Sunday, January 29, 2012

Azarenka wins Australian Open and ascends to number one

Some 11 months ago Victoria Azarenka suffered early losses at Dubai and Doha and began questioning her future in tennis. All she wanted was to get as far away as possible from the sport and contemplated calling it quits  at times during this hard time. Victoria Azarenka now holds the Australian Open title, her maiden slam title, and sits atop of the WTA rankings.

Playing her first ever slam final nerves were expected, and were seen at the start of the match as she trailed 0-2 0-30 serving. With new found mental strength and composure Azarenka proceeded to win 12 of the last 13 games in a 6-3 6-0 defeat of 2008 champion Maria Sharapova.

Azarenka prevailed at Melbourne Park in the junior competition in 2005 and is now just the third woman in history to have won both the Girls and Women's singles events at the Australian Open.

Having won Sydney the week prior to the Australian Open the Belarusian now holds a 12-0 winning streak for the new season and is now Belarus' first slam champion and first world number 1. Azarenka also joins the company of Steffi Graf (1994) and Serena Williams (2005 & 2009) as the only women to win 6-0 sets in Australian Open finals.

Azarenka was not the only one to climb the rankings thanks to Australian Open results. Agnieszka Radwanska achieves a career high ranking of six while Marion Bartoli climbs to number seven, also her career high rank. Sabine Lisicki also achieves a career high ranking of 14.

I would also like to take this moment, because I am a mean person :P, to make Carlos A.K.A ABM  eat his words of "Vika will never win anything big other than Miami. She'll be like Hantuchova and Indian Wells" Of course I am paraphrasing but you get the idea.

Speaking of that in a rather interesting stat, every woman to ever win Miami has now won a Slam at some point in their career.

In her acceptance speech Victoria dedicated the win her Grandmother, the person her inspires her the most in life.

Photos from the big night;

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Makarova causes upset of the Australian Open

An inspired Ekaterina Makarova walked onto Rod Laver Arena against the most dominate player ever at Melbourne Park. The Russian told Renee Stubbs before the match "You better be nice to me during the interview"  Stubbsy said she wasn't doing pre-match interviews and the confident Makarova responded with "I meant for the post match interview"

Ekaterina was booming with self confidence and that's all she needed to send shock waves through Melbourne Park with the upset of Serena Williams. A passive 13 time major winner hampered by injury was unable to match the consistency of her opponent today.

Arguably the biggest win of Ekaterina Makarova's career sees her advance to her first ever quarter final at a slam. The the last eight she will duel against fellow Russian Maria Sharapova who took three sets to defeat German Sabine Lisicki.

The serve that Serena Williams has been able t rely on through out her career was left in her hotel room as she served 7 aces and around 50% of her first serves in.

And the worse part of it all that my predictions are now nearly as bad as Emily's.

Also its 2am. Don't blame me if this makes no sense.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Five time Australian Open champion, Serena Williams celebrated her 500th career victory today, defeating Czech Barbora Zhlavova Strycova and her own boredom 6-0 6-4 advancing to the third round of the Grand Slam of Asia and Pacific.

Serena's usually feisty opponent put minimal effort into the match and in the end it essentially turned into a training drill for the former world number one. Williams dropped just nine points in the opening set but took the foot of the pedal in the second set ultimately dropping four games.

Williams now sets her sights on something much, much bigger and lets face it, impossible even for Serena;

"It's great. I haven't even thought about it. It's like the ultimate. It's really, really cool. The first thing I asked, of course, Is there anyone that achieved a thousand? I guess not. I never will get there either. But it's really cool. 500 is a lot of matches to play, let alone to win, so it's pretty cool."

The 13 times slam champion was initially scheduled to play mixed doubles with her good friend Andy Roddick in preparation for the Olympics and an attempt to complete the trifecta of Grand Slams, only the Australian Open and French Open mixed doubles trophies elude her trophy cabinet. Unfortunately due to an injury Andy sustained in December and provoked during his second round match with Lleyton Hewitt, Williams and Roddick have been forced to withdraw from the competition.

Other top seeds continue to advance with out much trouble with Wozniacki and Azarenka storming into the round of 16 today dropping 12 games between them.

World number two Petra Kvitova so far is the only title favorite to drop a set, battling past Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 2-6 6-4

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On a roll

Weekend winners, Victoria Azarenka and Mona Barthel, have extended their winning streaks by easing into the second round of the Australian Open.

Azarenka, the world number three, opened her campaign for a maiden slam title on Rod Laver Arena. Victoria dropped the first game against her young British opponent before reeling off 12 consecutive games to adavance to the second round where she will meet Australian wild card entry, Casey Dellacqua. Dellacqua, who captured the hearts of the nation with her run to the forth round of the Australian Open in 2008, defeated rising Serbian star Bojana Jovanovski. If Azarenka were to win the encounter she could play Hobart champion Mona Barthel. The young German won the first set against Anne Keothavong 6-0, when the Brit was forced to retire due to suspected food poisoning. Barthel will play 32nd seeded Petra Cetkovska in the second.

The biger names in the tournament have been flying so far, dropping just eight games between them in the opening round. Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka both dropped just one game, second seed Petra Kvitova dropped two while top seed Caroline Wozniacki dropped three in what was the toughest of the four matches, with her opponent failing to capitalize on her opportunities in the first set.

Honorable mention to Serena Williams who powered down 12 aces, including four in one service game, extended her first found winning record at slams to 46-0. And hit this return.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters bounced back after a sluggish first set to dispatch her qualifier opponent 7-5 6-1

And sixth seeded Australian Sam Stosur became the first major casualty of the open falling in the first round to Romanian Sorana Cirstea 7-6 6-3.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Walking Wounded - Australian Open Prediction (2012)

The Walking Wounded, a tribe of injured tennis starlettes are heading into the Australian Open carrying injuries. Wrists, hips, backs, ankles you name we got it! In her absence Emily has also given the right to make the predictions posts this time. Which is good considering she has an 0 and 4 record coming in, maybe I will be able to finally bring some success! And now bare with me, as I eat my Lasagna and watch The Golden Girls, and take you on the roller coaster ride of my predictions!

First Quarter;

The first quarter is quite big name heavy. Obviously featuring World Number 1 Caroline Wozniacki, coming into the tournament carrying a wrist injury, former World Number 1 Jelena Jankovic, defending champ Kim Clijsters, Roland Garros champ and 2011 runner up Li Na as well as other regular tour threats, 2008 semi finalist Daniela Hantuchova, in form 2007 quarter finalist Lucia Safarova. Wozniacki and Jankovic are on course for a round of 16 match, which could prove very exciting. Wozniacki is currently receiving coaching assistance from Jankovic's former coach, Ricardo Sanchez, and Jelena Jankovic has been playing incredibly well for the start of the season. All but one of their matches have been close encounters, including three 3 setters in the seven encounters. I completely see this match as a toss up based on two factors, Caroline's injury and Jelena's form. In the lower sector of the quarter the 4th round match will more than likely feature last years finalists, Li Na and Kim Clijsters. Returning from about four months of injury and already set back from injury again, Kim Clijsters will most likely still be the favorite in the match against the returning to form Li Na. I can't see anyone posing any real threat to this 4th round encounter, which will no doubt be another thrilling encounter. I am tipping the 'upset' of Clijsters.

Quarter Final Prediction - [1] Caroline Wozniacki vs [5] Li Na

Second Quarter

The second quarter will most likely be dominated by third seed and Sydney champion, Victoria Azarenka. Victoria has a very easy path to the quarter final, with her seeded 4th round opponent an out of sorts Peng Shuai, however she could encounter a tricky thrid round match against rising German star and Hobart champion Mona Barthel. The lower section is highlighted by Agnieszka Radwanska, the eighth seed. This section is probably the most open in the draw and we could see a run to the 4th round or even quarter final by the likes of Kimiko Date Krumm, Sania Mirza, Tsvetana Pironkova or Galina Voskoboeva. And just to be different, I am going to tip Kimiko to knock off tenth seed Francesca Schiavone in the third round and face off against Radwanska in the fourth.

Quarter Final Prediction - [3] Victoria Azarenka vs Kimiko Date Krumm

Third Quarter

Serena Williams. Does anything else need to be said? One would expect with the draw given to Serena, she should cruise into the second week and round of 16, where things could get tricky. Serena would play Vera Zvonareva if things went to seedings. Vera has been out of form since sacking her coach that took her to number two in the world and two slam finals. The draw has not been kind to Vera either, she opens against Dulgheru (who sent Petra Kvitova home early in the US Open), should play hard hitting Lucie Hradecka in the second and if shes able to survive both of these she will run into an inform and full of confidence Kaia Kanepi. The seeds to meet in the fourth round in the lower section are Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki. Both are hanging under injury clouds, and I would not so boldly predict the upsets of the pair in early rounds. Sharapova hasn't played since September and often struggles with no warm up tournaments, especially at the beginning of the year. I wouldn't be surprised to see a run made by Sloane Stephens, Elena Vesnina, Gisela Dulko or even Shahar Peer who is entering 2012 revitalized and coming off a semifinal run in Hobart. I would imagine Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has been in some great form at the beginning of the year to advance to at least the fourth round, who her opponent will? Your guess is as good as mine.

Quarter Final Prediction - [12] Serena Williams vs [18] Svetlana Kuznetsova

Fourth Quarter

The head line act is none other than Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. No one in her draw her octet could pose any real threat the her advancing to the quarter finals, I am going to be bold and say the in the 4th round she will play Vania King. In the higher half of this quarter Sam Stosur will carry the hopes of the nation on her racquet, which will be a momentousness task given her recent form. Her first round is against an unpredictable Romaina, Sorana Cirstea and could face Nadia Petrova in the third round. The other seeded player to make the fourth round is Marion Bartoli, despite her great form of recent time I am going to go out on a huge limb and say that the fourth round opponent to Stosur will be either Zheng Jie or American wild card play off winner Madison Keys.

Quarter Final Prediction - [6] Sam Stosur vs [2] Petra Kvitova 


Caroline Wozniacki vs Li Na
Based on injury alone, I am going to give a slight edge to Li Na. If Caroline's injury is not too bad, I would expect it to be a different story. Wozniacki will be on  the revenge path following her loss to Li at the semi final stage of last years tournament blowing a match point. It really is a toss up depending of fitness. Both will probably have tough 4th round matches and its basically a toss up. Like I said earlier slight edge to Li

Victoria Azarenka vs Kimiko Date Krumm
This one answers its self

Serena Williams vs Svetlana Kuznetsova 
These good friends share a very rich rivelry which features some epic matches over time. Half of their matches have gone to three sets, and Svetlana does tend to show up when playing Serena. Nearly every match Serena plays is on her racquet, however I feel that in this situation it will all comedown to which Sveta turns up and if she can handle her nerves.

Sam Stosur vs Petra Kvitova 
Petra is 6ft tall. Petra hits hard. Petra is a lefty.
Sam is playing in front of her home crowed, lets face it...she sucks at dealing with pressure.


Li Na vs Victoria Azarenka
Li Na seems to have Victoria's number when it comes to slams. Except Vika has won their last two encounters now, and seems to be getting on top if Li. The match should prove to be very very exciting. I give a slight edge to Victoria having just beaten Li in Sydney

Serena Williams vs Petra Kvitova
The match the tennis world has been waiting for. This could be incredible if both players play near their best level. Who will win? I have no idea. I give the slimmest of advantages to Petra, depending on how Serena's ankle is.

The final. 

Victoria Azarenka vs Someone 
If Serena plays Victoria, Serena will win. If Petra plays Victoria, Victoria will win.

I am leaving it at that.

I think, well I am 75% sure we'll see Serena lift the trophy. Trust Emily to give me the toughest draw to predict. Typical.

My names to watch
Victoria Azarenka - probably the best chance from the six possibilities to come out of Melbourne with the number one rank.
Ash Barty - Junior Wimbledon champ won the Australian wild card play offs
Iveta Benesova - She's got the draw to make some noise and is definitely capable
Sania Mizra - I have a feeling she could do something. Sadly I get this feeling a lot.
Lucie Hradecka - The talent is definitely there, she could fare well against Kanepi. R4.
Anna Chakvetadze - Returning from a series of injuries everything was going well in Hobart until a slight back twinge. Could make some sort of a run.
Aleks Wozniak - Dark horse for round 3
Marion Bartoli - Form of her life. Deadly in Perth
Julia Görges - She has some points to defend here and is more than capable
Jelena Jankovic - Her backhand and serve looked the goods in Brisbane and Sydney. Especially the backhand, I don't know where she has been hiding the past year or so, but its back!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winning a first set 6-1 is, well...bad.

Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska won the first set of their Apia Sydney International matches 6-1, looking to be well on top of their respective opponents...well in everyone's mind apart from the player on the opposite side of the net. Li Na and Victoria Azarenka upped the anti to stage valiant comeback winning 1-6 7-5 6-2 and 1-6 6-3 6-2 to advance to play in the final of the Sydney tournament.

Closing in on the top spot and just two wins away, Kvtiova came into her semi as the strong favorite. Playing the tennis that talk her the Wimbledon and Season Ending Championships titles Kvitova stormed to a 6-1 3-1 lead and had a point to extend her lead to 4-1. Li called her husband and coach on court and with wise words along the lines of "If you keep playing like this, I can go book our flight to Melbourne now", obviously the Chinese world number five wanted to stick around in Sydney for while longer as she fought back to force a deciding set with Petra Kvitova. A tight battle in the early stages of the set didn't not continue as Li began to rattle the usually composed power house that is Petra Kvitova. Li Na broke the mammoth serve of her opponent not once but twice to advance to the final of Sydney and continue her strong title defense.

In the second semifinal with out knowing the results of their previous matches, you would think it was Azarenka who didn't finish till midnight, had to meet press, cool down and end up in bed around 2.30 am and not Radwanska. It seemed to all catch up to Radwanska in the second an thrid set and fatigue set in and Victoria upped her game, showing improvements not only in psychical but mental game as well. Azarenka in the end proved too strong  for her tiring friend prevailing to make her first final in Sydney, following semi and quarterfinal showings in the past.

Li Na leads the head to head with Azarenka 4-2, however Azarenka won their most recent meeting in sensational form 6-2 6-2 in the Year End Championships.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kaia and Dani the last two standing in Brisbane.

The field at Brisbane boasted the likes of Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Sam Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone. The tournament started to turn into a medical ward with Hercog succumbing  to a back injury, Pervak to a migraine, Williams sprained her ankle, Clijsters injured her hip and Schiavone fell ill.  This combined with upsets gives us the surprise final of Daniela Hantuchova and Kaia Kanepi.

The first semi of the night placed Kim Clijsters against Hantuchova, who benefited from Williams' ankle injury in the quarterfinal, and things didn't go according to plan. Clijsters, who lead Hantuchova 9-0 in H2H results, was out of sorts at the start of the match, spraying errors left, right and center and was quickly down 4-1. Daniela served for the set at 5-3 and decided to give us her trademark choke. And about 10 minutes later we had set points for Kim.

The second set got underway, and you began to feel there was something wrong with Kim. Fears were confirmed when she called the trainer and left court for a medical time out trailing 1-2. With the movement and athleticism, which is an essential aspect to her game, obviously hampered Kim played one more game before retiring. The injury has been confirmed has a left hip injury and similar to the injury Kim sustained in 2010.

Heading onto court earlier than expected, emerging talent Kaia Kanepi and WTA warrior Francesca Schiavone, was a match that promised so much. Unfortunately the battle between the two such contrasting games did not relieved the expectation that it had promised. Their most recent encounter was a three set thriller in Moscow last year, in this encounter Francesca manged three games against the power hitting barrage of Kaia Kenpi.

Hantuchova leads Kanepi 3-0 in H2H, but as most things this week, I expect that to change to the favor of the Estonian.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Injured Serena wins but withdraws for quarters.

At 6-2 4-1 in her 2nd round match at the Brisbane International, Serena Williams called the trainer on court to remove tape on her left ankle which she claimed to have been hampering her movement. Fast forward a few games, Williams serving for the match at 5-3 to precise, at deuce Williams changed direction quickly and in a blink of the eye was on the ground holding back tears. The fourth-seeded American had rolled and sprained her left ankle (which could have been avoided had the tape remained). Despite the obvious pain her daughter was in, mother and coach Oracene Price didn't seem too concerned laughing from the players box. Williams remained in pain, lying on Pat Rafter Arena for sometime before hobbling to the side line for treatment.

Returning to the court again Serena had her serve broken but managed to use her awe inspiring power to break the Jovanovski serve and prevail 6-2 6-4. Williams advances to the quarter finals where she will meet Daniela Hantuchova, if the MRI scan allows her to do so.

The 13-times-major winner, Williams is playing in Australia for the first time since missing the 2011 Australian Open, as well as most of the season, with a potential life treating injury.

The earlier match on Pat Rafter Arena saw reigning US Open Champion and top seed Samantha Stosur bundled out by Czech Iveta Benesova. The diminutive Czech had not won a set off the Australian in four previous meetings but changed her fortunes in front of Stosur's home crowd. The start of 2012 is a real change of fortunes, in the first found she defeated Lucie Safarova, who she had failed to beat previously also.

Across the Tasman Sea in Auckland, despite rain interrupting play throughout the day. The New Zealand crowds were treated to two German battle's with another one set for the quarterfinals. Top seed Sabine Lisicki had the task of dispatching young rising star compatriot Mona Barthel. The topsy-tervy match saw the more experienced player prevail 7-6 3-6 6-3. In the quarters Lisicki will play surprise US Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber who was too solid for an ill Julia Goerges advancing 6-2 6-3.

Svetlana Kuznetsova showed incredible form to destroy rising American teenager Christina McHale 6-1 6-1. It was one of the Russian's most solid performances in recent time and shows promising signs coming into the new season.

EDIT - Reliable sources inform me that Serena Williams HAS withdrawn from the Brisbane International 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Champs all win in Brisbane

In its first year of Premier status the Brisbane International has fielded a world class line up featuring six Grand Slam champs and former world number ones. In the top heavy draw; Samantha Stosur, Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams, Francesca Schiavone and even Jelena Jankovic (who hasn't won her season opener for two years) won their first matches of 2012 with relative ease.

In fact, the first round of the Brisbane International basically went to script except for 8th seeded Dominika Cibulkova losing to compatriot Daniela Hantuchova in three sets.

Sporting new labels Samantha Stosur and Jelena Jankovic gave their new clothing sponsor something to smile about both kicking off 2012 with relative ease. The pair both prevailed in straight sets 6-2 6-3 and 6-4 6-2 respectively.

The French Open champs kicked off their seasons with different wins but wins none the less, Ana Ivanovic prevailed 6-3 6-3 over Wimbledon quarter finalist Tamira Paszek while Schiavone won when her opponent, Kazakhstan's Xeniya (Kesnina) Pervak double faulted giving Fran the break back to tie at 4-4 in the first set and retired from the match following, citing a migraine.

On debut in Brisbane, 13 time slam winner Serena Williams began her campaign for an astonishing sixth Australian Open crown with a 6-2 6-3 win of South African, Chanelle Scheepers. Williams shook for first serve and forehand rust to prevail in 68 minutes and fire down seven aces.

2010 Brisbane champion, Kim Clijsters won on New Years day against her Romanian opponent Simona Halep. After a comfortable 6-1 opening set the second set was much more a tussle as the pair exchanged breaks, however experience proved stronger on the day with Kim winning 6-1 6-4. Kim's win sets up an enthralling round two match against Ana Ivanovic, the last time the pair played in Miami 2011, the Serb choked away triple match point serving at 5-0 in the third.