Saturday, 12 January 2013

WTA Australian Open 2013: Preview & Predictions

Let's get straight into dissecting the womens draw for the 2013 Australian Open...

PROJECTED FIRST QUARTER - V.Azarenka (1) v S.Errani (7)
Victoria Azarenka
The defending champion and world number one, Victoria Azarenka headlines the Australian Open draw and faces Monica Niculescu in her opening match.  The Romanian trickster loves an upset and is many player's worst enemy in the first round of a Grand Slam.  Azarenka has a good record against her and should be mentally strong enough to pass without any problems.  The first seed she could face is Urszula Radwanska, who will no doubt be challenged in the first round by Jamie Hampton.  

In truth, Azarenka's quarter should be a cakewalk with Roberta Vinci her highest seed before the quarter-finals.  Also watch out for Elena Vesnina who broke her title duck in Hobart and is playing with some big reserves of confidence right now.  She could meet Vinci in the third round.  The big news though is that Azarenka has been drawn in the same half as Serena... more on that later!

Sara Errani has a tough opener against Carla Suarez Navarro and things will not get easier as she defends her first major points of the year.  In the section, we have the headline opening act with the stunner-of-a-first-rounder between Sabine Lisicki and Caroline Wozniacki.  My immediate instinct was that Wozniacki is a goner... Lisicki already has a winning record over the Dane and she love, love, loves a big stage.  Wozniacki will be immediately on the back foot because Lisicki can hit winners for fun.  In my opinion, it would have to be a very error-strewn performance from Lisicki for Wozniacki to prevail.

A pair of dangerous Russians will also be looking to come out of this first quarter; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who made the final in Brisbane, could meet the winner of Wozniacki/Lisicki in round three.  She has draw Lesia Tsurenko who she edged past in the Brisbane semi-finalsSvetlana Kuznetsova has drawn away from immediate trouble and could meet Hsieh Su-Wei in round two, who has not started the year well.  We could see a 2012 Roland Garros rematch between Kuznetsova and Errani in round three, which would be very interesting.

Highlights of the 1st Round (and predictions) - Hampton to beat U.Radwanska in 3 sets, Lepchenko to beat Hercog in 2 sets, Lisicki to beat Wozniacki in 3 sets, Pavlyuchenkova to beat Tsurenko in 2 tight sets and Errani to beat Suarez Navarro in 2 tight sets

First Quarter-Final Prediction - Azarenka v Pavlyuchenkova

PROJECTED SECOND QUARTER - S.Williams (3) v P.Kvitova (8)
Petra Kvitova
Serena Williams will go into the Australian Open as the overwhelming favourite to win following her sensational triumphs in 2012 and a strong start to 2013 in Brisbane.  Edina Gallovits-Hall will be her first match and Yaroslava Shvedova could be her first seed; Serena and Yaroslava last met in a magic encounter on Wimbledon's very own Magic Monday.  Shvedova's form and confidence has since gone off-the-radar and her first round opponent, Annika Beck, has the talent to pull off a giant killing.  Maria Kirilenko and Yanina Wickmayer will be battling to take on Serena in the 4th round and I fancy the Belgian to back up her final run in Auckland.  She has done well here before making the 4th round in 2010 where she lost a great match to Justine Henin.

Petra Kvitova has not started 2013 the way she would have wanted too and she has drawn a toughie.  She plays Francesca Schiavone in the first round; Kvitova won all of their matches in 2012 including a tight three setter in the drizzle at Wimbledon.  Schiavone is still a dangerous player, but cannot win for toffee at the moment.  Round two could see Kvitova take on Laura Robson, essentially a younger version of herself... goodness knows what could happen if that second round match becomes a reality.  

Kvitova's first seed could be Sloane Stephens who put in an encouraging performance against Serena Williams in the Brisbane quarters and then backed it up with three wins in Hobart.  I make no bones about it, I am a Kvitova fan; she has the potential to turn her fortunes around but I am worried with this draw and do not think she will make it to the second week.  Nadia Petrova and Lucie Safarova are the headlines in the other part of this section and both will look to overturn poor starts to the year.

Highlights of the 1st Round (and predictions) - Beck to beat Shvedova in 3 sets, Wickmayer to beat Gajdosova in 2 tight sets, Petrova to beat Date-Krumm in 2 sets, Robson to beat Oudin in 2 sets and Kvitova to beat Schiavone in 2 very tight sets.

Second Quarter-Final Prediction - S.Williams v Petrova

PROJECTED THIRD QUARTER - L. Na (6) v A.Radwanska (3)
Li Na
Li Na returns to the scene of her most crushing loss at the hands of a hobbling, Kim Clijsters.  One year on and she is looking like a dark horse for the title following a confident start to the year with a title in Shenzhen and a semi-final showing in Sydney.  She will play Sesil Karatantacheva in the first round and could meet Sorana Cirstea in the third round, who beat her at Wimbledon last year.  Sam Stosur is situated in this section and on seeding, should meet Li in the 4th round.  Of course, that is very unlikely to happen based on Stosur's current form and ability at dealing with the pressure of an expectant home crowd.  The draw has not been especially kind; in the first round, she takes on Chang Kai-Chen who defeated her in Osaka at the end of 2012.  Zheng Jie could await in the second round, who dispatched Stosur in the first round of Sydney last week.  

Two blockbuster third round matches could light up the schedule in Agnieszka Radwanska's section.  The world number three has started 2013 in sparkling fashion and even scored the first double bagel in a WTA final since 2006 when she annihilated a sorry, Dominika Cibulkova.  Radwanska plays the Australian wildcard Bojana Bobusic in the first round and could take centre stage with another in-form player, Mona Barthel in the third round.  The German has started the season in fine form with seven wins across Auckland and Hobart and will be a mighty test for Radwanska; despite my admiration of Barthel's talents, Radwanska has a habit of getting out of sticky situations.  The second third rounder I want to see is an all-Serbian clash between best-of-buddies, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.  Jankovic is in a section with Johanna Larsson and two qualifiers so really should make it, meanwhile Ivanovic may have to pass her Adidas twin, Daniela Hantuchova.

Highlights of 1st round (and predictions) - Cirstea to beat Vandeweghe in 2 sets, Pironkova to beat Oprandi in 3 sets, Stosur to beat Chang in 2 sets, Chan to beat Hantuchova in 3 sets, Jankovic to beat Larsson in 2 sets and Watson to beat Cadantu in 2 sets.

Third Quarter-Final Prediction - Li v Radwanska

PROJECTED FOURTH QUARTER - A.Kerber (5) v M.Sharapova (2)
Maria Sharapova
The final quarter sees two players who met in the third round last year, Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova.  Kerber will open her Australian Open campaign against Elena Svitolina and is projected to meet Tamira Paszek in the third round, which would be a rematch of their quite spectacular Eastbourne final from last year.  I still shudder at the fact that Paszek is seeded pretty much on two great tournaments.  Unfortunately, she has been losing more matches than winning lately and should fall early, paving the way for Madison Keys.  The young American nearly defeated Li Na in the Sydney quarter-finals last week and has drawn a very favourable draw.  It almost looks too straightforward for her to gobble up so I hope she takes her chances...

Maria Sharapova comes into the Australian Open once again with no competitive matches under her belt.  Last year, I thought this was curtains for her, but she proved me wrong making the final.  Once again I am not fancying her to win, but I am certainly not as dismissive as I was last year.  The big headline in her section is a potential third rounder with Venus Williams.  Venus, who takes on Galina Voskoboeva in the first round, did not play great in Perth at the Hopman Cup, but showed her battling qualities to win all three of her singles matches.  I cannot see her beat Sharapova, but reaching the third round would be a real sense of achievement having struggled at the Grand Slams last year.  Sydney finalist and a recent visitor of Radwanska's bakery store, Dominika Cibulkova will be looking to meet the winner of Sharapova/Venus in round of 16.  Klara Zakopalova and Kirsten Flipkens will be her closest challengers in that section...

Highlight first round matches (and predictions) - Bertens to beat Hradecka in 2 sets, Voegele to beat Paszek in 3 sets, Bartoli to beat Medina Garrigues in 2 tight sets, Zakopalova to beat Scheepers in 3 sets, Venus to beat Voskoboeva in 3 sets and Sharapova to beat Puchkova in 2 sets.

Fourth Quarter-Final Prediction - Angelique Kerber v Maria Sharapova

If you have read my blogs before, you will have noticed that I often go against Serena Williams and particularly, when she is scheduled to play Victoria Azarenka.  I hate to follow the crowd, but this time it would be foolish not to.  Serena has not lost since Cincinnati and has looked superb ever since then with barely a chink in her armour.  A Serena/Vika semi-final will be the most anticipated WTA match of the 2013 season so far and although I feel Vika will notch a win over Serena sometime soon, it ain't happening here...

In the other half, I have spent a long time deliberating about the other finalist.  I immediately ruled out Maria Sharapova and it was between Li Na, Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska.  Although Radwanska beat Li in Sydney, Li was was well below her best and could easily overturn that result with a solid performance.  I am always made to look foolish when I predict Kerber to beat Sharapova (they should play in the QF's) so I have chosen Li Na to make her second Australian Open final.

You can view my full predictions for the WTA draw at the Australian Open HERE

1 comment:

  1. why rule out sharapova in her recent form?. she's got the best chance of making a dent on serena or azarenka