Monday, January 20, 2014

2014 AUS OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Simona Halep celebrates reaching
her very first major quarterfinal berth
The women's quarterfinals are now set at the 2014 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also previewed the 2014 Australian Open men's quarterfinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [1] Ana Ivanovic (SRB) [14] vs Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [30]. Ana Ivanovic played the match of her life to finally record her first win against Serena Williams two days ago and now has a very good chance to reach what would be only her 4th major semifinal, despite reaching two consecutive major finals in 2008 when she was merely 20 years old. Age and experience will be two significant factors in this match-up with the youngest player remaining in the draw, the 19-year-old Bouchard from Canada, who is playing in her very first major quarterfinal. In fact, she is the first Canadian to reach a major quarterfinal in decades. Things are looking up for tennis prospects North of the border. Mad Professah's Pick: Ivanovic in 2 sets.

Na Li (CHN) [4] vs  Angelique Kerber (GER) [9] Flavia Pennetta (ITA) [28]. This is a somewhat surprising match-up because Angelique Kerber would have been expected to take advantage of her draw to reach her first quarterfinal in Melbourne. However, for the second consecutive grand slam tournament the surprising Flavia Pennetta is contending in the latter stages of a major. Li Na plays her best tennis in Australia, and the fact that she had a near death experience (when she was match point down) in the 3rd round versus Lucie Safarova has apparently greatly improved her tennis. Despite having a 2-2 head-to-head, I like the Chinese player's chances to reach her 3rd final here in the last 4 years. Mad Professah's pick: Li in 2 sets.

Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [8] Simona Halep (ROU) [11] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [3]  Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [20]. Although on paper this seems like an unlikely match-up since both players beat higher ranked opponents to reach this point I expected this. Cibulkova has always played tough against Sharapova and thus her dispatch of the 2008 Australian Open champ was a surprise but not a shock. Similarly, although Jankovic is currently the higher ranked player Halep is widely regarded as the most improved player in 2013 (the new Angie Kerber!), having won a gaudy six (mostly minor) titles over the year. Happily, her 3rd set bagel and Cibulkova's foot speed spared us the sight of another Sharapova-Jankovic grudge match. This match should be absolutely a nightmare to watch, and although the winner will reach a major semifinal, I would be shocked if they reached thei first major final. Mad Professah's pick: Halep in 3 sets.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [5] vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [2].  Again, this match-up between the two closest ranked opponents should make the most compelling tennis but when you look at their past matches you see a 12-3 lead for Azarenka, including 7 consecutive wins over the last two years. The 2-time defending champion looks like she is on her way to reaching her 3rd major final in Melbourne, and since Serena has been removed from the equation, has good chances to 3-peat. In fact, I would put my money on a reprise of last year's final happening this year, although not necessarily on last year's final result. Mad Professah's pick: Azarenka in 2 sets.

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