind schedule which shows why my feature match of the day, the quarterfinal match between second seed Elise Mertens from Belgium and the German Mona Barthel, is being played on day 6 of the event in the first match on Centre Court. The favourite to come out on top of this match is Mertens but only by an incredibly slim margin so it is virtually impossible to make a confident prediction.
It was an incredible Australian swing from Elise Mertens but since then she has struggled to perform with the pressure of her new high ranking. The biggest result of her career came at the Australian Open when she reached the semifinals with a win over Elina Svitolina before falling to the eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki. Her first event after that great run was Fed Cup and she got a win over Pauline Parmentier before going down to Kristina Mladenovic as her nation of Belgium fell to France. She then put in a dismal Middle Eastern swing with a second-round loss at the Qatar Total Open to Sorana Cirstea and a first-round loss at the Dubai Tennis Championships to Catherine Bellis. The Sunshine Double did not go too much better as she fell in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open to Qiang Wang and then the third round of the Miami Open to Johanna Konta. She has been better this week as she got her first back-to-back wins since Australia by moving past Mandy Minella 6-4, 6-1 in the first round and then coming out on top of a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 battle with Marketa Vondrousova in the second round. This has been a tough year for Mona Barthel as she attempts to back her good 2017 but part of that is some tough draws she has been getting. She was defending quite a few points at the Australian Open and failed to make it past the second round where she fell to Anett Kontaveit. Her next event was the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy and she lost in the first round to Alize Cornet before going to the Middle East and dropping her opening round of the Qatar Total Open to Agnieszka Radwanska. She had her first good run of the season at the Hungarian Ladies Open as she made it to the semifinals with a win over Timea Babos before she fell to Dominika Cibulkova. She had some tough draws for the Sunshine Double as she went out in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open to Elina Svitolina and then the first round of the Miami Open to Timea Babos. She has had to battle in her opening two rounds here to get a first-round upset over Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and then battle against Donna Vekic in the second round to get the 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win. The edge in terms of confidence has to slightly go to Mertens because of that run at the Australian Open.
This is the inaugural year of the Ladies Open Lugano so neither Elise Mertens nor Mona Barthel has played at this event before.
Head to Head Record
Elise Mertens and Mona Barthel have played each other once before in an official WTA main draw match with the encounter coming on hard and Mertens coming out on top. This match came last year at the Ladies Open Biel Bienne in the second round and Mertens was the 6-2, 6-4 victor. I am surprised that this match was not won by Barthel because she prefers the faster courts and she was playing really good tennis at this time of the year. I think that this shows that if Mertens gets enough deep shots with power in, she will force enough errors from Barthel to get the win. The edge in terms of match-up has to go to Mertens seeing that she got a win on a surface that is not her favourite and this match comes on her preferred surface.
I think that this match will be very tight because both have got good wins so far this week and will be raring to reach the semifinals. I think that Mona Barthel will have learnt from the previous match against the Belgian and she will be looking to finish the points quicker while Elise Mertens will try to use the clay to her favour with loopy strokes that do not give Barthel a clean strike. I think that the start of the match will be very tight and there will not be much between them as they continue holding serve until about 4-4. I think that at this point, one of the will need to try and make something happen and I see that being Barthel doing that with the fast strokes and going for risky returns to get the break and 6-4 opening set. I think the second set will continue how the opening set went with both women being strong behind there serves and playing there games and I see a tiebreaker coming. In the breaker, I think Barthel might take too many risks and Mertens will just refuse to miss and keep getting the ball back with depth to secure the 7-6(7-1) second set. Barthel has been so good in deciding sets so far this week and I see that fueling her to make a blistering start to this set and take an early lead that is too much for Mertens to recover from and the German will take the 6-4, 6-7(1-7), 6-1 win.