Kuznetsova has had her best season in recent years when she managed to return to the top 10 of the rankings and qualified for the WTA Finals after injury struggles almost derailed her career. The Russian’s success in the past year actually started at the Sydney International last year having won the title as an unseeded player. The former world number two actually has a great opportunity to rise in the rankings after this tournament having lost in the second round last year and is not defending many points here and was given a favorable draw. Furthermore, Kuznetsova’s season highlights last year include reaching the Miami Open final and winning the Kremlin Cup which sealed her place at the WTA Finals, where she was the eventual semifinalist.
It was only due to Ana Ivanovic’s sudden retirement that Duque-Marino could enter the main draw as she was the first alternate off the main draw acceptance. A disappointing season in 2016 saw Duque-Marino as she fell out of the top 100 in the rankings after she only made two quarterfinal appearances throughout the season. However, the Colombian managed to reach the final in Nuremberg, which was just her 2nd WTA final in her career. The worst start to the season possible saw Duque-Marino fall in her opening matches at Auckland, Sydney, and Australian Open. After consecutive second round losses, Duque-Marino endured a seven-match loss streak that finally ended when she lost in the second round of Rome and reached the final of Nuremberg to rise back into the world’s top 100. With dull results that followed, the Colombian eventually fell out of the top 100 and ended the year as the world number 110.
Kuznetsova’s 2017 results
The Russian played two events in the last two weeks before this tournament at the Brisbane International and the Sydney International. The results she has gotten there were quite disappointing as she fell in the quarterfinals of Brisbane and the second round of Sydney, losing to Garbine Muguruza and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova respectively. She had her chances in both matches, having 2 set points against Muguruza and served for the set against Pavlyuchenkova.
Duque-Marino’s 2017 results
The Colombian has been inactive since the 2016 US Open when she lost in the opening round to Jelena Jankovic in straight sets due to unknown reasons. Duque-Marino has not played a single match this year and would be coming into this match with no match practice at all, which makes it further tougher to have a chance to create an upset here.
Both players have not met each other in history despite being on the tour for more than 10 years already. It would be interesting to see if Duque-Marino is able to trouble Kuznetsova with her game and create an upset.
Kuznetsova definitely enters this match as the huge favourite as she is the higher-ranked player of both and has achieved much more in her career.
Unknown to most tennis fans, Duque Marino utilizes a heavy topspin forehand which could pose some problems for Kuznetsova to deal with. The Colombian’s backhand is the shot that has always been a problem for her as her opponents often attack and target her backhand and have been proved effective previously.
Kuznetsova, as an all-around player, would be able to dictate play for most of the match as her strong serves and returns could definitely help her to close out the points. Furthermore, her slices and spins could definitely catch her opponent off-guard during the middle of the rallies. Described as one of the most all-rounded players in the game now, Kuznetsova could play some excellent net shots to close out the points as a doubles grand slam champion in the past and being the world number three in doubles. The Russian is also able to control the proceedings from the baseline by throwing in a drop shot out of nowhere to clinch the point.
This match would be played on the opening day of action at the Hisense Arena, which is third on the schedule after play starts at 11 am local time.
Prediction: Kuznetsova in straight sets