Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs. Simona Halep
It is no secret that Simona Halep has been struggling to find her form ever since her early exit in US Open. The consistent Simona looks vulnerable now, and is just content with keeping the ball in. Not too sure why Halep is playing so conservatively, since it was her smart counterpunching game that brought her to number 2 in the world. Maybe the pressure is too much. She needs to get her gears working against the tricky Strycova. If she's just relying on mistakes from Barbora, I'm afraid she will be looking at another early round exit.
Pick: Halep in 3 sets
Kaia Kanepi vs. Maria Sharapova
Another player struggling with her form, Sharapova has not been the same ever since her Roland Garros triumph. Perhaps she's too zoned in on her clay court tennis that she's not comfortable on her former best surface, hard courts. Maria's vulnerable serve is back to its errant ways, but it still takes a player with good mental strength to beat her. Kaia is well known to crumble under pressure, so I won't be banking on her for this upset. Nevertheless, Kanepi has the game to make this competitive.
Pick: Sharapova in 2 tight sets
Ekaterina Makarova vs. Garbine Muguruza
Makarova is having a remarkably consistent year and may be the dark horse to qualify for the championships in Singapore. She has a tough opener against the hard hitting Muguruza, who had a good showing last week in Wuhan. These 2 players will be bound to hit the fibres out of the tennis ball, and it will be a close one. The Russian had an unexpected loss against Bacsinszky last week, and will be eager to correct that against Muguruza. Besides, the Spaniard withdrew due to gastritis last week, so Makarova should have the edge here.
Pick: Makarova in 3 sets
Sure win bets: Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Karolina Pliskova
Upset alert: Andrea Petkovic, Samantha Stosur, Roberta Vinci