Tuesday, July 03, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I  correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals.

Maria Sharapova RUS (1)  Sabine Lisicki GER (15) vs. Kim Clijsters BEL Angelique Kerber GER (8). Instead of this all-German match I had expected a quarterfinal meeting between two 4-time major champions, but instead they both lost their fourth round matches. One of these results was an upset, while the others was just  upsetting. Sabine Lisicki was able to learn from her 2011 Wimbledon semifinal loss to Sharapova to realize that she had to go for broke and seize every possible opportunity this year. Most impressively, she was able to execute her plan to perfection and dismiss the betting favorite for this year's championship. Kerber upset most of the tennis world with her straight set drubbing of fan favorite Kim Clijsters in her last Wimbledon appearance. Kerber has played her countrywoman 4 times on tour and has never lost to her. When asked about this, Lisicki quickly responded that she had never beaten Sharapova in 3 attempts before today with the obvious implication that she could overcome a losing head-to-head record. It's true that Boom Boom has a massive serve and a strong return game, but she doesn't move better than the crafty lefty who has won an astonishing 44 matches on tour this year, the most of any player. One year ago, Kerber was an unknown but after surprising everyone to reach her first major semifinal at the 2011 US Open, in the last three majors Kerber has only lost to players who have reached the final. I think that streak will continue to four grand slam tournaments in a row. PREDICTION: Kerber.

Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) vs. Maria Kirilenko RUS (17). Aggie Radwanska is one of two players who has a chance to reach the World #1 ranking now that the current #1 was dismissed by Sabine Lisicki in the 4th round. Her frenemy Victoria Azarenka is the other player who has a chance to reach the top spot as long as she wins more matches than Radwanska.  Interestingly, the two are in opposite halves of the draw because Vika has beaten Aggie in 7 consecutive matches this yearRadwanska would be an even more controversial #1 player than former #1 Caroline Wozniacki because she has never been to the semifinal of any major. It may seem surprising to some, because Radwanska, like Wozniacki, has no obvious weapon or shot that opponents fear. She is really a player more in the mold of a Martina Hingis, where her most dangerous weapon is her court sense and ability to cause her opponent difficulties by placing the ball with pinpoint accuracy in the position that causes the most damage. She has used this skill to deadly effect in 2012, having won 42 matches this year, just a few behind Angelique Kerber's gaudy total. Regardless, she has, however, been to 5 major quarterfinals, which is 4 more than her Russian opponent. In fact, Radwanska has a clear 5-2 head-to-head edge against Kirilenko and is dead-even against both of her potential semifinal opponents. I suspect that she will be playing in her first major final on SaturdayPREDICTION: Radwanska.

Tamira Paszek AUT  vs.  Victoria Azarenka BLR (2). Azarenka embarrassed  former World #1 Ana Ivanovic in the previous round by conceding a single game in a rout on Centre Court. The win ensures that the 2012 Australian Open champion will have more ranking points than current #1 Maria Sharapova at the end of the tournament. There has not been much chatter about Azarenka's chances of winning this title, probablybecause Serena Williams is still in the tournament and although Azarenka had a 26-match winning streak earlier this year, her record at major tournaments is not very impressive. She has only ever been to two major semifinals, and the first of those was at the 2011 Wimbledon. In fact, who was the opponent she beat to reach her first major semifinalTamira Paszek. Last year, Azarenka easily won in straight sets but this year Paszek is undefeated on grass, having won 9 matches in a row on the surface, which includes winning the Eastbourne warm-up tournament. But it's not just the fact that Paszek is playing well on grass that gives her an excellent chance for the upset against Azarenka, it is her mental toughness. In those 9 grass court matches this year she has faced match points down in three of them (against Marion Bartoli and Angelique Kerber at Eastbourne and against Wozniacki in the 1st round here). I really believe that Paszek feels like she can not lose. Unfortunately for her she will probably learn what Azarenka learned earlier this year: no streak lasts forever. PREDICTIONAzarenka

Serena Williams USA (6) vs.  Petra Kvitova CZE (4). This showdown between the 2011 Wimbledon champion and the 2010 Wimbledon champion is the marquee match of the tournament, not just of the quarterfinal round. Serena has never lost to Petra, having played her in the last two major tournaments she has won (2010 Australian Open in the 3rd round and in the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals). Kvitova has the power to out-hit almost any player off the court, but it is extremely doubtful that she can do that to the 13-time major champion. Serena has not been playing her best tennis, but she has been displaying her mental toughness by gutting out two consecutive three-set matches (6-7(5) 6-2 9-7 in the 3rd round and 6-1 2-6 7-5 in the 4th) with clutch serving and excellent defense powered by her superior grass-court movement. semifinals. Kvitova has been having an easier time of it, only having dropped one set, in her previous round against 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. The Czech player is currently higher ranked, but no-one really thinks that seeding alone will determine who wins this match. I believe the most important factor is who wants it more,and at this point in her career that player is the older player. Regardless, the player who wins this match will almost certainly be the prohibitive favorite to win the title against anyone from the top half of the draw. PREDICTION: Williams.

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