Monday, January 23, 2012

AUS OPEN 2012: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Caroline Wozniacki DEN (1) vsKim Clijsters BEL (11).  "Don't call it a Kimback, she's been here for years!" Defending champion Clijsters survived 4 consecutive match points against 2011 Australian open finalist Li Na and somehow, miraculously was able to gut out the middle set and (mostly) ran away with the third and deciding set to complete one of the most amazing comebacks of recent years. Wozniacki has had a pretty uneventful run to the quarterfinals and dispatched the only other former #1 player to not win a major title (#11 seed Jelena Jankovic) surprisingly easily. However, against the Big Babes of tennis The Golden Retriever has been on the losing end of frequent beat downs during her "reign" at the top of the WTA rankings and I suspect this will just be another one. Losing to Clijsters in the quarterfinal (one round earlier than she was bounced from the tournament last year) will probably result in Wozniacki's demise as World #1, which would probably be relief for her and fan of women's tennis. PREDICTION: Clijsters in 2 sets.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (3) vs. Agnieska Radwanska POL (8).  Azarenka has been cutting through the draw like a hot knife through butter, dropping a mere dozen games through four rounds of Grand Slam tournament play. (Only World #1 Novak Djokovic has been more dominating, losing a gawdy 10 games through 4 rounds of best-of-5-set matches.)  Radwanska is a wily player (some would call her a poor man's Martina Hingis) but Azarenka enjoys a healthy 6-3 career head-to-head advantage over the Pole, including a 5-2 lead in hard court matches. Surprisingly, Azarenka has only won one major quarterfinal in her career (despite playing in 5), while  Radwanska hasn't won any of the four major quarterfinals she has appeared in. Azarenka will make it zero out of five as she reaches her second major quarterfinal, as she starts to finally live up to to her Top 4 seeding. PREDICTION: Azarenka in 2 sets.

Maria Sharapova RUS (4) vs. Serena Williams USA (12) Ekaterina Makarova RUS. One of the most surprising results of the  last five years was Makarova's dismissal of 5-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams  in straight sets the round before. Makarova is clearly confident and loves pace. Serena was not playing her best tennis (3 double faults in one game? Service percentage well below 50%? An average of 2 unforced errors per game?) but Makarova did well to remain calm on the court while her opponent self-destructed. She demonstrated that her thrilling 3-6 6-4 10-8 win over Ana Ivanovic last year was not a fluke. Sharapova is the recipient of the gaping hole Serena's early exit leaves in the draw, and will almost certainly take advantage of her opportunity to produce a rematch of the 2011 Wimbledon final with Kvitova in the bottom half semifinal. PREDICTIONSharapova in 3 sets.

Zheng Jie CHN Sara Errani ITA vs. Petra Kvitova CZE (2). Future World #1 Kvitova has not been playing her best tennis but has been able to ride out her hot and cold streaks by coasting to wins after building up near insurmountable leads during the hot streaks and minimizing the damage caused by the cold streaks. Surprisingly, this is only Kvitova's 4th major quarterfinal appearance but will almost definitely lead to her 3rd major semifinal appearance. PREDICTION: Kvitova in 2 sets.

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