Match Preview: Elise Mertens v Aryna Sabalenka

It is day 7 and finals day at the Ladies Open Lugano and after a week of rain, we have a great final match between the second seed Elise Mertens of Belgium and the Belarussian rising star Aryna Sabalenka. The favourite to take the title is Mertens but only by an extremely slim margin so it should be a good final.

Recent Form

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. This has been a better week for her as she has got her first back-to-back wins since Australia with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Mandy Minella in the first round before having to fight in the later rounds to get a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 win over Marketa Vondrousova in the second round, a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(7-0) win over Mona Barthel in the quarterfinals and then a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win over Vera Lapko in the semifinals. This has been a good season so far for Aryna Sabalenka considering her ranking at the start of the year and she is rising rapidly. Her Australian swing saw her make the quarterfinal at the Hobart International before falling to Lesia Tsurenko but then it ended a week later with a tough first-round loss at the Australian Open to Ashleigh Barty. She got two good wins at Fed Cup over Tatjana Maria and Antonia Lottner but despite that her nation Belarus went down to Germany. In the Middle East, she only played the Dubai Tennis Championships and she went out in the final round of qualifying to Sara Errani. Her Sunshine Double was average as she fell in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open to Marketa Vondrousova and then she fell in the second round of the Miami Open to Petra Kvitova. She has had a fantastic weak so far with the only set dropped coming in the first round on the way to her 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu and since then she has moved past Polana Hercog 6-3, 6-1 in the second round, Camila Giorgi 6-3, 6-0 in the quarterfinals and then Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals. I would have to give the slight edge in confidence to Mertens just because she has that Australian Open semifinal to give her a big boost.

Lugano Record

This is the inaugural year of the Ladies Open Lugano so neither Elise Mertens nor Aryna Sabalenka has played here before.

Head to Head Record

Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka have never played each other in an official WTA main draw match.

My Prediction

I think this will be a bit of an odd match because Aryna Sabalenka has a rather inconsistent game and it can change throughout a match which can lead to some odd scorelines. I do think that Elise Mertens will be tired after playing two three-set matches yesterday but because it is the final, I suspect she will leave everything out on the court. Sabalenka is going for her first title on the tour today so I think she will be very hyped at the start and she will race out of the blocks and as she gets a big lead, Mertens might stop running as hard to preserve energy for the next set and potentially a third set. After Sabalenka wins the opener 6-1, I think that she might get caught up in such good play she has shown and she might start to be too flashy and overpress which could lead her down a rabbit hole of errors and Mertens will take the second set 6-0. In the third set, both women will be really intense because it is a set for the title and I think they will exchange holds of serve first but then Sabalenka might start to get a bit nervous and Mertens will come up with some clutch play to take the 1-6, 6-0, 6-3 match.

 

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