Monday, 23 January 2012

Australian Open quarter-final preview

Time seems to have flown by since the Australian Open began last Sunday and we now have just eight women and eight men left to do battle for the first Grand Slam title of the season.  Here are my predictions for the quarter-final matches...

Caroline Wozniacki
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Kim Clijsters - There has been no news as to how Kim Clijster's ankle is following her epic victory over Li Na in which she saved 4 match points to advance to the quarter-finals.  I am not sure if this is good or bad news. Meanwhile, Wozniacki produced a good performance to beat Jelena Jankovic in the 4th round, but showed that when it gets tight, she is likely to return her defensive grinding game.  Clijsters leads the head-to-head 2-0, but the Dane has never been completely outclassed in their two previous encounters, which both took place in finals. I would predict a fully fit Clijsters to win in 2 sets, but with the injury to Clijsters I have to give the edge to Wozniacki.  The Dane will never have a better chance to claim a big scalp, but she will need to show some attacking intent and be mentally solid because it is likely that Clijsters will not go down without a fight.
Prediction - Wozniacki to win in 3 sets

Victoria Azarenka vs. Agnieszka Radwanska - The two seeds in Azarenka and Radwanska have progressed to the quarter-finals without few problems.  Radwanska lost the opening set of her Australian Open campaign, but has since strolled through the tournament.  Their last three encounters have all gone to three sets so I expect this to be another close match. I am going for Azarenka to reach her first Australian Open semi-final with a tough victory in two sets.  I expect both sets to be tight and hard fought, but Azarenka has the power, consistency, and the confidence of beating the Pole in Sydney two weeks ago to claim the win.
Prediction - Azarenka to win in 2 sets

Ekaterina Makarova vs. Maria Sharapova - This is an unlikely quarter-final for me as I expected neither Russian to reach the quarters! Sharapova has played very well up till now, but showed in her 4th round match with Sabine Lisicki that her serve can still break down under pressure.  Makarova has had a sensational tournament so far knocking out the likes of Kaia Kanepi, Vera Zvonareva and Serena Williams.  Sharapova and Makarova have played each other twice before in the clay court tournaments of Rome and Madrid last year with Sharapova winning both encounters.  I have to go for Sharapova to win as I cannot see Makarova reproducing the goods once more against such as an awesome competitior in Sharapova.
Prediction - Sharapova to win in 2 sets

Sara Errani vs. Petra Kvitova - The tenacious Errani has had a fantastic week so far reaching her first ever Grand Slam quarter-final.  She has shown she can deal with the big servers as she knocked out Nadia Petrova in the second round.  However Kvitova is a whole different kettle of fish and will have the experience of playing at this stage of a Grand Slam before.  To be honest, I do not give Errani much of a chance in this match.  I think she will be overrawed by Kvitova who has looked assured in her last two matches and is showing the consistency that could make her the world number one on the WTA tour.
Prediction - Kvitova to win in 3 sets

Novak Djokovic vs. David Ferrer - Djokovic has looked in impressive form so far at the Australian Open, but struggled to close out his last match against Lleyton Hewitt.  He will face a similar type of match against the consistent Ferrer who will no doubt fight for every ball.  In their last encounter, Ferrer won handily 6-1 6-3 at the World Tour Finals, but Djokovic is much fresher this time round.  I cannot see Ferrer stopping Djokovic...
Prediction - Djokovic to win in 4 sets

Kei Nishikori vs. Andy Murray - Murray has waltzed into the quarter-finals having lost just one set, which was in fact his first set of the Championships against Ryan Harrison.  Nishikori has had a much more difficult progression through the tournament but produced the win of his career to take out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last round.  Murray and Nishikori played each other in Shanghai at the end of 2011 where Murray ran out a convincing 6-3 6-0 winner.  Nishikori has absolutely nothing to lose so I hope he goes out there and gives it his best shot.
Prediction -  Murray to win in 3 sets

Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Roger Federer - Del Potro and Federer have both had very straightforward passages to the 4th round where they meet in this potentially explosive quarter-final match.  Federer won their last match in Cincinnati in straight sets, but in their last Grand Slam encounter, Del Potro produced that terrific performance to claim the US Open title.  It has all the makings for a classic match, but could also disappoint if Federer brings out his A game.  I think Del Potro will test Federer and get at least a set, but I feel that Del Potro is still a slightly short of producing his best tennis.
Prediction - Federer to win in 4 sets

Tomas Berdych vs. Rafael Nadal - The match i'm most on the fence about is this quarter-final between Berdych and Nadal.  I was particularly sceptical of Nadal's chance before the tournament began after he stated he will need to take a rest from a shoulder injury in February; however he has looked very assured on court so far and produced some fine performances to reach the 4th round.  Berdych has been impressive too, losing two sets in the first four rounds.  Berdych is likely to have the crowd against him after the extraordinary ending to his 4th round match where he would not shake Almagro's hand.  I originally went for a Berdych win in this match before the tournament and i'm going to stick by my original predictions.  A little risky, but why not?! Berdych has the game to threaten Nadal, the only issue would be does he believe that he can beat Nadal?
Prediction - Berdych to win in 5 sets 

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