Tuesday, June 05, 2012

FRENCH OPEN 2012: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

The women's quarterfinals are now set at the 2012 French Open. Last year, I predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 2 of 3 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also previewed the 2012 men's quarterfinals.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) Dominika Cibulkova SVK (15) vs Samantha Stosur AUS (6)The feisty Slovak is in her second career Grand Slam quarterfinal following the biggest win of her career in holding her nerve to outhit and outplay an unsettled World #1 Vika Azarenka. Stosur has had success on clay for the last three years, reaching two semifinals and one final at Roland Garros in that period before breaking through to win the 2011 U.S. Open over Serena Williams. The Australian has long been blessed with one of the most effective serves in women's tennis and excellent movement but her mental toughness has been considered her Achilles heel. As she approaches veteran status on the women's tour at age 28, that has surprisingly become less of an issue in her actualizing her tennis potential. Cibulkova has as big a forehand as any of the Big babes on the tour despite barely being 5'3" tall and is reminiscent of the feisty Barcelona Bumblebee (Arantxa Sanchez Vicario) with her indefatigable movement on the clay. These two have only met once before, 3 years ago on hard court with Stosur winning relatively easily. I see no reason why the Australian with the superior skills should be prevented from reaching her 3rd semifinal in 4 years, and perhaps even her second final in Paris.  Mad Professah's Pick: Stosur in 2 sets.

Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS (26) Sara Errani ITA (21) vs Angelique Kerber GER (10). These two relative unknowns are currently two of the hottest players on tour with Errani having won 3 singles and 5 doubles titles in 2012 so far while Kerber shocked the tennis establishment by reaching the 2011 U.S. Open semifinals before anyone even knew she was a lefty! Errani is playing in her second consecutive major quarterfinal while her opponent is also in her second major quarterfinal of her career. Errani was able to dismiss a 2-time major champion one round after she had beaten one of the favorites for the tournament (Aggie Radwanska) while Kerber has only been tested once to this point. I suspect this will be a tough, ugly match, but that the higher ranked player will prevail. Regardless, I find it hard to believe that one of these players will be in the final on Saturday. Mad Professah's pick: Kerber in 3 sets.

Li Na CHN (7) Yaroslava Shvedova KAZ vs Petra Kvitova CZE (4)One of the hardest things to do in tennis (besides winning one's first major title) is coming back a year later and defending it. The last woman to do that was Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open in 2010 (as did Serena Williams at the Australian Open and Wimbledon earlier that same year). Li Na made herself one of the most famous women on the planet in 2011 when she became the first player from her country, male of female, to a win a major tennis title. However, this year she was unable to defend her title, losing the deciding set of her fourth round match without winning a single game against the first qualifier to reach a grand slam quarterfinal since fellow 2012 French Open quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi did it at Wimbledon in 2010. or the challenge. Although much of this surprising result must have been due to an epic collapse from the defending champion, clearly Shvedova was not just a mere spectator on the court when the upset happened.  Kvitova has been slicing through the women's draw like a scythe and the future World #1 should be regularly reaching the semifinals or better of most major tournaments she plays in at this point in her career Mad Professah's pick: Kvitova in 2 sets.

Caroline Wozniacki DEN (9) Kaia Kanepi EST (23) vs Maria Sharapova RUS (2). The future Mrs. Vujicic is having a fairy-tale like fortnight in Paris, with early wedding presents arriving almost daily with the felicitous removal of almost all the players in the draw who can prevent the Golden Girl from completing her career slam in the most economic manner possible. First Serena Williams lost for the first time ever in the first round of a tournament, followed by the wily Aggie Radwanska falling to the 2009 French Open champion who herself promptly lost her next round match. World #1 Vika Azarenka, who embarassed Sharapova in the first major final of 2012, is also no longer in the tournament. Then, while Sharapova herself was in the middle of a surprisingly tight tussle with Klara Zakapalova the defending French Open champion was bounced by a qualifier. If I believe in a higher power (who of course I do not) I would think that someone behind the scenes is aligning things for Sharapova to win this tournament. There are now no women who have won this tournament before left in the draw and the only remaining finalists or champions are people that Sharapova has a winning record against!  Kanepi and Sharapova are both "big babes" but the two have never faced each other across the net. The greatest female player from Estonia has long been talked about to make an impact at a major tournament, but she appears to suffer from the one weakness which can not be corrected through hard work or inspired coaching: mental insecurity in tight moments. Kanepi blew gigantic leads against former World #1 Caroline Wozniacki (up 5-1 in all three sets) but this time she was able to come through with a W instead of a L. Playing in her 4th major quarterfinal (but first in nearly 18 months after a disastrous 2011) Kanepi should not be overwhelmed by the occasion, but she may be overwhelmed by her opponent. Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 3 sets.

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