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

hannahwilks in WTA Cincinnati Open 27 Aug 2020
Victoria Azarenka won the Western & Southern Open in 2013 (PA Images)

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