Friday, 27 August 2010

Men's US Open Preview

The final slam of the year will kick off on Monday and the draw is set with the top Men's players ready to battle it out. Rafael Nadal is the number 1 seed and will open up against Teimuraz Gabashvilli meanwhile Roger Federer, the number 2 seed will begin his campaign against Brian Dabul. The number 3 seed Novak Djokovic faces a potentially tricky opener against Viktor Troicki and the Toronto champion and number 4 seed, Andy Murray will face Lukas Lacko. The top 4 have all shown mixed form over recent months so you may have to look further a field at the likes of Soderling, Berdych or Nalbandian to spring a surprise or two.

Quarter 1 - R Nadal (1) v F Verdasco (8)

Rafa Nadal will be happy with the draw with his most significant test before the QF likely to be from the number 29 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 3rd round. Both Ljubicic and Lopez do not look like progressing far based on their recent form so expect a run from an unseeded player, possibly Stakhovsky. Nadal is projected to meet Fernando Verdasco however i am anticipating a 3R exit for Verdasco with David Nalbandian present in this section. David Ferrer has the likes of Alexander Dologopolov and Ernests Gulbis to overcome before reaching a 4R with Nalbandian, which i would predict that David N would win.

Prediction = Nadal v Nalbandian

Quarter 2 - A Murray (4) v T Berdych (7)

Andy Murray has an easy passage to the 3rd round where he is likely to meet Stan Wawrinka. In the 4th round, an even tougher opponent in Sam Querrey will meet Murray however i expect Murray to progress through to the QF without too many problems. Querreys draw looks especially straight forward with the disinterested Almagro his projected 3R opponent. Tomas Berdych should meet Benneteau in R3 who will dispatch of the seeded Radek Stepanek. I anticipate an early exit for Mikhail Youzhny to Golubev and for Berdych to face off against big man John Isner in the 4th round if Isner is fit after his ankle injury. It is here i predict that the Wimbledon finalist will be defeated.

Prediction = Murray v Isner

Quarter 3 - N Davydenko (6) v N Djokovic (3)

Davydenko has a potentially tricky draw with Gasquet in the 2R and then Kevin Anderson or Thomasz Bellucci in the 3R. His 4R opponent should be Andy Roddick who will have to make his way past Tipsarevic and Monfils, two players who can raise their game on the big stage however often fail to perform. I'm then predicting that Roddick who has a significant lead in their head-to-head record, will defeat Davydenko. Djokovic has a good draw to the 3R however danger men in the form of Marcos Baghdatis and Mardy Fish could await in the 4th round. Baghdatis has won all his games against Fish however Fish has been superb of late and i expect him to reach the 4R to play Djokovic where his journey will likely end.

Prediction = Roddick v Djokovic

Quarter 4 - R Soderling (5) v R Federer (2)

Robin Soderling has a solid draw with a likely 3R match-up with Thiemo De Bakker who should defeat the number 27 seed, Fernando Gonzalez. Marin Cilic has failed to live up to his early season performances however he would be extremely disappointed not to reach at least the 4th round with clay courter, Albert Montanes his toughest opponent on paper. Soderling should then meet Cilic in the 4th round where Cilic could pull a surprise or two. Federer has a straight forward passage to the QF with Hewitt in R3 and then either Jurgen Melzer or Juan Carlos Ferrero, both who have struggled on the hard courts.

Prediction = Cilic v Federer

The Winner - I am predicting Andy Murray will win his first GS after beating Nadal in the SF and Federer in the final. I feel it is time for Murray to step up to the plate and prove his credentials at the big stage. I'm also predicting a SF appearance for Andy Roddick and that John Isner, Marin Cilic and David Nalbandian will all be threats in the draw in what should one of the most open GS tournaments in quite a while.

Women's US Open Preview

The final major of the season is upon us with the US Open starting on Monday. With Serena Williams out injured, Caroline Wozniacki is the number 1 seed and it paves the way for an exciting and open competition. Wozniacki will open up her title challenge against American wildcard Carly Gullickson, meanwhile Kim Clijsters as number 2 seed will take on Greta Arn. Of the other top 8 seeds, Stosur and Jankovic have got the toughest openers. Stosur will meet Elena Vesnina who has lost her seeding however she''s raised her game on the hard courts after a disappointing first half of the season and i think Stosur will be going out early. Jankovic will meet Simona Halep who is a promising youngster and with JJ's current form this could be a tricky opener .

For the British players, Anne Keothavong has a good chance of progressing to R2 with a 1st round match-up against Yung-Jan Chan. Elena Baltacha will play Petra Martic for the second straight GS and will want to exact revenge after failing to serve out their match last time round. Hopefully Baltacha will be fired up for this one despite disappointing form of late. In other first round matches, Maria Sharapova will face Jarmilla Groth and Svetlana Kuznetsova will take on Kimiko Date Krumm in what will be tricky openers for the Russians. The stand-out match for R1 will be Daniela Hantuchova v Dinara Safina in what will be a rematch from New Haven earlier this week. It's a shame for Hantuchova as it will be a real struggle to overturn the defeat to Dinara.

Quarter 1 - C Wozniacki (1) v N Li (8)

Wozniacki has a relatively straight forward draw to R4 where she could meet Sharapova in what would be a cracker... i would give the edge with Sharapova but i would definitely like to see Wozniacki continue her good form and progress further. Na Li has some useful players in her section with R3 opposition of Shvedova/Chakvetadze. In the other R3 match, Svetlana Kuznetsova could meet Maria Kirilenko once again. Kirilenko has won their last two encounters that took place this year however Kuznetsova has been playing much better and i'm going to back her to beat both Kirilenko and Li on the way to the QF.
Prediction = Sharapova v Kuznetsova

Quarter 2 - J Jankovic (4) v V Zvonareva (7)

It must be said that JJ has a very good draw and its a shame she has not been playing very well recently. However im going to back JJ to reach the QF. Halep in R1 and Kanepi in R3 will not be easy matches but i think she will turn her game around. MJMS will struggle with a lack of matches and Wickmayer has not looker herself so Schnyder or Goerges is my tip for JJ's R4 opponent. Zvonareva has a good draw and should progress to the 4R without too many problems. Radwanska could meet Petrova in R3 who has been blowing hot and cold recently but i would have to go for the more consistent player in Radwanska. Zvonareva against Radwanska would be a R4 match-up and i'd give the slightest of edges to Zvonareva.
Prediction = Jankovic v Zvonareva

Quarter 3 - F Schiavone (6) v V Williams (3)

Francesca Schiavone should make R3 where she will meet Dushevina or A.Bondarenko however i cannot see her progressing any further. The tie of R3 could be Azarenka v Pavlyuchenkova. I'm going for Azarenka to win this and reach the QF although ive felt this could be A-Pav's breakthrough tournament so we'll see what happens... Venus has it easy on paper up to R3 where she could meet Pironkova again although i think its more likely it will be Hercog. I'm predicting Pennetta will come through Szavay and Peer to meet Venus in R4 and knock her out. This does depend on Pennettas fitness as she pulled out of New Haven but hopefully precautionary. I've always felt Venus will not win the US, especially without any matches since Wimbledon so it would definitely be a surprise to me...
Prediction = Azarenka v Pennetta

Quarter 4 - S Stosur (5) v K Clijsters (2)

Stosur is struggling with injury and form so i dont think this will be her tournament. Elena Dementieva should meet the winner of Hantuchova/Safina in R3 and i think Dementieva will progress to the QF. Kleybanova or Vesnina should be her R4 opponent with Johanna Larsson a long shot at possibly upsetting Alisa Kleybanova. Clijsters has a good draw to R4 with Kvitova her projected R3 opponent. Ivanovic has some tricky, but winnable ones and i think she'll get as far as R3 to face Bartoli if shes recovered from injury. Clijsters will then face off against Bartoli in the 4th round and i can only see one winner in this one...
Prediction = Dementieva v Clijsters

The Winner - At the moment i'm going for a Sharapova v Azarenka final. I have a feeling Clijsters will not win... there's no logic behind this argument just a gut feeling! I think there is a great chance we will see a new GS winner and i think it could be Azarenka. I would have said Wozniacki before i saw the draw however im concerned with Sharapova lurking in her section.

WTA New Haven - Petrova stuns Stosur

Nadia Petrova produced a stunning performance to beat the 2nd seed Samantha Stosur, 6-1 6-2 and reach the SF of New Haven. Petrova served and returned superbly breaking Stosur's serve on 5 occasions. Petrova has shown she has the ability to produce the big performances as she demonstrated with her 6-0 6-1 thrashing of Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open however she has struggled for consistency and the ability to back up a big win. She will now face Maria Kirilenko in the SF who stopped the run of Dinara Safina with an impressive 6-3 6-3 victory. In the other SF, Elena Dementieva and Caroline Wozniacki will meet after both progressing in different fashions. Dementieva overcame Bartoli 6-3 3-6 6-1 in a scrappy 3 hour battle. It was Dementieva however who produced the best tennis in the final set as the disappointing Bartoli served up numerous errors and double faults. Wozniacki progressed through to the next round after Pennetta pulled out with a right foot injury.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

WTA New Haven - Russians race into 2nd round

All three Russians progressed to the 2nd round of New Haven after winning their first round matches on Monday. First up was Elena Dementieva who handily defeated Martinez Sanchez, who was making a welcome return from injury. Dementieva was dominant on serve especially in the 1st set where she lost only 1 point on her serve. After struggling in her recent tournaments, I expect Dementieva to have her best run here where a QF match-up with Marion Bartoli looks on the cards. Dinara Safina also came through after turning the tables on Schiavone after a 6-3 6-4 loss in Montreal. This time round, Safina overcame a disappointing first set to win 1-6 6-3 6-1. It was another win that highlighted Safina's steady improvement over the last three weeks and sets up an enticing 2nd round clash with Daniela Hanutchova. With her seeding lost for the US Open, Safina will be a threat for the top seeds.

Nadia Petrova was the third Russian to come through on Monday however she had to overcome a seemingly impossible 6-1 5-2 deficit to Varvara Lepchenko before she completely transformed her game and came through losing just one more game. Petrova's form since the French Open has been disappointing but Petrova will look to get some more matches under her belt before the US starts. In other results, Kateryna Bondarenko won her first match since the French Open beating also out-of-form Petra Kvitova. Dominika Cibulkova also won through after scraping past the disappointing Melanie Oudin, who has failed to reach the heights of her QF appearance at the US Open last year.

ATP Cincinnati - Federer on top in Cincy

Roger Federer won the Cinncinati title on Sunday as he came through in a tight 3 setter with American Mardy Fish, 6-7 7-6 6-4. Federer was not playing at his best but this win, which was his first title since the Australian Open in January will give him an added boost going into the US Open. Furthermore, his closest rivals appear to be struggling with just one week left to go before the US Open begins. Most disappointing was Nadal who was ousted in the QF by Marcos Baghdatis after serving a double fault at 4-4 in the final set. Although this is just a warm up tournament and you should not read too much into the results, i cannot see Nadal winning the US Open based on his form at recent events. On the other hand, Murray looks sharper despite a 3 set defeat to Mardy Fish in blistering heat. Murray appeared to be suffering from his exploits in Toronto and playing in the midday heat so an early loss here did not come as much of a surprise. It was refreshing to see both Roddick and Davydenko pull off some good wins this week, Roddick in particular who dispatched of Djokovic, 6-4 7-5 before failing to close out his SF with Fish when given a chance to in the 2nd set. With many of the main contenders for the US seemingly struggling, it could pave the way for a new GS champion like Juan Martin Del Potro who triumphed at last years US Open.

Monday, 23 August 2010

WTA Montreal - Caroline beats Vera in final

Caroline Wozniacki scooped the biggest title of her career as she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in the SF's followed by a similarly straight forward victory in the final against Vera Zvonareva, 6-2 6-3. Wozniacki was aided by her ever improving serve which was working superbly all week giving her many more free points. She was also hitting with excellent depth on her shots and increased intensity which meant she was making a lot more winners than usual. Her solid, consistent hitting was forcing both Svetlana and Vera to attack more however neither could raise their game today as they both racked up high unforced error counts. It was also nice to see Caroline come into the net more as she looked much more at ease in finishing points off at the net. Zvonareva, once again was disappointing in a final after lacklustre showings in both the Charleston and Wimbledon finals however she will go into the US feeling relatively confident of her game. Vera Zvonareva edged a tight first set with Azarenka before she retired with a blister at 7-6 1-0 down in their SF. All 4 semi-finalists in Wozniacki, Zvonareva, Kuznetsova and Azarenka should be contenders going into the US Open however it is Wozniacki who looks the most likely to succeed at the US based on this form today. It remains to be seen whether she will defend her title at New Haven, which may not be the smartest move if she wants to go into the US feeling fresh.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

WTA Montreal - Azarenka, Wozniacki step it up

Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka progressed through to the SF's of Montreal after both pulled off impressive performances against more experienced opponents. Wozniacki defeated the French Open Champion, Francesca Schiavone in straight sets and demonstrated much improvement in her power game and her serve dishing out 7 aces. Azarenka defeated Bartoli for the third time in as many months and showed real determination as she held off 4 set points in the 2nd set to progress with a 6-2 7-6 victory. With the news that Serena Williams has pulled out of the US Open, this could be the chance for one of Wozniacki and Azarenka to claim their maiden grand slam title in what should be a wide open field at Flushing Meadows.

In the other 2 QF's, Vera Zvonareva once again came from a set down to defeat Kim Clijsters, however Clijsters was evidently struggling with her movement so the main worry for Kim will be to fully fit for the US Open. It was a shame that Kim picked up the injury because the first two sets had been of a high quality with both players hitting extremely well. In the other QF, Kuznetsova walloped Jie Zheng, 6-1 6-3 as she continues to gather pace ahead of the US. In the SFs, Kuznetsova will take on Wozniacki and Azarenka will play Zvonareva in what should be 2 very close matches.

Friday, 20 August 2010

ATP Cincinnati - Roddick, Davy progress

The QF line-up was completed on Thursday night and once again it is a strong field that will battle it out in this ATP Master's event in Cincinnati. Thursday saw two great performances from players who have struggled in recent months. Andy Roddick has looked lacklustre since his title win in Miami however he toughed it out in his 3rd round match coming through in a 3rd set tiebreak against Robin Soderling. Roddick has blamed his recent form on a virus however this was a solid performance and Roddick will now face Novak Djokovic, who beat in-form Nalbandian in a surprisingly one sided affair, 6-1 7-6. Nikolay Davydenko, like Andy Roddick also produced a battling performance to take out David Ferrer and came through 7-5 in the final set. Davydenko has not looked himself since an injury kept him out for several months at the start of the season but this was a promising win. Davydenko will now face Federer who received a bye after Kohlschreiber had to pull out of the tournament through injury.

In the the other QFS, Rafa Nadal had to save a MP as he battled his way past the tricky, Julien Benneteau. It was not stellar stuff from Rafa but he got through and will now face Marcos Baghdatis who knocked out Tomas Berdych in straight sets. Andy Murray was also made to work for his win as he came past an inspired Ernests Gulbis, 4-6 6-3 7-6. Gulbis has had some impressive results this year however Murray just had the edge and managed to call on his superior experience. Murray will now face Mardy Fish who continued his good form with a straight set win over Richard Gasquet. Murray will be in the mood to dispatch of Mardy Fish after their controversial last encounter at Queen's where Fish prevailed.

WTA Montreal - Kim, Vera set for rematch

Kim Clijsters eased into the Montreal QF where she will face a rematch against Vera Zvonareva. Zvonareva defeated Clijsters in the Wimbledon QF and Kim will be looking for revenge in what should be a high quality QF. Clijsters was comfortable in victory over a lacklustre Kaia Kanepi, 6-1 6-2 however Kim was not tested here and there are still issues with her serve that need to be addressed before the US Open. Vera Zvonareva has eased her way through the draw and produced a commanding performance to halt Agnes Szavays 11 match winning run, which included an impressive win over Yanina Wickmayer in the last round. Clijsters against Zvonareva should be a competitive affair but i expect a different outcome this time with Clijsters prevailing in 3 sets.

Another rematch will also take place as Caroline Wozniacki will take on Francesca Schiavone in the Montreal QF, a repeat of the French Open QF earlier this year. Wozniacki produced her best result of late coming from a set down to beat an in-form Flavia Pennetta and continue her winning record over her. Schiavone managed to down Dinara Safina who held off 15 aces from Nadia Petrova in the previous round. This is the first time since the French Open that Schiavone has won back-back to matches however i expect Wozniacki to triumph in their QF with Caroline on her preferred surface of hard courts.

In other news, Marion Bartoli thumped Iveta Benesova, 6-0 6-1 to set up another showdown with Victoria Azarenka who was equally impressive with a straight set win over the tenacious Na Li. In the final QF, Svetlana Kuznetsova will take on Jie Zheng after both players pulled off upsets. Zheng defeated reigning champion Elena Dementieva in a tight two set match with Zheng's solid groundstrokes having too much for Elena. Dementieva was showing off a remodelled serve this week however she still does not look ready to contest for the upcoming US. Kuznetsova defeated Radwanska for the second time in 2 weeks coming through in another 3 set battle. Kuznetsova despite some ups and downs, has really turned her game around of late and will go into the US Open as a dark horse ready and lurking to upset some of the top seeds.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

WTA Montreal - Improving Safina beats Petkovic

Dinara Safina battled her way to a good win last night after beating a woefully inconsistent Andrea Petkovic, 6-3 6-3. Despite the scoreline it was still a battle for Safina who led 6-3 4-0 before finally coming through. Her serve remains an issue however there were less double faults last night. Another improvement for Safina was her attitude to the game which has frequently thwarted her. She was much more positive and was not getting so frustrated when the errors were coming off her racket. She also changed her game plan to just keeping the ball in play which worked against Petkovic who was commiting unforced errors for fun. For Petkovic, who was brought to tears in the 2nd set, it was an extremely disappointing performance and she will want to put this match behind her as she looks towards the US Open. Dinara will now face Lucie Safarova or Nadia Petrova and i feel she will continue to build her confidence this week at a tournament where she has had previous success.

Other notable results included a 3 set win for an injury affected Rezai over Wimbledon SF Kvitova coming through 6-3 in the final set. Shahar Peer was the first seed to exit with a disappointing straight sets defeat to Kaia Kanepi in windy conditions. Jarmilla Groth continued to impress with a straight set win over the experienced Alona Bondarenko. In one of the highlight 1st round matches, Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets. Kuznetsova continues to improve after a woeful season up to Wimbledon and despite some dodgy patches in this match, she came through comfortably in the final set against an impressive, yet injury affected opponent.

Monday, 16 August 2010

ATP Cincinnati Preview

The top male players will once again battle it out this week on the hard courts as they move onto Cincinnati. In the 1st quarter, Nadal is the number 1 seed and is projected to meet Berdych in the QF. Nadal should meet Wawrinka again and once again progress through to the QF. I also expect Berdych to come through without too many problems. In the 2nd quarter, Federer is projected to meet Davydenko. Federer should once again progress to the QF with Gael Monfils his likely 3R opponent. Davydenko however is on disappointing form and i cant see him making the QF here. I'm going to go for a surprise with Alexander Dologopolov to cause some upsets in beating both Querrey and Davy after some solid performances in recent months.

In the 3rd quarter, Verdasco is projected to meet Murray. Verdasco has suffered a dip in form and a possible 2R clash with Mardy Fish is not likely to improve his fortunes. Murray could face Gulbis early on however following on from his run in Toronto, i expect Murray to meet Fish in the QF. In the 4th quarter, Soderling is projected to meet Djokovic in what is by far the most difficult section. Soderling has the likes of Hewitt and Roddick to contend with before reaching the QF. The highlight match in the 2nd round could be between Nalbandian and Isner. I'm predicting that Isner will come through and also upset Djokovic who will struggle in the heat of Cincy. Therefore i'm going for a Soderling v Isner QF.

My tip for the title this week is going to be Andy Murray. With Nadal and Federer projected to square off in an enticing SF clash, Murray should face a much easier draw and should still be relatively fresh following a relatively straight forward run through Toronto. I'm going for Nadal to beat Federer in the SF but once again come up short against Murray however i anticipate a much closer match this time round after Murray's SF win over Nadal.

WTA Montreal Preview

After Kim Clijsters triumphed in Cincinnati we now move onto Montreal where Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki will once again headline this Premier Womens tournament. Both Williams Sisters, Stosur and Sharapova will all miss the event through injury. Some of the highlight 1st round matches include Pavlyuchenkova v Kuznetsova, Pennetta v Hantuchova, Rezai v Kvitova and Petkovic v Safina

1st Quarter - Jankovic (1) v Na Li (9)
Jankovic will open up against Benesova and should progress to R3 however i think Jankovic will once again face an early exit, this time at the hands of Marion Bartoli. Na Li could have a tricky opener against the in-form Groth so i think like JJ, she will exit this competition early. This should also lead the way for Azarenka to come through and rebound from her disappointing 1R exit at Cincinnati last week.
Prediction = Bartoli v Azarenka

2nd Quarter - Clijsters (5) v Zvonareva (8)
Clijsters has a favourable draw here with her trickiest match before the QF likely to be a match-up with Wimbledon QF Kaia Kanepi. Yanina Wickmayer will meet either Szavay or Dulko in the 2R. I'm predicting that Szavay will knock out Wickmayer and continue her good form after winning two titles in Budapest and Prague. However, Vera Zvonareva should come through the bottom section and meet Clijsters in the QF.
Prediction = Clijsters v Zvonareva

3rd Quarter - Radwanska (7) v Dementieva (4)
Radwanska should meet Kuznetsova or Pavlyuchenkova in the 3rd round where i think she will be knocked out of Montreal. I think it will be Kuznetsova who will come through the tricky 1R clash as A-Pav was struggling with injury in Cincy after several 3 set matches. Aravane Rezai will play Petra Kvitova in 1R with both struggling for form however one will have to win here. Im going for Rezai to progress but to then be knocked out by Jie Zheng who should put some good wins together here. Elena Dementieva should also get some match wins under her belt before the US.
Prediction - Kuznetsova v Dementieva

4th Quarter - Schiavone (6) v Wozniacki (2)
Schiavone has struggled of late and i cannot see things improving here with an early exit to Makarova my prediction. Wozniacki was shocked in Cincy by Bartoli but im expecting her to improve here with a victory over either Pennetta or Kleybanova in the 3rd round. After good performances from both Ivanovic and Kuznetsova in recent weeks, i think this week will be the turn of Dinara Safina. She has a tricky opener against Petkovic but with Sharapova now out of her section, Dinara must take advantage of this opportunity.
Prediction = Safina v Wozniacki

Ultimately, i'm tipping Clijsters to back up her win in Cincy with another title in Montreal. Azarenka and Kuznetsova should also both progress deep into the draw in what should be a wide open tournament with the likes of Serena, Venus and Sharapova all missing.

ATP Toronto - Murray beats both Nadal, Fed

Andy Murray produced some of his best performances of the season to retain his title in Toronto after defeating Nalbandian 6-2 6-2 in the QF, Nadal 6-3 6-4 in the SF and finally Federer 7-5 7-5 in the final. Murrays most impressive performance came in the QF where he beat the in-form with an assured display of attacking tennis. Murray showed a real improvement in his form this week and it was especially good to see him play attacking tennis and taking the game to both Nadal and Federer. This will give Murray a lot of confidence as he goes in search of his first GS title, however i still have my doubts at a GS whether Murray can raise his level in the real big matches. This is because we have seen this year that both Nadal and Federer can raise their game at a GS but Murray has yet to do that and hopefully Murray can draw on the confidence of this tournament to challenge at the US Open.

WTA Cincinnati - Clijsters reigns supreme in Cincy

Kim Clijsters produced a fantastic comeback to defeat Maria Sharapova in the final of the womens premier event in Cincinnati. Clijsters was down 6-2 5-3 and saved 3MP's before a thunderstorm hit Cincy. When the players returned, Clijsters managed to reduce the number of errors on her groundstrokes and started to dictate the points moving Sharapova around the court and exposing her movement. Kim also toughened up her serve, which was leaking points in the first set with many double faults. Maria was impressive up to the rain delay and was serving incredibly well but will be disappointed to have lost this one 2-6 7-6 6-2 and feel slightly aggrieved with the timing of the weather as this should have been her title. This win would probably have meant more to Sharapova, who is still waiting for her first win over a top 10 player this year. Anyhow, as we move nearer to the US Open both Clijsters and Sharapova are looking two of the favourites to win the title. This tournament also highlighted impressive performances by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ana Ivanovic as we now move forward to Montreal.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

ATP Toronto - Nalbandian sets up Sod encounter

David Nalbandian continued his excellent form of late by reaching the 3rd round of the Toronto Masters. In the 1st round he recovered from losing the second set to beat the consistent, David Ferrer. He then demolished an uninterested Tommy Robredo to set up an intriguing clash with Robin Soderling. Soderling had a tricky 2nd round match with Ernest Gulbis who took the first set. Soderling however showed great character to hang in the match, saving several break points and turn the match around with his punishing groundstrokes. Nalbandian v Soderling is the highlight match on Thursday and i'm going for Soderling to come through in 3 sets.

The big 4 all came through in straight sets but all 4 were pushed. Federer overcame some first set jitters to defeat Juan Ignacio Chela 7-6 6-3. Nadal was also pushed hard in a first set tiebreak by Stanislas Wawrinka but ultimately prevailed. Andy Murray was struggling at 5-4 down in the first set to Xavier Malisse but managed to raise his game and helped along by a collapse of Malisse, was able to come through in straight. Djokovic had the toughest match as he was evidently struggling with the conditions as he called for the trainer in the 2nd set. He did manage to come through in the end defeating Julien Benneteau 7-5 7-5. The surprises so far have included the exits of Sam Querrey, Marin Cilic and Fernando Verdasco. Querrey continues to be inconsistent in his performances as he was defeated by Kevin Anderson in 3 sets who will now face Rafa Nadal. Cilic once again was disappointing and is failing to meet his potential as he was ousted by Viktor Troicki in straight sets. Verdasco was serving for the match against Jeremy Chardy before a major collapse which ultimately saw him losing the match. Verdasco has struggled of late and this performance was extremely disappointing and uncharacteristic of Verdasco who should be beating players of Chardy's calibre. This gives Chardy a match-up with Davydenko who will feel confident of getting some winning matches together.

WTA Cincinnati - Elena, Francesca out

The majority of seeds in action on Wednesday progressed safely into the last 16 however two were not so lucky. Elena Dementieva, in what she described as her worst match in a long, long time was bundled out in straight sets by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1 6-3. A-Pav has been banging on the door for a while and this was a competent win from the young Russian who has a favourable draw going forward in Cincinnati. Dementieva admitted she struggled with the heat so this loss may in that context, not be too much of a worry for Dementieva. Dementieva struggled at the US Open last year bowing out in the 2nd round to Melanie Oudin and admitted she had peaked too early and burnt out after a lot of matches during the summer hard court season. This time round, it is the opposite however it may work in her favour as she will be much fresher this time round for the US Open. Francesca Schiavone was the second seed to go out yesterday after a straight set loss to in-form Elena Vesnina. Things have gone downhill since her Roland Garros win and once again, her long-term future in tennis may be questioned after reaching the pinnacle of her career and achieving that elusive Grand Slam title.

Most of the remaining seeds were in good form; Maria Sharapova eased past Andrea Petkovic, 6-1 6-3 in a match where both struggled to hold serve. Caroline Wozniacki strolled past Sybille Bammer losing just two games, meanwhile Flavia Pennetta bettered that losing just 1 game to Niculescu. Kim Clijsters defeated Dinara Safina, 7-5 6-2 after coming from behind in both sets. Dinara is improving despite the loss however she will lose even more ranking points after reaching the final here last year. Ana Ivanovic also won with an impressive performance against Yaroslava Shvedova meanwhile Vera Zvonareva had to rally from 5-2 down in the final set to defeat Maria Kirilenko 7-5 2-6 7-6. The round of 16 features many of the top players with Radwanska v Sharapova and Wozniacki v Bartoli as the highlight matches for tonight.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

WTA Cincinnati - Ivanovic shocks Azarenka

Ana Ivanovic pulled of a superb comeback from 6-2 5-3 down to defeat the number 10 seed and Stanford champion, Victoria Azarenka in the 1st round of Cincinnati. This result will come as a surprise to many however there have been signs over recent months that Ivanovic has been playing better. The problem she faces is that she is unseeded following a hugely disappointing 2009 so she is likely to face much higher ranked opposition making it much harder to string consecutive wins together; for example at Wimbledon and San Diego she drew Shahar Peer in the first round, a very solid top 15 player. Ivanovic looked solid against Peer in San Diego losing her serve just once, however as she stated in her post-match interview she's struggling to win the crucial points that decide matches. This time however, Ana won the big points and came through 2-6 7-6 6-2 against Azarenka who once again reminded us of her mental fragility. Ivanovic will now face Yaroslava Shvedova and must take advantage of this opportunity to get some points in the bag. She should get to the QF where she could meet Jelena Jankovic in an all serbian clash.

In other news, both Aravane Rezai and Nadia Petrova suffered disappointing exits. Both players have now suffered consecutive 1st round losses as they both struggle for form on the hard courts. Rezai is an exceptionally talented player who was fantastic on the clay however she possesses an attacking game that when its on, she can beat anyone as demonstrated by her defeats of Jankovic and Venus Williams in Madrid. However when her radar is off, Rezai's game disintegrates and a loss here to the young Serbian, Bojana Jovanovski was extremely disappointing. It was also important to note the return from injury of Sabine Lisicki who was defeated by Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-0. Considering this was her first match in many months, this result won't be too much of a worry however once she gets some match fitness, Sabine will want to push back up towards the top 30. If she can improve her consistency and stay injury free, she will be a name to look out for in future years.

Monday, 9 August 2010

ATP Toronto Preview

The likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will return to action this week as the men flock to Toronto for the Master's event. The top 8 seeds all have byes into the 2nd round however there are still some interesting 1st round match-ups to look out for. David Nalbandian, the Washington champion will open against number 10 seed, David Ferrer. Based on his current form you would expect Nalbandian to come through this one. Another seed in Mikhail Youzhny will have a tricky opener against Giles Simon who has shown signs of improvement following a year of injury struggles. Other 1st round clashes to watch out for include returning from injury, Fernando Gonzalez against Gael Monfils, a battle between hot prospects Ernests Gulbis and Thomasz Bellucci and finally a clash between two players who have great potential but often fail to deliever in Janko Tipsarevic and Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Rafa Nadal is likely to open up with a tricky encounter with Stan Wawrinka. Nadal is scheduled to meet Roddick in the QF, however i'm anticipating Marin Cilic to reach the QF with Roddick struggling for form. Nadal will also team up with world number 2, Novak Djokovic in the Doubles. Roger Federer will open up against Juan Ignacio Chela in what will be an extremely important tournament for Federer after two disappointing GS performances. Federer's projected QF opponent will be Tomas Berdych who once again could thwart Federer. Djokovic will open up against Julien Benneteau and after showing signs of improving form at Wimbledon, i'm predicting that Djokovic will have a good tournament here with Davydenko his likely QF opponent. I'm also expecting Davydenko to show a return to his best following a lengthy spell on the sidelines and disappointing early losses on the clay. Andy Murray could have a tricky opener against Xavier Malisse and although i believe he will be a contender at the US Open, i think he will not progress past the QF here with Robin Soderling and David Nalbandian lurking in his section.

My tip for the title is Nadal followed closely by Djokovic however i feel the likes of Soderling, Berdych, Nalbandian and Davydenko will all be threats this week. Last week saw many shocks in Washington so this week could see a repeat with some surprise finalists...

WTA Cincinnati Preview

The final at San Diego was won by Svetlana Kuznetsova in an entertaining clash with Aga Radwanska, who saved 4 match points in the second set tiebreak before succumbing to a 6-4 6-7 6-3 loss. Both players impressed in the final, however it was Kuznetsova who dictated more of the play with her dominating groundstrokes. This week, the women move onto Cincinnati where the draw is headlined by Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki. Kim Clijsters is also returning to action following Wimbledon and Cincinnati will mark a year since she returned to the game.

The 1st round is littered with some fantastic match-ups; the highlight match sees San Diego champion Svetlana Kuznetsova take on Maria Sharapova in what will be a first meeting since 2008. Kuznetsova seems to have regained her confidence and motivation to play attacking tennis, however Sharapova has also impressed in recent months with a final appearance at Stanford. I'd probably go for a tight 3 set win for Maria. Another highlight is Victoria Azarenka against Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic has struggled this year however she is playing better and it seems her main weakness at the moment is winning the crucial points. Drawing Azarenka, one of the in form players on the WTA tour is tough luck for Ana but if she can raise her game at the important stages of the match then she will have a chance here. Her win over Azarenka earlier this year at Rome will give Ana confidence she can pull the surprise off. The third highlight match from the 1st round is between veteran Daniela Hantuchova and rising star in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Hantuchova had a good run in San Diego however it is likely A-Pav will have too much for Daniela.

My tips for the final would be Elena Dementieva and Victoria Azarenka. Dementieva will have a tricky 2R clash with Hantuchova or Pavlyuchenkova however i think Elena will use her experience and fresh legs after being injured for the last couple of months to full effect. A SF clash with Sharapova could be on the cards and i feel this time with more match experience under her belt that Dementieva will push Sharapova further. Vika Azarenka will have to overcome Ivanovic in 1R however her draw looks easier from there on with a QF match-up against Jelena Jankovic looking a winnable match on paper based on JJ's current form. A SF clash with Kim Clijsters is my prediction and i feel that the win over Kim at Eastbourne will give Vika a lot more confidence against the classy Belgian.

My outsider tips for the title are Flavia Pennetta and Caroline Wozniacki. Pennetta has a relatively straightforward draw with Zvonareva in her section who i believe is struggling and will be knocked out by Kirilenko. Pennetta loves the hard courts and had a fantastic run last year and after her SF appearance in San Diego, she is once again looking strong. Caroline Wozniacki had a solid week in Denmark scooping the title however here she will be facing much tougher opposition. A QF match-up with Sharapova is on the cards which will give Caroline a chance to prove her credentials against the very best. Overall it should be a great tournament and give a chance for some of the big players to square off before the big event kicks off.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

ATP Washington - Nalbandian on fire

This week has been littered with surprises in Washington with two of the older players on tour making it through to the final. David Nalbandian has stormed his way through the draw with surprising ease losing just one set to Giles Simon. Nalbandian was out injured during Roland Garros and Wimbledon but has clicked straight into gear with some stunning performances, most noteably a 6-2 6-2 domination of Marin Cilic in the SFs. In this form, Nalbandian will be someone everyone is looking to avoid at the US Open as he will be unseeded. His fitness and ability to stay injury free will be his biggest problem. His opponent in the final will be former Australian Open finalist, Marcos Baghdatis who has quietly snuck through the draw, taking out Fernando Verdasco along the way. For the final, i'm predicting a straightforward win for Nalbanidan who has been far and away, the best player this week in Washington.

WTA Copenhagen - Caroline rules in Denmark

Caroline Wozniacki was triumphant in her return to action this week as she won the Danish Open in front of a supportive home crowd. It was not an easy week for Caroline with 3 of her 5 matches going to 3 sets. The toughest one came in the QFs where she beat up-and-coming Julia Goerges in a final set tiebreak. She also had to overcome Chakvetadze who was on a long winning run that stretched back to Portoroz. Wozniacki this week showed some improvements in her serving and is now fully over her ankle injury after a long break from action after Wimbledon. Things are starting to look up for Caroline who will want to flourish as we approach the US Open. This week was also highlighted by a strong performance by Klara Zakopalova who knocked out the number 2 seed, Na Li in the SFs. Na Li will be relatively content with her performance this week but will want to improve next week in Cinncinati where the calibre of players will be much higher.

WTA San Diego - Svetlana and Aga reach final

This week in San Diego has been highlighted by the return to form of Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova has had an extremely poor year by her standards reaching just 1 QF however she has now reached her first final of the year by overcoming Flavia Pennetta, 6-4 6-0 in what was undoubtedly her best performance of the season. Kuznetsova seemed to be back to her best playing confident, attacking tennis with her error count reasonably low and her serve functioning well. It was a good week for Pennetta knocking out number 1 seed Stosur, but she will be disappointed by the second set bagel and will look to build on a good showing in Cinncinati next week where she has a favourable draw.

Kuznetsova's opponent in the final will be Agnieszka Radwanska who has stormed her way into the final losing just 8 games in her last two matches. Radwanska, like Kuznetsova has not been playing at her best but her performances over Peer and Hantuchova were both extremely impressive with A-Rad demonstrating how her variety and intelligence on the court can hurt opponents. She has favoured not playing against some of the hard hitters this week who can often have too much for A-Rad however her level has definitely been raised. The final will be an interesting with both players looking for a first title this year. I'm going to go for Kuznetsova to prevail in 2 sets as once she gets some momentum and wins under her belt, she can be mighty tough to stop.

Friday, 6 August 2010

ATP Washington - Roddick continues to struggle

The ATP tournament this week in Washington has witnessed a host of shocks as all 4 Americans in Roddick, Isner, Querrey and Fish were knocked out. The number two seed, Andy Roddick suffered a disappointing 6-3 6-3 loss to Giles Simon in a match where Roddick failed to find any rhythm. Roddick started the year well but since the clay season he has looked lacklustre and failed to perform anywhere near to the best of his ability. Many people will be starting to question whether we have seen the best of Andy Roddick. John Isner also followed Roddick out of ATP Washington with a surprising third set tiebreak loss to Xavier Malisse. Isner had won his last 7 matches decided in a third set tiebreak however he couldn't do it this time around as Malisse came through. Mardy Fish was also beaten in 3 sets, this time by Marin Cilic (pictured above) who pulled of his best victory in many months. This could be a sign that Cilic is returning to form and may be one to watch over the next month with many players around him seemingly struggling.

Tomas Berdych continued his uneasy passage through the tournament with another 3 set victory in the 3rd round, this time over Golubev. It is evident he is still showing signs of rust following his appearance in the Wimbledon final however it is a positive sign that Berdych is winning these tight matches as several years ago, this was not the case. Fernando Verdasco was also among the winners with a straight sets win over Ryan Sweeting. Verdasco has struggled since the clay court season but with so many of his seeded opponents being knocked out, he will look to take full advantage as he next faces Baghdatis in the QF. David Nalbandian also shone yesterday as he demolished Chiudinelli losing just one game. Nalbandian has shown that if he stays injury free, he can be a real danger in any tournament as he has shown no signs of rust following several months out with injury.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

WTA San Diego - JJ out, Radwanska & Peer march on

Jelena Jankovic was defeated in her 2nd round match with Alisa Kleybanova last night after holding a 4-0 lead in the 1st set and having 3 set points. This was not a surprising loss for JJ (pictured right) who has struggled against Kleybanova in previous matches and as she spoke in her post-match interview, is still not fully fit from the ankle injury she picked up in Portoroz. Jankovic will hope to be fit for Cinncinati next week as she will need to get some matches under her belt if she is to challenge at the US Open. The other seeds in action did not suffer the same fate as Stosur, Radwanska and Peer all marched into the QF. Stosur was comfortable in victory against Melanie Oudin using her kick serve to good effect and taking advantage of Oudin's weak second serve. Radwanska overcame Dinara Safina playing the more consistent tennis to win 6-1 6-3. Safina did however showed signs of a fightback coming back from 5-1 down and holding 2 points for 5-4. The win against Bondarenko in the 1st round will have helped to regain some confidence in her game but there is still a long way to go for Dinara. Shahar Peer also won to set up a QF with Radwanska after a straight set victory over the tricky Shvedova. Peer continues to impress this year and will feel she has a great chance of progressing further in this tournament.

The highlights of the 1st round matches saw surprise wins for both Daniela Hanutchova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Hantuchova fought off MP's against Bartoli to pull off a superb 3-set victory to set up a 2R clash with Jie Zheng. Hantuchova has struggled to put together wins in recent months however the draw has opened up for her and she will feel confident of a good run here. Kuznetsova also won in the 1R with a 3-set victory over Yanina Wickmayer. Kuznetsova will now play Errani with an enticing QF match-up against Wimbledon finalist, Vera Zvonareva looking likely.

Monday, 2 August 2010

ATP Washington Preview

An exciting line-up will head to Washington this week with Tomas Berdych, Andy Roddick, Marin Cilic, John Isner and Fernando Verdasco all looking for some success in the run up to this years US Open. In the first quarter, number 1 seed Tomas Berdych is projected to meet John Isner. Berdych could meet Richard Gasquet who is always a danger man meanwhile Isner could meet Thiemo De Bakker who comfortably defeated him at Wimbledon; however he is likely to be much stronger this time round and i would say both Berydch and Isner should overcome early tests. In the second quarter, Verdasco is projected to meet Marcos Baghdatis. Verdasco could face Michael Llodra who has been on good form recently with a title in Eastbourne and strong performances for France in the Davis Cup including defeating Verdasco. Therefore i'd side with Llodra, who has been receiving coaching from good friend Amelie Mauresmo to reach the QF. Baghdatis will have to overcome Ernest Gulbis who is continuing his recovery from injury. I'd predict that Baggy will have too much for Gulbis and face off with Llodra in the 2nd QF.

In the third quarter, Sam Querrey is projected to meet Marin Cilic. Querrey has just won the tournament in Los Angeles despite struggling his way through to the final. I cannot see him continuing his success here with either Tipsarevic or Hewitt dispatching of him. Cilic has failed to match his credentials for a large portion of this year but will look to rediscover form on his favourite surface. He could yet be stopped in his tracks by Mardy Fish who has won his previous 2 tournaments; therefore i'm going for a Hewitt v Fish QF. In the 4th quarter, Wawrinka is projected to meet Roddick. Wawrinka could meet David Nalbandian who is a real threat on the ATP tour when fit. Roddick should meet rising star Nishikori (who i'm predicting will beat Simon) and progress to the QF to play Wawrinka, who will look to flourish after recently acquiring a new coach.

My tip for the Washington title is John Isner who i expect to put some good results together over the next couple of weeks. Also look out for Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and Michael Llodra to go deep into the draw.

WTA Copenhagen Preview

Caroline Wozniacki will headline this weeks Copenhagen Open in her home country of Denmark. She is joined by the likes of Na Li, Petra Kvitova and Julia Goerges in what should be another interesting WTA tournament. This tournament has been much hyped for Wozniacki and she will look to impress the home crowds in Copenhagen in what is her first performance since a disappointing Wimbledon. It is hoped that she has used this time to good effect in improving her game before her 1R match against Petra Martic.

On the other side of the draw, Na Li is coming off the back of another strong GS showing and she will open up against Pliskova. I would give Na Li the edge as the favourite for this tournament however there are several other names to look out for. Petra Kvitova will look to regain some form against Sorana Cirstea; however i'm tipping Cirstea to put in another good showing here after a QF appearance at Istanbul last week. Also look out for Johanna Larsson who has started to put some solid wins together and Julia Goerges who won her first tournament a couple of weeks ago in Austria. Whatever happens, it should be a good tournament and all eyes will be on Caroline Wozniacki in what many are calling, "The Wozniacki Open".

WTA San Diego Preview

After Victoria Azarenka laid down her credentials for the US Open title with a fantastic 6-4 6-1 victory over Maria Sharapova in the Stanford final, we now move onto San Diego where Jelena Jankovic and Sam Stosur headline the event and receive byes into R2. The tournament is littered with high quality first round matches with the likes of Rezai, Kuznetsova, Zvonareva, Petrova and Pennetta all making their first appearances on the hard courts since Wimbledon.

Quarter 1 - Jankovic (1) v Bartoli (6)
The winner of the hard hitting match between Rezai and Kleybanova will play Jankovic in R2. Both players have caused her some real problems in the past and i am predicting Jankovic will face an early upset as she is still troubled by a niggling ankle injury picked up in Portoroz. Rezai is the player likely to benefit with Kleybanova seriously struggling for form. Bartoli had an impressive win over Ivanovic at Stanford but an early encounter with the dangerous Hantuchova will cause her some problems. Hantuchova has had a lot of 3 set losses in recent weeks and i believe this will be her time to change her fortunes and have a solid run here.
Prediction - Rezai v Hantuchova

Quarter 2 - Radwanska (4) v Peer (7)
In this quarter, Alona Bondarenko will face off against out-of-form Dinara Safina in what should be a tasty encounter. Im still not convinced that Safina is there mentally so would see Bondarenko progressing to a match-up with Radwanska, who i believe will be too strong for her. Shahar Peer will have a tricky opener against wildcard Ana Ivanovic but i think she will overcome her. A more dangerous opponent in Nadia Petrova is likely in R2 who has a 5-0 head-to-head record over Peer.
Prediction - Radwanska v Petrova

Quarter 3 - Wickmayer (8) v Zvonareva (3)
Wickmayer looked on better form at Stanford but has yet to make a real breakthrough since her SF performance at the US Open last year. She will have a tricky opener against 2 time GS champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Zvonareva, in her first appearance since reaching the Wimbledon final will open against Dominika Cibulkova. Zvonareva should have too much Cibulkova and will feel confident of building on her success from Wimbledon.
Prediction - Wickmayer v Zvonareva

Quarter 4 - Pennetta (5) v Stosur (2)
Pennetta makes her first appearance on the hard courts since Wimbledon and is likely to face a tricky 2R match against Maria Kirilenko who reached the QF in Stanford. Stosur was due to face Azarenka in R2 however Azarenka has pulled out due to a shoulder injury so her likely opponent will be Melanie Oudin. With Azarenka out, Stosurs chance of pulling at least a QF showing have improved dramatically.
Prediction - Pennetta v Stosur

Stosur and Radwanska look to be the favourites for this title but it is extremely wide open with an overall strong draw yet lacking some of the top players. My outside tips for the title would come from one of Rezai, Hantuchova or Wickmayer.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

WTA Istanbul - A-Pav triumphs in Istanbul

It was an extremely good tournament this week in Istanbul and it was the talented teen, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who won the title. A-Pav reached the final by first beating Cirstea in the QF and then in a tight SF against the in-form Jarka Groth. Her opponent in the final was Elena Vesnina, who like her compatriot Anna Chakvetadze showed a rejuvenation of form and defeated Anastasia Rodionova in the QF followed by an excellent win over Andrea Petkovic, recovering from 0-3 down in the final set. Vesnina has shown good form on the hard courts and will look to improve her ranking further before the US Open. A-Pav won the final in what was an epic 3 setter lasting over 3 hours. Vesnina will be disappointed to have a lost a match where she led 7-5 4-0 however you cannot deny A-Pav's fighting spirit in coming through 5-7 7-5 6-4. A-Pav has looked good here and will look to shine over the next couple of weeks against tougher opposition and show she can shine on the big stage at this months US Open.

WTA Stanford - Maria, Victoria into final

Stanford has witnessed some excellent womens matches this week but it is Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova who will battle it out for the title in what should be a high quality, all shrieking affair. Azarenka overcome a 6-3 3-1 deficit to beat Bartoli in the QF and then produced a polished performance to beat Stosur for the fourth time in her career. Her return game was especially impressive as she rushed Stosur into making errors and did not allow her to find any kind of rhythm. Sharapova defeated Demetieva in a 3 set QF where Dementieva showed signs of promise in her recovery from injury however Maria was too strong there. She then overcame a disappointing first set against Radwanska to reach the final with her serving looking much stronger in the final set. If Victoria can keep up the good form which helped her to impressive wins over Bartoli and Stosur then i would give the edge to Azarenka despite a 2-1 losing head to head record with Sharapova. Im also going to predict it will be a 3 setter with Sharapovas never say die attitude winning her a set.