Sunday, 22 September 2013

Moo returns, WTA Tokyo Preview and Predictions

I am pleased to say that Moo's Tennis Blog is back from vacation! I had a lovely week exploring Switzerland.  It was a largely tennis free week, which I really needed because blogging had been pretty much constant since the beginning of the clay court season.  However whilst in Switzerland, I did visit Gstaad where an ATP 250 event is held each year. It is situated in a small ski resort nestled in the mountains and I can imagine it would be a wonderful place to watch some tennis. Pictures below!

Gstaad is in a really lovely setting

The main court at Gstaad

Back to business of previewing the tour events and just 3 weeks after the US Open reached its crescendo and we are already, perhaps too soon, into the Tokyo-Beijing double.  It is no surprise to see some key withdrawals with Serena, Sharapova and Li all missing Tokyo.  The draw is top heavy, but there are some really compelling openers to watch out for.  Play has already got underway with a host of first round matches so let's take a look at the draw.

Projected First Quarter - V.Azarenka v J.Jankovic
Victoria Azarenka
Heading up a Serena-free draw, Victoria Azarenka sits pretty at the top of the Tokyo drawsheet and as the heavy favourite too.  However the US Open finalist has a really sticky draw and will face back-to-back matches against the Williams sisters as she will take on Venus Williams in a blockbuster second rounder after she comfortably defeated Mona Barthel today with a 6-3 6-1 victory.  

Azarenkas's first projected seed is Simona Halep, who remains one of the in-form players on the tour. She was perhaps a little disappointing in only making the last 16 of the US Open where many fancied her to go at least one round and perhaps two rounds further.  She will open her Tokyo campaign against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has maintained her superb form in Internationals this year with a run to the final in Seoul.  She remains unable to translate that form into the big events though with her 3rd round showing at the US her best at a big event all year.

Jelena Jankovic, who is back into the top 10 following a super consistent year where she has performed strongly at the big events, will play Ayumi Morita or Laura Robson in the second round.  This mini-section is littered with many of the hot prospects with Sloane Stephens, Monica Puig and Eugenie Bouchard joining Robson.  After watching Sloane go down to Serena at the US, it was the first time I felt that Sloane does have something special and most important of all, an ability to deliver her A-game on the big stage; this is particularly noted by her making the 4th round at each Slam this year.  I predict that Bouchard will take out Puig in the first round and set up an enticing second rounder with Sloane, which will go down to the wire.

1st Round Predictions: Vesnina to beat Petkovic in 3 sets, Halep to beat Pavlyuchenkova in 2 tight sets, Bouchard to beat Puig in 2 tight sets and Robson to beat Morita in 2 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction: Azarenka v Stephens

Projected Second Quarter: S.Errani v P.Kvitova
Petra Kvitova
Sara Errani admitted that the pressure of being the number 4 seed at the US Open had really got to her so it will be interesting to see how she copes in Tokyo.  Lurking in round two is the irratic yet never to be discounted, Svetlana Kuznetsova.  I think Errani's words at the US were interesting and with rumours of her pairing with Roberta Vinci, not as strong as they once were, I think she will be facing an early exit.  This section also features the Toronto finalist, Sorana Cirstea, who hadn't won a match since the aforementioned tournament, largely due to injuries; however she notched up a straight sets win over the heavily slumping Julia Goerges in round one.  Varvara Lepchenko has not been moving mountains of late, but she has a very workable draw to the quarters.

Petra Kvitova has been a complete mystery of late with illnesses affecting her last two Grand Slams and perhaps her brain too if recent pictures of her and Radek Stepanek are anything to go by.  Her first match of the week will be against the Wimbledon Juniors champion, Belinda Bencic.  If Kvitova makes it to the last 16, then she is likely to play the winner of a first round tie between Carla Suarez Navarro and Madison Keys, which is one of the most intriguing on paper with a clash of completely different playing styles.

1st Round Predictions: Lepchenko to beat Doi in 2 very tight sets, Peng to beat Ozaki in 2 tight sets and Suarez Navarro to beat Keys in 2 tight sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction: Lepchenko v Kvitova

Projected Third Quarter: R.Vinci v C.Wozniacki
C. Wozniacki
Caroline Wozniacki headlines up the third quarter of the draw, which a few years ago she would have been strolling through in her sleep, but these days presents a considerable challenge.  First up will be a US Open quarter-finalist as New York surprise packages, Daniela Hantuchova and Flavia Pennetta meet in the first round. Kirsten Flipkens could await in the third round, but the Wimbledon semi-finalist has really struggled for form with a knee injury hindering her progress. She did however post a morale boosting straight sets win over Barbara Zahlavova Strycova in the first round.

Roberta Vinci and Sam Stosur are destined to meet in the other third round match from this quarter.  Vinci is knocking on the door of the top 10 and a good tournament here will help her chances of breaking another milestone in her career.  She will take on Lucie Safarova in the second round, who restored some confidence after a barren year with the title in Quebec City two weeks ago. Stosur is a bit of a mystery with recent coaching changes, but she posted a solid win yesterday, recovering from losing the first set to Alize Cornet to win, 2-6 6-4 6-1.

1st Round Predictions: Date-Krumm to beat An. Rodionova in 3 sets, Rybarikova to beat Hsieh in 2 sets and Pennetta to beat Hantuchova in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction: Vinci v Wozniacki

Projected Fourth Quarter: A.Kerber v A. Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska bookends the draw and looks to be in reasonable form having won the title in Seoul, albeit in a pretty average draw.  She had another disappointing Grand Slam at the US as she lost for the first time in 4 meetings to Ekaterina Makarova.  Her draw is likely to pass by Francesca Schivone (round 2) and Dominika Cibulkova (round 3) based on ranking.  Cibulkova's form has been non-existent since a duo of excellent performances in Stanford and Toronto. I have been hoping for more from the big serving Kiki Mladenovic and she could, with a strong performance, possibly make the third round.

Angelique Kerber has had a stuttering 2013 with a string of tough losses epitomising her year.  She fell to Carla Suarez Navarro in a tough 4th rounder at the US although that did come after 2 solid wins over Bouchard and Kanepi.  Kerber's first opponent in Tokyo will be Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.  A potential third rounder with Ana Ivanovic, who has played reasonably well since splitting with Nigel Sears, will not be straightforward, particularly with a 0-2 head-to-head record and both losses coming this year.

1st Round Predictions: Ivanovic to beat Beck in 2 tight sets, Mladenovic to beat Dellacqua in 2 very tight sets and Schiavone to beat Wozniak in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction: Ivanovic v A.Radwanska

I could see plenty of upsets this week, but I still see Victoria Azarenka claiming the title.  Radwanska looks the obvious choice from the bottom half to make the final although tiredness could be a factor.  I quite like Vinci's draw in the bottom half so she would be my dark horse tip if she can get past the in-form Safarova in R2.

No comments:

Post a Comment