Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 AUS OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

The women's quarterfinals are now set at the 2013 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also previewed the 2013 Australian Open men's quarterfinals.

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [1] vs Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [10] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS). It is good to see the talented and popular Russian player playing in only her 3rd quarterfinal after winning her 2nd major title at the 2009 French Open. Azarenka survived something of a scare against the hard-hitting American youngster Jamie Hampton in the third round while Kuznetsova was able to finally get revenge on Caroline Wozniacki in the 4th round after 4 consecutive losses to the person who was ranked #1 at this very tournament last year. Head-to-head, Kuznetsova leads Azarenka 4 to 3 but has lost the last two times they played in 2012 and before that had not beaten her until 2009, when the Belarussian was a very different player (as was the Russian). Kuznetsova has the game to give any player in the Top 10 a difficult day at the office if she is playing well and has shown that by reaching the quarterfinals here. Her problem is often when she is in tough, tight matches that she can fade away. Azarenka on the other hand has only lost to Serena Williams in the last two major tournament she played and is riding a wave of confidence knowing that she won this tournament last year and despite Serena's amazing year, it is Vika, not Serena who is ranked #1. She will show Kuznetsova exactly why that is the case. Mad Professah's Pick: Azarenka in 3 sets.

Serena Williams (USA) [3] vs Sloane Stephens (USA) [29]. This all-American match-up represents a tussle between the oldest and youngest players in the draw, reflecting the past and current state of American tennis as well as its future. Serena has been in fine form through the first four rounds of the tournament, serving up four bagel sets so far (one less than Maria Sharapova). Stephens is only 19 years old but depending on other results, after this tournament her WTA ranking may be slightly less than her age, which is always a good sign. The fact that she, like Serena, is also African-American is also notable. Serena has been serving as something like a mentor on tour for Sloane and the two played for the first time at the Brisbane tournament that Serena won as her warm-up before this year's Australian Open. The two played to a pretty close 6-4 6-4 win for Serena and afterwards Sloane raised some eyebrows afterwords with some slightly critical comments about Serena's demeanor on court. I suspect that Serena will use this opportunity to gently demonstrate the difference between a 15-time major champion and someone playing in their first major quarterfinal. Mad Professah's pick: Serena in 2 sets.

Na Li (CHN) [6] vs Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4]. Li Na has often played her best tennis in Australia, and it was the Asian/Pacific slam where she made her first breakthrough, reaching the final in 2011 and acquitting herself well despite losing in three sets to now-retired Kim Clijsters. Radwanska has yes to lose a match in 2013, in fact she has not even lost a set in the three tournaments that she has played in. Li Na leads their career head-to-head 5-4 but the two played each other in Sydney right the start of the Australian Open and Aggie won easily. The Pole has played in six major quarterfinals in her career but has only won one of them. Na has also played in six major quarterfinals but she has won three of those, including two in Melbourne. This match-up should be the most dramatic of the four women's quarterfinals played this year. Aggie is a quintessential counter-puncher, a version 2.0 of Martina Hingis who is not as mean but just as crafty. Li Na is a card-carrying member of the "Big Babe Tennis" club and can match power with any of the women at the top of women's tennis. Na's man weakness is her mental fortitude but she has been working with Justine Henin's former svengali, Carlos Rodriguez, for about 5 months now. I believe that the more experienced (and more aggressive) player will end the match victorious. Mad Professah's pick: Li in 3 sets.

Angelique Kerber (GER) [5] Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [19] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2].  Sharapova has never lost to the left-handed Russian and is playing some of her sharpest tennis in years, serving up 5 bagel sets in 4 rounds and losing a handful of games to reach this point, a record for this tournament. Makarova had a big win over Serena last year in this round and this year had a big win over World #5 Angelique Kerber. She faced Sharapova last year afterwards and lost meekly in straight sets and there's no reason to suspect the 2013 result will be any different. Sharapova losing against Makarova at ths point would have to be the upset of the tournament. In fact, Sharapova will almost certainly get to the final, since she has a sizable edge over either of the players she could meet in the next round (an 8-4 head-to-head lead over Li Na and an even larger 8-2 lead over Aggie Radwanska). The more interesting question is who will she face there? Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 2 sets.

1 comment:

carter said...

Wow - Sloane takes out Serena in a tight 3-setter.
Who would have thought that at her age, she could already defeat her mentor?


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