Friday, 27 September 2013

WTA Beijing: Preview and Predictions

A Saturday start for Beijing, which sees the return of Serena Williams and Li Na.  Let's take a look at the draw for the final Premier Mandatory of the year.

FIRST PROJECTED QUARTER - S.Williams (1) v C.Wozniacki (6)
Caroline Wozniacki
Serena Williams returns to action this week following her US Open triumph and comfortably in the knowing that she will end the year as the world number one. In her first appearance in Beijing since 2009, Serena opens her tournament against Elena Vesnina.  Her draw looks reasonable and the first seed she is projected to meet is Simona Halep, who lost out to her sister, Venus in a tough third round match in Tokyo.  The best first round match in this mini-section pits Francesca Schiavone against Alize Cornet with the Italian holding a 9-1 lead in their head-to-head.

Serena's projected quarter-final opponent is Caroline Wozniacki, who had a really positive week in Tokyo making the semi-finals.  I thought she was the most aggressive I had seen her in years and I was particularly impressed with her quarter-final win over Safarova where she recovered from a set down to win.  Her first match will be against Annika Beck or Monica Niculescu, the latter who made the semi-finals at this event in 2011.  Wozniacki could meet Sloane Stephens in the third round, which considering both are in the running for the year-ending-champs in Istanbul, would be a clash worth watching.

1st Round Predictions: S.Williams to beat Vesnina in 2 sets, Cornet to beat Schiavone in 3 sets, Zheng to beat Kirilenko in 2 tight sets, Stephens to beat Wozniak in 3 sets and Niculescu to beat Beck in 2 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction: S.Williams v Wozniacki

SECOND PROJECTED QUARTER - A.Radwanska (3) v A.Kerber (7)
Aga Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska heads up the second quarter following a last 8 appearance in Tokyo where tiredness was definitely an issue in her loss to Angelique Kerber, who is firmly rooted in her quarter again.  Aga will take on Stefanie Voegele in the first round before a potential second round match against Madison Keys or Dominika Cibulkova, who meet in an intriguing opener.  Ana Ivanovic looms in the third round, which is a great match up for Radwanska and a terrible one for Ana.  Ivanovic opens against Flavia Pennetta, which is testing on paper, but Ivanovic did win comfortably when they last met in Toronto.

Kerber, coming off the back of a run to the final in Tokyo, will face a tough opener against Klara Zakopalova or Laura Robson.  Both have not have good runs in Asia, but have the potential to be a giant killer on their day.  Roberta Vinci is a potential third round opponent for Kerber.  The Italian remains in the hunt for a spot in the lucrative top eight of the year-ending-champs and she takes on Elina Svitolina in the first round.  An all-Chinese clash between Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai is also one to watch out for as Zhang went on a 9 match winning streaking, claiming the Guangzhou title and just coming up short in Ningbo this week.

1st Round Predictions: Radwanska to beat Voegele in 2 sets, Keys to beat Cibulkova in 3 sets, Ivanovic to beat Pennetta in 2 tight sets, Vinci to beat Svitolina in 2 sets, Zhang to beat Peng in 3 sets and Robson to beat Zakopalova in 2 tight sets

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

Li Na
Sara Errani opens up her Beijing campaign with a tough opener, like Tokyo, against Kirsten Flipkens.  Both players were stunning during the first half of the season, but have run out of gas in the last month or two.  I actually think Errani stands a chance of getting through that one.  She may struggle though in round three against a seemingly rejuvenated, Petra Kvitova, who has had a terrific week in making the Tokyo final.  I am also hoping Heather Watson can find some wins to help kick start her 2014 season with some confidence.  She has a winnable opener against Varvara Lepchenko, who she beat earlier this year in Eastbourne and is in equally poor form.

The toughest section of them all features home hope, Li Na, who did really well in Beijing last year making the semi-finals.  Her first match will be against Daniela Hantuchova, who she is 2-4 in the head-to-head record.  If she gets through that, an equally tough match would await in round two against Sorana Cirstea or Bojana Jovanovski.  Cirstea beat Li in Toronto, meanwhile Jovanovski has won two titles in Tashkent and Ningbo since the US Open; admittedly weak tournaments, but wins are wins and give a lot of confidence and she did thrash Cirstea in Guangzhou.  Also in this super strong quarter are Venus Williams and Sabine Lisicki, who could meet in a blockbuster 2nd rounder.

1st Round Predictions: Errani to beat Flipkens in 2 tight sets, Watson to beat Lepchenko in 3 sets, Cirstea to beat Jovanovski in 2 tight sets and Li to beat Hantuchova in 3 set

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction: Kvitova v Li

FOURTH PROJECTED QUARTER - J.Jankovic (8) v V.Azarenka (2)
The final and fourth quarters features the best array of first round matches beginning with Jelena Jankovic against the International queen, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  Pav has a 3-1 head-to-head lead, but Jankovic did win their last match in Fed Cup action last year.  It is definitely the toughest of the first round matches to call with Pav winning all 3 of their hard court clashes although I would be inclined to go for Jankovic.  The winner is likely to meet Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round, if she can put a horror loss to Madison Keys in Tokyo behind her, which she lost from a 7-5 5-2 advantage.

Victoria Azarenka returns as the defending champion in Beijing where she takes on Andrea Petkovic.  The last time they played was in Stuttgart in 2012 when Petkovic went over on her ankle and I remember Vika lovingly helping her off the court.  Petko has struggled in the last few weeks, but I hope she can finish the year with some good wins to set herself up for 2014.  It is very possible we could see Azarenka take on Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round, which would be a very interesting contest after Vika laboured to a loss to Venus in the second round of Tokyo.  Poor old Sam Stosur faces Lucie Safarova in the first round, who she lost too last week in Tokyo and has a 2-7 head-to-head record .

1st Round Predictions: Jankovic to beat Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets, Suarez Navarro to beat Mladenovic in 2 sets, Safarova to beat Stosur in 3 sets, Kanepi to beat Goerges in 2 tight sets and Azarenka to beat Petkovic in 2 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction: Suarez Navarro v Azarenka

Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Li
My thinking is that if Serena is planning to turn up, she means business.  After last week, I have a feeling Azarenka might struggle again this week.  We have waited all year for another Azarenka-Li match and although Li has a real killer of a draw, I think they will meet in the semi-finals.  I think Li would have won the Australian Open had it not been for her unfortunate injuries so she would up for revenge if they did meet.  I don't see many upsets in this draw so it will be interesting to see how it pans out round by round.

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