Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN: Women's Final Preview and Semifinals Review

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2]

This is my post previewing the women's final and reviewing the women's semifinals at the 2015 Australian Open. Last year I correctly predicted that Li Na would defeat Dominika Cibulkova in the women's final of the 2014 Australian Open. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals, 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals, 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

How They Got Here: Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams (USA) [1] d. Madison Keys (USA) 7-6(5) 6-2. By her performance against the World #1 Madison Keys demonstrated that her breakthrough results of beating 2-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova and 7-time major champion Venus Williams on her journey to the 19-year-old's first major semifinal. Keys rushed to a 3-1 lead in the first set before Serena was able to right the ship and break back to even the score. The match continued on serve until the tiebreak, with Keys demonstrating her ability to match (and perhaps overmatch, on the forehand side) the 18-time major champion's powerful groundstrokes. Then, in the tiebreak Keys was able to save 2 set points with consecutive aces before Serena won the set on her 3rd set point with a service winner. In the second set it was Serena who sprinted out to a 5-1 lead and despite having 7 match points in this Keys service game, Serena was unable to impose her will on her opponent, instead she was forced to serve out the match in her next service game. Hopefully, Keys will take confidence from this result to improve her day-to-day result on the women's tour and try to replicate this success at the other majors.

 Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2] d. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [10] 6-3 6-2. Sharapova has been playing some of her sharpest hard-court tennis in years, which her left-handed compatriot discovered right away when Makarova was unable to convert any of the four game points she enjoyed in the first two games of the match and quickly found herself down 0-3. With a lead on the scoreboard Sharapova could really go for her shots and this forced Makarova to go for too much in order to compensate, and making far too many errors to ever make this semifinal much of a match, which was a pity because Sharapova had previously displayed frailty against another Russian earlier in the tournament. In fact, ever since she survived two match points against Alexandra Panova in the second round Sharapova has been playing with increased intensity (which is saying something since it is not like Sharapova plays lackadaisically at the worst of times.)

Who Will Win: Women's Final Preview
By getting to the final, Serena insured that she will retain the World #1 ranking despite what happens in this match. Of course everyone knows that Serena has won their last 15 meetings over the last ten years, and in 2007 played what I consider one of her best matches of her career by demolishing Sharapova 6-1 6-2 in the women's final. It's really hard to explain why the rivalry is so one-sided in Serena's favor but the statistics are ugly. In the last 15 matches the two have played the Russian has struggled to win games, let alone sets. In 7 of those matches Sharapova failed to win more than 5 games! She has only won 3 sets and lost 30.

With that being said, Sharapova is playing excellent tennis and does have the game to beat Serena, it is just hard to see how this will come to pass if Serena is healthy and motivated. And the one person she will always be motivated to beat is Sharapova. It is Serena's 23rd major final and 6th in Australia (she is 18-4 overall and 5-0 in Melbourne). It is Sharapova's 10th final and she is 5-4; she's lost Australian Open finals to Victoria Azarenka (in 2012) and Serena in 2007. She has also lost a Wimbledon final to Kvitova and a French Open final to Serena.

MadProfessah's prediction: Serena in 2 sets.

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