Saturday, 22 September 2012

WTA Tokyo: Preview and Predictions

It's time for Tokyo where the top eight all have byes in round one... lets take a look at the draw!

QUARTER 1 - V.Azarenka (1) v A.Kerber (5)
Victoria Azarenka
It has been just three weeks since the US Open Final, but Victoria Azarenka is back in action as the number one seed in Tokyo.  Azarenka lost a nailbiter to Serena Williams in three sets; it was a painful loss, but I think the way she dealt with the loss was admirable.  Tokyo will not be a priority for Vika, but will likely act as a stepping stone to maintaining her good form, ready for another potential showdown with Serena in Beijing and/or Istanbul.  She will play a Tamira Paszek or Camila Giorgi in the second round and then most likely, the US Open quarter-finalist, Roberta Vinci in the third round.

Angelique Kerber showed some signs of 2012 finally catching up with her as she suffered a disappointing 4th round loss to Sara Errani at this years US Open.  The German player has had a terrific season, like Errani, and will look to book her place at the Year-Ending-Championships (YEC) in Istanbul with a solid showing in her next two tournaments.  She will play either Sorana Cirstea or Ayumi Morita in the second round.  Kerber could be on course for an interesting third round match with Ana Ivanovic; the pair have met only once back in 2006 when Ivanovic prevailed in three sets.

Prediction - Azarenka vs. Kerber

QUARTER 2 - A.Radwanska (3) v L.Na (7)
Li Na
Agnieszka Radwanska endured a miserable summer hard court season as she suffered two thrashings by Li Na in Montreal and Cincy, and then lost to Roberta Vinci in the 4th round of the US Open.  Radwanska will have to buck her ideas up for the Asian Swing where she is defending many points having won the titles in Tokyo and Beijing.  She faces a testing opener against the winner of a first round match between Yanina Wickmayer and Jelena Jankovic; both have struggled of late, but I would actually give the edge to JJ in that one.  She could face the resurgent, Kaia Kanepi in the third round, who has always threatened the Pole, but never had the nerve to actually beat her.

Li Na was tipped as a dark horse at the US Open, but she was ousted by Laura Robson.  The Chinese player was looking strong up till that match having taken the title in Cincy.  She takes on either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Chanelle Scheepers in the second round.  Her third round opponent will come from an interesting section featuring Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova and Daniela Hantuchova; Makarova and Hantuchova play in the first round with the winner likely to face Wozniacki in round two.

Prediction - Kanepi v Li Na

QUARTER 3 - S.Errani (6) v P.Kvitova (4)
Sara Errani
Sara Errani has had an incredible year so far reaching the final of the French Open, the semi-finals of the US Open and claiming four titles.  She will play fellow Italian, Romina Oprandi or Johanna Larsson in the second round.  Errani could then play Marion Bartoli in the third round, who she defeated at New Haven in straight sets.  However Bartoli has since looked much stronger having reached the quarter-finals at the US Open with a stunning win over Petra Kvitova and a commendable effort against Maria Sharapova.

Petra Kvitova has had a very consistent year although would have disappointed with a 4th round exit to Marion Bartoli at the US Open.  She will be looking to have a strong week in Tokyo, where she made the semi-finals last year and has a very good draw.  She could take on Andrea Petkovic in the second round; the German player has been plagued by serious injuries this year and will play Petra Martic in the first round in her only her third tournament since Stuttgart.

Prediction - Kvitova v Errani

QUARTER 4 - S.Stosur (8) v M.Sharapova (2)
Sam Stosur
Sam Stosur was satisfied with her US Open efforts following an up-and-down 2012.  She went down fighting to the eventual runner-up, Victoria Azarenka in one of the best matches of the year.  Stosur is assured of a tough second round match against Yaroslava Shvedova or Francesca Schiavone; the Italian has looked woefully out-of-sorts since the Olympics and I would not be surprised if there is an announcement before the end of the year regarding her future.  Dominika Cibulkova potentially awaits in the third round for Stosur, who has always struggled to deal with the Aussie's kick serve.

Maria Sharapova returns to Tokyo where she picked up a nasty ankle injury that sidelined her for several months and limited her at the YEC last year. Sharapova could face Sabine Lisicki in the highlight of the potential second rounders.  They played twice on the grass this year and both matches were incredibly intense; Lisicki will first have to get past the qualifier, Heather Watson, who could be spurred on my Laura Robson's superb run to the final in Guangzhou.  The champion in Guangzhou, Hsieh Su-Wei is also in this section and could have what it takes to upset Lucie Safarova in the second round, who has always struggled against players with a lot of variety in their game.

Prediction - Stosur v Sharapova

Final Prediction - Victoria Azarenka d. Petra Kvitova
Azarenka and Sharapova look to be dead certs for the final on paper, but I am not so sure both will make it.  I think the conditions will favour Kvitova's game and she is my surprise tip for the final.  Azarenka has a good draw and should reach the final, edging past Li Na in a tough semi-final.  Sharapova has a tough draw with Lisicki and Stosur both lurking and I think she will fall in the semi-finals.  Whenever I tip Sharapova to win she never does and vice-versa so everyone should bet on her now! Last year many thought that Azarenka/Kvitova would be a rivalry to look forward too, but they have yet to play in 2012... perhaps this week?

You can view my full predictions for Tokyo HERE... these last two major events on the WTA tour normally have a lot of upsets but I can quite figure out where they are going to happen this year!

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