Friday, 26 August 2011

WTA US Open Preview

The final major is finally upon us! Caroline Wozniacki is the number one seed and is joined in the top 8 by Vera Zvonareva, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli. All the talk in the lead up to this years Open has been about Serena Williams. She goes into the US Open as the number 28 seed and the favourite to win with all bookmakers at 11/8. I have split the draw into eight sections to discuss my thoughts and predictions and how things might turn out...

Caroline Wozniacki will open her campaign against the Spaniard, Nuria Llagostera Vives. Wozniacki restored some confidence with her fourth title at New Haven and will be pleased with the cakewalk of a draw she has been presented. Her projected 3rd round opponent is Jarmila Gajdosova who has been in dire form losing her last five matches. Gajdosova opens up against Iveta Benesova in what promises to be a streaky affair. Gajdosova has got to break the streak somewhere but i don't think it will be here. This should open up the draw for either Benesova, or perhaps Greta Arn or Vania King to reach the third round.

Wozniacki's projected 4th round opponent is the number 15 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who will play Sara Errani in the first round. Kuznetsova has struggled of late for consistency so an early exit would not be a big surprise despite a good head-to-head record with Errani. Kuznetsova could play Daniela Hantuchova in Round 3, who she defeated in a three set match at Roland Garros. Before this, Hantuchova may have to overcome the tricky Austrian, Tamira Paszek in round 2. I would have fancied Paszek to have a real chance of progressing here but this will be her first tournament since the end of July when she picked up an injury in Washington. She also posted on twitter last week that she was attacked and bitten by a dog last week! Although I question Hantuchova's mentality, she should have too much for Kuzzy on the hard courts and meet Wozniacki in round 4.

Round 4 Prediction - Wozniacki v Hantuchova
Dark Horse in this section - Greta Arn
Most exciting Round 1 match - Benesova v Gajdosova

Wozniacki will be confident going into the US Open following victory in New Haven

The number six seed, Li Na will open up against Simona Halep. Li progressed through to the semi-finals of New Haven last week where she was beaten by Petra Cetkovska in an extraordinary encounter; she looked nervous, short of confidence and suffering from the weight of expectation following her first Grand Slam win in Paris earlier this year. Li will be content with the draw she has been handed as she is scheduled to meet Kaia Kanepi in the third round. Kanepi has not played since Wimbledon and I fully expect either the winner of Kimiko Date Krumm and Silvia Soler-Espinosa to take her out. I am backing Soler Espinosa, who has won through three round of qualifying.

Li Na's projected 4th round opponent is Andrea Petkovic. Petkovic has been in excellent form during the summer hard court season. The only concern is a knee injury, which she picked up in Cinncinati. Petkovic could play Zheng Jie in Round 2, which will be a testing affair but one I would expect Andrea to get past. Petkovic is then likely to play the winner of Irina-Camelia Begu or Roberta Vinci in Round 3; both these players have predominantly had their success on the clay courts but have had some excellent results in the last couple of weeks with Begu most recently, reaching the semi-finals in Dallas. This will be a close match (they are 1-1 in their head-to-head record) but I would hand the advantage to Roberta Vinci.

Round 4 Prediction - Petkovic v Li Na
Dark Horse in this section - Soler Espinosa
Most exciting Round 1 match - Begu v Vinci

Petkovic has a great chance of another grand slam quarter-final if she is fully fit to play

The number 3 seed Victoria Azarenka has a mighty tough draw to contend with in what is the most difficult section BY FAR! Azarenka will play Johanna Larsson in the first round. She will then face either Rebecca Marino or Gisela Dulko in round 2; Dulko has caused Azarenka many problems in the past including two defeats at Grand Slam's last year. In fact Dulko was the player she lost to when she collapsed in dramatic fashion at the US Open last year. If Azarenka reaches the third round, she will most likely meet Serena Williams. Serena herself has a difficult opener against the young Serbian, Bojana Jovanovski so she will have to hit the ground running. I expect Aza and Serena to clash in a titantic third round match but I cannot see Azarenka beating Serena especially after their previous encounter in Toronto where Serena won comfortably, 6-3 6-3.

Serena's projected 4th round opponent is Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic will begin against Ksenia Pervak in Round 1. Ivanovic could then play Petra Cetkovska in the second round, who has been on a stunning run of form, which has included wins over Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and Li Na in New Haven. She also beat Ivanovic in the third round of Wimbledon this year. I would back Cetkovska to win again although I am slightly on the fence because Cetkovska had a gruelling week in New Haven playing eight matches. Shahar Peer is also in this section but she has a difficult opener against Sania Mirza. Mirza has not been playing well during the summer but has a 4-1 head to head record and I'm backing her to cause an upset. Also look out for the young American, Sloane Stephens who is in this section.

Round 4 Prediction - Serena v Cetkovska
Dark Horse in this section - Sania Mirza
Most exciting Round 1 match - Serena v Jovanovski

Serena is the overwhelming favourite to win the US Open

Francesca Schiavone, the number seven seed will play Galina Voskobeova in the first round. This is a tough opener for Schiavone because Voskoboeva has been playing very well lately with a quarter-final showing in Toronto and a victory over Maria Sharapova. She will also be buoyed by three wins in qualifying; however Schiavone is a consumate professional and should have enough to progress. Schiavone is scheduled to play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the third round. I have a feeling (probably ludicrous!) that MJMS will get knocked out in round 1 by Mona Barthel. MJMS has often struggled getting past lesser known opponents, and Barthel is an up and coming player who has had some good wins on the tour including a win over Bethanie Mattek Sands in Copenhagen this year.

Schiavone could play Jelena Jankovic in the 4th round in what would be a thrilling affair if there last two matches are anything to go by. Jankovic opens up against Alison Riske and could then meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in round 3. Pav will open up against Anna Tatishivili, who has caused some problems for the likes of Vera Zvonareva, Marion Bartoli and Yanina Wickmayer this year. Pav has looked well below par during the last couple of weeks despite a quarter-final appearance at New Haven. However, I expect Pav to make it to the third round to meet JJ; despite a 2-0 head-to-head record over Jankovic, I would go for JJ to win this time round.

Round 4 Prediction - Jankovic v Schiavone
Dark Horse - Mona Barthel/ Chanelle Scheepers
Most exciting round 1 match - Schiavone v Voskoboeva

Schiavone has some tough oppositions in her draw but should do well here

The Wimbledon Champion, Petra Kvitova will open up her campaign against Alexandra Dulgheru. Kvitova has an easy draw up to a potential all-Czech encounter in round 3 against Lucie Safarova. Kvitova has struggled throughout the summer as she was taken out twice by Andrea Petkovic in Toronto and Cincy. Safarova will fancy her chances of causing an upset here; she has put together some neat results over the last few weeks, most notably reaching the quarter-final of Toronto and pushing Serena to three sets. Safarova has a straight forward draw before Kvitova and I am going to go for Safarova to take out Kvitova in what will be a first encounter if they do meet in round 3.

Agnieszka Radwanska has a good draw and should have no problems to the 4th round. Her most testing encounter is likely to come in the 1st round against her sister, Urszula! She is projected to meet Yanina Wickmayer in the third round. Wickmayer pulled out of Dallas last week citing an injury so I cannot see her presenting a threat to Radwanska. This could give an opportunity to Sorana Cirstea, Alla Kudryavtseva or Anastasia Rodionova of reaching the third round; however I will stick by Wicky to reach the third round.

Round 4 Prediction - Safarova v Radwansksa
Dark Horse in this section - Lucie Safarova
Most exciting round 1 match - Wickmayer v Cirstea

Radwanska won in San Diego and will go deep into the second week if she is not affected by her shoulder injury

Maria Sharapova opens up her US Open against the young Britain, Heather Watson. It is a great chance for Heather to test herself against the best however I fully expect Sharapova to have too much power for her. Sharapova is scheduled to meet Flavia Pennetta in the third round. Pennetta has a difficult opener against Aravane Rezai, who has had a resurgence in form reaching the final in Dallas last week. I am predicting Rezai will continue her good form and take out Pennetta, who has been very inconsistent of late.

Peng Shuai is Sharapova's projected 4th round opponent. Peng has struggled with a hip injury throughout the last couple of weeks but she should have few problems in reaching the fourth round to potentially play Sharapova for the third time this year. Peng opens up against Varvara Lepchenko and could play Julia Goerges in the 3rd round. Goerges has been terribly inconsistent of late and will have to be at her best to get past her fellow compatriot, Kristina Barrois. With a 2-0 head to head record over Barrois, i'll stick with Goerges to match her seeding.

Round 4 Prediction - Peng v Sharapova
Dark Horse in this section - Aravane Rezai/Romina Oprandi
Most exciting round 1 match - Pennetta v Rezai

Sharapova won in Cincy but still looked vulnerable at times. She has a good draw at the US and should go far

Marion Bartoli, the number eight seed will play Alexandra Panova in the first round. Bartoli could face a tough second round encounter against either the young American, Christina McHale or the experienced Canadian, Aleksandra Wozniak. I believe it will be McHale in round 2, who has had some big wins this summer with victories over Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova. However she can sometimes struggle as demonstrated by the demolition she received from Aggy Radwanska in San Diego this year. I am going to go with Marion Bartoli to get through this, who should play Maria Kirilenko in round 3.

Sam Stosur begins against Sofia Arvidsson and should she win, will play the winner of Alberta Brianti and Coco Vandeweghe. Her first significant challenge will most likely come in the third round where she is projected to meet Nadia Petrova. Stosur often struggles against the big servers on tour but has raised her game in the last few weeks. She will also be heartened by breaking a former 4-0 head-to-head record with a victory over Petrova at Eastbourne earlier this year. However Petrova has really cleaned up her game since then so Stosur may look to either Bethanie Mattek Sands or Polona Hercog to take Petrova out; Hercog who never looks at home on the hard courts did manage to take out Petrova in the first round of New Haven last week.

Round 4 prediction - Bartoli v Stosur
Dark horse in this section - Nadia Petrova
Most exciting round 1 match - McHale v Wozniak

Sam Stosur should reach at least the Quarters based on her recent form

The number two seed and 2010 US Open runner-up, Vera Zvonareva plays Stephanie Foretz Gacon in round 1 and has avoided any real danger up to the third round. Zvonareva could meet Anabel Medina Garrigues in the third round. Anabel suffered an injury in New Haven, which could give a chance for Ayumi Morita or Laura Robson to progress through. I would expect Morita to make the third round with her superior experience just having enough to take out Robson in round 1.

Zvonareva will be fearful of her 4th round opponent in what is a packed section of the draw. The potential highlight match could be in the 2nd round where Sabine Lisicki could meet the unseeded Venus Williams. Before this happens Lisicki will have to beat Alona Bondarenko and Venus Williams will have to get past Vesna Dolonts. If both win, it should be a terrific hard-hitting encounter. I would go with Lisicki because she has beaten Venus before which will give her belief. She has also been in terrific form with a superb victory in Dallas where she lost just 13 games in five matches. The winner would meet Dominika Cibulkova on paper, but I'm less than confident that Domy will reach the third round following an injury plagued summer. I would point towards Klara Zakopalova, the sometimes superb Czech to have a rich burst of form to play Lisicki in round 3.

Round 4 Prediction - Lisicki v Zvonareva
Dark horse in this section - Ayumi Morita/Klara Zakopalova
Most exciting round 1 match - Robson v Morita

A worry for Lisicki is getting to New York following her win in Dallas because of the problems presented by Hurricane Irene!

For Wimbledon, I didn't go with the bookies and went for Kvitova. This time round I am sticking safe and going for Serena Williams to win the title. I believe she will meet Sharapova in what will be a one-sided final. Also look out for Wozniacki, Lisicki and Stosur to go deep in the tournament. Serena does have a difficult draw; the potential third rounder against Azarenka would be fascinating. But I believe she has the capability of destroying the field over the next two weeks... I hope i'm wrong!!! I can't wait for the next two weeks and will be blogging along the way :)

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