Friday, 29 October 2010

Doha SF's decided and Farewell to Elena...

The Round Robin matches have been wrapped up with Samantha Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters all qualifying for the SF's. In the Maroon Group, Sam Stosur qualified 1st and Wozniacki 2nd. Stosur reeled off straight set wins against Schiavone and Wozniacki; the win over Schiavone must have been a real mental victory for Stosur after her loss in the French Open Final. After falling 0-4 down in the 1st set, Stosur found her form and won 6-4 6-4 before handing Wozniacki a surprise straight set defeat. Wozniacki qualified with a thumping 6-1 6-1 victory over Dementieva and a gritty come-from-behind victory against Schiavone. In the White Group, Zvonareva won all three matches and in straight sets as she demolished Jankovic, 6-3 6-0 and came through tight two-setters against Azarenka and a tiring Clijsters. Jankovic was routed by both Clijsters and Azarenka and it was a match-up between the latter two which decided the outcome of the group. Kim, though not playing her best was mentally and physically stronger as she pulled away from Vika in a 6-4 5-7 6-1 victory.

The SF's see Wozniacki take on Zvonareva and Stosur play Clijsters. The first match-up is a repeat of the Beijing final several weeks ago and should be a close affair. Wozniacki won their last encounter but it must be argued that Zvonareva has produced the best results so far. In the other SF, Clijsters and Stosur will battle it out for the third time this year with Clijsters prevailing on both those matches. However i think there could be a different result this time with Kim looking tired and Stosur looking on good form and rejuvunated despite a loss to Dementieva in her last match.

The final day of the round-robin format was highlighted by the sad news that Elena Dementieva is retiring from tennis. It's extremely sad to see Elena retire after what has been a long and successful career. She has been a loyal patron to the WTA Tour and will be remembered for winning the Gold Medal in Beijing in 2008. I always felt she had a few years left in the tank however i fully respect her decision to call time on her career as she pursues further ambitions in life. It was touching to see the reactions of the other players as she announced her departure in an emotional ceremony following her loss to Schiavone in her final round-robin match in Doha. She will be sorely missed when the WTA Tour kicks off in 2011...

Predictions - Wozniacki to beat Zvonareva in 3 sets
Stosur to beat Clijsters in 3 sets

Monday, 25 October 2010

On the way to Doha...

After another exhausting and long season for the top female tennis players, the top 8 for the year move onto Doha to battle it out for the season ending championships title. The final women's tournaments saw Ana Ivanovic triumph in Linz without losing a set, Victoria Azarenka produce a powerful and commanding display in Moscow and Roberta Vinci end on a flurry as she defeated Anne Keothavong and Julia Goerges to win the Luxembourg title. Now in the penultimate tournament of the year, the top 8 women will battle it out in Doha. Unfortunately both Williams Sisters are unable to compete due to injury which i feel personally, has taken the gloss of this year's event which on paper looks like one of the weakest line-up's in years.

In the Maroon Group, newly crowned world number one Caroline Wozniacki will fancy her chances of winning her biggest title as she is paired with Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur and Elena Dementieva. Stosur has struggled for consistency in recent weeks and a French Open rematch with Schiavone will certainly be interesting. Dementieva should fancy her chances of progressing to the SF's if she can put the injury that thwarted her in Luxembourg behind her. In the White Group, the new world number two Vera Zvonareva, is joined by Kim Clijsters, Jelena Jankovic and Victoria Azarenka. Despite Jelena Jankovic, who is the 50/1 long-shot to win and unlikely to pose a threat following abysmal recent form and ill health; this should be a closely contested group. Zvonareva has been consistently strong since Wimbledon and Azarenka who has had an irratic season, is coming off one of her recent highs following her win in Moscow. The telling factor will be how fit Kim Clijsters is as she has not played since the US Open. If she can pick up her form quickly, she should qualify from this one. I am also expecting that the last woman to qualify, Victoria Azarenka to make the SF's so the match-up between Zvonareva and Clijsters could be crucial.

The Women's game seems to be moving towards the new generation and i think that Wozniacki will win her biggest title of her career. I also hope that Azarenka, who has shown waves of promise but also a lack of consistency will end her season well and ready to tackle the Grand Slams next year with full vigour. Last year's championships certainly brought drama but also a lot of injuries as the season petered out on a low note. It is a shame that the round-robin matches are put so close together not allowing the player's a chance to recover. The competition gets underway tomorrow with Vera taking on Jelena followed by Caroline doing battle with Elena and finally Francesca squaring off with Sam... Here's hoping for a solid send-off to 2010.

Predictions - Zvonareva to beat Jankovic in 2 sets, Wozniacki to beat Dementieva in 3 sets and Schiavone to beat Stosur in 2 sets

Friday, 8 October 2010

WTA Beijing - Wozniacki reaches number 1

The talking point this week in Beijing has been Caroline Wozniacki's rise to World Number 1. Wozniacki had to reach the Quarter-finals to knock Serena off the top and she did that with a convincing win over Petra Kvitova. Several months ago Kvitova had demolished Wozniacki in the 4th round at Wimbledon in what seems to have been a wake up call for Wozniacki in that she needed to start making advances in her game if she was to achieve what she wanted. Since Wimbledon, her game has shown vast improvements with her serve and offensive game in particular looking stronger. At times i have been sceptical of whether Wozniacki is worthy of world number 1 and winning numerous grand slams. I feel if she carries this form into next year, a Grand Slam is on the horizon for her. She seems mentally tougher and stronger than previous slam-less number ones in Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic and with Doha around the corner, it could be a chance for her to prove her credentials against Serena and Kim who have both demonstrated their ability to perform at the Grand Slam level. This has brought a new dimension to the Women's game and there are signs that the new crop of players might be starting to make some headway in the game.

This week has also seen Vera Zvonareva continue her terrific recent form with some excellent wins over Dinara Safina, Maria Kirilenko and Francesca Schiavone. She is now projected to reach number 3 in the rankings. Also on the move up will be Na Li and Shahar Peer who have both reached the Semi-finals along with Wozniacki and Zvonareva. On the other hand, this week has been a disappointing show for Maria Sharapova. Once again, she put in a lacklustre effort going down to Elena Vesnina and she will have to regroup next year after a disappointing last couple of months. Jelena Jankovic also continues to struggle and in my honest opinion, she will not be able to reach the top of the rankings again. This week has also concluded a disappointing Asian Tour for Pavlyuchenkova. A-Pav has shown superb promise this year however she has disappointed in recent weeks with some alarming one-sided losses. Another worthy note this week is the continued resurgence of Ana Ivanovic who with stunning wins over Marion Bartoli and Elena Dementieva has confirmed her return to the Top 30 in the rankings next week.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

ATP Beijing Preview

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will return to action this week as they headline what is a strong draw in Beijing. Djokovic, the number 1 seed will open up against the Chinese wildcard, Gong in what should be a straightforward opener. In the 2nd round Djokovic will play either Tipsarevic or Fish; i would expect Tipsarevic to progress and give Djokovic a test but ultimately Djokovic should prevail. Tomas Berdych is his projected QF opponent however Berdych's form has dipped since Wimbledon and resembled more of the frustrating inconsistency he has demonstrated before this year. Giles Simon should upset Querrey and be a real tester for Berdych. The number 4 seed in Nikolay Davydenko will play Florian Mayer in the 1st round which he should win. However Cilic or Bellucci in the 2nd round will probably be one step too far for Davy. Verdasco faces a testing opener against the tricky German, Philipp Kohlschreiber. The winner is likely to play John Isner in the 2nd round; i'd go for Cilic and Isner to make the QF in what is a wide open section of the draw.

The number 8 seed David Ferrer will play against Denis Istomin in the 1st round in what could be a potential upset for ferrer. The number 3 seed Robin Soderling will open his campaign against Tommy Robredo and will then likely take on another Spaniard in Nicolas Almagro. On the hard courts of Beijing, Soderling should have few problems reaching the QF here. Andy Murray will begin his quest for the Beijing title against a qualifier before a tie with either Andrey Golubev or Albert Montanes. Mikhail Youzhny is Murray's projected QF opponent however following his exploits in Malaysia i'd go for Alexander Dologopolov to cause a surprise or two.

Semi-final picks - Djokovic v Isner, Soderling v Murray

Saturday, 2 October 2010

WTA Beijing Preview

The women now move onto Beijing this week after Caroline Wozniacki defeated Elena Dementieva in the final of WTA Tokyo to claim her fifth title of the season, winning 1-6 6-2 6-3. This week could see Wozniacki crowned as the new world number one if she can make the QF's. This has divided opinion with many and although i can see she's improved and she has won so many matches this year, i am still unsure of whether she has what it takes to beat the likes of Serena and Clijsters at a grand slam stage. The tournament is once again highlighted by the withdrawals from Venus, Serena, Henin and Clijsters; however the draw is supported with 7 of the top 10 and with 4 places in the season ending championships still up for grabs, there's a lot riding on this week in Beijing.

Quarter 1 - C Wozniacki (1) v E Dementieva (7)
Wozniacki will open up against either Sara Errani or Shuai Peng with a much tougher test likely in the 3rd round with the likes of Pennetta, Kanepi and Pavlyuchenkova all lurking. Wozniacki would probably wish for Pavlyuchenkova with who she has a brilliant record including a thumping 6-1 6-2 win last week in Tokyo. However i think her opponent could be the Estonian, Kaia Kanepi who has transformed her game in recent months and is looking a real threat on the WTA tour. I still believe however that C-Woz will just have enough to beat Kanepi and therefore secure that number 1 ranking by reaching the QF's. Dementieva will play Kimiko Date Krumm in the 2nd round with a 3rd round tie likely to come from the winner of Bartoli and Ivanovic who have once again have been paired together. With Dementieva looking in excellent form in Tokyo, it would be hard to predict against a rematch of the Tokyo final.

Quarter 2 - J Jankovic (3) v V Azarenka (8)
Jelena Jankovic has had a tough time of late however i think this could be her chance to reach her first QF since the Roland Garros all the way back in May. JJ has a nice section of the draw with her 2nd round opponent being either Kateryna Bondarenko or Bojana Jovanovski. Peer could await in the 3rd round which has previously been a good match for JJ. Victoria Azarenka will open her campaign against Timea Bacsinszky and will have to be at her best in the 3rd round where she could face Maria Sharapova in a battle of the shriekers. Sharapova struggled last week in Tokyo and many people have questioned whether she can every regain her top form after being knocked out by Wozniacki in a disappointing performance at the US. Normally i would back Sharapova but my head is turning on whether she can ever reach the heights of the Women's game again and I believe Azarenka will beat Sharapova in 3 set here to set up a QF with Jankovic.

Quarter 3 - A Radwanska (6) v S Stosur (3)
This section is by far the most open section; Radwanska opens up against Angelique Kerber and she shouldn't have too many problems in the 2nd round against either Zahlavova Strycova and Dulgheru. In the 3rd round she could take on either Alisa Kleybanova or Li Na, both dangerous opponents and both capable of pulling off a big performance. I think it could be Kleybanova to progress here using her powerful game to good effect. The third seed in Samantha Stosur has already been knocked out of the competition by Anastasija Sevastova after wasting a 5-2 lead and a match point at 5-4. Sevastova will take on Cibulkova in the 2nd round with the winner taking on Nadia Petrova or Alona Bondarenko; if Petrova is fit i would fancy her to reach the QF's.

Quarter 4 - F Schiavone (5) v V Zvonareva (2)
Francesca Schiavone could face a 2nd round match-up with the tricky Daniela Hantuchova; however this is still a match she should come through. With Kuznetsova out in the 1st round, Schiavone should have an easier 3rd round match-up with Dushevina, Makarova and Vinci being her likely 3rd round opponents. Vera Zvonareva has the toughest opener of the seeds against former number 1, Dinara Safina. Zvonareva should progress however if Dinara plays well theres no doubting she has a chance here. With Aravane Rezai already out to Gisela Dulko, Maria Kirilenko should progress to the 3rd round to meet Zvonareva. With an imperious record over Kirilenko, it would be difficult to bet against Zvonareva reaching the QF's.

Once again, Wozniacki will be hard to beat at this tournament being the in-form player on tour. Azarenka could once again stand in her way at the SF stage and i would not put it her past her to upset the Dane this time round. The bottom half is already looking very open and i believe Vera Zvonareva should progress further than the QF's she reached in Tokyo; Schiavone and Petrova will also be ones to watch out for in Beijing...