Sunday, 31 March 2013

WTA Charleston: Preview and Predictions

The American hard court season is over with the conclusion of Miami.  Today's final between Andy Murray and David Ferrer was torturous at times and ended a dire tournament for the men.  It featured a ton of errors, but did at least provide some cracking drama right at the end where Murray saved a championship point to beat Ferrer, 2-6 6-4 7-6(1).  The men take a week off, meanwhile there are two WTA stops this week.

Charleston has a tough place in the calendar following an exhausting March at Indian Wells and Miami, but it has attracted a terrific line-up in 2013.  Charleston is always a good stop on the WTA tour despite being odd in the only tournament to be played on green clay, an in-between of the hard courts and the clay courts.  Let's take a look at the draw where the top 8 players all have byes into round two.

First Quarter - S.Williams (1) v L.Safarova (6)
Sabine Lisicki
It had been an up-and-down year so far for Serena Williams based on the ridiculously high standards she set from 2012, but she claimed her biggest title of the year in Miami, defeating Maria Sharapova in a high intensity showcase where Serena rallied from a set and a break down to win the last 10 games for a 4-6 6-3 6-0 victory.  Serena, the defending champion in Charleston, will play Mandy Minella or Camila Giorgi in the second round before a potential third rounder against Sabine Lisicki.

Lucie Safarova and Sorana Cirstea headline up the chance to meet Serena in the quarter-finals. Safarova, who made the final at Charleston last year, could meet Romina Oprandi in the second round; Oprandi won a tight three setter when the pair played just last week  in Miami.  I would still back Safarova to come through that one and rediscover at least a litte bit of form on a surface she obviously likes.  Cirstea is likely to have get past Anabel Medina Garrigues in round two.

1st Round Predictions - Lisicki to beat Tatishvili in 2 tight sets, Medina Garrigues to beat Rus in 2 sets and Oprandi to beat Lucic-Baroni in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - S.Williams v Cirstea

Second Quarter - S.Stephens (4) v V.Williams (5)
The second quarter is littered with Americans players as Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams are on course to meet in the quarter-finals.  Sloane has a good draw and will meet Anastasia Rodionova or Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round.  However I am still not convinced by Sloane's form; she showed promise in her 4th round match with Agnieszka Radwanska at Miami, but the way she bombed out in the final set was disappointing.  Tamira Paszek is seeded to meet Sloane in the third round, but Madison Keys may be the one to watch as Paszek has won only one match all season.  A Stephens/Keys match-up would be a great spectacle between arguably, America's top two prospects.

If Venus is fit and healthy then I would fully expect her to make at least the quarter-finals; however a persistent back injury still makes me question her chances this week.  She takes on Monica Puig or Andrea Hlavackova in her first match and should then meet the winner of a tough all-American first rounder between Varvara Lepchenko and Christina McHale.  We were denied Venus-Sloane in Miami and I have a feeling for one reason or another, we may be denied once more...

1st Round Predictions - Mattek-Sands to beat Rodionova in 3 sets, McHale to beat Lepchenko in 3 sets and Puig to beat Hlavackova in 2 tight sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Keys v V.Williams

Third Quarter - M.Barthel (8) v S.Stosur (3)
Sam Stosur
Sam Stosur returns to action in Charleston having missed Miami with a calf injury.  She will face a testing opener against Daniela Hantuchova or Marina Erakovic.  In the third round, Stosur could face a US Open rematch with Laura Robson.  Robson's form has been shaky of late although she did make the Miami doubles final with Laura Raymond.

Mona Barthel is the other top eight seed in this section.  She went out in the second round to Magdalena Rybarikova in Miami and could be in trouble once again because the in-form Garbine Muguruza is likely to be her first opponent in Charleston.  Jelena Jankovic, who had a resurgence in Miami by making the semi-finals, is also in this section and will face off against Melanie Oudin in round one.  JJ has lost twice to Oudin, both on the grass, but the American has slipped into obscurity since winning Birmingham and beating Jankovic in the final.

1st Round Predictions - Jankovic to beat Oudin in 2 sets, Hantuchova to beat Erakovic in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Barthel v Stosur

Fourth Quarter - C S.Navarro (7) v C.Wozniacki (2)
The number two seed, Caroline Wozniacki accepted a late wildcard into the tournament following Sara Errani's withdrawal and will face Francesca Schiavone or Silvia Soler-Espinosa in her opener; Woz has not played Schiavone since 2011 and their matches have always been intriguing.  Schiavone's recent form would suggest though that she will be hard pushed to get past the first match. Wozniacki is projected to meet Yaroslava Shvedova in round three, who is on an incredible slump having lost her last five matches in a row.  Andrea Petkovic has another promising draw and will be the favourite to take on Wozniacki in the third round.

Carla Suarez Navarro earns top eight status with her strong start to 2013 and will play a qualifier or Stephanie Voegele in the second round.  Julia Goerges is the other seed in this section; her form has been disappointing in 2013 and a win over Yulia Putintseva in round one is definitely not a given. Jamie Hampton has been notching up the wins in 2013 free of injury and I think she will make it through to play Carla in round three; Suarez Navarro edged a gruelling three setter in Miami, but I would back Hampton in Charleston.

1st Round Predictions - Hampton to beat Govortsova in 3 sets, Goerges to beat Putintseva in 2 very tight sets, Petkovic to beat Townsend in 2 sets and Soler-Espinosa to beat Schiavone in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Hampton v Wozniacki

Charleston Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Wozniacki
I have gone for Serena again this week; she could easily bomb out early following her win in Miami, but I think she cares about this tournament and will beat Wozniacki in the final.  The draw has a lot of Americans and I think Keys and Hampton will be the two players to shine behind Serena.

I'm away from my computer so will upload my full predictions on Tuesday.  The main draw kicks off tomorrow.  There is also another tournament in Monterrey, Mexico where Angelique Kerber, Marion Bartoli, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Kirilenko are vying for the title; shall load up my full predictions for that on Tuesday too.

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