Monday, January 21, 2019

2019 AUS OPEN: Women's Quarterfinal Preview and Predictions

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the 2019 Australian Open. Last year I did not predict the quarterfinalsThis year I have also predicted the men's quarterfinals.

Simona Halep (ROU) [1] Serena Williams (USA) [16] vs. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [7]. Serena Williams is playing in her 50th(!) major quarterfinal while her opponent is playing in her seventh. Serena has won this tournament seven times (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017) and is looking like she really wants to get her record-tying 24th major title here in Melbourne. She played the best match of her post-maternity come back to notch her 17th win against a reigning #1 by defeating Simona Halep in a very high-quality 3-set match 6-1 4-6 6-4. Her opponent will be former #1 Karolina Pliskova who eliminated 2-time major champion Garbine Muguruza in straight sets in exactly an hour. Curiously, the one time that Pliskova defeated Serena, it was at the 2016 U.S. Open, one round after Serena won a brilliant match against Halep. Will history repeat itself?  I seriously doubt it. PREDICTION: Serena.

Petra Kvitova (CZE) [8] vs. Ashleigh Barty (AUS) [15].  This is a reprise of the 2019 Sydney final, which was won by Kvitova in a 3rd set tiebreak. Presumably that experience should give the Czech 2-time major champion the edge against the craft Aussie who will almost certainly have the entire crowd rooting for her. It's very possible this could be another barn burner of a match. Peak Petra is unplayable, but did Kvitova peak too early be dispatching the teenage phenom Ananda Anisimova the round before in straight sets? Has Barty finally realized she has the tools to hang with the big babes now that she outlasted Maria Sharapova 6-4 in the 3rd set? This should be an exciting match-up. The winner will play the winner of the Serena-Pliskova match so the final will still be a fair distance away.  All that being said, I think experience may be dispositive. PREDICTION: Kvitova.

 Naomi Osaka (JPN) [4] vs. Elina Svitolina (UKR) [6].  This may be the most exciting of the four quarterfinals. These two players are the closest in ranking of any of the match-ups  with Svitolina holding a tight 3-2 lead in their head-to-head, including both times they played in 2018, with all 5 meetings on hard courts. That being said, is Osaka really the same player after having won a slam (2018 US Open) by defeating her idol Serena Williams? Probably not, but neither is Elina Svitolina, having won the 2018 year-end championship by outlasting Sloane Stephens. Osaka has had to problem solve her way through two tricky opponents in the last two rounds (Anastasja Sevastova and Su-Wei Hseih) while Svitolina survived the barrage against Madison Keys to win a see-saw 6-2 1-6 6-1 slugfest. Playing Keys is a good preparation for playing Osaka but there's no question that Osaka is a smarter player than the American. Svitolina is the women's tour version of Sascha Zverev and it is definitely time for her to breakthrough at a major. Is this the match that does it? I think it is very possible, but now I give Osaka the edge because she has more experience, despite being significantly younger. PREDICTIONOsaka

Angelique Kerber (GER) [2] Danielle Collins (USA) vs. Sloane Stephens (USA) [5] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS). Collins announced herself last year when she kicked Venus Williams out of the Miami Open. Prior to this year, the 25-year-old American had never won a match in a major and in Australia she engineered one of the most jaw-dropping scorelines of the entire tournament, a 6-0 6-2 drubbing of 3-time major champion Angelique Kerber.  Her opponent is Pavlyuchenkova, who was able to outlast Sloane Stephens in a surprising victory. Neither of these players really have any right to be in a major semifinal and will be major underdogs to reach the final against the winner of the other quarterfinalist. In these situations, I usually go with the person who is the better athlete.  PREDICTION: Collins.

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