One of the most interesting matches of the sixth day of action at the French Open sees a generation clash, with former world number one and 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki taking on the young American Catherine Bellis, who is making her tournament debut at the age of 18.
The two met in Dubai earlier this year, with Wozniacki easing to victory, though this could be a tougher match on what is not a strong surface for her, and is turning into a fairly strong surface for Bellis. Furthermore, there is a lot at stake in this match, with Bellis looking to make the second week of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time whilst Wozniacki looks to make the fourth round at the French Open for only the second time.
The winner of this will face either 32nd seed Shuai Zhang or eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round.
So far in Paris
Both women had extremely tough first round matches, but things were more comfortable (especially for Wozniacki) in the first round.
The Dane has had a fairly strong season so far but stuttered a little over the clay court season, and her struggles on the surface were shown in the first round as she was forced to three sets by young Australian qualifier Jaimee Fourlis, eventually prevailing 6-2 in the decider. However, things drastically improved for the 11th seed after that, recording the fourth double bagel of her career to swat aside qualifier Francoise Abanda; she will be extremely confident after that win.
Bellis unfortunately had to withdraw from the Australian Open with injury, though, just as in her two US Open campaigns, won her opening match in Paris, battling past Dutch qualifier Quirine Lemoine in three sets. In the second round she was the underdog against other Dutchwoman, 18th seed and 2016 semifinalist Kiki Bertens, though she recorded one of the biggest wins of her career to knock out Bertens, who had just won the title in Nuremberg, in straight sets; like her opponent on Friday, she will also be confident heading into this.
One advantage for Bellis is that she is generally the more aggressive of the two and, though it is only the early stages of her career, looks fairly comfortable on the surface unlike Wozniacki. The American should look to attack as much as possible, though is facing one of the best retrievers on tour so must be patient, and must try not allow the 11th seed to frustrate her and force unnecessary errors out of her.
Though she is not particularly comfortable on the surface, Wozniacki’s experience and game style stands her in fairly good stead here. Though the American has a pretty good game which Wozniacki may find tough to stop at some points, the former world number one will certainly be less nervous and will have no problems with defending regularly- something she has done with a lot of success throughout the years. However, the Dane must look to serve well, as she cannot allow Bellis to frequently punish second serves and become too dominant in the rallies.
This match is likely to be an interesting one to watch due to the clash of generations between the two, and there is certainly a lot of stake with Bellis looking to go on her best Grand Slam run and Wozniacki looking to force her way into becoming a consistent top-ten player again.
We know that Wozniacki is not massively comfortable on the surface and that Bellis could take advantage of that, though it seems, based on their meeting earlier this year and on the Dane’s superb second round performance, that she will prove just a little too strong for the young American. It could well be tight, though the former world number one should be able to get the job done.
Prediction: Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets