Wednesday, 31 August 2011

US Open Day 3 - Impressive McHale beats Bartoli

Christina McHale put in a superb performance to defeat Marion Bartoli, 7-6 6-2 and move into the third round of the US Open. McHale finished off the match without any nerves as she served an ace down the line to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. The first set was a topsy turvy affair with the occasional magic moment. Bartoli was the better player at the beginning as she pummelled McHale's baseline putting her under considerable pressure. Bartoli also parked herself way inside the baseline to return McHale's serve as she broke twice in the set to take a 5-3 lead.

Bartoli did not play badly but made more errors than usual and was outplayed by McHale... unfortunately no pictures of Christina ;)

However Bartoli's game dipped considerably as McHale started to find her groove. McHale broke back when Bartoli served for the first set at 5-4 and the first set went into a tiebreak - McHale played a stunning tiebreak, which she won 7-2 as she attacked the ball with more convinction and drew the errors from Bartoli. Bartoli also made a number of ventures into the net during the first set, which on the whole were unsuccessful as McHale pulled of a couple of sensational passing shots.

McHale continued to improve throughout the mach and looked assured on the court as she consistently placed the balls right into the corners, which had Bartoli running. The turning point in the match seem to come at 7-6 1-0 and deuce. Bartoli was in control of a point when she shouted "come on" before McHale reached the ball. The umpire intervened and gave the point to McHale when Bartoli was destined to win it. This would have give Bartoli a break point but instead McHale had a game point which she duly converted. McHale sealed the double break to take a 7-6 3-0 lead; Bartoli did up her intensity and managed to get one of the breaks back as McHale became slightly passive in her play. However she refocused to secure a stunning hold at 3-2 and then eased to the finishing line.

McHale will now play Maria Kirilenko in the third round and will fancy her chances of another upset after this terrific performance. McHale proved today she has a good head on her and I really like her game too; I particularly like the forehand but she is solid off both wings. She also showed some glimpses of variety in her game with a few slices and drop shots here and there... I don't want to get too excited because it could still be premature - take Melanie Oudin as an example! However she does seem to have a much better game and has backed up her wins over Wozniacki and Kuznetsova during the summer hard court season... the future does look bright for McHale.

In other action, Peng Shuai produced a fine display to see off Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-2 6-4. Peng was consistent throughout the match as she served well and showed off her competence at the net to ease past the Bulgarian. Lucie Safarova, one of the nicest players on tour also made it into the third round as she battled past the young American, Madison Keys 3-6 7-5 6-4. Safarova will now play Monica Niculescu and should fancy her chances of progressing deeper into the draw. Sabine Lisicki progressed into the third round after Venus Williams pulled out of their second round match. I can't express how disappointed I am that this match did not go ahead!!! I was so excited and once again an anticipated match does not take place :( But I am delighted Sabine is through and has a chance to rest, which should help her chances in the draw. Get well soon Venus...

Peng will now play Julia Goerges in the third round

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

US Open Day 2 - Stuttering Schiavone wins

Francesca Schiavone overcame a second set blip and a host of double faults to see off Galina Voskoboeva, 6-3 1-6 6-4. Schiavone was surprisingly poor on serve throughout the match with 16 double faults to her name including 3 in a row whilst serving for the macth at 5-3. However she was let off the hook by a frustrated Voskoboeva who was broken striaght back; Voskoboeva let her emotions take over in the third set as she repeatedly flung her racket in anger and let out some piercing screams. Schiavone will be relieved to have overcome what was a challenging, but she will have to improve if she is to continue her progression in the draw. She should have a much easier match in round two against Mirjana Lucic, who saw off Marina Erakovic in three sets.

Andrea Petkovic also progressed but in far easier circumstances against Ekaterina Bychkova, 6-2 6-2. Petkovic did not lose her serve throughout the match and was all smiles as she signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans afterward. I really like it when players take time to acknowledge the fans and Petkovic is one of the best on tour at doing this. I remember watching Venus after a win at Wimbledon this year just ignore her fans who wanted autographs. I think it is really rude when players do this so it always makes me smile to see the likes of Petkovic give back to the fans. The second day has seen no shocks so far with the likes of Wozniacki, Azarenka, Jankovic and Lisicki all moving into the second round without any problems.

In the men's draw, the biggest surprise has been the loss of Mikhail Youzhny who went down to Ernests Gulbis in straight sets. I suppose it was not a shock entirely because Gulbis is a talented player and won in LA earlier this year; however he often blows hot and cold so I expected Youzhny to win. David Ferrer brushed aside the loss of the first set to defeat Igor Andreev in 4 sets and Novak Djokovic lost just one game as his opponent, Connor Nilland retired at 5-1 down in the second set suffering from food poisoning.

Monday, 29 August 2011

US Open Day 1 - Sharapova battles past Watson

Maria Sharapova eventually battled past Heather Watson in an absorbing encounter, 3-6 7-5 6-3. Watson was consistent throughout and displayed superb athleticism around the court to absorb Sharapova's power. However in the end, Sharapova was too strong for Heather but she should be proud of her efforts because she hung in superbly and showed an excellent attitude throughout the match.

Watson reminds me of the likes of Wozniacki, Radwanska and Zvonareva; she is extremely solid around the court however she lacks the ability to hit winners. It is probably too early to say how far she will go in the Women's game but I think she has the potential to be a top 20 player. The second serve needs a lot of work and she will have to work on being more aggressive and displaying more variety in her game in the future but at this moment in time, her progression is promising. It was another battling display from Sharapova who displayed her fantastic fighting spirit once again, coming from 6-3 1-0 down. This was a good test for her and I expect her next few rounds to be much more straight forward. I hope to keep blogging here and there over the next two weeks and in between work :)

US Open Day 1 - Kvitova stunned

Petra Kvitova was bundled out in round 1 after a horror show against the Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru, 7-6 6-3. It was a shocker of a match in which Kvitova failed to find any consistency on her strokes. Dulgheru does not have many weapons but all she really had to do was stick the ball in court and wait for the error from Petra. Kvitova was flat, frustrated and miles short of the form that helped her to the Wimby title; just like Li, there has been a titanic come down from winning her first major. This has opened up the draw for Lucie Safarova who recovered from losing the first set to defeat Magdalena Rybarikova, 2-6 6-3 6-2

I also managed to watch the first set of Peng Shuai against Varvara Lepchenko, where Peng came through 6-3 6-4. It was a pretty good match from what I saw with both players hitting well from the back of the court. Lepchenko has some really nice strokes but she is really let down by her ropey and mechanical looking serve. This allowed Peng to dominate, especially on Lepchenko's 2nd serve which has nothing on it. Peng was much more consistent on serve and managed to find some good first serves at crucial stages of the matches; winning so many matches this year has really come in handy for Peng!

As I write, Maria Sharapova has lost the first set to the young Brit, Heather Watson who produced a consistent display to win it 6-3. Sharapova has once again struggled with her serve in the windy conditions and was making a lot of errors. In the second set, Watson went up an early break but Maria has slowly started to come back and managed to stick in the rallies and grind down Watson with some powerful and more consistent hitting, especially from the forehand. You cannot help but admire Sharapova's fighting spirit which is second to none... I will now get back to cheering on Watson, with this match heading to a third set!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

ATP US Open Preview

Novak Djokovic headlines the final major of the year, which begins in Flushing Meadows on Monday. Djokovic is joined by Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Robin Soderling, Mardy Fish and Gael Monfils as the top eight seeds. Here is my analysis of the draw, which I have split into four sections...

Novak Djokovic opens up against the Irish qualifier, Connor Niland and has a pretty straight forward start to his quest to win his first ever US Open. His first seeded opponent is Ivan Dodig in the third round; Dodig has a difficult opener with Nikolay Davydenko so could be an early seeded casualty. Djokovic could then play Richard Gasquet in the 4th round. Gasquet has been very consistent this year, but has already lost to Djokovic twice this year; I don't see things changing here.

Djokovic is projected to meet Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals. Monfils has one of the toughest openers against Grigor Dimitrov. I would expect Monfils to progress; his next major challenge could come in round four where he should meet either Tomas Berdych or Janko Tipsarevic, who are scheduled to meet in the third round. Tipsy won their previous encounter in Montreal but Berdych hit some hot form in Cincy before retiring hurt. I'm going to back the consistent Berdych to come through this section and meet Djokovic in the Quarters. Djokovic did pull out of the Cincy final with an injury but I have no doubt that a weeks break will have him fighting fit once again.

QF prediction - Djokovic v Berdych
Dark Horse for this section - Albert Montanes/Kei Nishikori
Round 1 highlights - Davydenko v Dodig, Granollers v Malisse and Dimitrov v Malisse

Djokovic is looking to claim his fourth Grand Slam title

Roger Federer is the number three seed and will play Santiago Giraldo in round 1. Federer suffered disappointing exits in both Monteal and Cincy and has been handed a difficult draw for the US. Federer should progress through the early rounds with ease; he will most likely face the winner of an exciting 1st round clash between Marin Cilic and Ryan Harrison. In the 4th round, I would predict that his opponent would be Radek Stepanek, who took the title in Washington. In the Quarters, Federer could play the in-form Mardy Fish or his current nemesis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Mardy Fish has a tough draw as he opens up his campaign against Tobias Kamke. In the third round he is projected to meet Michael Llodra; however I think he could face the big serving Kevin Anderson who took out Andy Murray in Montreal. In the 4th round, Fish could meet Tsonga in what could be a cracker of a match. Tsonga has a easy draw up till this point with Fernando Verdasco his first seeded test. Verdasco did push Nadal in Cincy but shows little belief these days that he can compete with the big guys. If Tsonga and Fish do clash, i'm going for Fish to come out on top.

QF Prediction - Federer v Fish
Dark Horse for this section - Kevin Anderson
Round 1 highlights - Harrison v Cilic and Stepanek v Kohlschreiber

Tsonga suffered an early exit in Cincy and will hope to fully fit for the US

The number 3 seed, Andy Murray will play Somdev Devvarman in the first round as he bids for his first major. Murray's first seeded opposition is Feliciano Lopez in the third round before a potential rematch with Stan Wawrinka, who defeated Murray in last year's Open. This time round, I will be backing Murray who has shown a gradual return to form over the summer with an excellent win in Cincy, albeit in strange circumstances with Djokovic pulling out of the final.

The top half of section 3 is one of the most interesting areas of the draw. Robin Soderling is the highest seed, but has been out injured for many weeks now. His draw is also tough so I am predicting he will not live up to his seeding. Alex Bogomolov could wait in round 2 and the Winstom-Salem champion, John Isner in round 3 who has shown signs that he is once again ready to threaten the big names. I believe Isner will come through this encounter where he could play the winner of Juan Martin Del Potro and Giles Simon. Del Potro has looked sluggish and lacking form this Summer but i'm going to back him to make the Quarters in this section as he returns to Flushing Meadows for the first time since winning back in 2009.

QF Prediction - Del Potro v Murray
Dark horse for this section - John Isner
Round 1 highlights - Baghdatis v Isner and Tursunov v Darcis

Del Potro seems to be tiring after a long season on the tour but will hope to cause sparks at this years US

Rafael Nadal will begin his title defence against Andrey Golubev. Nadal has been in disappointing form during the summer but should play himself into the quarter finals without too many difficulties. His first test could be between the winner of a potential second round clash between Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian. In the 4th round, Mikhail Youzhny could await for a rematch of last years semi-final. Look out for an early exit for Jurgen Melzer; i'm going for Igor Kunitysn to knock Melzer out in round 2.

The top section is headlined by David Ferrer who has a tough draw to contend with. He opens against Igor Andreev and could then play James Blake in round 2, who has a 2-0 winning head-to-head record. Florian Mayer is Ferrer's projected first seeded opponent but is likely to be another early casualty based on his recent form. Andy Roddick, who produced some good performances to reach the semis of the ATP Winstom Salem tournament is projected to meet Nicolas Almagro in the third round, in what should be a close encounter. The winner is likely to meet Ferrer with the winner playing Nadal in the quarters... i'll stick by Ferrer.

QF Prediction - Ferrer v Nadal
Dark horse for this section - Andy Roddick
Round 1 Highlights - Ferrer v Andreev, Benneteau v Almagro and Youzhny v Gulbis

Roddick has been a downward trend since that heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final in 2009

So who will win? Well i'm going with the form book because I do not see either Federer or Nadal winning this. Nadal was very rusty in Cincy, and i know he can spring into form when grand slam time comes around; however I still don't think he holds a chance against Djokovic. Djokovic is my tip for the title with Murray coming close once again yet falling at the last hurdle...

Friday, 26 August 2011

WTA US Open Preview

The final major is finally upon us! Caroline Wozniacki is the number one seed and is joined in the top 8 by Vera Zvonareva, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli. All the talk in the lead up to this years Open has been about Serena Williams. She goes into the US Open as the number 28 seed and the favourite to win with all bookmakers at 11/8. I have split the draw into eight sections to discuss my thoughts and predictions and how things might turn out...

Caroline Wozniacki will open her campaign against the Spaniard, Nuria Llagostera Vives. Wozniacki restored some confidence with her fourth title at New Haven and will be pleased with the cakewalk of a draw she has been presented. Her projected 3rd round opponent is Jarmila Gajdosova who has been in dire form losing her last five matches. Gajdosova opens up against Iveta Benesova in what promises to be a streaky affair. Gajdosova has got to break the streak somewhere but i don't think it will be here. This should open up the draw for either Benesova, or perhaps Greta Arn or Vania King to reach the third round.

Wozniacki's projected 4th round opponent is the number 15 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who will play Sara Errani in the first round. Kuznetsova has struggled of late for consistency so an early exit would not be a big surprise despite a good head-to-head record with Errani. Kuznetsova could play Daniela Hantuchova in Round 3, who she defeated in a three set match at Roland Garros. Before this, Hantuchova may have to overcome the tricky Austrian, Tamira Paszek in round 2. I would have fancied Paszek to have a real chance of progressing here but this will be her first tournament since the end of July when she picked up an injury in Washington. She also posted on twitter last week that she was attacked and bitten by a dog last week! Although I question Hantuchova's mentality, she should have too much for Kuzzy on the hard courts and meet Wozniacki in round 4.

Round 4 Prediction - Wozniacki v Hantuchova
Dark Horse in this section - Greta Arn
Most exciting Round 1 match - Benesova v Gajdosova

Wozniacki will be confident going into the US Open following victory in New Haven

The number six seed, Li Na will open up against Simona Halep. Li progressed through to the semi-finals of New Haven last week where she was beaten by Petra Cetkovska in an extraordinary encounter; she looked nervous, short of confidence and suffering from the weight of expectation following her first Grand Slam win in Paris earlier this year. Li will be content with the draw she has been handed as she is scheduled to meet Kaia Kanepi in the third round. Kanepi has not played since Wimbledon and I fully expect either the winner of Kimiko Date Krumm and Silvia Soler-Espinosa to take her out. I am backing Soler Espinosa, who has won through three round of qualifying.

Li Na's projected 4th round opponent is Andrea Petkovic. Petkovic has been in excellent form during the summer hard court season. The only concern is a knee injury, which she picked up in Cinncinati. Petkovic could play Zheng Jie in Round 2, which will be a testing affair but one I would expect Andrea to get past. Petkovic is then likely to play the winner of Irina-Camelia Begu or Roberta Vinci in Round 3; both these players have predominantly had their success on the clay courts but have had some excellent results in the last couple of weeks with Begu most recently, reaching the semi-finals in Dallas. This will be a close match (they are 1-1 in their head-to-head record) but I would hand the advantage to Roberta Vinci.

Round 4 Prediction - Petkovic v Li Na
Dark Horse in this section - Soler Espinosa
Most exciting Round 1 match - Begu v Vinci

Petkovic has a great chance of another grand slam quarter-final if she is fully fit to play

The number 3 seed Victoria Azarenka has a mighty tough draw to contend with in what is the most difficult section BY FAR! Azarenka will play Johanna Larsson in the first round. She will then face either Rebecca Marino or Gisela Dulko in round 2; Dulko has caused Azarenka many problems in the past including two defeats at Grand Slam's last year. In fact Dulko was the player she lost to when she collapsed in dramatic fashion at the US Open last year. If Azarenka reaches the third round, she will most likely meet Serena Williams. Serena herself has a difficult opener against the young Serbian, Bojana Jovanovski so she will have to hit the ground running. I expect Aza and Serena to clash in a titantic third round match but I cannot see Azarenka beating Serena especially after their previous encounter in Toronto where Serena won comfortably, 6-3 6-3.

Serena's projected 4th round opponent is Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic will begin against Ksenia Pervak in Round 1. Ivanovic could then play Petra Cetkovska in the second round, who has been on a stunning run of form, which has included wins over Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and Li Na in New Haven. She also beat Ivanovic in the third round of Wimbledon this year. I would back Cetkovska to win again although I am slightly on the fence because Cetkovska had a gruelling week in New Haven playing eight matches. Shahar Peer is also in this section but she has a difficult opener against Sania Mirza. Mirza has not been playing well during the summer but has a 4-1 head to head record and I'm backing her to cause an upset. Also look out for the young American, Sloane Stephens who is in this section.

Round 4 Prediction - Serena v Cetkovska
Dark Horse in this section - Sania Mirza
Most exciting Round 1 match - Serena v Jovanovski

Serena is the overwhelming favourite to win the US Open

Francesca Schiavone, the number seven seed will play Galina Voskobeova in the first round. This is a tough opener for Schiavone because Voskoboeva has been playing very well lately with a quarter-final showing in Toronto and a victory over Maria Sharapova. She will also be buoyed by three wins in qualifying; however Schiavone is a consumate professional and should have enough to progress. Schiavone is scheduled to play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the third round. I have a feeling (probably ludicrous!) that MJMS will get knocked out in round 1 by Mona Barthel. MJMS has often struggled getting past lesser known opponents, and Barthel is an up and coming player who has had some good wins on the tour including a win over Bethanie Mattek Sands in Copenhagen this year.

Schiavone could play Jelena Jankovic in the 4th round in what would be a thrilling affair if there last two matches are anything to go by. Jankovic opens up against Alison Riske and could then meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in round 3. Pav will open up against Anna Tatishivili, who has caused some problems for the likes of Vera Zvonareva, Marion Bartoli and Yanina Wickmayer this year. Pav has looked well below par during the last couple of weeks despite a quarter-final appearance at New Haven. However, I expect Pav to make it to the third round to meet JJ; despite a 2-0 head-to-head record over Jankovic, I would go for JJ to win this time round.

Round 4 Prediction - Jankovic v Schiavone
Dark Horse - Mona Barthel/ Chanelle Scheepers
Most exciting round 1 match - Schiavone v Voskoboeva

Schiavone has some tough oppositions in her draw but should do well here

The Wimbledon Champion, Petra Kvitova will open up her campaign against Alexandra Dulgheru. Kvitova has an easy draw up to a potential all-Czech encounter in round 3 against Lucie Safarova. Kvitova has struggled throughout the summer as she was taken out twice by Andrea Petkovic in Toronto and Cincy. Safarova will fancy her chances of causing an upset here; she has put together some neat results over the last few weeks, most notably reaching the quarter-final of Toronto and pushing Serena to three sets. Safarova has a straight forward draw before Kvitova and I am going to go for Safarova to take out Kvitova in what will be a first encounter if they do meet in round 3.

Agnieszka Radwanska has a good draw and should have no problems to the 4th round. Her most testing encounter is likely to come in the 1st round against her sister, Urszula! She is projected to meet Yanina Wickmayer in the third round. Wickmayer pulled out of Dallas last week citing an injury so I cannot see her presenting a threat to Radwanska. This could give an opportunity to Sorana Cirstea, Alla Kudryavtseva or Anastasia Rodionova of reaching the third round; however I will stick by Wicky to reach the third round.

Round 4 Prediction - Safarova v Radwansksa
Dark Horse in this section - Lucie Safarova
Most exciting round 1 match - Wickmayer v Cirstea

Radwanska won in San Diego and will go deep into the second week if she is not affected by her shoulder injury

Maria Sharapova opens up her US Open against the young Britain, Heather Watson. It is a great chance for Heather to test herself against the best however I fully expect Sharapova to have too much power for her. Sharapova is scheduled to meet Flavia Pennetta in the third round. Pennetta has a difficult opener against Aravane Rezai, who has had a resurgence in form reaching the final in Dallas last week. I am predicting Rezai will continue her good form and take out Pennetta, who has been very inconsistent of late.

Peng Shuai is Sharapova's projected 4th round opponent. Peng has struggled with a hip injury throughout the last couple of weeks but she should have few problems in reaching the fourth round to potentially play Sharapova for the third time this year. Peng opens up against Varvara Lepchenko and could play Julia Goerges in the 3rd round. Goerges has been terribly inconsistent of late and will have to be at her best to get past her fellow compatriot, Kristina Barrois. With a 2-0 head to head record over Barrois, i'll stick with Goerges to match her seeding.

Round 4 Prediction - Peng v Sharapova
Dark Horse in this section - Aravane Rezai/Romina Oprandi
Most exciting round 1 match - Pennetta v Rezai

Sharapova won in Cincy but still looked vulnerable at times. She has a good draw at the US and should go far

Marion Bartoli, the number eight seed will play Alexandra Panova in the first round. Bartoli could face a tough second round encounter against either the young American, Christina McHale or the experienced Canadian, Aleksandra Wozniak. I believe it will be McHale in round 2, who has had some big wins this summer with victories over Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova. However she can sometimes struggle as demonstrated by the demolition she received from Aggy Radwanska in San Diego this year. I am going to go with Marion Bartoli to get through this, who should play Maria Kirilenko in round 3.

Sam Stosur begins against Sofia Arvidsson and should she win, will play the winner of Alberta Brianti and Coco Vandeweghe. Her first significant challenge will most likely come in the third round where she is projected to meet Nadia Petrova. Stosur often struggles against the big servers on tour but has raised her game in the last few weeks. She will also be heartened by breaking a former 4-0 head-to-head record with a victory over Petrova at Eastbourne earlier this year. However Petrova has really cleaned up her game since then so Stosur may look to either Bethanie Mattek Sands or Polona Hercog to take Petrova out; Hercog who never looks at home on the hard courts did manage to take out Petrova in the first round of New Haven last week.

Round 4 prediction - Bartoli v Stosur
Dark horse in this section - Nadia Petrova
Most exciting round 1 match - McHale v Wozniak

Sam Stosur should reach at least the Quarters based on her recent form

The number two seed and 2010 US Open runner-up, Vera Zvonareva plays Stephanie Foretz Gacon in round 1 and has avoided any real danger up to the third round. Zvonareva could meet Anabel Medina Garrigues in the third round. Anabel suffered an injury in New Haven, which could give a chance for Ayumi Morita or Laura Robson to progress through. I would expect Morita to make the third round with her superior experience just having enough to take out Robson in round 1.

Zvonareva will be fearful of her 4th round opponent in what is a packed section of the draw. The potential highlight match could be in the 2nd round where Sabine Lisicki could meet the unseeded Venus Williams. Before this happens Lisicki will have to beat Alona Bondarenko and Venus Williams will have to get past Vesna Dolonts. If both win, it should be a terrific hard-hitting encounter. I would go with Lisicki because she has beaten Venus before which will give her belief. She has also been in terrific form with a superb victory in Dallas where she lost just 13 games in five matches. The winner would meet Dominika Cibulkova on paper, but I'm less than confident that Domy will reach the third round following an injury plagued summer. I would point towards Klara Zakopalova, the sometimes superb Czech to have a rich burst of form to play Lisicki in round 3.

Round 4 Prediction - Lisicki v Zvonareva
Dark horse in this section - Ayumi Morita/Klara Zakopalova
Most exciting round 1 match - Robson v Morita

A worry for Lisicki is getting to New York following her win in Dallas because of the problems presented by Hurricane Irene!

For Wimbledon, I didn't go with the bookies and went for Kvitova. This time round I am sticking safe and going for Serena Williams to win the title. I believe she will meet Sharapova in what will be a one-sided final. Also look out for Wozniacki, Lisicki and Stosur to go deep in the tournament. Serena does have a difficult draw; the potential third rounder against Azarenka would be fascinating. But I believe she has the capability of destroying the field over the next two weeks... I hope i'm wrong!!! I can't wait for the next two weeks and will be blogging along the way :)

WTA New Haven - Li beats Pav in shocker

Li Na progressed into the semi-finals of New Haven last night after beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4 3-6 6-2. I watched the first set of the match, which was truly terrible! Li started the match well as she moved Pavlyuchenkova around the court and exposed her poor movement with some solid hitting. However from 3-1 up in the first set, Li collapsed and became extremely error-strewn. She did however manage to pull the first set through as Pavlyuchenkova double faulted away the first set. In my opinion, her new serve action has sent her game backwards because she has lost all consistency on the serve, which was one of her stronger weapons.

Despite some alarming lapses in concentration, a victory for Li Na never looked in doubt

I agreed with the commentary from Sam Smith on Eurosport who said that Pavlyuchenkova is unsure of what her best game is. I personally believe she needs to attack more with her groundstrokes. Her defensive game is hampered by her poor movement so she needs to look to get the first strike in. In the first set, she was quite passive and was aided by Li's mistakes. Before the Quarters, Pav did manage to win two matches including an impressive victory over the tricky Italian, Roberta Vinci. I wonder if the long season is starting to take its toll on her; the same thing happened last year where she admitted she was a spent force in the latter months of the year.

Pavlyuchenkova is struggling to make that next step in the game and become a top ten player

Li Na will now go onto face Petra Cetkovska in the semi-finals, who continued her superb run of form with a 7-5 7-5 victory over Marion Bartoli. She beat Agnieszka Radwanska in the previous round and looks an unseeded threat at the US Open. I managed to watch her play at Wimbledon in her match against Radwanska and I was impressed with her game. I'm looking forward to having the chance to watch her again tonight against Li. In the other semi-final, Caroline Wozniacki will take on Francesca Schiavone. Wozniacki produced a much improved performance to turn the tables on Christina McHale, meanwhile Schiavone had a walkover when Anabel Medina Garrigues had to pull out with a knee injury.

Cetkovska has had a superb year and after some excellent wins on the ITF tour, she has transformed her form to the main tour

Li to beat Cetkovska in 3 sets
Wozniacki to beat Schiavone in 2 sets

Coming Soon... My preview of the US Open draw! Look out for it on Sunday night :)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sharapova wins Cincy

Maria Sharapova got her hands on the Cincy title after beating Jelena Jankovic in a gripping final, 4-6 7-6 6-3. The quality of tennis on show was not always of a high standard, but it was an entertaining and fiesty affair. Sharapova raced out into a 4-1 lead but surprisingly, Jankovic managed to get her on the ropes and win 7 straight games with some solid hitting from the back of the court. The pair traded blows in the second set with some long deuce games before Sharapova finally came out on top in the tiebreak. The third set (which unfortunately I couldn't stay up for!) sounded like a scrappy affair with a succession of breaks.

Sharapova won the Cincy title after wasting match points in the final last year to Kim Clijsters

In the end, Sharapova had too much for Jelena who could not put away her chances. At the start of the match, Jelena was not showing any belief that she could win this match. Now being coached by Sanchez, Jelena is heading in the right direction once again and needs to continue to build her confidence. I find she often puts in good performances before a major; she has done it several times before Roland Garros, which has got me excited and optimistic that she will go all the way. After getting excited (and then disappointed so many times!) I am much more cautious nowadays.

Jankovic should be content with her efforts this week in Cincy following two 1st round exits at Wimbledon and Toronto

I think she will be a threat at the US Open and could reach the Quarters; however she will not win because she does not have the mental game to go all the way. Sharapova did well to win the title but was patchy in her last two matches. She is definitely one of the favourites to win the US Open but up against a full flowing Serena, she ain't got a chance! Unfortunately I don't have time to do previews for the draws in New Haven and Dallas; however I will be reviewing the results as we move through the week. With the US Open just one week ago, I will be doing some predictions and analysis of the draws when they come in on Thursday night!!! :)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cincy Updates - Maria strolls, Rafa & Roger out

The semi-final line-up was completed yesterday and will see Maria Sharapova take on Vera Zvonareva and Andrea Petkovic play Jelena Jankovic. Sharapova eased past her quarter-final with Sam Stosur, 6-3 6-2 as she continued her dominating head-to-head record over Stosur. Zvonareva had a much tougher match as she beat Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3 7-6. The second set was a see-saw affair; Zvonareva wasted a match point at 5-4 and Hantuchova blew a set point in the tiebreak. Zvonareva appeared to be on the edge of losing her temper at the end of the second set but managed to pull through purely because of the less errors she produced.

Andrea Petkovic defeated Nadia Petrova, 7-5 6-1 as she continued her excellent form on the American hard courts. She will play Jankovic, who received a walkover after Peng Shuai pulled out again with a left hip injury. Jankovic and Petkovic have played twice this year with Petkovic winning both matches in 3 sets. Their last encounter on the hard courts was in Miami and it was a very entertaining match so I hope for more of the same this time round.

Sharapova has strolled through the draw and will be the hot favourite to scoop the Cincy title

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were both knocked out of Cincy in a day of surprises on quarter-final day. Rafael Nadal was taken out by Mardy Fish, 6-3 6-4 who delivered an exemplary performance to record his first ever win over the Spaniard. He served well, attacked well, came into the net on many occasions and produced a far superior number of winners to Nadal. Nadal has looked sluggish throughout the week and has been hampered by some minor injuries; he will have to really turn things around to have a chance of retaining his US Open title. Mardy Fish will now play Andy Murray in the Semis after Murray eased past Giles Simon, 6-3 6-3. It is a terrible match-up for Simon because he has a similar game to Murray, but Murray is far superior so the result was not a surprise.

Roger Federer also fell by the wayside as he was beaten by Tomas Berdych, 6-2 7-6. Berdych produced an excellent serving display as he pulled off the biggest win of his year. Berdych has been very consistent this year without making any major inroads against the top players. This win suggests he is producing some good form ahead of the final major. Berdych will play Novak Djokovic, who beat Gael Monfils in three sets. Djokovic has still only lost one match this year but will have to be at his best to beat Berdych. Tiredness could give Berdych a chance of upsetting Djokovic for what would be only his second defeat this year...

Can Djokovic win his tenth title of the year in Cincy?
Sharapova to beat Zvonareva in 2 sets
Petkovic to beat Jankovic in 3 sets
Fish to beat Murray in 2 sets
Djokovic to beat Berdych in 3 sets

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Cincy Update - JJ & Peng to meet in Quarters

The third round wrapped up in Cincy with wins for both Jelena Jankovic and Peng Shuai. Jankovic came through the most dramatic match of the day as she beat Francesca Schiavone, 6-3 5-7 6-4. Jankovic let slip a number of leads during the match including a chance to serve the match out at 6-3 5-4 and a 5-1 lead in the third set before finally wrapping up the win. It was the first time that Jankovic has beaten a player with a higher ranking than her since a win over Sam Stosur in Dubai back in February. It was a crucial victory for JJ to help restore some of her shattered confidence.

I only managed to watch highlights of the match but JJ seemed to be stepping into the court more and taking advantage of any short balls. I still think she has the game to do well but mentally she is very fragile and this is only one small step in what will be a long path if she is to keep moving up the rankings. JJ will now play Peng Shuai, who comfortably saw off Shahar Peer, 6-2 6-3 as she took advantage of the withdrawal of Victoria Azarenka. This is the most exciting Quarter for me so I am very disappointed its at 7pm Cincy time, which is midnight in the UK :(

Jankovic has shown a resurgence in form with three victories in Cincy

Sam Stosur continued her excellent record over Li Na with a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory. Stosur started the match well claiming the first set, but Li managed to win her first ever set against Stosur in what was an impressive second set performance. Stosur started to come up short with her groundstrokes allowing Li to take control with some sparkling winners. However Stosur produced a serving masterclass in the third set and needed just the one break to wrap up the victory. Stosur will now play Maria Sharapova, who was in excellent form as she beat Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-2 6-3. I watched the first set, which was one of the better sets of women's tennis I have watched this summer with some excellent rallies throughout. However Kuznetsova was going toe-to-toe with Sharapova when she needed to try and mix ger game up; therefore she was coming off second best most of the time. Sharapova has an excellent record over Stosur and I am predicting it will continue...

Stosur has a terrible record losing all 8 of her matches to Sharapova and winning just two sets

Daniela Hantuchova fought past Marion Bartoli in an epic encounter, 6-3 5-7 6-3. It looked like Hantuchova's nerves would once again cost her a victory but after wasting a 6-3 3-1 lead and 15 break points, she finally managed to pull through causing a minor upset beating the number 8 seed. She will now play Vera Zvonareva who beat Petra Martic, 6-2 6-2. Zvonareva and Hantuchova have had some close encounters this year and i'm in no doubt that this one will be the same.

Hantuchova overcame her wobbles to record her 5th win over a top 10 player this year

The final quarter-final will be between Andrea Petkovic and Nadia Petrova. Petkovic overcome Petra Kvitova, 6-3 6-3 for the second time in a week. Many people will question Kvitova's form but I don't think the conditions in Cincinnati suited her. Kvitova complained of feeling dizzy in the second set and has generally had a poor record on the American hard courts this years as she also fell early in Indian Wells and Miami. Nadia Petrova beat Christina McHale in the final third round match, 6-3 6-3. McHale could not follow up her victory over Wozniacki; however Petrova is back to some excellent form and a quarter-final with Petkovic is extremely difficult to call on paper.

Petrova will hope to overturn a three set defeat to Petkovic in their previous match at the US Open 2010

This has been the worst tournament of the year fror my predictions! Both Azarenka and Serena pulled out early, which was particularly disappointing for me! It is a shame that with tournaments played back-to-back that you do get a lot of retirements. In other notable news, there were reports that Caroline Wozniacki has ended her coaching relationship with her Father. Good news for Caroline, I think because she needed a change. I wonder if it has anything to do with Agniezska Radwanska recently splitting with her dad as a coach and going on an excellent run of form. I do worry about where Wozniacki will go now because she wants to be more attacking to be a threat in the slams but going against what you are used to doing i.e. defending is not going to be easy. I still don't believe she has the ammunition to trouble some of the hard-hitting players... anyway I look forward to see how she gets on in New Haven next week.

Quarter Final Predictions
Sharapova to beat Stosur in 2 sets
Hantuchova to beat Zvonareva in 3 sets
Petrova to beat Petkovic in 3 sets
Jankovic to beat Peng in 3 sets

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Cincy Update so far...

There have been no major shocks so far in Cincy however we have seen some horror shows! Andrea Petkovic scraped past Jarmila Gajdosova, 5-7 7-6 6-2 in one of the ugliest encounters of the year so far. Gajdosova committed an unbelievable amount of errors in one of the streakiest performances I have ever seen. Gajdosova was just basically whacking the ball without any thought or due attention, which made it hard for Petkovic to get any rhythm in the match because Gajdosova would often hit winners followed by a succession of unforced errors.

Gajdosova put in an unprofessional performance, which showed her dwindling confidence following five first round losses

An example was on the set point that Petkovic converted in the second set tiebreak when Gajdosova's return nearly ended up in the stands. Gajdosova has been through some difficult times this year; she divorced from her husband a few months ago. Unfortunately, it seems her mind is not in the right place at the moment and she is really struggling to play her best tennis. Petkovic played a pretty shocking match too but the unforced error count was the telling factor in the end.

Jelena Jankovic has also made it into the second round following another dismal performance, this time from Iveta Benesova. Benesova has a solid game but I find that once she goes down in a match, she rarely shows any fighting spirit to try and turn it around and she becomes rather defeatist in her attitude. It was an excellent win for Jelena who played well despite a few lapses in concentration. Jankovic has really added some power to the serve and she remains relatively solid off her groundstrokes. She also has a good backhand slice, which I think she should employ more often. I remember her using this to good effect in a match earlier this year in Doha against Vera Zvonareva.

Jankovic will now play Zheng Jie in the next round

However, I believe Jelena's main problem is her mental strength; she has lost so many three set matches, I think it has affected her confidence and made her much more vulnerable in the tight matches. An example was the loss to Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros where in the crucial stage of the match at the end of the third set, Jelena became extremely passive. If she is to get some big wins under her belt, I feel she needs to take some risks on her shots and be more aggressive. I have been a fan of Jelena for so long and would love to see her win a grand slam; however I feel her time has probably passed now.

In other notable matches, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova continues to struggle for form as she went down in three sets to Flavia Pennetta. Zheng Jie managed to upstage Julia Goerges, 6-2 1-6 6-4 (a correct prediction!) and Nadia Petrova recovered from a second set bagel to defeat the tricky, Roberta Vinci who took out both Wozniacki and Ivanovic last week. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daniela Hantuchova both had straightforward victories, meanwhile Li Na was the first player to progress to the third round with an excellent victory over the tricky Czech, Lucie Safarova, 6-3 6-4. Li could now play Serena Williams or Sam Stosur in what will be one of the highlight third round womens matches in Cincy.

Pennetta had a good win over Pavlyuchenkova and will now play Daniela Hantuchova in round two

Saturday, 13 August 2011

WTA Cincinnati Preview

The tennis action keeps on coming as both the women and men flock to Cincinnati to do battle this week. Once again, Caroline Wozniacki is the number one seed and will look to improve on a dismal showing in Toronto. The number two seed this week is Vera Zvonareva following the withdrawal of Kim Clijsters. She is joined on the sidelines by Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova.

Caroline Wozniacki will open up her campaign in Cincinnati against either Christina Mchale or Tsvetana Pironkova. Wozniacki could face her conqueror in Toronto, Roberta Vinci in the third round. However Vinci will have to overcome the threat of Nadia Petrova who has started to look something like her former self since an impressive 4th round showing in Wimbledon. Ana Ivanovic is also in this section of draw and like Wozniacki, will want to avoid Vinci!

Wozniacki was poor in Toronto and will want to improve her form this week in Cincinnati

Wozniacki could play Petra Kvitova in the Quarter finals. Kvitova was disappointing in Toronto and may have to play Andrea Petkovic again in the 3rd round. She will first have to navigate her way past either Chanelle Scheepers or the talented Canadian, Rebecca Marino. Petkovic will have a tricky opener against Jarmilla Gajdosova, who she came through in 3 sets against in Paris; however Gajdosova's form has really dipped of late so I would expect an easier match for Andrea.

Victoria Azarenka has an extremely difficult draw as she will play either Shahar Peer or Sabine Lisicki in Round 2. Lisicki has been exhibiting some excellent form and will give Azarenka a stern test. Lisicki has had a weeks break after missing Toronto and will fancy her chances of an upset. However I am going for Azarenka's greater consistency to pull her through in 3 sets. Peng Shuai is also in this section and will open up against newly married Gisela Dulko. It is unlikely she will be a major threat this week after suffering from a hip injury in Toronto and she will have to be at her best to dispatch Sara Errani in a potential second round encounter; they previously played in Carlsbad where Peng saved 2 match points to edge out the Italian.

Lisicki will have to serve well to have a chance of getting past both Peer and Azarenka

Francesca Schiavone is Azarenka's projected Quarter Final opponent. She will open up against either Maria Kirilenko or a Qualifier. Not many people have been talking about Schiavone but we musn't forget that she has produced some solid showings on the hard courts with Quarter final appearances at both the US and Australian Open. Schiavone could face Jelena Jankovic in round 3, who she defeated in the 4th round of Roland Garros this year. Jelena has been quite consistent this year but has failed to pull off any big wins and not won a match since the French Open. She will open up against a Iveta Benesova which could be a potential banana skin; Benesova defeated Jankovic in Montreal last year where Jankovic competed as the number one seed. There could be a chance for Julia Goerges to spring some magic in this section IF the good Julia turns up and not the one that bombed in the first set to Serena in Toronto. However she opens up against the dangerous Zheng Jie, who has been playing very well of late...

Li Na will open her campaign against either Lucie Safarova or Klara Zakopalova; both players have the potential to cause a shock with Zakoplaova offering the biggest threat having destroyed Li earlier this year in Doha. Even if Li does manage to make it past the 2nd round (which i dont think she will!) she could face either Sam Stosur or Serena Williams. Williams and Stosur are scheduled to meet in the 2nd round in a repeat of the Toronto final assuming both win their openers.

Stosur raised her game in Toronto to reach the final but has a difficult draw in Cincinnati as she could meet Serena again in the 2nd round

Maria Sharapova will be the projected Quarter-Finalist of Li and will open up against either Polona Hercog or Anastasia Rodionova. She could play Svetlana Kuznetsova in round 3 who now has a much more straightforward draw following the draw reshuffle following Radwanska's injury. She was orginally set to play Yanina Wickmayer but it will now be Jill Cryabas, which should be a winnable match for Kuzzy. The consistent, Anabel Medina Garrigues will be ready to pounce if Kuznetsova cannot sort her form out in round 2.

In the bottom section, Vera Zvonareva willl open up against either Ekaterina Makarova or Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in what appears to be the easiest section of the draw. Yanina Wickmayer is her projected third round opponent. Zvonareva has been consistent this year but has failed to reach the heights of last year. She has a very good draw here so will feel that at least a semi-final place in her grasp. Wickmayer will have to overcome a difficult opener against Bojana Jovanovski who has come through two rounds of qualifying. Wickmayer beat Jovanovski in three sets in Dubai but I fancy a different result here...

Bojana has a chance to make some inroads in this weeks draw in Cincinnati

Marion Bartoli will play either Ayumi Morita or Alona Bondarenko in round 2 and will look to put a disappointing early exit in Toronto behind her. Anastasia Pavyluchenkova will have another difficult first rounder against the Italian, Flavia Pennetta. Pavlyuchenkova has been in disappointing form since a superb quarter-final showing in Roland Garros. If she can get past Pennetta and then potentially Hantuchova (who she has a good head-to-head record over) then things might start to roll for her.

Serena is on an incredible winning streak and I although I originally thought she couldn't keep up the run i'm going to go for Serena to win. My other tips all have some danger in their draw; Azarenka has Lisicki and Kvitova has Petkovic so therefore I have wimped out and gone for Serena! The draw does not look as enticing as it did for Toronto but I expect to see a lot of different names in the Quarters as the ones that fell early in Toronto sort their form out Cincinnati.

Quarter Final Predictions:
(Probably the first time I have gone so much with the seedings!!!)

Top Round 1 Tips - Zakopalova to beat Safarova (9/4 with Stan James) and Zheng to beat Goerges (no odds yet)

Predicted Winner - Serena Williams

Serena and Novak reign in Canada

Both the tournaments this week witnessed shocks along the way but the winners were not great surprises. Serena Williams continued her superb run of form as she blasted her way to the title with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Sam Stosur. The most impressive performance along the way came against Victoria Azarenka in the Quarter-finals as she powered past the Belarusian, 6-3 6-3. Serena has already managed to dispatch some big names during this hard-court season but I feel she has yet to be properly tested. She's lost a couple of sets to the likes of Kirilenko, Zheng and Safarova but you never felt that she was going to lose these matches. I would like to see how she can cope when pushed to three sets by a top ten player. I have to admit she has playing some superb tennis and looks way ahead of the rest of the field at the moment.

Serena is now the 11/8 favourite to win the US Open

Serena is looking an ominous favourite for the US Open and I must say that i'm disappointed that no-one has really given her a challenge yet! I'm hoping in Cincinnati, she will be threatened along the way. Stosur had a superb week playing some of her best tennis of the year. She has been very up and down this year but I think coming from a set down to Ayumi Morita in round 1 was a big match for Stosur because I believe that earlier on in the year, this would have been a match she would have lost.

Sam Stosur will be heartened by her run to final this week in Toronto

In the mens tournament, Novak Djokovic waltzed to the title destroying most of the field. He did encounter some opposition from Mardy Fish in a three set final but eventually came through to continue his remarkable year. Both Nadal and Murray went out in the 2nd round; Murray was very disappointing against the attacking Anderson meanwhile Nadal wasted several key opportunities against Ivan Dodig. I would expect both to fare better in Cincinnati although at this moment in time, Djokovic (like Serena) appears quite a large distance ahead of the rest of the field.

Djokovic won his first tournament as the world number one

Federer also disappointed this week as he was bundled out in the 3rd round to Tsonga, who i'm pleased to say continued his excellent grass court form with a run to the semis before retiring hurt against Djokovic. On a disappointing note, Juan Martin Del Potro suffered another early exit to the hands of Marin Cilic. I expected JMDP to really challenge during the hard court season but he is yet to get going. I believe a 2nd round match-up with Federer in Cincinnati could be his chance to blow off the cobwebs and finally get his game going before the US Open...

Tsonga has carried on his form from Wimbledon and is once again looking a threat to the big four... fingers crossed he can stay injury free!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Shocks galore in Toronto - Petko stuns Petra, Maria out

I don't think anyone could have predicted the Quarter final line-up for Toronto this week in what has been a week of upsets. The biggest shock of the day saw the qualifier, Galina Voskoboeva take out Maria Sharapova in 2 sets, 6-3 7-5. Sharapova was way below par during the match; however do not take anything away from Voskoboeva who served well and attacked hard with her powerful groundstrokes. She also showed some delicate touches with a number of finely executed drop shots. It was not easy for Voskoboeva to finish the match off as she choked away 3 match points at 5-4 with two double faults and a tight backhand into the net. She managed to recover superbly to break Sharapova and successfully serve it out at the second occasion. Voskoboeva will now play Victoria Azarenka who eased past Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-1 6-2. Azarenka is the only remaining top 8 seed left in the competition and has lost just 3 games in her first two matches.

Sharapova let slip a 4-2 lead in the second set to Voskoeboeva, who produced one of the biggest upsets on the tour in 2011

The Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova also fell in the third round to an inspired performance by Andrea Petkovic. Petkovic proved herself as a newly crowned top 10 player and as a superb tactician with some smart serving and deep groundstrokes, which pressurised Kvitova into making a tonne of errors especially of the forehand side. Things could have been different if Kvitova had taken the break point she had at 1-1 in the first set, but Petkovic is really showing some mental strength in her matches this week as she eventually came through with ease, 6-1 6-2. She will now play Agnieszka Radwanska who beat Vera Zvonareva for the second time in a week, 6-4 7-6. Zvonareva let slip a 4-0 lead in the second set as she battled with the umpire over some line decisions. Zvonareva will go back up to number two in the world, which is disappointing to see because she does not deserve to be number two despite her consistency.

Petkovic produced one of her best performances of the year against a disappointing Kvitova

Li Na also fell in the third round as she suffered a fourth consecutive loss to Sam Stosur, and in straight sets, 6-2 6-4. Li looked particularly rusty and was not favoured by a walkover in her previous match. She also failed to get to grips with the Stosur kick serve and will look to change her fortunes in Cincinnati. Stosur will now play Roberta Vinci who followed up "the best day of her life" with another stunning victory, this time over Ana Ivanovic, 7-6 6-2. In the final quarter, Serena Williams will take on Lucie Safarova. Serena had to recover from a first set deficit in an entertaining three-set encounter with Zheng Jie. Lucie Safarova had too much for Francesca Schiavone as she progressed in the late night match with a straight forward 6-3 6-3 victory.

Lucie Safarova has creeped through the draw and has the ammunition to at least threaten Serena

Quarter-Final Predictions:
Stosur to beat Vinci in 2 sets
Petkovic to beat Radwanska in 3 sets
Azarenka to beat Voskoboeva in 2 sets
Williams to beat Safarova in 3 sets

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Toronto Round 2 - Wozniacki stunned, Serena strolls

I have to admit that so far, the WTA tournament in Toronto has been somewhat of an anticlimax so far. Firstly, Venus Williams pulled out with a viral illness and then we were prevented a potential blockbuster third round encounter between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters when Kim was forced to retire in her second round match with Zheng Jie. Yesterday also saw the withdrawal of Peng Shuai, which meant that her all-Chinese clash with Li Na was cancelled and Li received a walkover into round three having yet to take to the court!

Kim Clijsters was forced to pull out of Toronto with an abdominal injury; I would be very surprised if she is fit to compete at the US Open

In the 2nd round matches that did manage to take to the court, Caroline Wozniacki was bundled out of the tournament by Roberta Vinci, 6-4 7-5. Wozniacki was up 5-1 in the second set but wasted several set points as she lost 6 games in a row in a surprising loss of momentum for the Dane. Wozniacki has generally proved to be solid in closing out matches but was constantly troubled by Vinci's backhand slice and attacking forehand. Wozniacki is always slow to pick up form following a long break although the manner of the defeat is a cause for concern. I expect her to be much more competitive in Cincinnati; all credit to Vinci though who was positively beeming in her post-match interview after the biggest win of her career!

Wozniacki has a lot of hard work ahead in the next couple of weeks if she is going to have a chance of even being a contender for the US Open title

Vinci will next play Ana Ivanovic, who overcame Iveta Benesova in straight sets, and a disrupting court change after a light smashed on the Grandstand court whilst Ivanovic was serving at 5-3 up. Ivanovic has made a confident start this week and will look to take advantage of her good draw with the defeat of Wozniacki. Sam Stosur set up a third round encounter with Li Na after defeating Aleksandra Wozniak who had demolished Shahar Peer in Round 1 - I managed to get one of betting punts correct :) I expect a tight match between Stosur and Li and to be honest, not an entertaining one! I hope I am proved wrong ;)

Ivanovic has been quietly making her way through the draw with some accomplished performances

Vera Zvonareva did well to come through in a scrappy encounter against the dangerous Nadia Petrova, 6-4 7-5. She will now meet Agnieszka Radwanska in Round 3 in a repeat of the San Diego final from last week. I wonder if Radwanska's injury may play a prominent role this time as she has pulled out of the doubles competition. The Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova also won through against Anabel Medina Garrigues, 7-6 6-3. She will play Andrea Petkovic in the next round who saved 14 break points in a gruelling two setter against Greta Arn, which she won 6-4 7-5.

Radwanska has been in superb form since Wimbledon but a niggling shoulder injury is a cause for concern

In the bottom half, Serena Williams defeated Julia Goerges, 6-1 7-6. The first set was an abysmal affair as Goerges wilted in the windy conditions. To her credit, Goerges improved in the second set and managed to find some rhythm on her serve and was in fact, the better player towards the end of the second set. Serena raced into a 6-2 lead in the tiebreak but struggled to close the match out, eventually converted on her sixth match point. She let out a huge roar at the end of the match, which showed the importance of finishing the match in two sets and the danger that Goerges presented in the second set. Maria Sharapova also won through against a tricky opponent in Bojana Jovanovski, 6-1 7-5. She will now play Galina Voskoboeva who took out Flavia Pennetta in three sets.

Goerges showed both her strengths and weaknesses in a 6-1 7-6 loss to Serena

Victoria Azarenka won her first match since Wimbledon with a thumping, 6-0 6-0 victory over Stephanie Dubois. She will now play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchex who upset Daniela Hanutchova. Azarenka has struggled in the past against Martinez Sanchez and willl need to be at her best to pass this challenge. Francesca Schiavone strolled into the next round as she destroyed Ekaterina Makarova, 6-1 6-3. She will now play Lucie Safarova who defeats Kuznetsova's conqueror, Simona Halep in straight sets.

Schiavone produced a solid performance in her first match since Wimbledon

Cheeky punts of the day - Petkovic to beat Kvitova (13/8 with Stan James)... Martinez Sanchez at 10/3 to beat Azarenka may also be worth a punt!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Toronto Round 1 - Kuznetsova, Bartoli out

The first day of action in Toronto saw four of the five seeds sent packing. Svetlana Kuznetsova who has struggled for consistency this year was defeated by the Romanian, Simona Halep, 4-6 6-4 6-3. Kuznetsova beat Halep in their only previous encounter earlier this year in Miami, 6-0 6-4 and was heading for a similarly straightforward win at 6-4 2-0 up in this match. However, Kuznetsova went wandering as Halep kept the balls in play and managed to force the match into a third set. Kuznetsova continued to make sloppy errors off both wings as she went down a break in the third set. She then called a time out to have some taping reapplied to her foot, which appeared to be an act of gamesmanship at 4-3 down. Thankfully, Halep was able to hold her nerve and pull through with the biggest win of her career so far.

Kuznetsova was extremely disappointing in defeat against Halep

Marion Bartoli also fell by the wayside as she went down to the Kazakh, Galina Voskoboeva. Voskoboeva has been in a rich vein of form recently including a semi-final run in Baku. However not many people would have predicted an upset here. Bartoli looked slow around the court and was not hitting the ball with her usual force and conviction. Voskoboeva, like Halep held her nerve well to complete the victory, 6-3 6-3. In other matches, Julia Goerges turned around her recent woeful form with a dominant 6-1 6-3 victory over Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic was playing her first competitive match since the 21st of June and showed it looking rusty throughout the entire match. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was also defeated in three sets by Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez who is beginning to look a fearsome threat once again on the tour. Sam Stosur was the only seed to progress as she overcame the loss of the first set to defeat Ayumi Morita, 4-6 6-2 6-3.

Martinez Sanchez was out injured for the second half of last season but is starting to regain some of the form that helped her to the title in Rome last year