Thursday, 31 January 2013

WTA Paris, Pattaya City: Quarter-Final Predictions

Today was an extremely bad day for my predictions as I lost both champion and finalist in Paris and Pattaya City! Lets take a look at the best matches for quarter-final day...

Marion Bartoli
1. Marion Bartoli v Mona Barthel (Paris, QF)
Marion Bartoli takes on Mona Barthel tomorrow in one of my few correct quarter-final predictions.  Bartoli saved three set points in the first set of her second round match with Christina McHale before storming through the second set to win, 7-5 6-1.  Barthel beat Roberta Vinci, producing some inspired tennis in the second set and carrying that momentum into the third set to win, 4-6 6-1 6-3.  Barthel lost just two points on serve in that second set and showed that when she is on her game, not many players can stop her.  Bartoli and Barthel have played each other once and it was Barthel who reaped the benefits of home advantage in Stuttgart to cruise to a straight sets win.  This time the tables will be reversed, but I still fancy Barthel to have too much game for Bartoli...

Prediction - Barthel to beat Bartoli in 2 tight sets

2. Maria Kirilenko v Elena Vesnina (Pattaya City, QF)
Pattaya City has been drenched with rain these past two days, which meant that two of the eight quarter-finalists had to play their first and second round matches on Thursday.  One of those players was Elena Vesnina who finished off Eleni Daniilidou and then took three sets to beat Mathilde Johansson.  She now takes on fellow compatriot, Maria Kirilenko who also required three sets to get past the talented youngster, Luksika Kumkhum.  Kirilenko has dominated the head-to-head with three previous wins over Vesnina; however Vesnina is in inspired form in 2013.  I originally went for Vesnina, but this will be tough for her now having played twice today.  I'll stick by Vesnina, but I am expecting a battle...

Prediction - Vesnina to beat Kirilenko in 3 long sets

3. Sara Errani v Carla Suarez Navarro (Paris, QF)
Sara Errani will be out for revenge on Friday as she takes on Carla Suarez Navarro in the Paris quarter-finals.  The tricky Spaniard beat Errani in the first round of the Australian Open just two weeks ago.  Suarez Navarro defeated Klara Zakopalova in straight sets to continue her solid start to the year, meanwhile Errani has yet to lose a game having received a bye in the first round and progressing through her second round match when Magdalena Rybarikova retired hurt at 0-4 down.  Suarez Navarro will certainly have confidence going into the match but on a different court, it will be a completely new match...

Prediction - Errani to beat Suarez Navarro in 3 sets

WTA Paris Quarter-Finals:
Kiki Bertens to beat Lucie Safarova in 3 sets
Kristina Mladenovic to beat Petra Kvitova in 2 tight sets

WTA Pattaya City Quarter-Finals:
Ayumi Morita to beat Nina Bratchikova in 2 sets
Sabine Lisicki to beat Marina Erakovic in 3 sets
Sorana Cirstea to beat Anastasiya Sevastova in 3 sets

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

WTA Paris, Pattaya City: 2nd Round Predictions

Sabine Lisicki
Yanina Wickmayer v Kristina Mladenovic (Paris, R2)
Yanina Wickmayer edged a tight first round match today with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-6(7) 4-6 6-3.  It was a rough draw for both, but I was pleased that Wickmayer won as I have tipped her to win in Paris.  Her reward for the first round win is another unseeded opponent as Julia Goerges was ousted by Kristina Mladenovic in an epic first round match; however Mladenovic will still give the Belgian number one something to think about with her heavy serve and the backing of a home crowd. I am still backing Wickmayer to make the quarter-finals...

Prediction - Wickmayer to beat Mladenovic in 2 tight sets

Sabine Lisicki v Alexandra Panova (Pattaya City, R2)
Sabine Lisicki has had a rough year if you discount her exploits on the grass. She has suffered from a number of niggly injuries and a string of disappointing losses where she has struggled to look past the tactic of simply trying to hammer the ball on every available opportunity.  The German number four has a great chance though to pick up some invaluable ranking points this week as she now takes on Alexandra Panova.  Lisicki won her only previous encounter with Panova back in 2008.  A quarter-final place for Lisicki looms and in the context of her recent successes on the tour, that would be a very solid achievement.

Prediction - Lisicki to beat Panova in 2 tight sets

Paris 2nd Round Predictions:
Cibulkova to beat Bertens in 3 sets
Cornet to beat Safarova in 3 sets
Errani to beat Rybarikova in 2 sets
Zakopalova to beat Suarez Navarro in 3 sets

Pattaya City 2nd Round Predictions:
Watson to beat Sevastova in 3 sets
Kirilenko to beat Kumkhum in 2 tight sets
Erakovic to beat Wongteanchai in 2 sets
Cirstea to beat Rodionova in 2 sets

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

SportsKeeda Blogger Awards 2012

I was randomly checking through my blog statistics over the weekend when I noticed  that Moo's Tennis Blog has been nominated by an Indian Sports website, SportsKeeda in their 2012 blogger awards.  It is a real honour to have been recognised and a massive thank you to whoever nominated Moo!  If you enjoy reading my blog, you can register your vote for Moo's Tennis Blog HEREThere are just under two days left to cast your vote.

WTA Paris, Pattaya City 1st round: Mladenovic ousts Goerges, Ivanovic rained off

Goerges Gone
Paris saw its first significant upset as the 19-year-old, Kristina Mladenovic upset the number 7 seed Julia Goerges, 7-5 5-7 7-6(4) in 2 hours and 43 minutes.  This was Mladenovic's best result on the WTA tour so far and she seems to be progressing on the tour and beginning to live up to her high billing as a talented junior.  In other matches, Alize Cornet scored another win for the home crowd as she had an impressive win over Sofia Arvidsson, 6-3 4-6 6-0; Roberta Vinci thumped Simona Halep, 6-0 6-3 and Carla Suarez Navarro recovered from 4-0 down in the second set to beat Monica Niculescu in straight sets.

In Pattaya City, Maria Kirilenko, Sorana Cirstea and Sabine Lisicki all enjoyed straight set wins.  Lisicki beat Tatjana Malek, 6-2 6-3 to set up a second round encounter with Alexandra Panova.  The German world number 52, who dropped further in the rankings following her first round loss at the Australian Open, will look to build confidence this week and certainly has a reasonable enough draw to do well.  Ana Ivanovic was on the edge of defeat as she fell 3-6 2-5 down to Ayumi Morita; Ivanovic did manage to win the second set, but was unable to finish her match due to rain and will have to return tomorrow...

You can keep up to date with my predictions for Paris and Pattaya City... tomorrow could be make-or-break as my Pattaya champion, Ivanovic will resume against Morita and my Paris champion, Wickmayer faces Pavlyuchenkova in the pick of the matches for tomorrow.  A second round match between Marion Bartoli and Christina McHale in Paris should also be interesting (I am backing Bartoli in 3 sets)

Sunday, 27 January 2013

WTA Paris, Pattaya City: Preview and Predictions

Two WTA tournaments will take centre stage next week with two of the world's top tenSara Errani and Petra Kvitova opting to play in Paris.  The Adidas quartet of Ana Ivanovic, Maria Kirilenko, Sorana Cirstea and Daniela Hantuchova will all be in Pattaya City.  Lets take a look a the draws...

WTA Paris:
Sara Errani
The indoor tournament in Paris has attracted a solid line-up and will be fully televised on Eurosport this week.  I found it very hard to call this one because there are many out-of-form and unpredictable players in the draw.  Sara Errani will look to put a first round exit at the Australian Open behind her although on the fast indoor hard courts, she is unlikely to be the favourite.  She  plays a qualifier in round two and could meet her conqueror in Melbourne, Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarter-finals although the Spaniard will have to beat the seed in her section, Klara Zakopalova 

Dominika Cibulkova and Lucie Safarova are the two highest seeds in the section section and are possible semi-final opponents for Errani.  Marion Bartoli fought her way to the final here last year, but she will stiff opposition to make it there in 2013.  Roberta Vinci is her first projected seed in the draw at the quarter-final stage, but Mona Barthel will be a dangerous thorn in this section, particularly as she beat Bartoli in straight sets last year on the fast indoor clay of Stuttgart.  

The final section is where the early fireworks should be had.  The highlight of the first round matches pits two finalists from the first-week-of-2013 tournaments, Yanina Wickmayer and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  The winner is likely to play the number 7 seed, Julia Goerges in round two.  My bold prediction is that I think the winner of that first round match will go onto win the tournament... its a really tough one, but I am edging towards Wickmayer.  Petra Kvitova has looked way short of form in 2013 so I am pleased to see her accept a late wildcard.  She has a tough draw, but she did win here in 2011, beating Kim Clijsters in the final and her strengths are certainly accentuated on the fast, indoor courts.

Round one predictions: Zakopalova to beat Medina Garrigues in 3 sets, Hradecka to beat Paszek in 2 sets, Vinci to beat Halep in 2 sets, Barthel to beat Radwanska in 3 sets, Parmentier to beat McHale in 3 sets and Wickmayer to beat Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets.

Full draw predictions HERE

Final Prediction - Wickmayer to beat Cibulkova
WTA Pattaya City
Heather Watson
Ana Ivanovic will be the favourite in Pattaya City to claim her first title since the season ender in Bali back in 2011.  She faces a potentially tricky opener against Ayumi Morita, who did well to make the third round in Melbourne.  Daniela Hantuchova, who plays Olga Puchkova in the first round, could await in the quarters; Hantuchova's best days seem to be well behind her, but she is the defending champion and has a good record here so I think she will make the quarters.

Sabine Lisicki is back in action following a disappointing first round loss in Melbourne where she had a surprise win over Caroline Wozniacki in her grasp.  Her form has been extremely unpredictable so I do not expect much from the German.  Annika Beck, who I have tipped to have a strong 2013, could play Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round.  The young German will fancy another win following a trouncing over Hsieh when they last played in Shenzhen.

Heather Watson has a very favourable draw in Pattaya City.  She plays Timea Babos in the first round, who has not won a WTA mian draw match since August.  Sorana Cirstea is her projected quarter-final opponent and she has a mental edge over the Romanian having won a humdinger in Miami last year where Watson clawed her way back from a 5-0 third set deficit.  Watson claimed a win in Auckland too although Cirstea was forced to retire in that match.  The final section should see an all-Russian quarter-final between Elena Vesnina and Maria Kirilenko.  Kirilenko leads the head-to-head 3-0, but Vesnina is in the form of her life having won her first career title in Hobart and making the round of 16 in Melbourne.

Round one predictions: Ivanovic to beat Morita in 2 sets, Date-Krumm to beat Scheepers in 3 sets, Hantuchova to beat Puchkova in 3 sets, Lisicki to beat Malek in 2 sets and Vesnina to beat Daniilidou in 2 sets

Full draw predictions HERE

Final Prediction - Ivanovic to beat Watson

Australian Open 2013: Novak Djokovic wins third consecutive AO title, beats Murray in final

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic became the first player in the open era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles with a 6-7 (2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2 victory over Andy Murray in the final.  For the first 2 hours and 50 minutes, there were surpisingly no breaks of serve as the pair slugged it out in a typically brutal encounter.  Djokovic had five break points in the first set, but was out-of-sorts in the first set tiebreak, which he lostMurray had three break points in the first game of the second set; Murray could not convert and although Djokovic was struggling for form, he hung in like a terrier and took the second set, as he strolled away from 2-2 in the tiebreak when a floating feather upset Murray's rhythm and he threw in a double fault.

Blisters seemed to affect Murray through the final two sets, but it was Djokovic who completely stepped up his game and claimed that crucial first break of the match at 4-3 in the third set.  He never looked back from that moment and cruised the fourth set to take the Australian Open title.  It was a good match with some high quality rallies, but not a great match.  The mens tournament has definitely been better than the womens, but I feel there is a lack of depth in the mens game at the moment with the top four all making the semi-finals.  I think there are a number of players that are pushing to make that breakthrough, but are still some way off the pace.  Hopefully a rejuvunated Rafael Nadal will join the field at Roland Garros...

I correctly predicted the result of the final in my original predictions as I went for Djokovic to beat Murray.  We now move away from Australia; the women will play in Paris and Pattaya City next week, meanwhile the men take a break before the Davis Cup next weekend.  If you have discovered my blog for the first time throughout the Australian Open, I blog throughout the whole year even away from the Grand Slams so please keep reading :-)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Victoria Azarenka retains the Australian Open, beats Li Na in three set finale

Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka claimed her second Grand Slam title as she defeated Li Na, 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the Australian Open final.  It was a match that will be remembered for its drama rather than the quality of the tennis as Li went down twice on her ankle and knocked her head on the court too.  The match itself was up-and-down; the first set was dominated by errors and service breaks, but Li was the more solid and capitalised on a flat performance from Azarenka, who was clearly not at the races and looked to be struggling with a pro-Li crowd who were more celebratory of Azarenka errors than winners.

Azarenka started to turn the screw in the second set, but still found herself wasting a double break 3-0 lead as Li pegged it back to 4-4.  The Chinese firecracker worryingly went over on her ankle, but she was able to continue although rather limply lost the second set.  The third set saw two significant delays; the first for the Australia Day fireworks and the second when Li fell once more on the first point after the restart.  She did remarkably well to stay in the match, but all the blows she had taken had sidestepped her away from her title hunt and it was Azarenka who stood tall to convert on her first match point.

It has been a strange tournament because I never felt Azarenka played that well throughout the two weeks.  She avoided both Serena and Sharapova, but dealt with every opposition she faced and proved her worth as the world number one and most consistent player on the tour right now.  There was a real absence of great matches over the past two weeks and although it was nice to see a competitive final, it has been a lukewarm start to 2013 for the women.  The tournaments continue next week in Paris and Pattaya City and I do hope you will keep following my blog as the 2013 seasons moves on towards the next big events in America, which will be the Premier Mandatories in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Mens Final - I will be tweeting live from tomorrow's Djokovic/Murray... should be a good one.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Australian Open Day 14: Novak Djokovic v Andy Murray Final Prediction

Andy Murray
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will contest their second consecutive Grand Slam final on Sunday night as the curtain comes down on the first Grand Slam of 2013.  Murray needed five sets to take care of Roger Federer in what was a first ever Grand Slam win over the Swiss star, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2.  Murray served for the match in the fourth set and was two points away from winning the match when Federer unleashed a quite breathtaking backhand before benefitting from a lame Murray error.  The fourth set was history from that point, but Murray rebounded well in the decider as a weary looking Federer struggled to keep up with the pace.  

Djokovic progressed to his third consecutive Australian Open final with his most impressive performance to date as he dismantled David Ferrer's game with a 6-2 6-2 6-1 semi-final win.  Djokovic has recovered marvellously well from that five hour epic with Stanislas Wawrinka in the 4th round and he will go into the final as the favourite.  My original final prediction of Murray/Djokovic was correct, but I rather lamely went against that and plumped for Federer to beat Murray in yesterday's preview.  I have well and truly learnt my lesson never to go against my original instinct because both times I changed my mind this week, I got it wrong.   

Djokovic leads the head-to-head by 10 wins to 7; Djokovic has won the last two with three set wins in London and Shanghai.  That final in Shanghai was absolutely terrific and saw Murray blow a number of match points.  Murray had won the two matches before that, most notably beating Djokovic in five sets at Flushing Meadows and winning a tight two setter on his way to winning the Olympics title.  

I think the final will be a close contest, five sets for sure and another physically brutal encounter.  I really do think it will come down to a few points here and there and who holds their nerve at the crucial moments.  Murray's second serve was one of the reasons he lost that fourth set so he will have to maintain length on it to have a chance of winning because Djokovic will eat it up for breakfast.  Murray no longer has the weight on his shoulders of never winning a Grand Slam, but Djokovic is the man at the Australian OpenI fancy Djokovic to reverse the fortunes from the last Grand Slam.  It should be a good one...

Prediction - Djokovic to beat Murray in 5 epic sets

My mens predictions for the mens 2013 Australian Open have been a mixed bag, but a Djokovic win will make it a successful tournament.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Australian Open Day 13: Li Na v Victoria Azarenka Womens Final Prediction

Victoria Azarenka
The women's final is all set for Saturday night in Australia after two lopsided semi-finals saw Victoria Azarenka and Li Na reach the first showcase of 2013.  Li produced a superb performance to stun an error-prone Maria Sharapova, 6-2 6-2.  At the start of the tournament, I predicted Li to make the final, but I did go for Sharapova in yesterday's predictions.  Li will take on Azarenka who beat Serena-slayer, Sloane Stephens in a controversial 6-1 6-4 win.  The match will be remembered for Azarenka's medical time-out (MTO) at 6-1 5-4 after she had wasted five match points.  

In her on-court interview, she said that she was "overwhelmed" and implied that she had taken a MTO because of the stress of choking away a string of match points.  She tried to clear things up in her post-match interview by saying that she did not understand the question and that the MTO was because she could not breathe because of a back/rib injury.  It sounds to me like she had a bit of a panic attack, which is definitely nothing be laughed at, but is it worthy of a near ten minute MTO? Still, I thought the timing and length of it was very disrespectful to Sloane, but she's not the first and won't be the last player to take a MTO for seemingly tactical reasons...

Azarenka trying to clear up her MTO

Anyway I digress from the final... Azarenka leads the head-to-head with Li by 5 wins to 4, but most significantly is that she has won 4 of her last 5 matches with Li and all 3 of their 2012 encounters.  They last met at the WTA year-ending-championships where Azarenka edged a scratchy two setter.  To be honest, all their matches have been rather patchy, but this should be a competitive match and the head-to-head's can be put to one side because of Li's form at the start of 2013.

The bookmakers are struggling to split these two with Azarenka the slight favourite.  Head-to-head and rankings would give Vika the edge, but I am going for Li to win the whole caboodle.  She has played extremely well this tournament and the way she finished off Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova cannot be ignored.  Like Sharapova, Azarenka has not been fully tested by the calibre of her opponents with the number 29 seed, Sloane Stephens her only seeded opponent (a tip of the cap though to Svetlana Kuznetsova).  Li has been progressively improving through the rounds and looks to be mentally ready to claim her second Grand Slam.  She would be a very popular winner too and personally, I hope she wins...

Prediction - Li to beat Azarenka in 3 sets

My predictions for the womens 2013 Australian Open... generally happy overall, could have been much worse!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Australian Open Day 12: Andy Murray v Roger Federer Semi-Final Prediction

Andy Murray and Roger Federer will lock horns in a mouthwatering second semi-final that will take place on Friday evening in Melbourne Murray won easy over Jeremy Chardy in the quarter-finals, 6-4 6-1 6-2 as he confirmed his place in the final four with 18 straight sets.  Federer lost his first and second set of the tournament in a thrilling five set win with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3.  It was a really encouraging performance by Tsonga, but Federer produced some magic moments in the final set to come through.  Murray leads the head-to-head with Federer by 10 wins to 9; Federer won three of their clashes in 2012 with wins in the Wimbledon final and in their last match at the World Tour Finals.  Murray's two wins in 2012 came in the Olympics final and Shanghai, and both were dominant wins, but he has never beaten Federer at a Grand Slam.

Federer has had a really tough draw with wins over quality players in each round including a straight sets triumph over the in-form player of the 2013 so far, Bernard Tomic in the third round.  Murray, meanwhile has not been tested at all; the highest seeded player he has played was Gilles Simon and that was not even a contest with the Frenchman barely able to move at the end.  I think Murray and Federer's routes through the draw will strongly favour Roger, who has been forced into playing some of his best tennis.  I think the mens game is certainly missing Rafael Nadal at the moment and despite the odd classic match, the tournament has been pretty flat for me.  I am hoping for a really competitive match, but I have a concern that it will be a relatively comfortable win for Federer...

Prediction - Federer to beat Murray in 4 sets

Australian Open Day 11: David Ferrer v Novak Djokovic Semi-Final Prediction

Tomas Berdych may have thought he had a shot at beating a weary Novak Djokovic, but he was rather abruptly put in his place as he fell to the Serbian world number one, 6-1 4-6 6-1 6-4.  Djokovic looks to have put that epic match with Stanislas Wawrinka behind him and will now benefit from a three day rest before the final, assuming he wins this semi-final.  David Ferrer squeaked into the semi-finals as Nicolas Almagro had the ultimate choke, blowing three shots at serving for the match as he eventually went down in a 4-6 4-6 7-5 7-6 6-2 loss.  Credit to Ferrer for never giving up, but it was a shame for Almagro who should have bagged a first ever Grand Slam semi-final.  That 12-0 head-to-head will no doubt have been circling in his head when he tried to serve it out.

The head-to-head does not make pretty reading for Ferrer; Djokovic has a 9-5 lead, but more significantly is that he has won 5 of their last 6 matches.  In their most recent match, Djokovic won a 4 setter in the US Open semi-finals, only losing a set because Ferrer was less disturbed about playing in hurricane-like conditions.  Ferrer has done really well to make the semi-finals, but I just cannot see him making the final unless Djokovic picks up an injury of some kind.  Ferrer is ultra-solid, but Djokovic is too and does everything that bit better.  I would really like to see Ferrer reach a Grand Slam final, but it would be an almighty shock...

Prediction - Novak Djokovic to beat David Ferrer in 3 sets

Australian Open Day 11: Women's Semi-Final Predictions

Maria Sharapova v Li Na
Maria Sharapova continued her devastating progression through the Australian Open draw with a 6-2 6-2 win over Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals.  The world number two has lost just 9 games throughout the whole tournament, but still comes up short to the record held by Mary Pierce who lost just 6 games on her way to the semi-finals of the 1994 French Open.  Sharapova will now play Li Na in the semi-finals who snapped Agnieszka Radwanska's 13-match winning streak with a hard fought, 7-5 6-3 victory.  Radwanska was certainly off-colour in this one as she committed 21 unforced errors, a staggering total for someone who is normally so solid.  Li still struggled with errors at time, but held her nerve and had the weight of shot to come back from deficits in both sets... a successful prediction!

Sharapova leads the head-to-head with 8 wins to Li's 4.  Sharapova won all three of their 2012 encounters with two straight set wins in Miami and Beijing (a bagel in each) and an absolute slugfest in the Rome final where Li choked a 6-4 4-0 lead before falling in a final set tiebreak.  Li had won four straight matches against Sharapova before last year although  none of those matches were on outdoor hard court.  Li has looked a much stronger and more solid player since the arrival of her new coach, Carlos Rodriguez and it was a much needed appointment after some tough losses that had clearly dented her confidence. However, for the first time this week, I will be going against my original prediction as I take note of Sharapova's awesome form over the past two weeks, which I think will be too much for Li to handle.

Prediction - Sharapova to beat Li in two sets (one close set, one not so much)

Victoria Azarenka v Sloane Stephens
The women's tourmament was thrown well and truly wide open as Sloane Stephens beat Serena Williams, 3-6 7-5 6-4 to set up a semi-final showdown with Victoria Azarenka.  Serena was hampered by back and knee injuries, but do not take anything away from Sloane who played an excellent match and is now in completely unchartered territory with a 1 in 4 chance of claiming a Grand Slam title.  Azarenka edged a high quality opening set with Svetlana Kuznetsova before strolling through the second set of her quarter-final to post a 7-5 6-1 victory.  Once again, a Serena/Azarenka match-up has been dashed, but I am sure Vika will not be complaining about that...

This will be a very interesting match because Sloane will feel on top on the world after her win over Serena.  She has never played Azarenka before and will certainly think she can take on anyone at the moment.  Sloane will need to mix up her game to disturb Azarenka's pattern, which she is definitely capable of doing. In her quarter-final with Serena, she successfully made 18 net approaches out of 20 and will need to do that again tomorrow. I fancy Sloane to take the first set, but a fired-up Azarenka will come back fighting... her quarter-final with Kuznetsova showed that she is starting to peak at just the right time.

Prediction - Azarenka to beat Stephens in 3 sets

You can view my original predictions for the WTA quarter-finals here... I missed Serena obviously, but correctly predicted the other three winners.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Australian Open Day 10: Quarter-Final Predictions

1. Roger Federer v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Roger Federer
Roger Federer continued his impressive dance through the draw as he had no problems in getting past Milos Raonic, 6-4 7-6 6-2.  I fancied Raonic to get a set off Federer, but he is still nowhere near close challenging FedererI will reiterate, that I think the Canadian needs to sort out his return game to have any sniff of cracking the top ten, let alone challenging in the latter stages of a Grand Slam.  Federer now takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who started to turn heads for the first time this week with a 4 set victory over fellow Frenchman, Richard Gasquet.  Tsonga, who has started working with Roger Rasheed, looks to have started the season in much more encouraging form than his end to 2012 at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Federer and Tsonga have an interesting record as the Frenchman has certainly enjoyed his successes over Federer; most notably he staged that remarkable comeback from two sets down to stun the Fed at Wimbledon in 2011 and has also claimed two wins in Montreal.  Of course, Federer still has a significant lead at 8-3, but there is something for Tsonga to work with.  I have predicted Federer to lose his first set in his last two matches and failed.  Third time lucky?

Prediction - Federer to beat Tsonga in 4 sets

2. Victoria Azarenka v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka has been the least impressive of the womens top three, but still took under an hour to halt the progress of Elena Vesnina, 6-1 6-1 in the 4th round.  The Russian appeared to run out of stream following her title run in Hobart, but Vika still has plenty to work on, especially that serve, which leaked seven double faults.  She will now play Svetlana Kuznetsova, who put in another richly encouraging performance to get past Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2 2-6 7-5 in an excellent match.  Last year, their match would have gone on and on because of Kuznetsova's increasing inability to close out matches, but as I mentioned two days ago, the six month break from the tour has appeared to completely refresh her game.

Kuznetsova certainly has the game to sneak an upset here if Azarenka is off her game.  She has beaten the world number one four times, but they all came before Azarenka had reached the upper echelons of the game.   I think this match will go three sets, but Azarenka has that bit more toughness and aggression than Wozniacki at the moment so I think the Russian world number 75 will depart the tournament, but in admirable fashion...

Prediction - Azarenka to beat Kuznetsova in 3 sets

3. Serena Williams v Sloane Stephens
Serena Williams
It's take two for American youth against American experience as Serena and Sloane will face off for the second time in 2013.  Serena Williams was at her best in yesterday's 6-2 6-0 demolition of Maria Kirilenko.  Serena served liked a demon with just one missed first serve in that first set and that was a foot fault! Kirilenko did not play badly at all, but was outclassed and outpowered.  Sloane Stephens has reached her first ever Grand Slam quarter-final and confirmed her place in the world's top 20 for next Monday.  She beat Bojana Jovanovski in one of the tightest of the 4th rounders as she overcame a passive slump in the middle to win, 6-1 3-6 7-5.  These two played in Brisbane where Serena faced arguably her most competitive match of the year so far.  I think Serena will be more convincing this time round, but kudos to Sloane for a superb start to 2013, whatever the result.

Prediction - Serena to beat Stephens in 2 sets

4. Andy Murray v Jeremy Chardy
Andy Murray
Andy Murray continues to tip-toe his way through the draw and it is unlikely that will change in the quarter-finals where he takes on the surprise quarter-finalist, Jeremy Chardy.  The Frenchman backed up his extremely suprising five set win over Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round with a competent four set win over Andreas Seppi.  Murray overcame Gilles Simon, 6-3 6-1 6-3 in a strange match with the Frenchman, who surprisingly did not retire having endured (and made us endure too) Gael Monfils in an epic slugfest in the previous round.  Murray and Chardy have played five times with Murray leading 4-1 in the head-to-head, but Chardy winning their last match in Cincy where a jubilant Murray returned to action for the first time after his Olympics win.  No upsets here, Murray through in straight sets, but I think this jog to the semi-finals will completely go against him in the semi-finals...

Prediction - Murray to beat Chardy in 3 sets

Monday, 21 January 2013

Australian Open Day 9: Quarter-Final Predictions

1. Li Na v Agnieszka Radwanska
Li Na
Tomorrow's top billing will see Li Na have a second go this year at trying to snap Agnieszka Radwanska's unbeaten start to 2013.  Radwanska produced an excellent performance to defeat Ana Ivanovic, 6-2 6-4 in the 4th round.  She committed just 4 unforced errors throughout the match and served especially well, saving 7 break points and holding serve on all 9 occasions.  Li had a tougher match as she fended off a set point in the opening set of her 4th round match with Julia Goerges; however she was impressive in the second set as she came through, 7-6 6-1.  

Radwanska and Li last met in Sydney where Radwanska won in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.  Before this match though, Li had beaten Radwanska three times during the 2012 summer hard court season and all in straight sets.  When I was making my predictions at the start of the tournament, this was the quarter-final that stumped me.  In Sydney, Li was well below her best; if she can keep the ball in the court and stay calm in the tough moments then she has a real shot at beating Aga.  Their previous matches have always been lacking in entertainment, but I think this will be their tightest one yet... I'm going for Li.

Prediction - Li to beat Radwanska in 3 sets

2. Novak Djokovic v Tomas Berdych
Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic came through a 4th round match of epic proportions as he fended off a quite stunning effort from Stanislas Wawrinka, to win 12-10 in the final set.  It was not Djokovic's best performance, but some of his defence throughout the match was quite magnificent.  He goes up against the hard-hitting Czech, Tomas Berdych who defeated Kevin Anderson in the 4th round, 6-3 6-2 7-6(13).  Berdych has been improving each round and is yet to lose a set throughout the tournament.  

Djokovic has completely owned his head-to-head with Berdych as he takes an 11-1 lead into this match including three wins in 2012.  This will be Berdych's best chance of an upset and to be frank, if he cannot threaten Djokovic in this one, he might as well not bother next time.  Djokovic will be tired, but we know from last year when he won two mammoth matches in three days against Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal that he will be more than ready to fight...

Prediction - Djokovic to beat Berdych in 3 sets

3. Maria Sharapova v Ekaterina Makarova
Ekaterina Makarova
This time last year I was writing about Ekaterina Makarova producing an upset win over Serena Williams in the 4th round and progressing to a quarter-final with Maria Sharapova.  Well, things have not changed that much in 2013 because Makarova and Sharapova will square off again in the quarter-finals following another upset win from Makarova as she took out the world number 5, Angelique Kerber.  The German complained of a back injury, but Makarova played a fine match to win, 7-5 6-4.  Sharapova has certainly laid down the gauntlet losing just 5 games in 4 matches, which is quite astonishing.  She tore past Kirsten Flipkens in the 4th round, 6-1 6-0.  The last time that Makarova and Sharapova played was in Miami last year and it was not pretty as Sharapova won a tight two-setter.  Makarova seems to have a bit of a mental block playing Sharapova and with the form that world number 2 has demonstrated so far, this match will be one step too far.

Prediction - Sharapova to beat Makarova in 2 sets

4. David Ferrer v Nicolas Almagro
Nicolas Almagro
An all-Spaniard affair completes the line-up for day 9 with Nicolas Almagro set to take on David Ferrer. Almagro progressed through when Janko Tipsarevic threw in the towel (again) at 6-1 5-2 down. OK so Tipsarevic had an injury, but all these withdrawals and his comments towards the equal prize money debate just do not add up.  Ferrer strolled past Kei Nishikori, who rather limply went out in a 6-2 6-1 6-4 defeat. Ferrer has surprised me this week in his ease at reaching the quarter-finals as I thought that playing the first two weeks would hinder his progress in MelbourneDespite Almagro's good form, Ferrer should have few problems based on a very lopsided head-to-head that has seen Ferrer win 12 straight matches against Almagro... it's hard to argue against anything other than a Ferrer win...

Prediction - Ferrer to beat Almagro in 3 sets

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Australian Open Day 8: 4th Round Predictions

1. Roger Federer v Milos Raonic
Roger Federer
Roger Federer has made easy work of his "tough" draw so far as he played a blinder to beat Bernard Tomic, 6-4 7-6 6-1 in the third round.  The second set saw some of the highest standard of tennis we have seen so far in the tournament and Federer was terrific in defence to dig out of a 5-2 deficit in that second set.  The 4th round poses another stiff challenge in the form of Milos Raonic.  

I have been quite critical of the big serving Canadian, but I must admit he did a great job to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets, his best performance of 2013 by far.  Federer and Raonic played each other three times last year and all three were pushed to a decider, in fact two of the matches went to final set tiebreaks.  This will be their first ever best of five set match and I think that Raonic can certainly trouble FedererI fancy the Swiss star to lose his first set of the tournament, but not the match...

Prediction - Federer to beat Raonic in 4 sets

2. Caroline Wozniacki v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Caroline Wozniacki
After overcoming a tough first round match against Sabine Lisicki, Caroline Wozniacki has strolled through to the 4th round, which is the first time she has reached this stage of a Grand Slam since last year's Australian Open.  A much more testing match will now be on the cards against comeback kid, Svetlana KuznetsovaThe Russian player lost the middle set of her 3rd round match to Carla Suarez Navarro, but pulled out the win in the end, 6-2 4-6 6-3.  

Kuznetsova took six months out during 2012 due to injury problems and it seems to have done her the world of good and refreshed her brain too.  Kuznetsova beat Wozniacki in a blistering 2nd round match in Sydney, but she will be under no illusion that this match will once again be a grind.  I still question Kuznetsova's mentality in the tight moments of a match, but there is no question she has the game to beat Wozniacki and the match will be played completely on her terms...

Prediction - Kuznetsova to beat Wozniacki in 3 crazy sets

3. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Richard Gasquet
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Two players who have snuck away from the headlines will take to the forefront in a potential French thriller.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet have not played each other since 2009, making this 4th round match all the more exciting.  Tsonga has yet to lose a set and strolled past a weary Blaz Kavcic in the 3rd round, 6-2 6-1 6-4  Gasquet has been consistent without really impressing; he took four sets to defeat Ivan Dodig in the third round.  Tsonga fell at this stage last year to Kei Nishikori and once again, he has not been tested so it is hard to gauge his form.  I think this match will hinge on the opening set; if Tsonga starts well I think he will cruise it, but if Gasquet can win the first set then I expect him to battle past in a thriller..

Prediction - Gasquet to beat Tsonga in 5 sets

4. Serena Williams v Maria Kirilenko
Serena Williams has unsurprisingly cruised through the tournament and has managed to shake off any worries of the ankle injury she picked up in the first round.  She overcame a determined Ayumi Morita in the third round, 6-1 6-3 and will now play Maria Kirilenko.  The Russian has been remarkably consistent of late and did just enough to edge Yanina Wickmayer in a tight two-setter in the last round.  The pair have played on numerous occasions and as you would expect, Serena holds a 5-0 lead.  Kirilenko has won two sets in those matches including one in their last match-up back in 2011 at Stanford.  I think Kirilenko will win more games than any of Serena's first three opponents, but that is about as much as she can hope for...

Prediction - Serena to beat Kirilenko in 2 sets

Best of the rest: womens 4th round predictions
Victoria Azarenka to beat Elena Vesnina in 2 sets
Sloane Stephens to beat Bojana Jovanovski in 2 tight sets

Best of the rest: mens 4th round predictions
Andy Murray to beat Gilles Simon in 3 easy sets
Andreas Seppi to beat Jeremy Chardy in 3 sets

You can view my original predictions for the WTA and ATP draws to see how I am doing! I am 3/4 so far for womens quarter-finalists and just 2/4 for the ATP after Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson both lost today.

Australian Open Day 7: Novak Djokovic edges Stanislas Wawrinka in best match of 2013 so far

Wow... the Australian Open has been somewhat flat so far with no real epic high quality matches in either draws.  The second set of Federer/Tomic had been the best up till now, but that was blown out of the stratosphere with Novak Djokovic's 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7(5) 12-10 win over Stanislas Wawrinka in the final match on the Rod Laver Arena.  The match topped five hours and did not finish until 1.41am local time.  Wawrinka produced some astonishing tennis during the first hour as he took a 6-1 5-2 lead; however he did check out as he tried to serve out for the second set, which Djokovic won.  

The Serb won the third set too, but Wawrinka was not finished there.  The most impressive aspect of the Swiss man's game was that he managed to rediscover his superb from from the first two sets and came roaring back to take the fourth set on a quite magical rally in the tiebreak (see below).  The pair were neck-and-neck in the decider, which understandably dipped until Djokovic make the breakthrough at 11-10, breaking on one of the finest match points that I think you are just about ever likely to see.  I have linked up the video below if you have not yet seen it!

Wawrinka wins the 4th set


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Australian Open Day 7: 4th Round Predictions

David Ferrer
1. David Ferrer v Kei Nishikori
The most intriguing of the 4th round matches on day 7 will pit the dogged and consistent Spaniard, David Ferrer against one of the emerging talents on the ATP tour, Kei Nishikori.  Both players have sailed through to the 4th round, losing just one set in their opening three matches.  Ferrer produced an efficient sweep of Marcos Baghdatis in the third round as he won 6-4 6-2 6-3, meanwhile Nishikori fought of knee niggles to beat Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets.  The pair last met at the Olympics where Nishikori overcame Ferrer in three sets including a 6-0 cruise in the opening set.  I am concerned about Nishikori's knee injury, but I am still backing the Japanese player, whose consistency I believe will earn him a spot in the top 10 soon, to take out Ferrer in a cagey affair.

Prediction - Nishikori to beat Ferrer in 4 sets

2. Agnieszka Radwanska v Ana Ivanovic
Agnieszka Radwanska has made a superb start to the season and is yet to lose a set in any of her 12 matches in 2013.  Perhaps a match-up with Ana Ivanovic could pose her first significant test of the championships? Ivanovic produced a far superior performance in round three compared to round two as she beat fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic, 7-5 6-3.  Ivanovic has become more solid over the past year, but she has shyed away from the big occasion and apart from an excellent performance to beat Caroline Wozniacki in Indian Wells last year, she has always come second best against the top 10-ers.  Radwanska had a straightforward win over Heather Watson, 6-1 6-3 in the third round.  Radwanska has won their last four matches and to be honest, I think she will be too solid and imaginative for Ivanovic once again...

Prediction - Radwanska to beat Ivanovic in 2 tight sets

Julia Goerges
3. Julia Goerges v Li Na
The big serving German, Julia Goerges had made a shaky start to 2013, but just like last year, she has managed to make the round of 16.  Goerges beat Zheng Jie in a tight third round match, showing great nerve and poise to dig out of a 5-3 third set hole to progress with a 6-3 1-6 7-5 winLi Na has looked impressive so far with three straight set triumphs and a revenge win over Sorana Cirstea in the third round, who had defeated her at Wimbledon last year.  Goerges and Li have never met before, adding to the intrigue of this match.  Goerges has some big strokes with little margin for error, but when in her groove she can be tough to stopI have been impressed with Li's drama-free run to the 4th round and I fancy her to banish memories of her horror 4th rounder against Kim Clijsters last year and set up a quarter-final with Agnieszka Radwanska.

Prediction - Li to beat Goerges in 2 very tight sets

4. Kevin Anderson v Tomas Berdych
The final pick of the day comes from the men's draw where in-form Kevin Anderson will take on the number five seed, Tomas Berdych.  Anderson made the final in Sydney and has backed that up with a round of 16 showing in Melbourne, which included an impressive five set win over Fernando Verdasco in the third round.  Berdych meanwhile, started the season in sluggish form, but seems to be finding his feet through the rounds.  He made extremely light work of Jurgen Melzer in the last round, winning for the loss of just seven games.  Berdych has always owned Anderson in their head-to-head, winning all four of their 2012 clashes.  However I have a good feeling about the South African and he did push the Czech hard in their Roland Garros encounter... its a risky one, but i'm going for Anderson.

Prediction - Anderson to beat Berdych in 5 sets

Best of the rest: womens 4th round
Maria Sharapova to beat Kirsten Flipkens in 2 sets
Angelique Kerber to beat Ekaterina Makarova in 2 tight sets

Best of the rest: mens 4th round
Novak Djokovic to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in 3 sets
Nicolas Almagro to beat Janko Tipsarevic in 4 sets