Saturday, 4 May 2013

WTA Madrid: Preview and Predictions

The Madrid tournament on the womens side is always fun because there are no byes awarded to the top players.  It is a great line-up with the entire top 10 back on the red clay.  Thankfully the blue clay has been scrapped and hopefully this year's tournament in Madrid will see the actual  tennis making the headlines...

FIRST QUARTER - S.Williams (1) v L. Na (5)
Serena Williams
Serena Williams kicks off her European clay court season in Madrid and will have a real task on her hands if she is to take the title.  She will have a chance though to click through the gears as she is first up against a qualifier and then will play either Lourdes Dominguez Lino or Simona Halep in round two.  Maria Kirilenko is her first projected seed in round three although the rising Russian faces a stern opener against Klara Zakopalova, who won their most recent match-up in Miami.

Serena has once again drawn Li Na in the quarter-finals.  Li opens her campaign against the slumping Tamira Paszek.  This might actually be a good thing for Paszek as playing a big gun could reignite something, but she doesn't have a hope of winning.  We could then see a second round cracker as Venus Williams awaits. Venus has drawn Anabel Medina Garrigues in round one, who has barely won a match all year after a great showing at the Hopman Cup in January.  

Caroline Wozniacki is also in this section, but I think she is barely relevant on the clay.  Yaroslava Shvedova will be tough in round one, particularly as the Kazakh player finally stopped the rot of losses following two wins in Stuttgart.  The winner of that match then plays Mona Barthel or Kirsten Flipkens, two players who I really like.  Barthel has thrown in some proper lazy performances of late and I would back Flipkens to round three...

1st Round Predictions: Dominguez Lino to beat Halep in 3 sets, Soler-Espinosa to beat Mladenovic in 2 tight sets, Kirilenko to beat Zakopalova in 3 sets, Wozniacki to beat Shvedova in 3 sets, Flipkens to beat Barthel in 2 sets and V.Williams to beat M.Garrigues in 2 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Predictions - S.Williams v L.Na

SECOND QUARTER - V.Azarenka (3) V S.Errani (7)
It feels a long time since Victoria Azarenka was seeded as low as number three in a tournament, but missing Miami through injury cost her in the rankings.  In her first appearance since retiring from the Indian Wells quarter-final with Caroline Wozniacki, she faces a tough task of matching up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has made the final in Oeiras.  I would still back Vika to prevail and tiredness/injury could actually make this a reasonable first round match.  In the second round, she will take on Lucie Safarova or Ekaterina Makarova, both players that can zone and/or flop.

Sara Errani will look to put a second round exit at Stuttgart behind her as she takes on Urzsula Radwanska in the first round.  The Italian is on course to meet Roberta Vinci in the third round. Vinci has been on a great run of form, winning Katowice and leading her team into the final of the Fed Cup; however a shoulder injury hampered her in Stuttgart and she is not competing in doubles with Errani this week.  Varvara Lepchenko definitely has a shot at an upset in round one and is my complete shot in the dark to go very deep in the draw.  She has favourable head-to-head records over both Italians in this section and made the quarter-finals of Madrid last year.

1st Round Predictions: Azarenka to beat Pavlyuchenkova in 2 sets, Safarova to beat Makarova in 3 sets, Vesnina to beat Bartoli in 2 tight sets, Lepchenko to beat Vinci in 3 sets, Goerges to beat Jovanovski in 2 sets, Morita to beat Cirstea in 2 sets and Errani to beat U.Radwanska in 2 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - V.Azarenka v V.Lepchenko

THIRD QUARTER - Angelique Kerber (6) V Agnieszka Radwanska (4)
Angelique Kerber
I was surprised to see Agnieszka Radwanska skip Stuttgart and having never really been much cop on the clay, I am worried about her chances this week.  First up is I-only-do-well-on-grass, Tsvetana Pironkova, who beat Aga at Eastbourne last year.  In the second round, Magdalena Rybarikova or Laura Robson could await.  Both have big games and Rybarikova actually stretched Radwanska to three sets in Miami earlier this year.  One of the biggest talking points of the draw is that a potential third round opponent for Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic could meet fellow Serb, Jelena Jankovic in the second round.  It's a shame really because both have been playing well, but their matches are always fun to watch...

Angelique Kerber had a strong week in Stuttgart and has a reasonable draw that could give her a shot of making the semi-finals.  She takes on Hsieh Su-Wei in the first round and is likely to meet a Russian in the third round; Nadia Petrova is seeded to meet Kerber in the second round, but she could meet Svetlana Kuznetsova in round two.  Kuznetsova bombed out in an awkward quarter-final performance to Romina Oprandi in Oeiras and perhaps a tie with Zheng Jie in round one will be trickier enough for Svetlana.  Still, I could see Kuznetsova meeting Kerber in the third round...

1st Round Predictions: Bertens to beat Cornet in 2 sets, Kuznetsova to beat Zheng in 2 sets, Rybarikova to beat Robson in 2 sets and A.Radwanska to beat Pironkova in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)

Moo's Quarter-Final Predictions - A.Kerber v A.Ivanovic

FOURTH QUARTER - P.Kvitova (7) V M.Sharapova (2)
A string of solid players line the fourth quarter, which the Stuttgart champion, Maria Sharapova headlines.  The world number two faces a qualifier in round one and is projected to meet Dominika Cibulkova in round three, a player she has struggled against particularly on this surface.  Sabine Lisicki is also in this section and is always worth mentioning although her brainless ball-bashing makes her very unpredictable these days.  All in all, it should be a cakewalk for Maria.

Petra Kvitova will play Yanina Wickmayer in the first round and will fancy her chances in round two where she would meet the winner of a first rounder between Sloane Stephens and Daniela Hantuchova.  Sloane has been sliding fast since Australia and Hantuchova is Kvitova's pigeon. Kvitova could meet Sam Stosur in the third round although the Aussie has a really tough draw.  She will meet the impressive, Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round, who has made the final in Oeiras and topped Stosur in a 10-8 third set thriller at the Olympics last year.  Flavia Pennetta and Kaia Kanepi, who meet in the first round, will also be lurking.  Most seem to be backing Sam for an early exit, but I think she will be strong enough to set up a R3 meeting with Petra.

1st Round Predictions: Kvitova to beat Wickmayer in 2 sets, Hantuchova to beat Stephens in 3 sets, Kanepi to beat Pennetta in 2 tight sets, Stosur to beat Suarez Navarro in 3 sets and Lisicki to beat Arvidsson in 2 tight sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - P.Kvitova v M.Sharapova

Final Prediction - S.Williams d. M.Sharapova
This is the most interesting WTA tournament for quite sometime with the big three all competing.  I am still backing Serena to beat Sharapova in the final.  I fancy Serena to beat Azarenka in a one-sided semi-final  and Sharapova to beat Kerber in the second semi-final.  There have been utterings that Sharapova stands a chance against Serena following her triumph in Stuttgart, but I think despite a terrific performance against Li in the final, her form was still patchy in the first couple of rounds. Miami showed Sharapova can threaten Serena, but also showed that Serena still has a significant mental edge.  A match-up on the red clay will be fascinating and it should be a really fantastic week of tennis!

You can view my full predictions for WTA Madrid HERE

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