Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 AUS OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

The women's quarterfinals are now set at the 2016 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also written a preview the 2016 Australian Open Men's quarterfinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [1]  vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [5]. I'm convinced that someday Serena's win streak against Sharapova is going to end while the two are actively on the tour. It is currently at 17 matches in a row over 11 years. However, I think it is exceedingly unlikely that the streak will end at a major tournament. Serena is just too emotionally invested in maintaining her dominance over the highest paid female athlete in the world and cementing her historical legacy to allow anything untoward happen at a major tournament. So far in this year's Australian Open, Sharapova has been serving really well, while Serena has not been doing so. In fact, Sharapova has twice as many aces (52) than Serena (25) over the first four rounds, even if the Russian has a lower overall first-serve percentage (57% to 61%). While I am firmly convinced that Serena's win streak is going to end sometime, but I do not think that it will be today. Mad Professah's Pick: Williams in 2 sets.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] vs Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) [10]The Polish ninja is slicing through the draw in her typical noiseless but deadly fashion. Despite being the #4 seed and her surprising victory at the WTA Year End Championships in Singapore no on seems to be thinking about the #4 seed as a potential winner of this tournament. Of course, this is probably because whoever wins this quarterfinal will be facing a multiple-time major champion in the semifinals and will be a prohibitive underdog. Radwanska almost got taken out of the tournament in the round before when she was down 5-2 in the third set against Anna-Lena Friedsam but was able to take advantage when the younger player started cramping and put up increasingly less resistance as Friedlam lost the last five games of the match. Her opponent got bageled in her previous round against the local favorite Daria Gavrilova but managed to come back and win the last two sets relatively easily as the young Aussie crumbled emotionally under the hopes of the host nation. This match should be emotionally resonant match as both players would love to reach their very first Australian Open semifinal. Radwanska has a slight 2-1 head-to-head lead over CSN but the Spaniard beat Radwanska on her way to the final of the Miami tournament last year (where she lost to Serena). However, this Radwanska is much better than the impostor who was haunting the tour last Spring. This Radwnska is on a double-digit winning streak, which I expect to continue. Mad Professah's pick: Radwanska in 3 sets.

 Angelique Kerber (GER) [7] vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [14]. Kerber was down match point in her very first match of the tournament and managed to come through that test with more resolve that has brought her to her first ever quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Unfortunately for Angie, she will be facing a resurgent Vika Azarenka who is a 2-time Australian Open champion (2012 and 2013) who sports a 6-0 head-to-head undefeated record against her, including a win in the Brisbane final just two weeks ago. Whoever does win this match is almost guaranteed a ticket to the 2016 Australian Open women's final since they will be facing an unseeded(!) player. I would really like to see Kerber reach her first major final, but I suspect Azarenka will announce her return to the upper echelon of women's tennis by reaching the final. Mad Professah's pick: Azarenka in 3 sets.

Simona Halep (ROU) [2] Johanna Konta (GBR) vs Venus Williams (USA) [8] Shuai Zhang (CHN).  This is the battle of the upset queens. One of these unseeded players will reach their first major semifinal, earning more money in one tournament than they have in their entire career to date. Interestingly, both Konta and Zhang have followed up on stunning upsets in the first round, taking out #2 seed Simona Halep and #8 seed Venus Williams to win three more matches over other opponents who they were not expected to beat. Zhang took out 2015 Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys after the American's mobility was hampered with an upper thigh injury occurred in the second set, while Konta took out Ekaterina Makarova who often plays her best tennis in Melbourne.  Konta has become the first British woman to reach a major quarterfinal since 1984. Zhang is a qualifier but I think because she has had to get through a tougher draw I will give her the edge to continue her dreamlike run Down Under. Mad Professah's pick: Zhang in 3 sets.

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