Saturday, 7 January 2012

Wozniacki tops killer draw in Sydney

Nine of the top ten players are heading for Sydney in what is an exceptionally strong draw.  Caroline Wozniacki is the top seed and has a bye into the second round.  Wozniacki competed at the Hopman Cup last week where she won her first two matches before losing a tight three setter to Petra Kvitova.  Wozniacki will play either Dominika Cibulkova or Peng Shuai in the second round.  Last year, she lost to Cibulkova at this very stage of the competition, but this time round I think she will do much better having the advantage of playing several matches at the Hopman Cup.  Wozniacki is projected to meet Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter-finals.  Radwanska opens up against a qualifier and then would play the winner of Andrea Petkovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  This could see a repeat of the epic Beijing final between Petkovic and Radwanska, which was one of the best matches of 2011.  I predict that Wozniacki will win through this section of the draw.  I think Radwanska will take out Petkovic and then Wozniacki will beat her good friend Radwanska who she holds a distinctive edge over in their head-to-head record.

In the second section of the draw, the number three seed Victoria Azarenka will play a qualifier in the first round.  Azarenka would then play the winner of Jelena Jankovic and Julia Goerges.  I'm expecting big things from Azarenka this year and I think she will continue to build on her impressive showing in the final of the YEC in Istanbul.  Last year, Azarenka improved her consistency and most importantly, became much calmer on court and was more positive in her approach to tennis.  This week, I anticipate her to beat JJ in the second round and then progress past Marion Bartoli in the quarter-finals.  Bartoli and Azarenka have played each other 7 times in the past 2 years and the only encounters that Azarenka has lost were a retirement in Eastbourne and a strategic tank in Istanbul.  Bartoli does have the easiest draw up to the quarter-finals of any of the top seeds as she will play a qualifier in round one and then an Australian in round two in Jelena Dokic or Isabella Holland.  If Azarenka fails to progress past Jankovic (or Goerges!) then Bartoli will be ready to pounce...

The third section of the draw is once again littered with quality as Vera Zvonareva will play Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round.  Kuznetsova will have an advantage here having played several matches last week in Auckland, meanwhile Zvonareva is playing her first match of the year.  Zvonareva lost in the first round here last year to Flavia Pennetta and i'm predicting another early exit in 2012.  Ana Ivanovic is also in this section and she opens up against Lucie Safarova.  I am backing Ivanovic to go all the way to the final this week.  A risk, I know but she did manage to beat both her potential second round opponents, Kuznetsova and Zvonareva in Beijing last year and I think she can be this week's surprise name.  Li Na is the projected quarter-final opponent of whoever comes through in the names discussed above.  Li was looking much sharper at the Hopman Cup this week where she won all three of her singles matches.  She is coming to a place where she had terrific success last year beating Kim Clijsters in the final.  I predict a few wins here for Li, but not a repeat of the title.

The final section sees the most exciting first round match-up, which is between Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone.  Most famously, Schiavone beat Stosur in the 2010 Roland Garros Final although more recently, Stosur has managed to exact revenge with a straight sets victory on the clay last year in Rome.  I am very undecided in this one after their form in Brisbane, but I will go for Stosur to win in 3 sets.  The winner will play either Brisbane runner-up Daniela Hantuchova or Roberta Vinci.  Stosur, who is the number 5 seed is projected to meet Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals.  Kvitova has a bye into round two where she will play either Sabine Lisicki or a qualifier.  Lisicki against Kvitova would certainly be a exciting encounter, but my expectations have dipped for Lisicki after she suffered an abdominal injury in Auckland and looked to be well short of her best, particularly in her serving.  Kvitova looked good at the Hopman Cup, but my only worry is her fitness and whether she can maintain top form throughout this week.  I don't know why, but I have a feeling she won't win this week... normally my "feelings" are often wrong, but we shall see!

My tip for the final
Victoria Azarenka def. Ana Ivanovic - I am sticking by Azarenka to win the Brisbane title.  It really is a tough one this week with such a stellar field, but I think she will be raring to go in 2012.  Ivanovic is my tip for the surprise finalist beating Kvitova in the semi-finals... i'm already regretting typing this ;-P

Watch out for...
Ana Ivanovic... i've already mentioned why so I will not expand anymore here. 

Worthy of a punt
I'm not finding much value in any of the betting so far in 2012, but I would go for Svetlana Kuznetsova to beat Vera Zvonareva in the first round, which is 5/4 with most bookmakers.

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