WTA s-Hertogenbosch final preview: Kristina Mladenovic vs Coco Vandeweghe
Kristina Mladenovic (left) and Coco Vandeweghe (right) pump their fists during earlier matches. Photos: Ricoh Open (Mladenovic)/Reuters (Vandeweghe)

The final of the Ricoh Open is set. After a wild week that saw upsets galore, the final is fairly routine, as third seed Kristina Mladenovic will take on sixth seed Coco Vandeweghe. Just by reaching the final, both women are off to strong starts on the grass in 2016, but both will be wanting to wrap up the title to make it a dream start.

The final will take place at 12:00 pm local time (6:00 am ET) on Centre Court.

How They Got Here

Mladenovic has been strong on the lawns of s-Hertogenbosch so far, although not everything has come easy. After a straight sets win to open the tournament, the Frenchwoman was forced to battle back from a set down in her second round match again Natalia Vikhlyantseva before winning in three sets. Another straight sets win followed in the quarterfinals against Elise Mertens before she was once again forced to come back from a set down to beat top seed Belinda Bencic in the semifinals.

Kristina Mladenovic celebrates during an earlier win. Photo: Ricoh Open
Kristina Mladenovic celebrates during an earlier win. Photo: Ricoh Open

Vandeweghe has been dominant so far in the Netherlands, not dropping a set in four matches. In fact, at least one set in every match was won 6-2 by the American. Vandeweghe has benefitted from an easy draw, not needing to face a single seeded player on route to the final. She beat Indy de Vroome, Nao Hibino, Evgeniya Rodina and compatriot Madison Brengle on route to the final.

The History

The pair have met three times previously, with Vandeweghe emerging victorious on all three occasions. Two of those three meetings were decided in three sets, including their most recent match in February in Dubai. They’ve met once before in s-Hertogenbosch, in 2014 in the qualifying rounds, with Vandeweghe winning in three sets.

How Will Vandeweghe Meet her First Test?

Vandeweghe has yet to play an opponent ranked inside the top 60 in this tournament, let alone an opponent ranked higher than her. Not surprisingly, the American has had an easy go of things in all of her matches so far. Unless Mladenovic is really worn out after a tougher run, including a three-set tussle with the top seed in the semifinals, Vandeweghe is going to find herself under pressure from a very skilled opponent. While she will be no doubt confident, how she responds to not having everything go her way could have a big impact on the match. Will she keep her level up, or fold under pressure?

Coco Vandeweghe crushes a forehand in an earlier match. Photo: Ricoh Open
Coco Vandeweghe crushes a forehand in an earlier match. Photo: Ricoh Open

Can Mladenovic resist Vandeweghe’s power?

Vandeweghe has a game that is well suited to grass, with a big serve, flat strokes, and a good net game. Mladenovic herself is no slouch on the surface, but she is going to find herself under attack from the big-hitting American. The third seed is going to need to find a way to turn the tables on Vandeweghe. If she can, she should be the one dictating although putting the American in positions where she cannot tee-off on shots could be equally as effective. The most important thing for Mladenovic is that she does not get stuck retrieving behind the baseline. Rallies will not be long in this match, so Mladenovic cannot afford to fall behind.

Prediction: Mladenovic in three sets

The Frenchwoman has improved tremendously on grass this they last met and has shown some real grit so far in the tournament. Moreover, her doubles success should translate well onto the grass if she attacks the net regularly, taking Vandeweghe's time and control away. It should be close, but Mladenovic is in a good position to pull it out.

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