Australian Open Predictions

17 01 2010

Okay, predictions for the Australian Open: (apologies for the layout, wordpress seems to be playing up)

1st Quarter Semi Finalist – Serena Williams (if her ‘knee injury’ comes into play again, Vika Azarenka)

2nd Quarter Semi Finalist – Caroline Wozniacki

3rd Quarter Semi Finalist – Kim Clijsters

4th Quarter Semi Finalist – Marion Bartoli

Okay, my own bias is probably coming into play there.  Bartoli is more than capable of reaching the Quarter Final here, in which she would likely play Maria Sharapova or Dinara Safina – I would see it as Bartoli vs Sharapova and I’m taking an upset special with the Frenchwoman.

Semi Finals

Serena Williams bts Caroline Wozniacki

Kim Clijsters bts Marion Bartoli

Held myself back from saying another Marion win!

Final

Serena Williams vs Kim Clijsters

WINNER – Kim Clijsters

Other possible contenders:

Justine Henin – falls to Clijsters

Elena Dementieva – falls to Henin

Svetlana Kuznetsova – falls to Clijsters

Vika Azarenka – falls to S. Williams

Flavia Pennetta – falls to Henin

Jelena Jankovic – falls to Bartoli

Dinara Safina – falls to Sharapova

Venus Williams – falls to an Upset Special

Finally, the two players I would have followed with lots of interest are the Slamless Dementieva and Italian Pennetta but unfortunately both are due to play Henin early – Dementieva in the 2nd round. If either of them were to beat Henin they’d still have to play Clijsters! Both of those players are capable of causing the upset against either of the Belgians.





Dementieva downs Serena in Sydney

16 01 2010

WTA Medibank International: Russian star Elena Dementieva picked up her first title of the season in Sydney, thumping Serena Williams 6-3, 6-2 in the Final.

Dementieva successfully defended a title for the first time in her career to cap a fine week and take her total to 15 tournament wins.  During the week she beat Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova before taking three Top Ten scalps; Dinara Safina (2), Victoria Azarenka (7) and Serena (1), dropping just one set along the way to Hantuchova.

The final was marred slightly by an apparent knee injury to Serena, who began wincing and limping when 6-3, 3-0 down but Dementieva had outplayed her from the start, just as she outplayed her other opponenents in Sydney, with some dominant, almost flawless tennis. Serena on the other hand made unforced error after unforced error but confirms that the injury isn’t serious enough to harm her chances in the Australian Open, which begins on Sunday night (UK time).

The tournament began with a strong field and contained nine of the top ten players, Venus Williams being the missing link.  Vera Zvonareva retired after six games of her opening match against Elena Vesnina and the ankle injury which hampered her last season looks set to continue in 2010.  Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic both crashed out in the first round, to Li Na and Agnes Szavay respectively whilst Kuznetsova was beaten by Cibulkova in the second round. Of the top players, it was Dementieva who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Perhaps the funniest match was played in the second round between Agnes Radwanska and Dinara Safina, as the Russian rallied from 0-5 down in the first set to take the match 7-5, 6-4. Safina looked in good form on occasions in her matches against Radwanska and Dementieva but too often struggled to hit the court.

Elsewhere this week, Alona Bondarenko was victorious in Hobart, beating Shahar Pe’er 6-2, 6-4 in the Final to collect her second career title.  Both players now head to Melbourne to join the rest of the assembled cast for the Australian Open.

Justine Henin was practising in Melbourne this week after pulling out of Sydney to protect a leg injury from becoming more severe, and was joined by Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli.  Sharapova and Bartoli will go into the first slam of the year without playing a competitive tournament as a warm up, although Sharapova was active in a Hong Kong exhibition the week before.  Bartoli, following a succession of injuries last year, including being forced to retire against Aravane Rezai in the season-ending Bali championships, has opted to focus more on her physical maintenance as she aims for further improvements this season. As always, Allez Marion!

Australian Open preview to follow tomorrow.





Belgians set the pace for 2010

10 01 2010

After a ridiculously long absence of at least six weeks, the new tennis season has arrived with a bang! 2010 opened with tournaments in Brisbane and Auckland and both were won by Belgian players, Kim Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer respectively.

The main focus this week has been the return of Justine Henin after 18 months out of the game and she didn’t disappoint, finally succumbing to Clijsters in the Brisbane final on a third set tie-break. Henin saw off Nadia Petrova in her first match and also took care of Sesil Karatantcheva and, after a tense battle, Melinda Czink before dispatching Ana Ivanovic without too much trouble. In the final against Clijsters the bar was raised in a rollercoaster match which saw Clijsters take a 6-3, 4-1 lead and appear certain for a comfortable win. Henin had different ideas and won the next eight games to take the second set and establish a 3-0 lead in the third, before herself collapsing as Clijsters fought back. Almost inevitably it went to a tie-break after Henin failed to finish off two match points in the final set, and the breaker was as giddy as the match itself; Clijsters took a 4-0 lead, then 5-1, but Henin clawed back to 6-6 before producing a double fault to give Clijsters match point on her own serve, and Clijsters screamed with joy for a second before a line judge called ‘out’ on what seemed a perfectly good ball. At that point it would have been very harsh for Clijsters to be denied but she wrapped the match up moments later, taking the tiebreak 8-6. Disappointing for Henin but just getting to the final in her first tournament back was a huge achievement.

So what next? Well, Henin has pulled out of this weeks tournament in Sydney citing a leg injury which she wants to rest, which makes sense. At times this week she has looked rusty, other times phenomenal so it’ll be great when she’s back in the groove of the Tour.

In Auckland it was Belgian youngster Yanina Wickmayer who triumphed, beating Flavia Pennetta in the final. Wickmayer, who was facing a one year ban just a month ago, couldn’t prepare properly for the new season of course as she didn’t know whether she’d be able to compete, but looked superb in her first tournament of the year. Pennetta also looked to be going with all guns blazing, playing some awesome tennis until the final, when she seemed unable to do anything right. Wickmayer will next have to qualify for the Australian Open despite being ranked No. 16 in the world, due to the issues surrounding her ban, so you have to pity the poor bollocks who draws her in qualifying.

Other notes from the tournaments this week, based mainly on my own interests… Alize Cornet is showing signs of getting over the slump of last year, beating Erakovic and Vesnina pretty comfortably before going out to feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone. She started this week in Hobart with a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing of Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru.

Shahar Peer was the subject of a small protest in Auckland. The group, which I think consisted of about seven people, stood at the entrance to the tournament during her matches and called through a megaphone for the Israeli to withdraw from the tournament due to the government of her country. Peer didn’t seem to mind though and progressed to the semi finals before bowing out to Wickmayer in straight sets. The only player that seemed to be affected by the protest was Magdalena Rybarikova who was visibly shaken and seemed to agree that her match against Peer should be abandoned – well done protestors, Magdalena thanks you for ruining her tournament.

So where the hell were the rest of the top players in the opening week of the season? Hong Kong, playing an exhibition tournament which I’m not even going to bother going into. Rumours that none of them fancied playing Clijsters or Henin remain unconfirmed, but Serena Williams, Dementieva, Sharapova, Safina, Azarenka, Wozniacki, Kuznetsova, Zvonareva and Jankovic will all be competing this week in Sydney. Venus Williams, however, decided that one exhibition tournament is more than enough preperation for the Australian Open and is putting her feet up somewhere – please, don’t suggest it’s because she’s not going to go far in the AO. Last year’s exit to the always-enigmatic Carla Suarez Navarro won’t be repeated.

So, Sydney and Hobart will lead us up to the AO, hopefully it’ll be another good week for the WTA but I suspect it’ll be littered with retirements and withdrawals as we approach the first Slam of the year one week from now – roll on!