Sunday, 7 August 2011

WTA Toronto Preview - A big week for Wozniacki

The women are in Toronto this week for what promises to be one of the most exciting weeks of the year so far. It is a superb line-up with all the top 20 players in action including the return of Kim Clijsters from injury and Serena lurking unseeded. The draw was done on Friday night and has produced some potentially titanic encounters over the next week. Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters are the top two seeds and have byes in the first round along with the other top 8 seeds who are Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Francesca Schiavone.

In the top half, the number one seed Caroline Wozniacki will play her first tournament on the hard courts. This will be a big week for Wozniacki and a chance to prove her credentials as the world number one against some of the big names on the tour. After a bye in round 1, she will open up against either Yanina Wickmayer or Roberta Vinci. Wozniacki could then face Ana Ivanovic or Dominika Cibulkova in a third round encounter.

Wozniacki will be glad not to have Venus in her section of the draw but would have wanted the chance to prove herself as the world number one

Wozniacki was scheduled to meet Venus Williams in the third round before Venus pulled out with a viral illness. This would have been an exciting match because it is a well known fact that Wozniacki is yet to record a win over Venus, Serena or Clijsters. Wozniacki was really starting to shine around the time of Indian Wells but she has moved backwards in recent months. Wozniacki is now back on her favoured hard courts and I would expect her to do well now with the loss of Venus from her section of the draw. However I do not fancy her to win the tournament.

Wozniacki's projected Quarter final opponent is the number 8 seed, Li Na. Li will play in the feature match onTuesday night and could face Peng Shuai in an all-Chinese clash. Peng won their last encounter in Indian Wells but its always a tight encounter because both players are solid from the back of the court. This time round I would have to give the edge to Li Na. Sam Stosur, who has had a disappointing 2011 so far will open up against Ayumi Morita. She should win a couple of matches here if she can stay focussed mentally.

Li Na returns to action following her disappointing 2nd round defeat at Wimbledon to Sabine Lisicki

In the second section of the top half, the number three seed Vera Zvonareva will open up her campaign against either Jarmila Gajdosova or Nadia Petrova. I would expect this to be Petrova who won her last tournament in Washington and has a 5-2 winning head-to-head record over Zvonareva. Zvonareva herself is in good form so I would expect a very tight match. Agnieszka Radwanska is also in this section of the draw and opens up against Elena Vesnina. Radwanska has produced some good performances since Wimbledon and appears to be playing more aggression and going for her shots. I was really happy for her to win her first title in three years at San Diego, which included some excellent victories over Hantuchova, Petkovic and Zvonareva. This has appeared to restore some confidence after a shaky 2011 up till now. The only issue is whether her heavily taped up shoulder can hold up this week.

Nadia Petrova will be confident going into her first round match against Gajdosova following victory in Washington

Zvonareva is scheduled to meet the Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova in the Quarter-finals. Kvitova is playing for the first time since beating Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final and I'm interested to see how she gets on here. I think she will be vulnerable to an early exit because she is likely to be rusty following several weeks off. She should have no problems against either Anabel Medina Garrigues or Sara Errani in Round 2 but Andrea Petkovic could provide stiff opposition in a potential third round clash. However if she can get through the first few rounds, she is going to be difficult to stop...

Kvitova will want to follow on from her success at Wimbledon with a good showing in Toronto

In the bottom half, the most exciting potential Quarter-final is between the number 4 and 5 seeds, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Sharapova will open up against either Jelena Dokic or a qualifier. She was disappointing in Stanford and will want to prove that her serve can hold up under scrutiny. Her first big test is likely to come in Round 3 against Marion Bartoli. Sharapova has an excellent record over Bartoli but Bartoli has improved leaps and bounds over the last year so I could see Bartoli springing an upset. Azarenka opens up against Stephanie Dubois or a Qualifier but will be looking more at a potential clash in the third round against either Daniela Hantuchova or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (who could meet in the second round). I am predicting that Azarenka will reach at least the Quarters here and will put the blip she suffered in Stanford behind her.

Victoria Azarenka was shocked in Stanford by Marina Erakovic but will hope to put that behind her in Toronto

In the bottom half, Kim Clijsters makes her return to injury against a Qualifier in Round 2. She could face a blockbuster third round match against Serena Williams. This half also sees Jelena Jankovic and Julia Goerges square off in an exciting first round clash. Jankovic has been sounding positive on her social networking accounts so I would expect her to pass the challenge of Goerges. However poor Jelena could then face Serena in Round 2. Jankovic has an excellent record over Serena winning on 4 previous occasions. Her game always holds up well against Serena but comparing their recent form, you have to give the edge to Serena. However I fancy a sneaky bet on Jelena if the odds are good ;) Of course I am assuming that they will in fact meet in round 2!

If Serena was to meet Clijsters in Round 3 then I would give the edge to Serena. Injuries have really blighted Kim's season and I've got to say, I have lost a little respect for her with some of her comments this year about playing tournaments other than Grand slams. I feel with all the injuries, her motivation is slipping once again and I would back Serena for the win here in Toronto.

I do not think that Clijsters will be a threat this week

Clijster's projected quarter-final opponent is Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone will play either Ekaterina Makarova or Rebecca Marino in Round two. Marino pushed Schiavone all the way in Australia before succumbing to a 9-7 third set loss. Marino will first have to overturn a 2-0 head-to-head record over Makarova but if she can, I'm predicting she can take out Schiavone in front of her home crowd. In this section, Kuznetsova and Safarova will both take on qualifiers; Kuznetsova has been very frustrating to watch in recent months because she has the talent to beat anyone but the mental game to lose to anyone!

Schiavone will be relatively unfancied in Toronto this week

So who is going to win? I would put Serena, Azarenka, Zvonareva and Li in the frame along with Kvitova if she can get past the first few rounds. With such a superb line-up, it really is wide open and we still have to wait to see the placement of the qualifiers, who could provide a few upsets along the way. Ultimately, i'm going to go for Azarenka but I am really not confident!!!

Predicted Winner - Victoria Azarenka

Predicted Quarter-Final line up:
Kuznetsova/S Williams

Round 1 Top Tip - Petrova to beat Gajdosova (4/7 with some bookmakers)

Round 1 Punt - Wozniak to beat Peer (5/2 with some bookmakers)

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