Saturday, 31 March 2012

ATP Miami Final: Previews and Predictions

Novak Djokovic
Unfortunately I have not had enough time to provide updates throughout this week for the ATP draw although if you looked at my preview and predictions, you will have noticed it wasn't a great week for me! The big upset of the week came in the third round where Andy Roddick recorded only his third career win over Roger Federer in a surprising 7-6 1-6 6-4 third round victory.  Roddick could not build on this momentum though as he was ousted in the 4th round by Juan Monaco, who had a superb week knocking out Gael Monfils and Mardy Fish on his way to an impressive semi-final showing.  

My tip for the title was Rafael Nadal who pulled out of his semi-final match with Andy Murray, which was Murray's second walkover of the week having had a lucky escape in the third round when Milos Raonic was forced to pull out of the competition.  Murray will play Novak Djokovic in the final; I fancied Djokovic to fall before the semi-finals, but my predictions came unstuck when David Ferrer beat Juan Martin Del Potro in a richly entertaining 4th round clash.

This will be their third encounter of 2012 with Djokovic winning that epic at the Australian Open before Murray turned the tables in Dubai.  I think Djokovic will be victorious in this final... he has looked much fresher and sharper than in Indian Wells although he has had a few mental glitches this week as he has struggled to close out his last two matches.  Murray had a tough test against Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals where he was forced to three sets, but I think having not played his semi-final will go against him...

Prediction - Djokovic d. Murray 6-4 6-4

A selection of highlights from this week below...

Just incredible from Nadal!

Highlights from Roddick's historic win

Some incredible rallies during this one... shame it didn't last longer but Ferrer looked at the very top of his game.

Friday, 30 March 2012

WTA Miami Final: Preview & Predictions

The world number two, Maria Sharapova will do battle with the world number four, Agnieszka Radwanska for the Sony Ericsson Open title in Miami.  The two finalists have been two of the most consistent performers in 2012 ranking at number 2 and 3 in this year's race standings behind Victoria Azarenka, who was ousted in the quarter-finals by Marion Bartoli.

Sharapova struggled to hit top form in the early rounds but played some excellent tennis to get past Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals.  There were some mental lapses in that semi-final, particularly in that first set where she let a 4-1 lead slide away, but she continues to be the ultimate competitor having won 17 of her last 18 three set matches.  It must be said that Radwanska has had a very straightforward passage through to the final.  In the last two rounds, she has advanced past a tiring Venus Williams and an injured Marion Bartoli... however you cannot knock that every opponent she has been presented with, she has done all that is required off her and played some good tennis to reach this stage.

Sharapova leads the head-to-head with an overwhelming seven wins to one against Radwanska.  Their last match was at last year's French Open where Radwanska had a host of chances, but failed to make any of them as she went down, 7-6 7-5 in the Round of 16.  There is a little bit of extra spice to the occasion as Radwanska discussed the matter of Sharapova's grunting at the Australian Open in a post-match conference.  Radwanska's consistency and variety has made her a very tough opponent on the tour this year.  Sharapova will encounter some obstacles, but her attacking threat will get her across the finish line....

Prediction - Sharapova d. Radwanska 7-5 6-3

Agnieszka Radwanska

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sharapova beats Wozniacki, reaches Miami final

Maria Sharapova beat Caroline Wozniacki, 4-6 6-2 6-4 in an absorbing semi-final encounter in Miami.  Sharapova started the match in fine form, smacking winners from all over the court and hitting the ball cleaner than she had all week.  She raced into a 4-1 lead, but from there, she lost five games in a row with a severe brain freeze as her game became riddled with puzzling errors.  Wozniacki got balls back in court, but she did nothing special to warrant the first set.  The second set was similar to the first as Sharapova went 4-0 up; however this time she managed to convert her advantage.

The third set was very entertaining and we saw glimpses at the end of what Wozniacki really can do as she broke Sharapova's serve at 5-2 up with a truly sensational game including the most forceful play I have ever seen from the Dane.  Unfortunately for her, it was too late as Sharapova wrapped up the match on a controversial final point, which saw Wozniacki refuse to shake hands with the umpire, Kader Nouni.

WTA Miami: Semi-final Preview and Predictions

Caroline Wozniacki (4) v Maria Sharapova (2)
Few would have predicted that Wozniacki would have made the semi-finals having been presented with a killer draw that featured Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Sam Stosur.  This week, Wozniacki has played her best tennis of this year in Miami including a first ever win over Serena Williams and a crucial breakthrough against one of the big stars on tour.  Sharapova's route through the draw has been relatively straightforward, but she has been far from her best; even in her 6-3 6-0 crushing of Li Na, she was handed the victory on a plate by a woeful Li.  The fact that Sharapova has played poorly but still reached the semi-finals (and the only player to reach this stage of both Indian Wells and Miami) is a worrying sign for the rest of the tour.  

Wozniacki and Sharapova have played each other five times with Sharapova leading the head-to-head, 3-2.  She won their last match in Rome, 7-5 6-3, but lost the two matches before that in rather convincing fashion on hard courts.  I would have gone for Sharapova hands down to win this, but Wozniacki's win over Serena has certainly left plenty to ponder.  I think Sharapova will come alive in the semi-finals, having to claw herself from the depths before progressing past the determined Dane.

Prediction - Sharapova to beat Wozniacki 3-6 7-5 6-2

Caroline Wozniacki

Marion Bartoli (7) v Agnieszka Radwanska (5)
Marion Bartoli brought an end to the Vika winning streak with a sensational 6-3 6-3 quarter-final victory.  It was one of those performances where everything clicked for the Frenchwoman with her battering two-fisted groundstrokes causing Azarenka all kinds of problems.  Radwanska had a big win too, but was helped along the way by an exhausted Venus Williams in a 6-4 6-1 victory. 

Radwanska has won all six of her previous encounters with Bartoli including a straightforward 6-3 6-2 victory in Dubai last year.  Both have siginficantly improved since that last meeting with Bartoli now demonsrating a raw fighting spirit to complement her excellent baseline game, meanwhile Radwanska has added more aggression to go with her superb consistency.  It will be tight at the start, but Radwanska will be too solid for Bartoli in the end...

Prediction - Radwanska to beat Bartoli 7-5 6-1

Marion Bartoli

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Radwanska eases past tiring Venus in Miami

Agnieszka Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska beat Venus Williams in the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open, 6-4 6-1.  It was a very good match, but the talking point was Venus who looked shattered right from the get go.  She fought courageously however as she employed an ultra-aggressive approach to the match and advanced to the net at any available opportunity.  Radwanska still had to play a good match to get the win as she hit 17 winners to 7 unforced errors.  She played very smart tennis and could easily have thought too much about what her opponent was doing, like her loss to Victoria Azarenka earlier this year in Doha, but she stayed focused and played some blinding passing shots.  I was silly to predict Venus to win this match... I made note in the third round that fatigue could be an issue but I was very impressed with her win over Ana Ivanovic, that I thought she would have too much power for Radwanska... wrong!

This has been a very interesting week on the WTA tour... Serena, Venus and Clijsters have all returned, but the likes of Radwanska and Wozniacki have stood strong.  I'm still amazed that Wozniacki was able to get out of that third quarter which featured three of her most feared opponents (Serena, Clijsters and Goerges).  A year ago, Serena and co. could get by with little match fitness, but now the younger generation are finally stepping up to the task at hand and starting to dominate in 2012... its about time :-)

Wozniacki shocks Serena in Miami

Carolne Wozniacki recorded arguably the biggest win of her career with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open.  I must say I DID not see this coming at all and very much like yesterday when Andy Roddick defeated Roger Federer in the third round of the ATP tournament, I found myself gasping at the scores when I woke up this morning!

All credit to Wozniacki who seized her opportunity against a below-par Serena with some excellent serving and terrific composure on the big points.  She will play Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals after she defeated Li Na, 6-3 6-0. It was a horrendous match, which made Li's 4th round encounter against Sabine Lisicki look entertaining...

You can view my predictions for the WTA and ATP draws this week in Miami... it has not been a great week for me in either but both my champions are still clinging on...

Caroline Wozniacki

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

WTA Miami: Quarters Preview & Predictions Pt 2

Victoria Azarenka (1) v Marion Bartoli (7)
Agnieszka Radwanska
Azarenka faced her biggest test on Monday as she came within a whisker of suffering her first loss of the year at the hands of the hard-hitting Slovakian, Dominika Cibulkova.   She fought brilliantly to pull the win out of the bag, but she will need to pick up her form in the next round against Marion Bartoli.   The world number 7 started the tournament slowly but has been picking up her game round-by-round and looked in sensational form as she sailed past Maria Kirilenko, 6-1 6-2.  

This will be the sixth time in the last three years that Azarenka and Bartoli have faced off against each other at the quarter-final stage of a tournament.  It will be very interesting to see how Azarenka responds to her 4th round nailbiter.  I fancy a very difficult match, but give Vika the edge to prevail...
Prediction - Azarenka in 2 very tight sets

Agnieszka Radwanska (5) v Venus Williams 
Venus Williams will attempt to continue her fairytale week in Miami as she faces the new world number 4, Agnieszka Radwanska.  Venus, who has been taken to 3 sets in her last 3 matches, served her way past trouble in the 4th round with a 6-7 6-2 6-2 victory over Ana Ivanovic.  Radwanska has looked in good form this week, but has not been tested by her three opponents who have ranked in at numbers 72, 208 and 285.  She will now play the world number 134, but that poses a whole different challenge.  

This match will show how far Radwanska has come in the last year as Venus's power game has been too much for the Pole in their last three encounters.  Radwanska is a much better player since their last match, which took place in Miami two years ago, but I still question whether she has what it takes to beat an aggressive and free-flowing Venus...
Prediction - Venus in 3 sets

WTA Miami: Quarter-final Previews & Predictions

Maria Sharapova (2) v Li Na (8)
Maria Sharapova has struggled to hit top form this week, but still finds herself comfortably in the quarter-finals for the loss of just one set in her opening match to Shahar Peer.  Her superior mental strength was enough to get her past Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets yesterday,  Li Na has floated through the draw without making any headlines.  Like Sharapova, she struggled to hit top form in an error-strewn 4th round encounter against Sabine Lisicki, but still had enough to pull out the win.  Li has an excellent record over Sharapova having won their last four encounters and all in straight sets.  The last of those came in the WTA Championships in Istanbul where she won, 7-6 6-4 although Sharapova was still struggling with an ankle injury.  I have a feeling this could be a pretty ugly encounter, but I think Sharapova will avenge the four previous losses and advance to another semi-final in 2012...
Prediction - Sharapova in 2 tight sets

Serena Williams (10) v Caroline Wozniacki (4)
Serena has sailed through the draw encountering her stickiest obstacle in the 4th round where she produced a serving masterclass to beat Sam Stosur in straight sets.  Wozniacki has also flourished this week with the attention firmly away from the former world number one.  She came through a tight opening set with Yanina Wickmayer and many wasted set points, before flying through the second set for the loss of just seven points.  Serena has won all three of their previous encounters including a comfortable semi-final win at last year's US Open.  Wozniacki appears to be playing better this week, but she just does not have the weapons to rival Serena, even if the American has an off day.
Prediction - Serena in 2 sets

Maria Sharapova

Azarenka survives Cibulkova in Miami thriller

Victoria Azarenka hung on to her winning streak by the skin of her teeth as she came back from a 1-6 0-4 deficit against Dominika Cibulkova to record her 26th win of the season.  It was a terrifically entertaining match and one of the best in 2012 so far.  Cibulkova was playing the best tennis of her life in the first set and early in the second set.  She was destroying the ball, hitting extremely early and really attacking hard on Azarenka's 2nd serve, which is the first time I have seen anyone do so forecefully all year.

Azarenka was well and truly rattled and her run looked to be coming to an abrupt and disappointing end; however the jitters had to come at at some point and they did rather spectacularly as Cibulkova felt the nerves and faltered serving for the match on two occasions.  Azarenka became more consistent and started getting her returns in the court as she managed to claw out the second set on a tiebreak.  Cibulkova fought admirably in the final set, but Azarenka stood tall to register a satisfying victory, 1-6 7-6 7-5 and book a quarter-final date with Marion Bartoli.

Dominika Cibulkova

Monday, 26 March 2012

Serena aces Stosur, Li wins in Miami

Serena Williams
Serena Williams hit a stunning 20 aces to exact revenge on Sam Stosur for the 2011 US Open loss and secure her place in the quarter-finals.  Serena started slowly and went down an early break but finally managed to make her pressure pay on the Stosur serve as she broke back at 4-4 and took the set, 7-5.  The turning point was a lengthy game in the second set at 2-2 where Serena saved a number of break points and let out a humongous "come on" as she held.  Stosur didn't play badly, but was comfortably second best in the serving statistics and also failed to find top form on her forehand as she succumbed to a 7-5 6-3 loss.

Li Na joined Serena in the next round with a hard fought victory over Sabine Lisicki, 3-6 6-4 6-2.  It was not a pretty match at all with the two players producing just 26 winners to 93 unforced errors.  It was a far cry from their high-quality, winner-happy Wimbledon showdown last year.  Li did well to come through in the end but was well short of her best; another player that has failed to hit top form in Miami is Li's quarter-final opponent, Maria Sharapova.  She had to fight hard against Ekaterina Makarova and herself at times in a 6-4 7-6 victory.  

Agnieszka Radwanska finally put an end to Garbine Muguruza Blanco's fairytale run, 6-3 6-2.  The scoreline failed to show the struggles of this match, which featured a number of lengthy matches.  Marion Bartoli was most impressive of the five winners so far as she sailed past Maria Kirilenko, 6-2 6-1.  She lost just 11 points in the first set and after a tight start in the second, she made the breakthrough and ran away with the match, allowing Kirilenko just 4 points on her serve throughout the second set... Bartoli in this form will give the winner of Victoria Azarenka and Dominika Cibulkova something to think about!

The 4th round of Miami is one of the most exciting days of tennis in the whole calendar but unfortunately the matches have failed to deliver so far... on the up-side, we have three matches left and the line-up for the quarter-finals and onwards is looking super exciting :-)

My predictions have gone a little flat for both the WTA and ATP but both my predicted winners remain untroubled.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

WTA Miami 4th Round: Previews & Predictions

Marion Bartoli
Victoria Azarenka (1) v Dominika Cibulkova (16)

Azarenka waltzed into the third round with another dominant display over the young Brit, Heather Watson.  She will face Cibulkova who rather surprisingly swept past Zheng Jie, 6-2 6-0.  Zheng won just nine points on her serve and was broken at every opportunity by the Slovakian.  Azarenka and Cibulkova faced off in Miami last year where Cibulkova took the first set, but this was where Azarenka started to show her improved mental toughness as she came through in 3 sets.  Cibulkova is a difficult opponent and when she gets on a hot streak she can be difficult to stop.  She has caused many upsets in her time, but Azarenka seems unstoppable at the moment so no upsets in this one...
Prediction - Azarenka in 2 sets

Maria Kirilenko (22) v Marion Bartoli (7)
Bartoli has fought through two difficult matches and overcame Simona Halep in the third round displaying her tremendous fighting spirit to fend off a host of set points to win in straight sets, 6-4 7-6.  Kirilenko had a surprisingly straightforward win against Ksenia Pervak, 6-2 6-1 as she continues her impressive recent form, which saw her to the quarter-finals of Indian Wells.  I think this will be a tight match with both in good form, but I have to give the edge to Bartoli.  She has really stepped up her game this year in the sense that she has been winning a lot of matches that would normally pass her by.  I think this will be an entertaining and lengthy match with a bit of drama thrown in for good measure!
Prediction - Bartoli in 3 tight sets

Venus Williams v Ana Ivanovic (15)

Venus Williams came through a total nailbiter against Aleksandra Wozniak in the third round, 4-6 6-4 7-6.  She saved a match point as Wozniak choked her chances away to finish off this match.  Venus looked sluggish throughout the match and made a ton of errors with her new ultra-aggressive gameplan; however she showed her usual fight as Wozniak crumbled with the opportunity of one of the biggest wins in her career.  Ivanovic produced a solid performance in the third round to beat Daniela Hantuchova, 6-2 7-6.  Venus and Ivanovic last faced off in Eastbourne where Venus strolled to victory in straight sets.  Ivanovic is starting to make significant strides forward and the injury she picked up in Indian Wells does not seem to be torubling her so I think she can end the Venus comeback here...
Prediction - Ivanovic in 3 sets

Garbine Muguruza Blanco v Agnieszka Radwanska (5)

Muguruza Blanco continued her superb run of form as she held strong to get past Flavia Pennetta, 6-2 1-6 7-6.  As a wildcard and playing in her first WTA main draw, she has managed to beat two seasoned pros in Zvonareva and Pennetta, but her next challenge will be her toughest yet.  Radwanska has looked much stronger in Miami compared to her early rounds in Indian Wells.  She was in total control in her third round win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa.  Radwanska wil be wary of Muguruza Blanco as little is known of the wildcard Spaniard, but I predict she will progress in straight sets...
Prediction - Radwanska in 2 sets

Sam Stosur (6) v Serena Williams (10)
Caroline Wozniacki
The most anticipated of the 4th round matches pits Stosur and Serena together in a rematch of the dramatic 2011 US Open final where Stosur produced the performance of her life to win her first ever Grand Slam title.  Stosur has since failed to reach that glowing form and was on the edge of defeat in her third round match in Miami as she came from 6-2 5-2 down to defeat Chanelle Scheepers, 2-6 7-5 6-2.  This was a gutsy performance from Sam as it is rare to see her pull off these kinds of victories.  Serena has sailed through the draw so far and looked extremely solid in a 6-2 6-1 victory over Roberta Vinci.  Most people appear to be going for Serena in this one but I love an underdog and Stosur based on her recent form, is one in this match.  However I think she will rediscover some great form and shock Serena.
Prediction - Stosur in 3 sets

Yanina Wickmayer (23) v Caroline Wozniacki (4)
Wozniacki will no doubt have breathed a sigh of relief to see Kim Clijsters exit the competiton in the 3rd round having won just one set in three matches against the former world number one.  Wozniacki overcame a tight second set in the third round to advance past Petra Cetkovska, 6-3 7-5, meanwhile Wickmayer conquered her fellow compatriot, Clijsters.  Wozniacki has a very good record over Wickmayer having won all four of their encounters.  Although Wickmayer managed to defeat Clijsters, I felt Clijsters was not 100% and Wickmayer showed her mental fragility wasting six match points (at least 2 on double faults) before finishing the match off.  She will have her chances against Wozniacki but ultimately end up losing...
Prediction - Wozniacki in 2 tight sets

Li Na (8) v Sabine Lisicki (12)
Li will be gunning for revenge in this one after succumbing to defeat in their last competitive encounter at Wimbledon where Lisicki saved match points in a stunning second round match.  Li was clinical in her last match at Miami beating a dangerous Iveta Benesova, 7-5 6-2, meanwhile Lisicki showed real grit and determination to save numerous set points to pull out a straight sets victory over Peng Shuai. I have been impressed with Li's response from that gut wrenching 4th round loss to Kim Clijsters in Australia.  Last year, she would have crumbled but she has responded well and seems to building in confidence.  On the hard courts of Miami, I think she will beat Lisicki in surprisingly convincing fashion.
Prediction - Li in 2 sets

Ekaterina Makarova v Maria Sharapova (2)
Sharapova has failed to hit top form in her first two matches against Shahar Peer and Sloane Stephens and has particularly struggled with her serve so far this week.  She will face Makarova who has swept through the draw beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Mona Barthel, both convincingly.  The two Russians faced off in the Australian Open quarter-finals where Sharapova cruised to a straight sets win.  Makarova has the potential and game to rival the world number two but her inconsistency has been an issue throughout her career so you'd have to be a brave cookie to bet against Sharapova ;-)
Prediction - Sharapova in 2 sets

You can view my current predictions for the WTA and ATP tournament in Miami... I managed to correctly predict all of the mens matches yesterday which is a record for me (this rarely happens!!!) :-D

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Wickmayer defeats Clijsters in Miami

Yanina Wickmayer
Yanina Wickmayer needed a host of match points to finally defeat Kim Clijsters, 6-4 7-6 and advance to the 4th round.  I must admit I did not see this coming and have had the first big scalp of my predictions this week! It sounds as if Clijsters was struggling with her movement and that she is not fully over the ankle injury she picked up in Australia.  Wickmayer played well, but did fall to pieces at the end wasting several match points on double faults.  She will play either Petra Cetkovska or Caroline Wozniacki in the next round.  

In other matches, Sabine Lisicki continued her return to form with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Peng Shuai, meanwhile Ekaterina Makarova overwhelmed Mona Barthel, 6-2 6-4... another prediction down the drain!  Lisicki will play Li in a repeat of the Wimbledon second round match that was one of the best matches of 2011.  Makarova will get another shot at Maria Sharapova having gone down to her in the Australian Open quarter-finals.  The remaining fourth round matches will be decided later today...

In the men's draw, it was business as usual for the top seeds so far.  In fact, the only seed to fall was Feliciano Lopez who lost to the in-form Albert Ramos, 6-4 7-6.  A number of interesting third round matches were set with Roger Federer to play Andy Roddick and Kevin Anderson taking on Mardy Fish.  Fish played much better in his straight sets win against Frank Dancevic, but will have to raise his game to another level against Anderson who defeated Sam Querrey in three sets today.

You can see the progress of my WTA and ATP predictions for Miami... the womens has been generally good so far although a few hiccups today!

WTA Miami 3rd Round: Previews & Predictions Pt 2

Zheng Jie
Victoria Azarenka (1) v Heather Watson
Like her first match in Indian Wells, Azarenka was forced to fight hard against an inspired opponent.  She beat Michaella Krajicek, 6-3 7-5 winning three straight games and riding on her ever-growing mental toughness and her opponent's shattering nerves.  Her opponent in the third round will be Heather Watson who backed up her first top 50 win against Sorana Cirstea in the first round with an even more impressive showing in the second round to ease past the world number 25, Lucie Safarova, 6-1 6-2.  In their two previous encounters, Azarenka has thumped Watson with their most recent match taking place in the first round of the Australian Open.  Watson will do better here but she doesn't have the weapons to stop the Vika winning streak.
Prediction - Azarenka in 2 sets

Zheng Jie v Dominika Cibulkova (16)
Zheng started the season in spectacular form winning in Auckland and reaching the last 16 at the Australian Open but since then, her form has rather gone missing.  However a second round win over the ever-improving Angelique Kerber suggests a return to better form for the Chinese number three.  Her opponent will be Cibulkova who beat Anna Tatishivili, 7-5 6-1 in the second round.  Cibulkova has yet to win back-to-back matches in 2012 and will have her hands full in Zheng.  Neither would list their serve as a weapon so expect a lot of breaks, long rallies and a tight scoreline...
Prediction - Zheng in 3 sets

Ksenia Pervak v Maria Kirilenko (22)
Pervak recorded one of the best wins of her career in the last round against Francesca Schiavone, 6-4 4-6 7-5.  However this did not come as much of a surprise considering Schiavone's woeful form of late.  Kirilenko came through a tough two-setter against Alisa Kleybanova, 7-6 6-3 who had made a successful comeback to the WTA tour this week.  I have a feeling this will be a long match with many drawn-out rallies.  Pervak is a solid and consistent player, but I still question whether she has what it takes to go deep in these kind of draws.  She struggled to get across the finishing line against an out-of-form Schiavone and I cannot see her having enough variety and mental strength to get past Kirilenko.
Prediction - Kirilenko in 3 sets

Simona Halep v Marion Bartoli (7)
Marion Bartoli was forced to come from a set down in her second round match against Polona Hercog, 5-7 6-2 6-1.  She finished strongly and often follows up these tight wins with more straightforward victories in the next round.  Step forward her third round opponent, Simona Halep who was impressive in disposing of Nadia Petrova in the second round.  Halep will be a tricky opponent for Bartoli as she has improved her consistency in recent months.  I'm still sticking by Bartoli to tough this one out in 2 sets.
Prediction - Bartoli in 2 sets

Daniela Hantuchova
Venus Williams v Aleksandra Wozniak
Venus produced a stunning performance to topple Petra Kvitova in the second round, finishing it off with a third set bagel to win, 6-4 4-6 6-0.  I was sceptical as to whether she would compete this week as she has delayed her comeback on numerous occasions.  However she looks to be in mighty good form although the key point will be her recovery after matches.  Wozniak has produced two stirring comebacks this week as she came from a set and a break down to beat Eleni Daniilidou in the first round and a 4-0 third set deficit in her second round match against Monica Niculescu.  I had Wozniak to beat Kvitova at this stage, but I don't think she stands a chance against Venus unless fatigue is a factor.
Prediction - Venus in 2 sets

Daniela Hantuchova (20) v Ana Ivanovic (15)
Hantuchova battled past Kateryna Bondarenko in the second round, 6-7 6-2 7-6 in what sounded like one of the worst matches in the history of tennis... the match had 24 breaks of serves (with just 8 holds of serve) and a plethora of double faults with Bondarenko reaching for records with an astonishing 23 double faults.  Ivanovic had a difficult match in the second round but found a way past Vania King in 2 sets.  The form book would 100% suggest Ivanovic, but often when a player has an almighty struggle but manages to get the win, they can raise their game in the next round.  I'm going for a mini-upset and Hantuchova to surprise Ivanovic...
Prediction - Hantuchova in 3 sets

Garbine Muguruza Blanco v Flavia Pennetta (24)
At the start of this tournament I was asking myself, who on earth is Muguruza Blanco?! Yesterday she announced herself  with a stunning performance to topple Vera Zvonareva in straight sets.  Pennetta was forced to three sets in the last round by Lourdes Dominguez Lino and will not no much about her dangerous Spaniard opponent.  There is nothing to suggest that she cannot keep this run going as she proved her mentality in knocking out the number 9 seed without any jitters.  I'm not brave enough to go for Muguruza Blanco but I think Pennetta will be made to work for her win.
Prediction - Pennetta in 2 tight sets

Silvia Soler Espinosa v Agnieszka Radwanska (5)
Soler Espinosa followed up her impressive victory over Kaia Kanepi at the US Open last year with a similarly routine win in Miami.  She will now face Radwanska who crushed Madison Keys, 6-1 6-1 and did not face any break points in an impressive opening performance.  I cannot see any shocks in this one and think another routine victory is on the cards for Radwanska who should have a stroll through to the quarter-finals.
Prediction - Radwanska in 2 sets

Friday, 23 March 2012

WTA Miami 3rd Round: Previews & Predictions

Sam Stosur (6) v Chanelle Scheepers
Serena Williams
Both players scored bagels in their 2nd round matches; Stosur comfortably saw off Valeria Savinkyh, 6-4 6-0 meanwhile Scheepers had to fight back to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues in a lopsided 1-6 6-4 6-0 win.  Scheepers is on good form at the moment having also reached the third round in Indian Wells.  Stosur has been hot and cold in 2012 but I think she will hit top form in this one and come through comfortably.
Prediction - Stosur in 2 sets

Roberta Vinci (21) v Serena Williams (10)
Serena made her comeback to the WTA tour yesterday having been out of action since the Australian Open.  She played with heavy strapping on her right thigh in her straight sets win over Zhang Shuai but appears to be back to something near full fitness having injured her ankle in Brisbane.  Vinci has been putting together some respectable results this year, but is unlikely to advance here unless Serena has a very bad day at the office.  A rematch of the 2011 US Open final could be upon us...
Prediction - Serena in 2 sets

Kim Clijsters v Yanina Wickmayer (23)
Clijsters has come through two sticky tests in the first two rounds against Jarmila Gajdosova and Julia Goerges and faces another challenge in the form of her compatriot, Yanina Wickmayer.  Wickmayer comfortably overcame Marina Erakovic in the second round, but Clijsters offers a whole different challenge.  I watched their last encounter on the grass back in 2010 and I do not believe that Wickmayer holds any consistent weapons that can hurt Clijsters.
Prediction - Clijsters in 2 sets

Petra Cetkovska (29) v Caroline Wozniacki (4)
There have been a number of crazy comebacks recently but Petra Cetkovska pulled off the comebacks of all comebacks on Thursday to avenge a 6-0 4-0 deficit and get past Christina McHale, 0-6 7-5 6-1.  This win will no doubt of re-energised some confidence, which has gone missing in the Czech player's game for much of 2012.  The last time she played Wozniacki was in the New Haven final where the Dane ran away with the title in a 6-4 6-1 victory.  Cetkovska has proven when she is on her game, she can threaten the very best players; however her form has been too inconsistent in 2012 to suggest she can pull off the win in this one.
Prediction - Wozniacki in 2 sets

Sabine Lisicki
Li Na (8) v Iveta Benesova
Benesova had a dramatic win against Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 2nd round as she saved two match points in a 1-6 7-6 7-6 thriller.  It looked like another tight match would pass her by but she showed great determination to make the third round.  Another tough match lies in wait for the Czech player in the form of Li Na who has been quietly going about her business and notching up wins.  Li leads the head-to-head 4-0, but Benesova is playing better than ever so I fancy a tight three-setter with Li having the strength to pull out the win in the end.
Prediction - Li in 3 sets

Peng Shuai (17) v Sabine Lisicki (12)
This is a match between two of my favourite players who have failed to build on stellar 2011 seasons.  Both players have struggled with injuries but one will hope to reignite their season with at least a 4th round showing here in Miami.  Peng is the more consistent player, but Lisicki has the weapons so if she can play anywhere close to her best, she will have too much for Peng.  This happened in their last encounter where an on-song Lisicki tore past the Chinese player, 6-3 6-1 in the Birmingham semi-finals last year.
Prediction - Lisicki in 2 sets

Mona Barthel v Ekaterina Makarova
The only unseeded third round clash will see two of 2012's in-form players square off agains each other.  Both had crushing victories in the 2nd round; Barthel destroyed Jelena Jankovic, 6-0 6-3, meanwhile Makarova saw off a woefully out-of-sorts Nastia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1 6-2.  Barthel has been slaying the field so far this week but I think she will have a much more difficult test in Makarova who has proven her mettle on tour this year with a win over Serena Williams at the Australian Open... however i'm sticking by Mona ;-) 
Prediction - Barthel in 3 sets

Sloane Stephens v Maria Sharapova (2)
Sloane lost a heartbreaker at Indian Wells to Aleksandra Wozniak but has fought back valiantly this week as she came through two rounds of qualifying and survived Sara Errani in the last round.  She failed to serve the match out at the first time of asking, but had no such problems when the opportunity rose once more.  I'm pleased to see her get a big name and a chance to show her credentials against one of the very best  Sharapova was lacklustre yesterday as she lost the opening set of her 2nd round match to Shahar Peer, but that was just adjustment to the new surroundings.  I expect Sharapova to be at a much higher level in this match, but she will be made to work hard for the win...
Prediction - Sharapova in 2 tight sets

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Barthel destroys Jankovic, Clijsters wins in Miami

Kim Clijsters
Mona Barthel continued her incredible start to 2012 with a career-best win over the world number 15, Jelena Jankovic.  The manner of the defeat was perhaps most surprising as Barthel routed Jankovic, 6-0 6-3 and lost just 10 points in a sensational first set.  Jankovic also lost her first match at Indian Wells and will look to rediscover some form on the clay courts where she has had much success in her career; however in truth, her best days are well behind her and she was beaten by a better player.

Kim Clijsters also won today as she backed up a first round win over Jarmila Gajdosova with a 6-2 7-5 victory over the number 14 seed, Julia Goerges.  There were nine breaks of serve in a messy looking second set, but Kim managed to fight her way through and looks to be in good shape.  She will play Yanina Wickmayer in an all Belgian third round clash.  I was actually  in the crowd for their last encounter at Eastbourne in 2010 where Clijsters annihilated Wickmayer, 6-1 6-1... I expect another win for Kimmy.

In other matches, Chanelle Scheepers produced her second third-set bagel of the week as she came from behind to beat the number 25 seed, Anabel Medina Garrigues, 1-6 6-4 6-0.  Sabine Lisicki also had a good win as she beat Sofia Arvidsson, 6-3 6-2.  Lisicki had lost six of her last seven games (including Fed Cup matches) and comfortably saw off the in-form Swede who nearly beat Caroline Wozniacki in the 3rd round of Indian Wells last week.  Lisicki will have to improve her 2nd serve percentages though if she is to keep progressing this week.  

Finally, a mention to Venus Williams who won her first match since the 2011 US Open yesterday with a dominant 6-0 6-3 victory over Kimiko Date Krumm.  This week's comebacks have all lived up to their billing and Miami is shaping up to be a smashing tournament.  Venus will now play Petra Kvitova in the second round, but here comes a moan... there will be no live coverage of what will be a fantastic contest:-(.  Miami and Indian Wells are often described as the "5th Slams" but to have no live coverage before the 3rd rouns is just criminal!

My predictions for this week's WTA and ATP events are both now available.  I have started promisingly in the womens, but there is quite a lot of red in my mens drawsheet!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kleybanova beats Larsson in Miami comeback win

Alisa Kleybanova
No win this year has made me more happy than Alisa Kleybanova's 2-6 6-3 6-2 victory over Johanna Larsson in the first round of the Sony Ericsson Open.  Kleybanova, who has fought of Hodgkins Lymphoma disease, won her first match since the Premier event in Madrid last May.  Kleybanova demonstrated her fighting spirit in the first set as she saved nine break points before Larsson comfortably came through the opening set.  However Kleybanova shook off the early and expected rust to win the second and third sets as she went to task on Larsson's weak second serve.  Kleybanova will now play Maria Kirilenko in the second round.  I do not expect her to win this one, but it has already been a stunning week for the Russian who was a winner for just stepping back on court...

In other matches, Heather Watson staged a remarkable comeback from 5-0 in the third set to defeat Sorana Cirstea, 6-3 3-6 7-6.  Watson also saved two match points as she posted her first win of 2012, which will hopefully kick her season into touch.  She will play Lucie Safarova in the second round with the winner of that match likely to play world number one, Victoria AzarenkaMona Barthel also continued to impress as she thumped Greta Arn, 6-1 6-0.  Barthel lost just 11 points in the second set as she cruised to a second round meeting with Jelena Jankovic.  I fully anticipate Barthel to beat Jankovic and keep rising up the rankings throughout what has already been a sparkling year for the German player...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

ATP Miami Preview and Predictions

QUARTER 1 - Novak Djokovic (1) v David Ferrer (5)
Juan Martin Del Potro
Novak Djokovic was outplayed by John Isner in the Indian Wells semi-finals and looked to have lost the air of invincibility that he had for so much of last year.  His route through the draw is likely to include Viktor Troicki and Richard Gasquet; Gasquet suffered a disappointing defeat to Albert Ramos in Indian Wells and it is possible they could meet again in the 4th round.  Ramos would have to take out Feliciano Lopez in the third round, but his recent form would suggest he has a definite shot.

David Ferrer suffered a surprising early exit in Indian Wells to Denis Istomin and will be wary of the big Argentine, Juan Martin Del Potro in his section.  Del Potro will open up against Lukas Kubot or Ivo Karlovic before a potential third round clash with Marin Cilic, who has just recently returned from injury. 

Prediction - Although Djokovic has dipped slightly in 2012, his form is still extremely strong and consistent and he should comfortably reach the quarter-finals.  I fancy Del Potro to wrack up another quarter-final and push the Serb hard in a pulsating quarter-final...

QUARTER 2 - Roger Federer (3) v Mardy Fish (8)
Roger Federer
Roger Federer won the Indian Wells title finishing off the tournament with two exemplary performances against Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and John Isner in the final.  He could meet the promising American youngster, Ryan Harrison in round two before another showdown with Andy Roddick in Round 3.  His draw is likely then to ease up; in the 4th round he is projected to meet Gael Monfils who pulled out of Indian Wells last week, and then Mardy Fish in the quarter-finals.

The American, Fish seems to have lost all belief he belongs in the top 10 after a stellar 2011 and is scheduled to meet Kevin Anderson in the third round, who is a decent enough player to take out the number eight seed.  Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco are likely to meet in the other third round match.  Almagro has been continually improving on the hard courts after a 4th round showing in the Australian Open and quarter-final appearance at Indian Wells so I expect him to reach at least the 4th round.

Prediction - Federer is a dead cert for me to reach the quarter-finals, where as the other position is more up for grabs.  I did put Almagro, but I have now changed my mind and gone for a surprise in Kevin Anderson.

QUARTER 3 - Tomas Berdych (7) v Andy Murray (4)
David Nalbandian
Tomas Berdych's first two seeded opponents are Juan Ignacio Chela and Janko Tipsarevic; however there are a number of dangerous players in this section.  Grigor Dimitrov continues to threaten but is yet to have a breakthrough, meanwhile David Nalbandian looked back to his best at Indian Wells where he pushed Rafael Nadal in a tough three-set quarter-final.  If Nalbandian overcomes his opener against Steve Darcis, he will face off against Tipsarevic for the second week in a row.  Alexandr Dolgopolov is also in the section and will be wildly unpredictable as ever.

Andy Murray has a tough draw to contend with as he looks to put his early exit in Indian Wells fully behind him.  In the second round, he could face Denis Istomin, before a potential third round encounter with Milos Raonic.  The other section of this draw is much more wide open with Jurgen Melzer and Giles Simon the seeded players and both vulnerable to early upsets.

Prediction - This is the toughest section to predict because there are various dangers lurking for both Berdych and Murray.  I think at least one of them will fall early; Murray will lose a set to Raonic but I think his superb return game will get him through and into the quarter-finals.  I'm going for Dolgopolov as the other quarter-finalist...

QUARTER 4 - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6) v Rafael Nadal (2)
Rafael Nadal
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continued his throughly disappointing start to 2012 as he wasted a match point in a 4th round loss to David Nalbandian at Indian Wells.  He is likely to have to get past the tricky German, Philipp Kohlschreiber and newly appointed top 10 player and Indian Wells finalist, John Isner.  Isner will play the winner of an entertaining first round encounter between Nikolay Davdyenko and James Blake.

Rafael Nadal was very impressive throughout the first rounds of Indian Wells but struggled to impose himself against Federer in the semi-finals.  He has a straightforward draw to the quarter-finals with Radek Stepanek and Kei Nishikori his seeded opponents.  Nishikori suffered an early exit in Indian Wells and I like the look of another upset here with Ryan Sweeting or Lukas Rosol reaching the 4th round.

Prediction - Nadal is nailed on to the reach the quarter-finals and I think he will face the in-form Isner who will take out Tsonga in the 4th round

FINAL - Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer
I'm going for Nadal this week to take the Miami title beating Roger Federer in the final.  I've lost a bit of faith in Djokovic and i'm waiting for Del Potro to have a big performance, which I think will happen in the quarter-finals over the Serb.  Murray will reach the semi-finals this week, but will be ousted by an in-form Nadal.  It is a tough one to call, but Nadal it is!

My full predictions for Indian Wells can be found here.

Monday, 19 March 2012

WTA Miami Predictions updated

My predictions for this week's tournament in Miami can be found here. I will add my predictions for the remaining first round matches when the qualifiers have been added to the draw.

WTA Miami Preview and Predictions

Where do I start? This week's draw is the most exciting women's draw for quite some time and I will try to summarise it without rambling ;-)

QUARTER 1 - Victoria Azarenka (1) v Marion Bartoli (7)
Alisa Kleybanova
Victoria Azarenka continued her fairytale start to 2012 with another dominating victory over Maria Sharapova in the final of Indian Wells, 6-2 6-3.  Azarenka had a particularly tricky draw in Indian Wells but on early thoughts, I would say the draw has been much kinder in Miami.  Azarenka will take on Michaella Krajicek or a qualifier in the second round.  The first seed she is projected to play is Lucie Safarova before a potential rematch of her Indian Wells semi-final with Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.  Kerber demonstrated her superb defensive skills in Indian Wells as she came back from the brink in two matches where she saved match points.  She will have a difficult second round match against the winner of Zheng Jie and Lucie Hradecka, but based on her current form, you cannot bet against her reaching the last 16 in Miami.

Azarenka is projected to meet Marion Bartoli in the quarter-finals.  The highlight of this section, without doubt is the return of Alisa Kleybanova, who makes her competitive return to tennis following a long fight with Hodgkins Lymphoma.  I'm surprised, but equally delighted at how quickly she has managed to get back in shape and she has a very winnable first match against the Swedish youngster, Johanna Larsson.  It is hard to predict how Kleybanova will get on, but if she can win (which I think she will!!!) then she will play Maria Kirilenko in the second round.  Nadia Petrova and Francesca Schiavone are the other two seeds in this section and both are vulnerable in my eyes, to early upsets.

QF Prediction - I think that this quarter will go with seeding (boring, I know!) and that Victoria Azarenka and Marion Bartoli will square off in the quarter-finals.

Dark Horse - I think Maria Kirilenko will back up her quarter-final run at Indian Wells with a 4th round showing in Miami.  I also fancy Ksenia Pervak to continue her steady progression with a victory over Francesca Schiavone in the second round.  Pervak was going toe-to-toe with Schiavone in the first round of Brisbane earlier this year when she had to retire due to a migraine... this time, I think she can finish the match with a win.

1st round matches to watch out for - I have already discussed Kleybanova v Larsson as my top pick, but I also like the look of Simona Halep against Carla Suarez Navarro; their last two matches have gone to three sets and I would bet this would be another tight one with Halep just edging it.

QUARTER 2 - Petra Kvitova (3) v Agnieszka Radwanska (5)
Ana Ivanovic
Petra Kvitova struggled to find her form in Indian Wells as she laboured to a third round loss against Christina McHale.  She will have to hit the ground running as she could face Venus Williams in the second round.  I am still a little uncertain as to whether Venus will take to the court, but if she does, she will face off against Kimiko Date Krumm in the first round.  Last year, the two veterans fought out one of the highest quality matches of the year at Wimbledon under the roof of Centre Court.  I think Williams will get the win in much easier fashion as this one will take place on the slower hard courts of Miami; however I would back Kvitova to take out Venus in the second round.

I am still not convinced by Kvitova, who has been recovering from a virus and will have to combat the humidity in Miami.  Daniela Hantuchova and Ana Ivanovic, who are projected to meet in the 3rd round, will have a great chance to go far this week.  I tipped Hantuchova to reach the semi-finals in Indian Wells, but she fell at the first hurdle to Klara Zakopalova as she fell victim to the terrible bug that hit many players in Indian Wells.  I'm going for Hantuchova to prevail once again as I don't think Ivanovic can maintain her impressive Indian Wells form because of the worrying injury that forced her out of action against Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals.

The bottom section of this quarter is much weaker and looks like a stroll in the park for Agnieszka Radwanska.  She has yet to lose a match to anyone other than Azarenka this year and has the likes of Kaia Kanepi, Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta to contend with.  Pennetta and Zvonareva are set for a third round clash and both have lost their last three matches to the Pole so everything points towards her consistent start to 2012 continuing...

QF Prediction - The top section is a tricky one, but I do not fancy Kvitova to do well in Miami... therefore i'm going for a quarter-final between Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Dark Horse - My dark horse is a long shot, but i'm going to say Aleksandra Wozniak.  Wozniak has been steadily improving throughout 2012 and won the ITF title in Bahamas last week.  She has struggled to get across the finish line on the big matches, but I think this title will give her the confidence to beat Petra Kvitova in the third round... a bit out there, I know but I like to take some risks ;-)

First round matches to watch out for - Venus against Date Krumm is the stand-out match from this section.

QUARTER 3 - Sam Stosur (4) v Caroline Wozniacki (6)
Kim Clijsters
The third quarter, like the Australian Open is completely packed with big names and some potentially juicy encounters.  Sam Stosur's first couple of matches look to be relatively straightforward on paper; however things are likely to get much tougher in the 4th round where she could face Serena Williams in what would be their first encounter since the dramatic US Open Final.  Serena is making her first appearance since competing in the Fed Cup in February and has been steadily recovering from the ankle injury she picked up in Brisbane.  I do not fancy Serena to have a successful week and I am backing Stosur to rejuvunate her season after a disappointing third round exit at Indian Wells.

The bottom half of this quarter is even tougher; things are not going well for Caroline Wozniacki at the moment and the draw has compounded her misery even further.  Her first projected seed is Christina McHale in the third round, who beat the former world number one in Cincinnati last year (although she did manage to exact revenge a week later in New Haven).  In the fourth round, she could play Kim Clijsters or Julia Goerges, both who have had success over the Dane in recent match-ups.  Kim Clijsters will make her return to the tour after taking some time off with the ankle injury she picked up at the Australian Open.  Clijsters opens up against Jarmila Gajdosova in the first round before a potential second round clash with Julia Goerges.  Goerges has had some favourable draws this year, but will be the outsider if Clijsters prevails in the first round...

QF Prediction - This is by far the most difficult section to predict... i'm going for Sam Stosur against Kim Clijsters in the quarter-finals.

Dark Horse - Christina McHale made a name for herself with another big win in Indian Wells, this time against Petra Kvitova.  I'm predicting McHale will take out Wozniacki in the third round and hold her ground in a challenging section of the draw.

First round matches to watch out for - There are quite a few interesting matches in this section - I would watch out for Christina McHale v Galina Voskoboeva, Chanelle Scheepers v Irina-Camelia Begu and the highlight, Kim Clijsters v Jarmila Gajdosova.

Li Na
QUARTER 4 - Li Na (8) v Maria Sharapova (2)
Maria Sharapova played a solid tournament to reach the final in Indian Wells, but I still feel she has not reached her top form in 2012.  She is in the final quarter of the draw, which features a host of out-of-form players.  Sharapova is projected to meet Sara Errani in the third round, before a potential clash with Jelena Jankovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who were both early losers in Indian Wells.  However, I think neither will make the fourth round and instead, it will be the rising talent, Mona Barthel who will take out both Jankovic and Pavlyuchenkova.

In the top section, Li Na will play Alberta Brianti or a qualifier in the second round.  Li could meet Svetlana Kuznetsova in an interesting third round match.  Neither of these two have been in top form recently so although this sounds like an exciting match-up on paper, I wouldn't be surprised if it was an error-strewn encounter if both reach this stage.  The other projected third round clash in this section is between Sabine Lisicki and Peng Shuai, who both fell in the second round at Indian Wells.  This is a great opportunity for one of them to rediscover some form and I believe it will be Lisicki who seizes it.  I think she will play Sofia Arvidsson in the second round; if she can get past that difficult challenge, i'm confident she can reach at least the last 16.

QF Prediction - I always seem to predict against Li Na, but this time i'm staying loyal to the seeding and predicting that she will meet Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals.

Dark Horse - If you have read my previous blog entries, you will note I am a big supporter of Mona Barthel... so no surprises, i'm backing her to reach the 4th round in Miami!

First round matches to watch out for - I would look out for Elena Vesnina against Iveta Benesova, and Ekaterina Makarova against Jelena Dokic.  Benesova has been in excellent form in 2012, but did choke in her first round match against Sorana Cirstea in Indian Wells.  This match should be a tight baseline tussle, but I would back Benesova to come through against Vesnina...

FINAL PREDICTIONS - Victoria Azarenka d. Kim Clijsters
I originally felt that Azarenka's unbeaten record would end in Miami... however after watching her annihilate the field in Indian Wells and looking at her favourable draw in Miami, i'm sticking safe with Azarenka to prove herself even further in front of a world class WTA field.  I have no idea why i'm going for Clijsters as the finalist... it's a complete gut feeling because on paper, she has a mountain to climb as she makes her return from injury in the most difficult section of the draw by far! But Clijsters it is ;-)

This two weeks could be a great one for the WTA... the draw has potential to really set the season alight and I hope that it doesn't fail to deliver like so many "potential" draws have done so in the past, most notably in Montreal last year.  My full predictions for Miami will follow soon and I will update the blog when they are up :-)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Indian Wells Final Preview & Predictions - Azarenka v Sharapova

Maria Sharapova
The Indian Wells final will be contested between the world number one and world number two in a repeat of the Australian Open final.  Victoria Azarenka has continued her superb start to 2012 with a series of comprehensive victories over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Julia Goerges, Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber, who provided a stern test in the semi-finals but lost to the Belarusian, 6-4 6-3.  Maria Sharapova has had a solid week and like Azarenka, has lost only one set throughout the tournament.  She came through her semi-final with Ana Ivanovic after the Serb had to retire through injury trailing 6-4 0-1.  

The last three encounters between Azarenka and Sharapova on hard courts have all gone the way of Azarenka and convincingly too in straight sets.  I'm sticking by my original pick in Azarenka to win the title and keep the stunning unbeaten run going.  She is playing with such consistency at the moment and I have been particularly impressed with her backhand, which has been on fire this week.  Sharapova has played well to reach the final, but I still feel there is more to come from the Russian over the next few months.  I think it will be closer than the Australian Open final, but Azarenka will still comfortably take it in straight sets.

Overall, Indian Wells has been a little disappointing for me.  There have been no standout matches and the stomach bug that hit the desert has played havoc with quite a few matches on the schedule.  I must say i'm feeling very excited about the prospect of the next tournament in Miami, which starts next Tuesday.  It has the potential to be a blockbuster with the expected returns of Kleybanova, Serena, Venus and Clijsters.  I have got my fingers crossed that it lives up to its billing :-)

Indian Wells Final Prediction - Azarenka d. Sharapova 6-4 6-2

You can view my original predictions here... I correctly predicted an Azarenka v Sharapova final (this is a rare moment of success for me so I am celebrating!!!)

My full drawsheet for the women's draw is available here.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Indian Wells semi-final preview and predictions

Victoria Azarenka v Angelique Kerber - After a testing opening match with Mona Barthel, Azarenka has cruised through the draw and improved through each match.  In the semi-finals, she will play an in-form Kerber who will break the top 15 for the first time in her career following a routine win over Li Na in the quarter-finals.  This will be a first career meeting between the two and although Kerber has displayed superb defensive skills and a never-say-die attitude so far this week, I just cannot see how she can stop the Azarenka bandwagon from continuing.
Prediction - Azarenka in 2 sets

Ana Ivanovic v Maria Sharapova - Ivanovic has threatened at times this year but has finally come alive in Indian Wells beating Caroline Wozniacki and Marion Bartoli in the last two rounds.  Sharapova lost her first set of the tournament in the quarter-final where she had to use all her fight to get past Maria Kirilenko, 3-6 7-5 6-2.  Incredibly, this will be their first match since the 2008 Australian Open final when Sharapova was victorious; so much has happened in both their careers since that last encounter, I do not think you can take too much of that into account.  Ivanovic has looked impressive so far this week but to pull off a win over Sharapova in this semi-finals would really surprise me...
Prediction - Sharapova in 2 sets

Ana Ivanovic

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Azarenka crushes Radwanska, Kerber up next in Indian Wells

Li Na goes tumbling
The first two quarter-finals promised much anticipation and excitement but both failed to live up to the expectation.  In the first women's quarter-final, Victoria Azarenka produced a clinical performance to thrash Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-0 6-2.  Azarenka was two points away from the double bagel before Radwanska broke the Belarusian's serve at 6-0 5-0 to avoid a complete embarassment.  It was a disappointing match and not a good advertisement for the WTA with the number one player light years ahead of the soon-to-be world number 4.

In the other quarter final, Angelique Kerber beat Li Na, 6-4 6-2 in a win that will see her break into the top 15.  Li was pretty woeful and praised Kerber's superb defensive skills after the match.  It sounded like another dour affair and i'm hoping that the final two quarter-finals, which will see Marion Bartoli take on Ana Ivanovic, and Maria Sharapova play Maria Kirilenko, will provide some closer contests...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Indian Wells quarter-final preview & predictions

Maria Sharapova
Victoria Azarenka v Agnieszka Radwanska - The first quarter-final pits together the two most consistent performers on the WTA tour in 2012.  It is the fourth time that Radwanska and Azarenka will face off in 2012 in what is becoming an interesting, although somewhat one-sided rivalry with Azarenka prevailing in all their clashes this year.  It has that bit of extra spice this time because after their last encounter in Doha, Radwanska accused Azarenka of dramatising an injury.  They were good friends, but Radwanska has stated in interviews that they haven't actually spoken since that match; watch out for the handshake in this one! With regards to the actual match, I don't think Radwanska is going to be able to overturn Azarenka's incredible 20-match winning streak.  Azarenka is playing very well at the moment and with a lot of confidence so it will take something special to stop the Belarusian...
Prediction - Azarenka in 2 sets

 Angelique Kerber v Li Na - Kerber is clinging onto her place in the Indian Wells draw as for the second time this week, she saved match points to progress.  Kerber beat McHale 6-3 3-6 7-6 saving three match points at 6-5 down in the final set in what sounded like a high quality match between two talented players.  Li Na on the other hand couldn't have had it any easier as she recorded her first ever win over Klara Zakopalova in a dominant 6-1 6-0 victory.  Li has won all three previous encounters with Kerber and has lost just five games in their last two matches.  However they all took place in 2010 and Kerber is a completely transformed player in 2012.  She is riding on a wave of confidence and is all suited and booted with a new fighting demeanour that she can beat anyone on the tour.  I'm going to go for a shock and predict that Kerber can keep the wins coming...
Prediction - Kerber in 3 sets

Marion Bartoli v Ana Ivanovic - Ivanovic finally turned up for a big clash in 2012 as she turned the tables on a lacklustre Caroline Wozniacki to record a 6-3 6-2 victory.  She will now play Marion Bartoli in a repeat of last year's Indian Wells quarter-final.  Bartoli was in impressive form too as she was not broken in a surprisingly straightforward 6-1 6-4 win over Lucie Safarova.  Ivanovic leads the head-to-head 4-3, but Bartoli has won 3 of their last 4 matches including last year's quarter-final.  It will be interesting to see if Ivanovic can back up this big win, which was her first over a top 5 player since last October against Vera Zvonareva in Beijing... i'm going to say no as I think Bartoli is in great form at the moment and should not be underestimated.
Prediction - Bartoli in 3 sets

Maria Sharapova v Maria Kirilenko - Sharapova continued her rich vein of form in 2012 with a routine 6-2 6-1 victory over Roberta Vinci in the 4th round.  Kirilenko will be her quarter-final opponent after she defeated Nadia Petrova, 6-1 5-7 6-2.  Kirilenko survived being added to the list of chokes this week as she wasted a 6-1 4-0 lead before rediscovering her form in the third set.  Sharapova and Kirilenko are 2-2 in their head-to-head with Kirilenko winning their last encounter at the Australian Open in 2010.  Sharapova is a much more consistent player compared to 2010 and although Kirilenko has developed some positive aspects to her game in her desire to come to the net more, I think the world number two will have enough to reach the semi-finals.
Prediction - Sharapova in 2 tight sets

You can view my original WTA and ATP predictions for Indian Wells... it has been a great week in predicting the WTA tournament as I succesfully named 6 of the 8 quarter-finalists :-)