Azarenka vs Konta WTA Cincinnati-New York Open tennis live streaming, preview and predictions

Former Western & Southern Open champion Victoria Azarenka takes on the big-serving Johanna Konta for a place in the Cincinnati-New York final.

Azarenka vs Konta is live from New York on Friday 28 August, time TBC

After the tournament was ‘paused’ on Thursday in response to a fresh outbreak of police violence in the USA, Azarenka and Konta face off for the fourth time in their careers in the second WTA semifinal on Friday 28 August.

WTA Cincinnati-New York Open: Tournament information, schedules and live streams for the Western & Southern Open

Konta leads the head-to-head 2-1 and has yet to drop a set at the Western & Southern Open, where she has returned from shutdown reinvigorated and seemingly enjoying new collaboration with coach Thomas Hogstedt; while Azarenka has made an unexpected resurgence after almost retiring from the sport altogether in January.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

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Azarenka vs Konta: Head-to-head

Azarenka and Konta have played three times, with Konta leading the head-to-head 2-1, although her first win over Azarenka came when the latter retired one game into the second set in Wuhan in 2015. Completed matches have been split 1-1, both coming on North American outdoor hard courts and settled in straight sets.

Johanna Konta leads the head-to-head with Victoria Azarenka 2-1 (PA Images)

Azarenka vs Konta: Preview

Former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka was little discussed as a potential champion coming into the Western & Southern Open. Despite being a former winner of the tournament – she beat Serena Williams to claim the title in 2013 – Azarenka was not really expected to be a factor: She had played just two matches in 2020, losing both, as ongoing struggles with injury and in her personal life continued to decimate her career.

In fact, Azarenka admitted this week that she was considering retiring from the sport entirely in January before deciding to give it one more try. Whether or not we will ever see the two-time Grand Slam champion in the top 10 again, that decision has certainly paid off this week with Azarenka winning four matches in a row for the first time since last April. Moreover, she hasn’t dropped a set in victories over 15th seed Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia, Alize Cornet and Ons Jabeur. It hasn’t been the toughest draw – Cornet was 0-6 against Azarenka coming into that one – but it’s still required some exceptional tennis, particularly against Jabeur. The Tunisian is having a career-best season, and her unpredictable tennis is strikingly effective; Azarenka had to really grit her way through, coming back from a break down three times in the first set, then seeing a 6-3 lead in the tie-break vanish as Jabeur came back. Jabeur had four set points before Azarenka converted her fifth to take a 72-minute first set, then dominated the second to win 7-6(9), 6-2.

Konta’s 6-4, 6-3 victory over Maria Sakkari was also more hard-fought than the scoreline suggested, ultimately taking almost as long as Azarenka’s win over Jabeur. Konta, who did not play after her quarterfinal run at the US Open in 2019 and lost her first three matches of 2020, had just found her feet with a Monterrey semifinal run before the sport shut down for six months, and her form at the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis event did not encourage. She also lost her first match back from shutdown in straight sets to Marie Bouzkova in Lexington. But the unusually fast courts in New York this year seem to be suiting the big-serving British player down to the ground: She dropped eight games total in wins over qualifiers Vera Zvonareva and Kirsten Flipkens before avenging last year’s Rabat final defeat to Sakkari.

The Greek player had knocked Serena Williams out with a comeback win in the previous round and she did not go down easily while windy conditions tested Konta’s ability to control the ball. Ultimately, Konta’s big serve on key moments made the difference: Although she was only able to convert three of 12 break points, she saved both those she faced.

Konta’s serve is the cornerstone of her game and if it is firing, she has the advantage. Azarenka is a superb returner, but her struggles to hold her own serve automatically put her on the back foot and being broken three times in one set by Jabeur doesn’t seem to bode too well for a meeting with Konta.

Azarenka vs Konta: Prediction

Angelique Kerber and Torben Beltz will be working together for the third time, while Johanna Konta will be working with Thomas Hogstedt.

As the hoped-for return of top-level tennis draws closer, with the Palermo Ladies Open – the first ATP or WTA event since early March – beginning on 3 August, there have been some interesting coaching moves among the top women.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber has reunited with former coach Torben Beltz, according to a press release issued on Monday.
Kerber, currently ranked world no. 21, has a long history with Beltz. The pair first started working together when Kerber first turned pro in 2003 and Beltz was her coach throughout the German left-hander’s climb into the top 100, her memorable US Open semifinal run in 2011 and her rise into the world’s top five at the end of 2012. But they split in 2013 after a mediocre season for Kerber saw her slide out of the top 10 again.

Beltz was re-hired by Kerber in 2015, and he was her coach during the most successful season of her career so far. In 2016, Kerber – who had never made a Grand Slam final before – won the Australian and US Opens, an Olympic silver medal, reached the Wimbledon final and rose to world no. 1.

Kerber struggled to maintain that form during a 2017 season which saw her fail to defend any of her titles, miss out on qualifying for the WTA Finals and end the year outside the top 20, after which she and Beltz split.

Beltz went on to coach Donna Vekic while Kerber hired Wim Fissette, former coach of Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka among others. While working with Fissette, Kerber won her third Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in the summer of 2018 – but she and Fissette split in October 2018.

Kerber worked with Dieter Kindlmann in 2019, but it was a largely undistinguished season: She lost in the second round of Wimbledon, where she was the defending champion, and her best results were runner-up finishes at Indian Wells and Eastbourne. She started 2020 as the world no. 18.

While working with Beltz, Donna Vekic improved tremendously, going from outside the top 50 to a career-high world no. 19 in November 2019 after reaching her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open. It was therefore a surprise when Beltz announced on social media that their partnership would be ending due to ‘different views in setting up the practice and tournament schedule for the restart of the tour’, and raised even more eyebrows when Vekic responded: ‘Well this is the first time I’m hearing of different views in practice and tournament schedules …?’


The split with Vekic, however, makes sense now that Kerber has announced the reunion. The German has not yet committed to playing the US Open or the clay-court events in Europe coming up over the next couple of weeks.

In other coaching news, British no. 1 Johanna Konta has ended her partnership with Stan Wawrinka’s former coach Dimitri Zavialoff due to difficulties in travelling together for the remainder of the season. The world no. 14 will be working with Thomas Hogstedt, a veteran coach best known for working with Maria Sharapova and Li Na.

Former world no. 1 Andy Murray says he is ‘apprehensive’ about the 2020 US Open, but planning to play.

Murray and Johanna Konta, the WTA no. 14 and British no. 1, both believe that the US Open looks set to go ahead despite the global health crisis.

The Grand Slam is scheduled to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, but opinion is split on whether or not it will take place and if it does, how many top players will travel for it.

Murray said:

‘Four or five weeks ago, we were pretty sceptical about it. But mentally at some stage you need to start preparing and planning for that.

‘If it wasn’t happening, my schedule for practising, my rehab, would all be a bit different. Mentally I’m planning for it to go ahead.’

The three-time major champion hasn’t played a Grand Slam since the Australian Open in January 2019, shortly before he underwent a major hip operation. He was speaking to media ahead of this week’s Battle of the Brits Team Tennis event, at which he only reportedly plans to play doubles. Murray’s only tournament of any kind since last November was June’s Battle of the Brits, at which he reached the semifinals but later withdrew from the third-place play-off due to pain in his shins.

Murray said:

‘I’m still trying to build up to get ready for New York. It would be good for me to get some competitive matches in for sharpness and stuff, but there’s a lot of tennis this week and I don’t want to take any risks with the tournaments in the States just a few weeks away. Right now I’m training on the court four days a week.’

Players have been doubtful about the prospect of travelling to the USA, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, for the US Open, fearing that they will need to quarantine upon arrival or return to Europe and either suspecting that the tournament will not be safe or chafing against safety measures such as limited entourage numbers. But if Murray is any indication, players might now be feeling more cautiously optimistic.

‘My feeling is that some sports have obviously come back and seem to have done pretty well. … The issue for us is the travel so, yeah, we’ll probably be a bit apprehensive getting over there. We’re getting tested before we arrive, so hopefully once we get there, the players, the staff and everyone are in this secure bubble and everything will be fine. That is my hope.

‘I was thinking about maybe travelling somewhere beforehand to get in a bit of hot-weather training but then you’re increasing your risk of catching the virus, which then means you can’t potentially train or travel for a couple of weeks, which could then put playing a grand slam in doubt. So there are things like that, where I’ve had to change my thinking.

‘Hopefully the US Open can go ahead and it’s OK. But if not, I’m also OK with that. It’s not like I’m saying it must go ahead. So long as it’s safe for the players, then we need to try to get back to competing when it’s safe to do so.’

Konta is also expecting the US Open to go ahead, saying:

‘Everything is pointing in the direction that it is going to go ahead. They have been quite vocal that they are pushing forwards. Just basing my opinion on all the information that is there, I think it probably will.

‘As far as I understand, as professional athletes I think we can come back without quarantining as of now. But I don’t know if that has changed in the last 12 hours.’

Konta was a quarterfinalist at last year’s US Open. She will be playing for the British Bulldogs at Battle of the Brits Team Tennis, and features on Monday’s lineup.

The two teams for Battle of the Brits Team Tennis have been announced, with Andy Murray, Johanna Konta and Dan Evans among confirmed players.

Battle of the Brits Team Tennis, which takes place from 27 July-2 August, features two teams of 13 players facing off in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

The Union Jacks are captained by Judy Murray and Greg Rusedski while the British Bulldogs are led by the current Davis and Fed Cup captains, Leon Smith and Anne Keothavong.

Judy Murray had joked that she didn’t want son Andy on her team because he ‘doesn’t listen’ to her – but both her sons are on the Union Jacks.

The Murray brothers are joined by British no. 1 Dan Evans, currently ranked world no. 28 and the champion at the first Battle of the Brits tournament. Their top female player is world no. 50 Heather Watson, currently the second highest-ranked British woman, and Katie Boulter – who ranked as high as world no. 82 before a stress fracture in her back forced her out of competition – is also on the team. Boulter recently won the LTA Progress Tour Women’s Championships, and the player she beat in the final, Jodie Burrage, is also on the Union Jacks team.

The British Bulldogs, captained by Keothavong and Smith, are led by British no. 2 Kyle Edmund, currently ranked world no. 44 but a former world no. 14. Edmund is backed up by the third British man who ranks in the top 100 at the moment, world no. 77 Cameron Norrie, and the women’s contingent is led by world no. 14 Johanna Konta, who has reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.


The exact scoring and match format has not been confirmed, but the tournament will be played behind closed doors at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton and will be broadcast on BBC iPlayer.

In addition to the familiar leading lights of British tennis – the Murray brothers, Konta, Evans and Edmund – the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis will shine a spotlight on much younger and less experienced players. The Union Jacks feature Anton Matusevich (18) while the British Bulldogs lineup includes 19-year-old Aidan McHugh and 17-year-old Emma Raducanu.

Notable absences include Katie Swan, who has recently struggled with a right hip injury, and Jack Draper, the 18-year-old who finished runner-up in Wimbledon juniors in 2018; he was supposed to compete at the first Battle of the Brits, but pulled out with an abdominal injury.

Simona Halep and Johanna Konta lead a very strong field for the Palermo Ladies Open, the WTA’s first tennis tournament since the tour was suspended.

WTA Tour tennis officially returns on 3 August 2020, four and a half months after all professional tennis was suspended.

And judging by the entry list for the Palermo Ladies Open, the players are itching to get back on to the court after a lengthy spell of inaction.

The 31st Palermo Ladies Open, as an International-level event played on clay in the post-Wimbledon lull, would normally struggle to attract a particularly star-studded field. The top seed in 2019 was world no. 5 Kiki Bertens, but the second seed was world no. 53 Alize Cornet and the eventual champion, Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, was ranked world no. 82 at the time.

World no. 14 Johanna Konta is headed to the Palermo Open (PA Images)

But in 2020, the tournament takes on a new significance as the first WTA Tour event to be played since tournaments in Monterrey and Lyon finished on 8 March.

World no. 2 Simona Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion and winner of the French Open in 2018, heads the entry list.

Halep is joined by four more top-20 players, all of whom had good results on clay in 2019: Johanna Konta, who reached the final of two clay-court tournaments in 2019 as well as the semifinals of the French Open; Marketa Vondrousova, who finished runner-up to Ashleigh Barty at Roland Garros in 2019; Rabat champion Maria Sakkari; and Petra Martic, who won Istanbul on clay in 2019 and reached the quarterfinals of the French Open.

There are two more French Open champions in the field as well: Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009) and Jelena Ostapenko (2017).

Marketa Vondrousova was a French Open finalist in 2019 (© Cynthia Lum/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)

Other notable entrants include former top-10 players Kristina Mladenovic and Daria Kasatkina, and two other players who reached Grand Slam quarterfinals recently, Anett Kontaveit and Donna Vekic. The lowest-ranked player with direct entry at the time of writing is world no. 69 Kristyna Pliskova.

The Palermo Open has granted one wildcard to the hard-hitting Italian player Camila Giorgi, but said it is hoping to attract another top-10 player, with world no. 8 Belinda Bencic a possibility.

The eagerness of players to get back to competing and doing their jobs is understandable, but is also a stark contrast to the ambivalence expressed by many about playing the US Open, which is scheduled to be played behind closed doors from 31 August-13 September.

Halep has said she is ‘worried’ while Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina have also expressed doubts about the prospect of travelling to the USA, which currently has over 3.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 138,000 deaths.

Even if players feel comfortable travelling to the USA, safety protocols mean that entourage numbers will be limited, which is something that top players are not used to.

Given that a four-week European clay-court season, jamming together the biggest events of May and June into the space of a month – Madrid, Rome and then the French Open – immediately follows the US Open, and would require players to make a brutally swift transition from clay to hard courts, it’s unsurprising many are tempted to sit out the US Open. The WTA’s revised rankings system also will not penalise players who do not compete at the US Open in 2020 as they can still count their 2019 result, although it’s obviously an opportunity to do better for some.

Whatever happens with the US Open, it’s clear that the Palermo Open will be fielding a very strong list of players when it begins on 3 August.

Jamie Murray is planning a mixed-sex, ‘Ryder Cup’-style follow-up to his Battle of the Brits tournament.

Doubles specialist Murray was the driving force behind the Schroders Battle of the Brits, a five-day tournament which featured the eight top British male players facing off in round-robin matches.

The tournament, which took place from 23-28 June, was played behind closed doors at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton and observed strict social distancing measures including no ballkids and no physical contact between the players.

Johanna Konta, the world no. 14, would be a big draw for the event (Photo by Anatoliy Medved/Icon Sportswire) (Credit Image: © Anatoliy Medved/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)

Broadcast on Amazon Prime, the big draw was Andy Murray, who reached the semifinals. World no. 28 Dan Evans won the title, underlining his status as the top British male player when he defeated Kyle Edmund in the final.

The LTA announced on Thursday that Jamie Murray was planning another event to take place at the National Tennis Centre from 27 July.
The new event, known as the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis, aims to incorporate Great Britain’s best female players alongside the men and follows a somewhat Ryder Cup-inspired format. Current plans are for two teams selected by team captains, with six men and six women on each team. Eight singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches will be played across two show courts every day. According to The Times, between one and three points will be awarded for each victory.

Andy Murray and the top British woman, Johanna Konta, have both said they are willing to play.

‘That’s the intention,’ Jamie Murray told The Times.

‘I cannot tell you with a gun to my head that they will be there, but they both said they like the idea and intend to play as long as the fitness is there. I need our top players in order to put on these events.’

Andy Murray pulled out of the third-place play-off at the inaugural Battle of the Brits with sore shins, but his brother said he didn’t think the problem was serious: ‘It was just pretty intense.’

Jamie, a seven-time Grand Slam winner in doubles, was encouraged by the audience attracted to the Battle of the Brits on Amazon Prime.

‘I thought it was a huge success. I watched a lot of matches on TV and you weren’t watching thinking, “this is rubbish, there is no one there watching”. The fact we had extra stuff like the coach communication with the commentators, giving their thoughts and analysis, communication with the players as well — I thought it added to the whole event.’

ATP and WTA Tour tennis is currently scheduled to resume in August in the run up to the US Open, which will take place behind closed doors from 31 August-13 September.

But Murray was the latest player to express scepticism about the prospect about travelling for the US Open, particularly when the four biggest events of the clay-court season will take place in as many weeks in Europe immediately after the tournament in New York.

Murray said:

‘In New York they are talking quarantines for people from certain states of America. And then there is the EU saying that if you have been in the US you cannot go back – you need to do a quarantine [period] from the States. If they are incredibly strict with that and everyone has to do it, then if you go to play the US Open you cannot play in Madrid or Rome and you will have no preparation to play the French Open.

‘That will potentially come to a head soon with the ATP and US Open, depending on what those restrictions and policies are. I’d imagine the next few weeks would be pretty interesting. From my point of view as a player, you just want stability. Right now we don’t have that. I mean, you cannot even book a flight to New York just now. You have to fly through somewhere else.’

Doubts have been growing about top player participation in the US Open, with defending champion Rafael Nadal publicly committing to playing the Madrid Masters, which begins on the day of the US Open men’s singles final, and Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep both uncertain about whether or not they will travel to the USA.