Saturday, January 30, 2016

2016 AUS OPEN: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs.  Angelique Kerber (GER) [7]
The women's final is now set at the 2016 Australian Open. Last year, I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. This year, I predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals, 2 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also published a post predicting the men's singles final result.

Women's Semifinals Review: How They Got Here
Serena Williams (USA) [1] d. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] 6-0 6-4. As expected, Serena was not troubled by the wiliness of her Polish opponent and was even inspired to raise her  performance to another level and completely blew away the World #4 seed in the first set. The second set was a bit closer but the result was never really in doubt and now Serena has won all 9 matches she has ever played against Radwanska.

 Angelique Kerber (GER) [7] d. Johanna Konta (GBR) 7-5 6-2. This was the end of an excellent tournament by the Briton who had only been to the 4th round once before (in the previous major) in nine tries. She joins a list of other players who have had breakthroughs into the semifinals in Melbourne (Sloane Stephens in 2013, Genie Bouchard in 2014 and Madison Keys in 2015). Hopefully Konta will have a better post-breakthrough period than those players. For Kerber, her win here is a reward of her increased fitness and recognition of the great progress she has made in the last year and her consistency as a Top 10 player for the last four years. Kerber showed all that in her assured dismantling of her less experienced opponent, allowing her to make far too many mistakes to let the match ever be competitive.

Women's Final Preview: Who Will Win
Kerber and Serena have played 6 times before and Serena leads 5-1 in their head-to-head. However, this means that Kerber does possess a win over Serena (in the 2012 Cincinnati W&S Open) which should do something to calm the nerves of the German player appearing in her first major final and feeling the weight of an entire nation who have been waiting for an heir apparent to the great Steffi Graf. Graf looms large over the match because she is the reason why both players are here. Kerber treats Fraulein Forehand as role model and hopes to follow in her footsteps as a major champion. But Graf is also an inspiration for Serena as well, as she is attempting to match the German's gaudy total of 22 major titles with a 7th major title here in Melbourne to cement her claim to be the greatest player of all time.

Tactically, Kerber is extremely fit and as a lefty, possesses a spin that Serena rarely sees. However, there's a reason why Serena is playing for her 22nd major (21-4). She has only been beaten in a major by three people Venus Williams (twice), Maria Sharapova (2004 Wimbledon) and Samantha Stosur (2011 U.S. Open). Very few players have won their very first major appearance, and it is unlikely indeed that Angie Kerber will join that group.
MadProfessah's pick: Serena in 2 sets.

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