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.





US Open: One Week In

7 09 2009

The US Open is now entering the second week and there’s been plenty of entertainment from the women, some matches good, some matches exciting and a fair share of big names sent packing.

Perhaps the most enticing story so far has been that of Kim Clijsters, continuing her return from retirement as an unseeded player in New York. She passed her first round test as expected with a 61, 60 win over Kutuzova to set up a rematch with Marion Bartoli; the Frenchwoman took the first 75 but Clijster flicked the switch and took the next two sets at the expense of just three games. In the third round she comfortably saw off compatriot and friend Kirsten “Flipper” Flipkens to set up a fourth round match against No. 3 seed Venus Williams. Her opponent has spent this tournament again playing with wrapped knees and had seen off Dushevina, Mattek-Sands and Rybarikova to reach this round, and although she  is clearly having problems with her knee, it isn’t stopping her from competing in doubles with her sister. The match was turned on it’s head in the first two sets as each player bagelled the other, first Clijsters and then Venus, and a tight third set saw just one break in favour of the Belgian, enabling her to send Venus crashing with a 64 victory. Next she faces Li Na in the quarter-final before potentially facing Serena Williams in the semis.

The American crowds are all excited about 17 year old Melanie Oudin who has had great success so far, coming from a set down to beat Elena Dementieva in the second round, before doing exactly the same thing in the next round to Maria Sharapova. After beating Shvedova, who herself pulled off an upset with the beating of Jelena Jankovic, Oudin faces another Russian today in the form of Nadia Petrova for a place in the QF, and the top half of the draw has really opened up following Oudin’s dismissal of two top players, added to the exit of Dinara Safina who lost to Petra Kvitova after scraping her way through the first two rounds. Victoria Azarenka is also out at the hands of Francesca Schiavone and the two main seeds left in that half are Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova – who face each other today in a fourth round match. Kvitova faces Yanina Wickmayer and the winner will meet either Gisela Dulko or Kateryna Bondarenko in the QF. Either Wozniacki or Kuznetsova will face the winner of Oudin-Petrova.

In the bottom half it’s a much tougher affair. Tournament favourite Serena Williams will face Flavia Pennetta in the QF after the Italian saved six match points to see off Vera Zvonareva, and the winner of that will probably face Clijsters. It’s heavily expected that the winner of the US Open will be whoever makes the final from the bottom half, although I’m sure Wozniacki and Kuznetsova – and others – will have an opinion on that.

With all the relentless talk about the number one ranking this year, it would be very interesting if Svetlana Kuznetsova were to win the US Open. I think we’re all sick to death of hearing how Safina is the number one even though she hasn’t won a Slam, and Serena holds three Slams but is number two… well, ff Kuznetsova comes out on top here, she and Serena will each hold two Slams; Serena the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Svetlana the French and US Open. But then Kuznetsova holds a Tour title and Serena holds none, so will the debate open up into fierce arguments of how Kuznetsova should be the number one ranked player? I doubt it, but it would be interesting.

Anyway, for what it’s worth I chose Clijsters at the start of the tournament and I’m sticking with my choice as we go into the second week. Go Kim!





Magnifique: Marion Earns Top Honours at Stanford

8 08 2009

An entertaining week of tennis was capped off with Marion Bartoli defeating Venus Williams in three sets to claim the biggest win of her career to date.

As the Final approached it was Venus who was heavily tipped to win her third hardcourt title of 2009; she had steamrolled Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva in the previous two rounds, dropping just five games in both matches combined. Bartoli on the other hand had played three sets against Sam Stosur in the Semi Final and the night before had fought back from a set down to beat Jelena Jankovic. That match had it’s own little mini-drama as Marion had claimed she prefers to be playing Jankovic rather than the Serbs’ beaten opponent, Sabine Lisicki, because “I always beat her”. Jankovic responded by saying that Marion isn’t exactly Serena Williams and can’t bring it to the big names, ending her interview by smiling and declaring that “Bartoli is going to get it tomorrow”. It looked as though Jankovic would be proved right when she was 6-3 3-1 in the lead but didn’t count on the French woman fighting back to take the second set 76 and then seal success with a 63 win in the third set. Someone had to eat humble pie and it turned out to be Jankovic.

On that same night Australian Stosur produced a surprise by downing Serena Williams. The American showed just why she isn’t the world number one by once again failing to produce her best game outside of a Slam and Stosur took advantage to roll her over 62 36 62 and claim herself a big scalp.

Back to the Final and Bartoli won more games in the first set than Sharapova and Dementieva had managed between them against Venus, taking it 62 to shake Venus up as she was unable to continue her great form in the tournament, partly through her own UE rate but also through her FORCED error rate, which was shown at one point in the second set as being at 17, but I’ve been unable to find final stats for this – if anyone can point me in the right direction it would be much appreciated. Marion’s aggressive game gave Venus very little time for her shots and proved to be the right gameplan in the opening set. In the second set Venus upped her game a little and earned herself a 75 win, despite Bartoli serving for the match at 54.

At this point all advantage seemed to be with Venus and it was generally voiced by commentators and bookmakers alike that there was only one winner, that Marion had missed her chance and would now fade away. That was not to be however and Venus was stunned to find herself 03 down before she knew it, and Bartoli showed energy and fight to continue her aggressive game and dismiss Venus 64 to earn the biggest title of her career thus far. Personally, it was a glorious moment to see Marion celebrate on court, the climax of a lot of hard work by the Frenchwoman and her coach/father, Walter. During the week she had dismissed myths and proved a lot of people wrong about a number of things, chiefly that she can’t fight back against a good player – see the set down comeback against Jankovic; that her head goes down and stays down if she loses the second set, having won the first – see the victory over Sam Stosur; that she doesn’t have the fight to beat a big name player in a tough tussle – watch the final against Venus Williams. Talk of her retiring at any opportunity was also put to one side as she played most of the week with both knees wrapped and had problems with her calf from the Quarter Final match with Jankovic onwards. In the final she was clearly struggling to stay loose but fought through this and was repeatedly seen stretching her body between games as she pushed against the court walls. The spirit and determination shown proved to be too much for her famous opponent and her victory here was greatly deserved.

It was a great week for Marion Bartoli, our WTA Stanford Champion 2009.





WTA Invades America

27 07 2009

It seems like an age has passed since Wimbledon finished but it’s only been three weeks and now we’re on the verge of the US hardcourt season. In the intervening period most of the top players rested but there has been clay court action to enjoy (if we can find matches online anyway) but really, those three weeks after Wimbledon aren’t the same, it’s as if most players are just putting their feet up and breathing deeply, preparing for the big push to the final Slam of the year. Word of note to Andrea Petkovic though, who won her first WTA Tour title yesterday in Bad Gastein, Austria. The world number one, Dinara Safina, also lifted a trophy as she won a hardcourt tournament in Portaroz, Slovenia.

Today, a large number of the top players are in Stanford, USA; the line-up includes both Williams sisters, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Agnes Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and Nadia Petrova. If we go by the bookmakers then Serena Williams is the easy favourite for this tournament and if she plays well, rightly so – but we all know that Serena doesn’t seem to turn up and give everything she has outside of the slams, evidenced by the fact that she hasn’t won a Tour title in over 15 months now. She has a tricky first round match against Li Na and whilst she should win, I don’t think it would be an earth-shattering shock if she lost that one, although it should be noted that Na is carrying a knee injury. Other potential finalists from that half of the draw include Jankovic, Bartoli and Lisicki and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the winner of Sam Stosur vs Dominika Cibulkova go far.

In the bottom half of the draw, Venus Williams is the favourite to reach the final and with hardcourt titles under her belt already this year, why not? Well, again it will come down to how she approaches the tournament and Venus isn’t adverse to an early defeat to a player she should be beating. She looks safe to win her first two matches but could then find herself up against Maria Sharapova, who is getting ever fitter and would no doubt love to start winning tournaments again as she approaches something resembling her old self, and after that it’s more than likely that Dementieva would be waiting. I think both of those players have more desire than Venus to win this tournament and I would expect one of them to cut off her challenge.

Personally speaking, I’d love to see Marion Bartoli do well here. She’s in potentially the ‘easier’ half of the draw although that description goes hand-in-hand with the assumption that Serena won’t be giving it her all and that Jankovic just isn’t on her game at all right now (or this year).  The young Frenchwoman is more than capable of taking advantage of any shortcomings in her rivals games, so I’ll have my fingers crossed for her. I’d also quite like to see Stosur, Lisicki and Sharapova do well here, but my prediction to win the tournament is Elena Dementieva. She’s won hardcourt titles earlier this year in Auckland and Sydney, reached the Semi Final of the Australian Open (lost to Serena Williams), made the final in Paris (lost to Mauresmo) and of course the last time we saw her was at Wimbledon where she came so close to beating Serena and making the final. Dementieva’s first task is, unfortunately for us Brits, to get past British number one Anne Keothavong.

Elsewhere this week, Nathalie Dechy announced her retirement from tennis, and also her pregnancy, at the age of 30 – best wishes for her future life as a mother! Nicole Vaidisova lost in Stanford qualifying 6-2 6-1 to Stacey Tan, ranked 584 in the world. I’ve no idea what’s going on with Vaidisova and her still-hurtling fall from the upper reaches of the rankings, but it’s looking like she desperately needs to address something in her life and game. It’s really sad to see. And finally, Tamira Paszek told at a press conference how she’d been receiving treatment for a back problem by having her own blood injected into her body, only to have the legality of this questioned. It seems that this type of treatment, known as autologous injections, is against anti-doping rules. Paszek then immediately contacted the Austrian anti-doping agency to find out more about this. Apparently this kind of ‘blood doping’ is against the rules but there’s also an exemption certificate which can be gained to have the treatment administered, though whether this can be acquired after the treatment has occurred, I don’t know. Looking at the massive difference in the Richard Gasquet and Martina Hingis cases, Paszek can expect anything from a wry smile and a slap on the wrist to a hundred year ban from even looking at a tennis court.

For now we have an exciting week of tennis ahead as we lead up to the US Open, so bring it on!





Wimbledon Week 1 Review

29 06 2009

So here we are on the second Monday of Wimbledon and I thought I’d note down some points about the tournament so far:

Biggest surprise: Maria Sharapova crashing out in three sets to Gisela Dulko in the 2nd Round. Everyone knows that Maria has been out injured for a long time and this is only her fourth tournament on the road back to full fitness, but she should still have been capable of winning this match. Personally I thought her downfall would come against Victoria Azarenka today.

Biggest not-a-surprise: Jelena Jankovic losing to Melanie Oudin. Jankovic has had a torrid year so far and has herself said so and claimed she needs to go back to square one and start again. Her warm-up for Eastbourne was a 1st Round loss to headcase Anna Chakvetadze and you get the feeling with Jelena that she would happily just come off the tour for the season right now and start again next year. She was bound to go out of this tournament early, the only surprise is that she lasted until the 3rd Round.

Also listed here is Sabine Lisicki beating Svetlana Kuznetsova. After her opening round defeat on grass last week to Aleksandra Wozniak, Kuznetsova said that after playing so much tennis on clay she was still in that mindset and hadn’t adjusted her game at all for grass. Coming up against Lisicki, who’s only young but announced herself when she won the Family Circle cup in April – beating Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli and Caroline Wozniacki to do so – this wasn’t the terrific shock it’s been made out to be.

Waiting for a challenge: Venus and Serena Williams, plus Dinara Safina are yet to face anybody who should give them a troublesome match. Today should change that as Venus plays Ana Ivanovic, who seems to be slowly finding a bit of form again, Serena plays Daniela Hantuchova who also seems to have found some of her old form here, and Safina faces former Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo. Should be interesting.

Young gun: Vika Azarenka is cruising along too. Azarenka is the 3rd favourite, after both Williams sisters, and has been pretty much on fire so far. She has a tough match today against Nadia Petrova and will face Serena Williams in the QF’s if they both win. They’ve met twice this year but both matches have been inconclusive – Azarenka was forced to retire at the Australian Open due to her throwing up everywhere, having won the first set (trailing 4-2 in the second I think) and when Vika beat Serena in the final at Miami, Serena came out sporting a bandage on her leg and seemed to be carrying a slight injury. So it would be interesting to see a match between two fit players and discover whether a changing of the guard is on its way.

Biggest disappointment: For me anyway, was Marion Bartoli going out 7-6, 6-0 to Francesca Schiavone.

Television coverage: As a UK resident I can’t really knock the BBC too much for their broadcasting of matches, as there’s usually been a WTA match to watch. One slight gripe would concern them twice cutting off broadcast during a match to make way for the Glastonbury festival coverage, as they were currently showing three mens matches and one womens. So yes, get rid of the one womens match you’re showing.

My bigger gripe with them is that there has been several exciting matches so far and yet all the focus has instead been on the noise made by one or two players, falling to very low levels with ‘Gruntwatch’. Apparently the Schiavone-Larcher De Brito match was actually pretty good but what did we get to see of it? A report on Larcher De Brito’s shrieking. Pretty pathetic stuff.

4th Round: If I could only watch one match today, I’d choose Venus Williams vs Ana Ivanovic, which should be very good and has the potential at least for a surprise result. Maybe.





WTA AEGON Classic, Birmingham; Rybarikova Takes Over

27 06 2009

These past few days I’ve been to see live tennis in Birmingham and it’s been pretty enjoyable, even though I’m a known despiser of all things sunny and warm. Having equipped myself with sunglasses, baseball cap and suncream lotion, I’ve made the two hour journey from house to courts on each of the last four days, and been rewarded with eight matches.

On the first day I saw Anastasia Pavyluchenkova beat Britain’s Elena Baltacha in three sets, the only match interrupted by rain in my time there. Number one seed Jie Zheng beat another Brit next, Melanie South, and Maria Sharapova rounded the day off by beating feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone.

On Friday it was quarter finals and I took in Sania Mirza defeating Melinda Czink before seeing Sharapova vs Yanina Wickmayer, the former number one progressing in three sets.

Saturday was Semi Finals day and the first match saw Sharapova exit the tournament at the hands of Li Na, before Magdalena Rybarikova booked her place in the final with a win over Mirza.

Sunday was the final, and Li Na was favourite to win the tournament with the bookmakers but got bagelled in the first set, playing some god-awful tennis; her hit-and-hope style didn’t pay off and just ended up being a little embarrassing at times. She improved in the second set but Rybarikova took the tie break 7-2 to win her first WTA title, a win that her own performance deserved. Even though this isn’t a big tournament, her victory is still a surprise; Jie Zheng was the number one seed and Rybarikova beat her; Maria Sharapova was the biggest name here although this was only her third tournament back from a long lay-off with a shoulder injury, so to go out in the semi-final is okay and I’m sure she’s just glad to be getting back playing again. With those two gone Li Na became the favourite, and Rybarikova dispatched her too, so she has to take full credit for her first title. Whether she will build on it remains to be seen, I’ve already heard mutterings of how she’ll be a dangerous outsider at Wimbledon but I don’t think she’ll go too far there.

So tomorrow I set off for my second tournament, a combined WTA/ATP event in Eastbourne. I’ll arrive early afternoon and will be there for the rest of the tournament so will hopefully have a very pleasant week ahead of me. There is a much stronger field here but for me the highlight will be seeing my favourite player, Marion Bartoli of France. Although seeing as I probably won’t arrive until about 3pm, knowing my luck she’ll have played and lost by then, hope not! I’ll have my fingers crossed that she goes far and she has a good history on grass so hopefully everything will come together for her in Eastbourne and put her in good stead for Wimbledon. It’ll be nice to see her in action though as I admire her as a player and as a person. Go Marion!

Photos from Birmingham – http://s578.photobucket.com/albums/ss226/Inktrailer/WTA%20Birmingham/