Monday, 2 April 2012

WTA Charleston: Preview and Predictions

There is barely time to take a breather after the excitement of Indian Wells and Miami as the women kick off the clay court season in Charleston.  This is the only tournament this week, which was originally headlined by the Miami champion, Agnieszka Radwanska.  However she has now pulled out of the tournament citing a back injury, which has led to a major reshuffle of the draw.  Lets take a look...

Note - that the top 8 seeds all have byes in the first round

FIRST QUARTER - Marion Bartoli (3) v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (8)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Marion Bartoli has been bumped up to the top position in the draw and will take on Vera Dushevina or Yung-Jan Chan in the second round.  I thought Bartoli's presence in Charleston might be at jeopardy as she suffered an injury in her semi-final match against Agnieszka Radwanska, but she appears to be playing.  Her route through to the quarter-finals is projected to pass by the 13th seed, Polona Hercog.  Hercog has been prone to inconsistency this year and I think she could be upset by Varvara Lepchenko, who has been playing well recently and getting through a number of qualifier draws.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is Bartoli's projected quarter-final opponent and will look to win her first match since the Australian Open.  The Russian, who has taken a wildcard into this event, has particularly struggled with her serve this year and needs matches and confidence fast... she has a promising draw and will take on Eleni Daniilidou or Alla Kudryavtseva in the second round.  She could then face Nadia Petrova in the third round who she lost too at Wimbledon last year (see photo!).  A bad run has to come to an end at some point and I think she will at least get a win under her belt...

SECOND QUARTER - Vera Zvonareva (4) v Lucie Safarova (9)
The top half of the draw is much weaker than the bottom half with the out-of-form Vera Zvonareva headlining the second section.  Injuries have hindered Zvonareva who suffered early exits at both Indian Wells and Miami and she is set to start freefalling down the rankings unless she can rediscover some form.  She will meet Olga Govortsova or Kateryna Bondarenko in the second round before a potential third round clash with the number 16 seed, Jarmila Gajdosova. I think Zvonareva will reach at least the quarter-finals this week...

Lucie Safarova has been given a bye in the first round after Radwanska's withdrawal and will play Mandy Minella or Mirjana Lucic in the second round.  I think she will meet the winner of a first round match between Christina McHale and Aleksandra Wozniak.  Both have enjoyed good form of late, but struggled to close out matches.  They had a tight match at last year's US Open, which McHale won in 3 sets and I anticipate a similar result this time round.  McHale's response to her shocking second round loss in Miami to Petra Cetkovska (where she wasted a 6-0 4-0 lead) will be particularly interesting.

THIRD QUARTER - Sabine Lisicki (6) v Serena Williams (5)
Sabine Lisicki will open up against Irina Falconi or Andrea Hlavackova in the first round.  The 2009 former Charleston champion is projected to meet Yanina Wickmayer in the third round.  The Belgian player has a difficult first round match as she will play the ever-improving American, Vania King.
Jelena Jankovic

Lisicki's projected quarter-final opponent is the number five seed, Serena Williams.  Serena's draw is nothing short of a cakewalk; she will meet Stephanie Dubois or last year's runner-up, Elena Vesnina in the second round before potentially meeting the number 17 seed, Marina Erakovic in the third round.  If Serena is up for giving her all in Charleston, she is sure to reach at least the quarter-finals...

FOURTH QUARTER - Jelena Jankovic (7) v Sam Stosur (2)
Jelena Jankovic has suffered a disastrous few weeks as she was knocked out in the second round at both Indian Wells and Miami to two of the WTA's growing prospects.  She faces a potentially difficult draw as Venus Williams is potentially lurking in the second round.  Jankovic has a surprisingly good record over Venus (6-5 in the head-to-head record) and destroyed the American, 6-0 6-1 in their last encounter, which took place in 2010 at the clay court tournament in Rome.  Jankovic is a shadow of her former self from then, meanwhile Venus' fitness is still a concern.  The winner of this potential match is likely to play Anabel Medina Garrigues in the third round.

Sam Stosur will play the winner of an all-American clash between Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton in the second round.  Stosur could face a rematch with Chanelle Scheepers in the third round, who came within two points of defeating the Australian in Miami.

Final Predictions: Sabine Lisicki d. Christina McHale

The top half is completely wide open and could see a number of players make the final; that is why i'm going for a surprise with Christina McHale.  The bottom half is packed with big names and I think Sabine Lisicki will upset Serena in the quarters and rediscover some magic at a tournament she had her first success at.  This week's predictions are a bit wacky so let's see how they do :-S

I will upload my full draw tonight but here are my predictions for the early matches so you don't think i'm cheating ;-)

Vesnina to beat Dubois, Hercog to beat Date Krumm, Voskoboeva to beat Dokic, Scheepers to beat Ormachea, Bondarenko to beat Govortsova, Daniilidou to beat Kudryavtseva, U. Radwanska to beat Hradecka and Dushevina to beat Chan.

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