Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AUS OPEN 2012: Women's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the Women's Semifinals at the 2012 Australian Open. This year I previously predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (3) vsKim Clijsters BEL (11).  The most surprising aspect of the women's quarterfinals results were when 4-time major champion from Belgium beat World #1 Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets  many media outlets called it "an upset." Kim Clijsters has never lost a match to Wozniacki (only played three times) and anyone who appreciates "Big Babe" tennis knows why. Wozniacki can simply be overpowered by big hitting, she is too complacent to be a "Golden Retriever" of the ball. She has a horrendous record against such "Big Babes" as Li Na, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Marion Bartoli, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova. Clisjsters led 6-3, 5-2 when things started to get complicated with Wozniacki putting up stiffer resistance with Clijster responded by getting tight. Wozniacki forced a tiebreaker which Clijsters was able to gut out 7-4. The tiebreak was dramatic but not as intensely exciting as the 2nd set tiebreak with Li Na where Clijster saved 4 consecutive match points on the way to her 4th round victory. 

The other quarterfinal in this half of the draw was a similar match up between a Big Babe and a counter puncher, i.e. Azarenka versus Agnieska Radwanska. The two best friends played a very scrappy first set of tennis with eight service breaks among the first dozen games played. Azarenka played an an atrocious tiebreak, failing to win a single point. But then she showed her mental toughness by deploying "selective amnesia" and forgot about the recent unpleasantness of the entire first set and proceeded to win the middle set with a bagel. During the third set the weather became a factor and it was clear that (surprisingly) the Pole was more heavily impacted than the Belarussian. Azarenka ended up sprinting to the finish line, winning 6-7(0) 6-0 6-2. Head to head, Clijsters leads Azarenka 4-2 overall (4-1 on hard courts). Clijsters has a decisive advantage in experience, with this being her 16th major semifinal compared to Azarenka's second. Clijsters' semifinal record is 8-7 in semis (although it is 3-0 since she returned after her retirement hiatus). I truly believe that Azarenka will reach a major final very soon, but will she be able to dismiss the defending Australian Open champion on her own turf? I believe the answer is yes. The good news for Azarenka is that it is unlikely that Clijsters is at 100% due to a rolled ankle two rounds before and also that the match will be played at night. PREDICTION: Azarenka.

Maria Sharapova RUS (4) vs.  Petra Kvitova CZE (2) The two took similar paths to reach here, with both only dropping one set each in the first five rounds. In the quarterfinal matches, Kvitova dismissed Sara Errani in two surprisingly tight sets 6-4 6-4 while Sharapova was never really threatened by Ekaterina "Serena-killer" Markarova in their 6-2 6-3 quarterfinal match. This semifinal is a repeat of the 2011 Wimbledon final, which was won relatively easy by Kvitova.
This was a surprising result to some but not to yours truly after closely observing Sharapova's serving woes during that tournament and comparing them to Kvitova's heavy groundstrokes combined with a powerful lefty serve. The good news for Sharapova this time is that she is serving much better in Melbourne than she did last summer in London. Kvitova is averaging around 28 winners per match compared to Sharapova's average of 24. However, Sharapova's service percentage is averaging nearly 70% for the tournament, while Kvitova's is merely 60%. Through five rounds of grand slam play,  Sharapova has an average of 4 doublefaults  compared to 2 aces per match (an inauspicious ratio of 2:1) while Kvitova has a total of 12 doublefaults to 16 aces (with a much better ratio of 3:4). My druthers would be to see a repeat of the Wimbledon final result since I do believe that Kvitova will be the #1 player in the world very soon, and if Sharapova wins the semifinal the first post-Wozniacki #1 will be decided by whoever wins this tournament. Kvitova is still a very streaky player; when she's hot she's unbeatable, when she's cold she's very pedestrian. If she remains on a hot streak long enough she could again take Sharapova out very quickly in straight sets, but it is more likely that Sharapova will be able to put enough resistance to allow Kvitova to cool down and create enough tension to allow the more experienced and mentally tough player (and coincidentally happens to be the one currently playing the better tennis) to pull through. Regardless, it should be an excellent example of Big Babe tennis at its best: a close, hard-hitting, loud match. PREDICTIONSharapova.


Anonymous said...

Really good perspective and insight. Thanks for sharing your insightful opinion. You could use an editor to check your grammar, but otherwise great blog! Keep doing what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

I just googled you and saw you were British. So I take back my grammar comments. You Brits do it differently from us USA folk, which is fine. Sorry for the confusion brother.


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