Thursday, 29 July 2010

WTA Istanbul - Baltacha shocks Schiavone

Elena Baltacha pulled of one of the biggest wins of her career by knocking out French Open champion and number 1 seed, Francesca Schiavone in Istanbul. Overall, its been a fantastic year for Baltacha who picked up her first win earlier this year over a top 10 player when she defeated Na Li at Indian Wells. This comfortable 6-4 6-2 win over Schiavone was her third victory over a top 10 player . Since winning the French Open, Schiavone has won only one match and it must be argued whether Schiavone still has the motivation to compete after winning an unlikely first grand slam. Baltacha will now play Andrea Petkovic in the next round.

This week has also seen a resurgence by Elena Vesnina who had previously lost her last six matches. Straight set wins against Jovanovski and Voegele have put her in a great position to go far in this tournament on what is her best surface. She will be a big threat and i predict she will go on to reach the final. Sorana Cirstea has also had a good week knocking out the talented Johanna Larsson. Cirstea has spent the last few weeks in Las Vegas including a practice with her idol Steffi Graf, which appears to have given her a big boost this week. She will now face off against Pavlyuchenkova in what should be an enticing QF clash and one i think Cirstea could edge.

Petra Kvitova was once again knocked out in the 1st round and has been unable to back up her impressive SF performance at Wimbledon. Kvitova definitely has talent to succeed however it looks like consistency may her downfall. Jarka Groth will battle it out with defending champion, Vera Dushevina for a place in the SF in the final quarter. Groth has been one of the form players on tour with 4R showings at both the French Open and Wimbledon. I expect her to continue this form and knock out the defending champion.

WTA Stanford - Ivanovic in, Safina out

The first round saw some interesting results most noticeably with Ana Ivanovic pulling off a comfortable victory over nemesis Alisa Kleybanova. Ivanovic has struggled for form over the past 18 months but a good victory here has set her up a 2R clash with Marion Bartoli, which looks to be a winnable match on paper with a 3-0 head to head record. Currently sitting at number 63 in the ranking, Ivanovic will look to improve this ranking over the next month which shouldn't be too much of a challenge as she is defending very few points from last year. Dinara Safina had a disappointing comeback as she was once again beaten in 3 sets by Kimiko Date Krumm and failed to hold any of her service games in the final set as she lost 6-4 6-7 2-6. Safina has struggled this year with a back injury however mentally she has looked extremely fragile with continuing problems with her serve. It is hard to see Dinara getting back to the top of her game unless she can mentally strengthen her game.

We also saw two superb fightbacks from both Shahar Peer and Melanie Oudin in their 1st round matches. Peer managed to overcome a first set bagel to defeat Daniela Hanutchova, 0-6 6-4 6-3. Peer has had an excellent year and has been consistently beating strong opposition with Svetlana Kuznetsova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Na Li to name a few. She will look to secure another QF appearance for this year when she takes on Maria Kirilenko later today. Melanie Oudin also produced a stunning comeback on Monday night to defeat Aleksandra Wozniak after coming back from 7-6 5-1 down (and a MP) to pull off a sensational 6-7 7-5 6-3 victory. Oudin has struggled to build on her QF appearance at the US Open however no one can deny her fighting spirit which remains one of her greatest attributes. In the next round later today, she will play Victoria Azarenka who looked on top form in R1 against Ayumi Morita.

Maria Sharapova will also play today after producing a solid performance in the 1st round to overcome Jie Zheng, 6-4 7-5. She will look to confirm a QF match with Elena Dementieva who was successful in her comeback from injury by defeating Kimiko Date Krumm in 3 sets. I think it was good for her to be pushed to 3 sets to get some match experience under her belt. I do not expect her to beat Sharapova in the QF if Sharapova does win tonight, however i anticipate that with some good results over the next month, she will be a contender for the US Open.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

ATP Los Angeles preview

Andy Murray is the first of the Big 4 to return to action this week in Los Angeles along with the likes of Sam Querrey and Marcos Baghdatis.

Quarter 1 - Murray (1) v Gulbis (5)
Murray receives a bye into R2 and will then face Gabashvilli or a Qualifier so I expect Murray to reach the QF without too many problems. Gulbis returns from injury this week however I predict he will face some opposition from Lukas Lacko.
Prediction = Murray v Lacko

Quarter 2 - Lopez (4) v Fish (8)
Lopez receives a bye into the R2 where he will likely face Xavier Malisse who has hit a rich vein form of recently. Mardy Fish based on his recent form should overcome the likes of James Blake and Leonardo Mayer to reach the QF.
Prediction = Malisse v Fish

Quarter 3 - Tipsarevic (6) v Baghdatis (3)
Tipsarevic has struggled of recent however he is likely to meet a qualifier if he progresses to R2 so will go for Tipsy to reach the QF. Marcos Baghdatis should be his opponent.
Prediction = Tipsarevic v Baghdatis

Quarter 4 - Zeballos (7) v Querrey (2)
Zeballos zoomed up the rankings last year but has struggled in recent months for consistency. I'm predicting for Robby Ginepri to have a run to the QF in LA. Sam Querrey is a talented player but is often prone to an upset in the early rounds of tournaments. Kevin Anderson performed well at Atlanta and i'll go for him to do well again.
Prediction = Ginepri v Anderson

I'm predicting Murray will come of form and halt Mardy Fish's sensational form of recent weeks to play surprise finalist in Kevin Anderson with Andy Murray winning in the final.

WTA Istanbul preview

The second WTA tournament for this week kicks off in Istanbul with the likes of Francesca Schiavone, Petra Kvitova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova competing.

1st Quarter - Schiavone (1) v Petkovic (6)
Francesca Schiavone will have to overcome some British opposition in Keothavong and Baltacha. I expect her to progress with some difficulty to win her first matches since winning Roland Garros. Petkovic should be her QF opponent with Razzano her R2 opponent.
Prediction = Schiavone v Petkovic

2nd Quarter - Shvedova (4) v Pironkova (5)
Shvedova faces a tricky opener against Stefanie Voegele who played well in Portoroz last week. Elena Vesnina is also lurking and is a talented hard court player so I expect her to find some form like compatriot Anna Chakvetadze in Portoroz last week. I'll go for Pironkova to come through against the fiesty Rodionova.
Prediction = Vesnina v Pironkova

3rd Quarter - Schnyder (8) v Pavlyuchenkova (3)
Im going to go for Sorana Cirstea to hit some form and knock out the seeded Schnyder who I predict will overcome a tired yet talented Johanna Larsson. Pavlyuchenkova should pass Rybarikova without any problems despite a disappointing exit in the QF of Portoroz.
Prediction = Cirstea v Pavlyuchenkova

4th Quarter - Zakopalova (7) v Kvitova (2)
In this final quarter, i'm going for the in-form Jarmilla Groth to knock out Zakopalova. Kvitova struggled in Portoroz last week and im anticipating another struggle against Sevastova. Ultimately, i think it will be Vera Dushevina who progresses to the QF.
Prediction = Groth v Dushevina

I'm predicting a final between Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova with A-Pav winning; however these tournaments can often be unpredictable with a selection of new names such as Julia Goerges and Johanna Larsson reaching the latter stages of recent WTA events.

WTA Stanford Preview

The American hard court season starts this week in Stanford with a relatively strong field headlined by Samantha Stosur and Elena Dementieva. Both Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina are competing in their first tournaments since recovering from injury. There are some tasty first round clashes including Ivanovic v Kleybanova, Safina v Date Krumm and Hantuchova v Peer.

1st Quarter - Stosur (1) v Wickmayer (7)
Stosur will open up her hard court campaign against a Qualifier in R2 after a bye so therefore looks likely to make the QF where she should meet Wickmayer who I expect to overcome Cibulkova, who struggled in Portoroz with relative ease.
Prediction = Stosur v Wickmayer

2nd Quarter - Bartoli (4) v Azarenka (8)
Bartoli will meet the winner of Kleybanova v Ivanovic so therefore I expect a tough challenge and one she will not overcome to retain her title with Kleybanova progressing. Azarenka should reach the QF knocking out Melanie Oudin on the way.
Prediction = Kleybanova v Azarenka

3rd Quarter - Peer (6) v Radwanska (3)
Shahar Peer opens up with a tough encounter against Daniela Hantuchova with the winner likely to face Maria Kirilenko. This is difficult one but i will go for Kirilenko to make it through. Radwanska should on paper have a very routine draw to the QF.
Prediction = Kirilenko v Radwanska

4th Quarter - Sharapova (5) v Dementieva (2)
This is the toughest QF match-up and would be a rematch of the 2009 Toronto final. Sharapova will have to overcome Jie Zheng who has beaten her this year but i expect her to scrape through this one in 3 sets. Dinara Safina is also in this section but i fancy her to struggle again against Kimiko Date Krumm leaving Dementieva to progress to the QF on her return from injury.
Prediction = Sharapova v Dementieva

In the top half, im going for Yanina Wickmayer to have a good tournament knocking out the number 1 seed in Stosur and then Azarenka in the Semis. The bottom half im going for Radwanska v Sharapova in the Semis with Maria having too much power for A-Rad. Im predicting Maria Sharapova will be crowned Stanford Champion starting her American hard court season in perfect fashion.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Mens US Open Preview

After claiming the last two grand slams at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal will be brimming with confidence and looking towards winning his first US Open title and the career grand slam. With Roger Federer seemingly struggling with form after being knocked out at the Quarter-final stage in the last two grand slams, Nadal will hope that his knees can hold up on what is his least favourite surface. Despite Federer's struggles in recent months, the 16-time grand slam champion can never be written off. His struggles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon may yet lead as strong motivation to prove his critics wrong and show the world he can still be a force in tennis in the next couple of years.

Further challenges should come from Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Murray has generally performed well at the slams this year reaching the final at the Australian Open and the Semi-finals of Wimbledon. However he has failed to raise his game at the latter stages and been soundly beaten by the better player. Murray has reached the final before back in 2008 and I believe he can do it again and become the first British grand slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936. Novak Djokovic has had a disappointing year by his standards and will look to build on a Semi-final showing at Wimbledon where he was eventually beaten comfortably by Tomas Berdych. Bigger threats may indeed come from Berdych and Robin Soderling who have both challenged at the latter stages of the last two grand slams and it seems it will not be long until one of these guys claims a grand slam.
Further players to look out for include Marin Cilic who will look to raise his game following a disappointing run of tournaments since his Semi-final showing at the Australian Open. The Americans will also be out in force with Andy Roddick, John Isner, Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish all capable of going far at this years open. In particular, John Isner who is now famously known as winning the marathon match against Nicholas Mahut at Wimbledon could be a real danger man as he has come on and leaps and bounds in recent years and will look to build on his impressive US Open from last year. Ernests Gulbis and Richard Gasquet could also spring a surprise or two if they can put injuries behind them. Overall this US Open looks wide open and the warm-up tournaments over the next month should act as a good indicator to who is looking capable of mounting a challenge at this years US Open.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Womens US Open Preview

With Justine Henin pulling out and Serena Williams facing a race against time to be fit, Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters will go into the US Open as two of the favourites. Sharapova has struggled to reach her best form after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2008, however there were signs at Wimbledon that she was returning to some of her best form with her serve in particular looking much more solid. Winning 3 grand slams has shown that Sharapova has the mentality to win big tournaments and this will help her believe she has what it takes to return to very top of the game once again. Kim Clijsters did well to reach the Quarter-finals at Wimbledon however she will feel that she missed a golden chance of reaching her first Wimbledon final. Kim will have to improve her consistency if she is to challenge at the US Open; however returning to the place where she had that magical run to the title last year will no doubt work in her favour. Venus Williams is always a name mentioned before a Grand Slam however many people have doubted her ability to win another one especially after her shock loss to Tsvetana Pironkova at Wimbledon. She has also failed to progress past the Quarter-final stage at her last 5 majors so the US Open and the lead up tournaments will be extremely important for Venus to prove she still has what it takes to perform at the big stage.

The likes of Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva remain contenders despite never winning a grand slam. Jankovic has shown a return to form this year scooping the title of Indian Wells and reaching the semis of Roland Garros; however an inability to perform at the key stages of tournaments remains a big stumbling block for Jankovic. Dementieva went into the Australian Open as one of the favourites after winning the Sydney title; however she met Justine Henin in the 2nd round and was once again left disappointed at a major. She was then forced to retire in the Semi-final of Roland Garros against eventual champion Francesca Schiavone. She missed Wimbledon through injury so will need to get some matches under her belt if she is to mount a serious challenge at the US Open. Two more names who will look to progress deep into the draw at the US are Sam Stosur and Na Li. With one of the best serves on the WTA tour, solid groundstrokes and a much improved mental game, Stosur is now seen as a real threat on the Womens tour and will look to put the disappointment of her 1st round exit at Wimbledon behind her. Na Li will look to build on some strong performances at grand slams this year. Wins over Venus William, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova this year have demonstrated she can beat the very best in the women’s game.

Some of the hot prospects on the tour such as Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska have all faded over recent months. Wozniacki, in particular looked devoid of ideas against a sensational Kvitova at Wimbledon and it remains to be seen whether she has used this break from competition effectively to improve her game, in particular introduce some variety. The likes of Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic will also look to regain form after major slumps this year. With lower rankings, it could pave the way for some exciting early match-ups at this year’s US Open.

After a quiet three weeks on tour for higher ranked players, the likes of Agnes Szavay and Kaia Kanepi have been performing well on the red clay and will look to use this new found confidence going into the summer hard court season. Other names to look out for include Yanina Wickmayer, who reached the Semi-final of the US Open last year and Alisa Kleybanova who is a dangerous player and has the groundstrokes to overpower anyone however the lack of consistency in her game continues to thwart her. Aravane Rezai has had a superb clay court season and will look to cement her place in the top 20 further. We are also waiting for the real breakthrough of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who has shown promise in the last couple of years but is yet to make a major run at a grand slam. This is unlike Petra Kvitova who broke through to the Semi-finals of Wimbledon and will want to build on this to prove she has what it takes to be more than a one hit wonder and a big name in the future of women’s tennis.