Saturday, 5 May 2012

WTA Madrid: Preview and Predictions

The women's draw for Madrid is completely packed with no byes for the top seeds, which means there are some tricky obstacles from the get go.  There is a buzz around this tournament with the switch to a blue clay court, which has received mixed opinions from the players.  Anyway let's take a look at the draw!

Li Na
QUARTER 1 - Victoria Azarenka (1) v Li Na (8)
Victoria Azarenka has been handed one of the toughest first round matches as she will open up her campaign against former Roland Garros champion, Svetlana KuznetsovaIf their last encounter in Miami is anything to go by, you would expect a straightforward passage for Azarenka; however Kuznetsova thrives on the clay and Azarenka struggled with a wrist injury in a limp display in the Stuttgart final last week.  Kuznetsova has played some great tennis during 2012, but has rarely been able to sustain it for the length of a match so i'm backing an Azarenka win.  Her route would then see a qualifier in round 2 and a potential meeting with Ana Ivanovic in the third round.

Li Na has a difficult opener against the rising Spanish star, Garbine Muguruza Blanco.  She made a name for herself in Miami by reaching the 4th round and after reaching the quarter-finals in Fes, she looks to be highly capable on the clay too.  Li has actually had a very strong 2012 so far, but she has remained heavily under the radar.  She has avoided early upsets in the majority of her tournaments this year, but faltered against the higher ranked opponents in the latter stages.  Li's projected third round opponent is the in-form, Angelique Kerber.  The German player will open up against a qualifier before potentially running into Venus Williams in the second round.  A match-up between Kerber and Venus is too close to call for me, which is why i'm backing Li to go far in Madrid!

My QF Prediction - Victoria Azarenka v Li Na

Agnieszka Radwanska
QUARTER 2 - Agnieszka Radwanska (4) v Marion Bartoli (7)
Agnieszka Radwanska will be cursing her luck that once again, she has been drawn in the same half as Azarenka.  However like Azarenka being drawn in her section is the norm, her route to the latter stages is very favourable. She will play the wildcard, Lara Arrubarena-Vecino in the first round before a potential second round match with Sara Errani.  The Italian has been in terrific form this year notching up 14 consecutive wins on the clay with titles in Acapulco and Barcelona (and potentially Budapest too).  She has shown great consistency this year, but still lacks the killer punch to beat the big guns. Her game also does not shape up well against Radwanska so I cannot see her beating the Pole.   Radwanska's third round opponent is well up for grabs; Dominika Cibulkova is the seeded player, but Roberta Vinci, who made the semi-finals in Estoril and Yanina Wickmayer are both lurking.

Radwanska is projected to meet Marion Bartoli in the quarter-finals, which is the weakest section of the draw. Bartoli will play Sorana Cirstea in the first round, before meeting the winner of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Tsvetana PironkovaFrancesca Schiavone is the other seed in this section and will play a qualifier in the first round.  Her form has been terrible in 2012, but we know she loves the clay so it will be interesting to see if she can score some wins here.  Polona Hercog is the dark horse in this section and if she can remain fit (she has retired from several matches recently) I think she will take both Schiavone and Bartoli out.

My QF Prediction - Agnieszka Radwanska v Polona Hercog

Petra Kvitova
QUARTER 3 - Sam Stosur (5) v Petra Kvitova (3)
The two players who I tipped to do well during the clay court season could square off in a blockbuster quarter-final.  Sam Stosur and Petra Kvitova will both have to get their first, but it is something I see happening.  Stosur opens up against Petra Martic before a second round meeting with either Sofia Arvidsson or Christina McHale.   Stosur's third round opponent is projected to be Vera Zvonareva, who has become her punchbag having lost their last eight encounters.  Zvonareva has been injured since a disappointing loss in Charleston and a first round match against Petra Cetkovska will be very tricky indeed.  Stosur has been particularly critical of the clay courts of Madrid and I do not feel a positive vibe coming from her this week, which is why I think she will go no further than the quarter-finals.

Petra Kvitova begins her title defence against Marina Erakovic before a potential second round match with Peng Shuai.  The first seed that Kvitova could run into is Maria Kirilenko, who suffered a shocking loss in Estoril when she wasted a 5-1 third set lead in her second round match against Karin Knapp.  Kirilenko starts up against Zheng Jie, which will not be straightforward.  Zheng has had some great results this year, but has a number of players she seems to struggle against, which has resulted in some alarming one-sided losses.  I think she will progress past Kirilenko, who was also struggling with an injury in Estoril.

My QF Prediction - Sam Stosur v Petra Kvitova

QUARTER 4 - Caroline Wozniacki (6) v Maria Sharapova (2)
Serena Williams
Unlike Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki's draws this year have been getting tougher and tougher, and none more so than this week in Madrid.  She is firmly positioned in the most challenging section of the draw with a number of big hitters.  An opening match with Ksenia Pervak shouldn't pose too many threats, but in the second round she faces the winner of the first round match between Julia Goerges and Mona Barthel.  This match will take centre stage on Saturday night's order of play and its a tough draw for both; I would give the edge to Mona in 3.  If Wozniacki was to pass this challenge, she would be likely to meet Serena Williams in the third round.  Williams will play the Budapest finalist, Elena Vesnina in the first round before potentially facing Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who looked to be slowly improving in Stuttgart despite a first round loss.

Maria Sharapova is coming off the back of a sensational title run in Stuttgart and will play the big serving, Irina-Camelia Begu in round one.  The first seed she could run into is Jelena Jankovic, which would be great to watch because their matches always have a bit of  extra spice; their last encounter in Cincinnati was not exactly pretty on the eyes, but provided incredible drama.  Jankovic's form has been disappointing to say the least and despite leading her Fed Cup team to the final two weeks ago in Moscow, she will have to be close to her best to reach the third round.  She will play the Estoril finalist, Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round before facing the winner of a big serving, hard hitting clash between Kaia Kanepi and Lucie Safarova.

My QF Prediction - Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova

Final Prediction: Petra Kvitova d. Agnieszka Radwanska
This week promises to be another very competitive week with a number of names that could go far this week.  I'm going for Petra Kvitova to win the title; I have noticed several doubting her this year but I think she has had a great 2012 so far.  She has developed a consistency in her results (excluding Indian Wells/Miami but i'm putting that down to injury!) and her losses have all been very tight, but I anticipate big wins over Sam Stosur and Serena Williams in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.  Kvitova is the type of player who needs matches to find her form and she has played few matches when you compare her to the likes of the Radwanska's, Azarenka's and Sharapova's.

The top half is not as strong, but just as unpredictable.  I do not fancy Victoria Azarenka to go far this week. Now on the clay, I feel her invincibility has gone a little and the other players believe they can beat her.  I think Agnieszka Radwanska will take advantage of another sparkling draw and someone else knocking out Azarenka...

Predictions are tough this week so I will be making many throughout the week when we see who progresses through the early rounds of the tournament... I cannot wait :-D 

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