Wednesday, 28 September 2011

WTA Tokyo - Radwanska ousts JJ

Agnieszka Radwanska pulled off an unlikely win over Jelena Jankovic in the Round of 16 action in Tokyo. Jankovic had started the match in much the brighter form winning the first 9 points and racing into a 3-0 lead using her superb backhand down-the-line to great effect as she took the game to Radwanska. JJ lost her break with a terrible game at 3-1 with some awkward errors at the net, but quickly recovered to take the first set 6-2. She hit 15 winners (the majority with the amazingly accurate backhand) to just 3 from a surprisingly lacklustre Radwanska who lacked any imagination or invention throughout the first set.

Radwanska raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set with some solid hitting as JJ went wandering. Jankovic recovered to 4-3 and looked heading for victory... however Radwanska hung tough and managed to win three games in a row to take the second set. I missed the end of the second set but from all accounts, JJ was on the wrong end of a lines decision and was unable to challenge as she had used them all. The third set was a non-event as JJ tanked the set and at 5-0, she was still discussing the bad line calls to her coach, Ricardo Sanchez. Radwanska converted on her second match point with a superb passing shot.

There have been so many matches I have watched this year involving Jankovic where she has started well but ended up losing. She also seems to lose a lot of tight matches... this is demonstrated in her record of three setters this year as she has won just 5 and lost 13. JJ has no belief at the moment and loses concentration at critical moments of the match. I actually think she was playing pretty well in the first set and for some of the second set but she has lost that killer instinct, which helped her to number one.

It was an excellent victory for Radwanska, who was not playing at her best throughout the first two sets but fought extremely well. She will now play Kaia Kanepi in the Quarters, who shocked a stuttering Caroline Wozniacki, 7-5 1-6 6-4. The off-season will be extremely interesting to see where she takes her game and whether she tries to become more attacking. Jankovic is a prime example that trying to change what you are best at i.e. counter punching will not essentially lead to success.

In other matches, Maria Sharapova edged Julia Goerges in a hard-hitting 7-6 7-6 victory and will now face Petra Kvitova in a rematch of the Wimbledon Final. So many times this year the highly anticipated matches that have looked likely in the drawsheet have not happened so its good for Tokyo this one will take place... Kvitova seems to be gathering momentum after a win against Vania King today and I will be backing her to win... I say 7-6 6-3!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

WTA Tokyo - Stosur stunned, Ana and Vika win

It was a packed day of action in Tokyo on Wednesday as the 1st and 2nd rounds were both wrapped up. The biggest shock came as Maria Kirilenko turned the tables on Sam Stosur for a 6-2 4-6 6-4 win in an absorbing encounter. I wasn't able to watch their epic match at their US Open so I was happy to be able to see some of the third set. Both players were committed to the match as they played out some punishing rallies. Stosur fought hard but was disappointing in her first match after beating Serena Williams in the US Open final. She made some criminal errors and was extremely angry towards the end of the match, which showed how much this match meant to her. It was a good win for Kirilenko who played well using her excellent net skills to good effect.

Kirilenko will now play Ana Ivanovic in the third round after she beat the young Brit Laura Robson, 6-4 7-5. Robson had numerous chances during the match to make the scoreline even closer but she could not make her advantage tell; most notably she wasted a double break in the 2nd set and three break points at 4-4 in the 2nd set. Robson's biggest flaw is her mental game and she needs to work on being more positive as she often beats herself up after a bad shot and lets the frustration carry on for too long afterwards.

I still think that Robson will be a big star in the future because she has some fantastic weapons that were causing some damage to Ivanovic today. Her forehand is superb and the 1st serve wins many free points - she won 81% of her first serves in the first set but this figure dipped in the second. On this occasion, Ivanovic was the more consistent player and put in one of her more competent serving displays hitting 11 aces throughout the match. Ivanovic could have exploited Robson's poor movement more, which she was able to do to convert on her first match point.

Ivanovic played some consistent tennis today and will look to take advantage of Stosur's exit as she plays Kirilenko next

In other matches, Victoria Azarenka strolled past Irina-Camelia Begu as she saved all 9 break points against her in a 6-1 6-3 victory. Agnieszka Radwanska did well to beat the in-form Angelique Kerber after losing the first set, and will now play Jelena Jankovic in an intriguing third round match. Peng Shuai beat both Jill Craybas and Christina McHale today with bagels in each of her matches. She looked to be struggling to close her second round match out but saved three break points in the final game for a surprisingly routine 6-0 6-3 victory over McHale. Two more seeds fell as the disappointing Shahar Peer was routed by Klara Zakopalova, 6-3 6-1 and the ever-improving Vania King took out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4 7-6. In the last match of the day, Caroline Wozniacki was taken the distance by the sometimes fantastic, sometimes terrible Jarmila Gajdosova, but came through 6-1 6-7 6-3.

Monday, 26 September 2011

WTA Tokyo - Jankovic and Sharapova win

Rain has heavily affected the schedule for day 2 at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. In the matches that did get completed, Jelena Jankovic stopped Barbara Zahlavova Strycova's six match winning streak with a 6-4 6-2 victory. Jankovic started the match in clinical form as she raced into a 4-0 lead; however she lost her momentum as she has in so many of her matches this year with a shocking game at 4-0 and was pegged back to 5-4. She did manage to finally clinch the first set benefiting from a wayward game from Zahlavova Strycova. Jankovic was more consistent in the second set and was able to close the match out with any nerves. In other matches, Maria Sharapova overcame some late jitters to beat Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-2 7-5 and Marion Bartoli recovered from a second set bagel to take out Ayumi Morita, 6-3 0-6 6-3.

My quarter-final predictions, which I didn't have time to post this weekend are:
Wozniacki v Jankovic
Azarenka v Peng
Stosur v Zvonareva
Pavlyuchenkova v Cetkovska

Cetkovska is already out :( Oh well for my prediction of an early Sharapova exit!!! There are some good matches to look forward tomorrow... the in-form Angelique Kerber will take on Agnieszka Radwanska, who she took out in the second round of the US Open on her dream run to the semi-finals. Also look out for Laura Robson who takes on Ana Ivanovic in an intriguing second round clash.

Tip for Tuesday - Arn to beat Goerges

Friday, 23 September 2011

Blogging soon...

I am away this weekend but hope to start blogging next week as the women head to Tokyo. I have had a quick look at the draw and hope to post my full predictions before the draw begins. I'm currently predicting an Azarenka v Stosur final and an early exit for Sharapova!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

US Open Day 15 - Djokovic beats Nadal

Novak Djokovic won his third major of the year after beating Rafael Nadal, 6-2 6-4 6-7 6-1 in a fantastic final. Both players were engaged in some truly terrific baseline tussles with many marathon games; one highlight in particular was the third game of the second set where Djokovic came through an epic 18 minute game. I didn't particularly enjoy their last encounter in the Wimbledon final, but this match was superb. Djokovic was the more attacking player and in particular, returning the Nadal serve very well.

All in all, it has been an enjoyable US Open that has been somewhat overshadowed by the weather and poor scheduling. I am now in mourning with all of the Grand Slam's over for another year :( Both tours now move onto Asia as we wrap up the season and the players battle for the last spots at the season ending championships; the men return to London, meanwhile the women will be in Istanbul this year. I have really enjoyed blogging during the US Open and plan to do a "Best of the US Open Blog" if I have some time in the next week. If not, I hope to return for some of the Asian swing in the coming weeks whilst I search for a job!

Monday, 12 September 2011

US Open Day 14 - Stosur stuns Serena in dramatic final

Sam Stosur played the match of her life to claim her first Grand Slam title and beat Serena Williams, 6-2 6-3 in an extraordinary final. I was surprised early on how focused and calm Stosur was as both players held their opening service games. Stosur earnt the first break point of the match as she took advantage of Serena's inability to get her 1st serves in - in fact she was at shocking 35% during the first set. Stosur made the breakthrough as she moved around backhand to hit a crunching forehand and force the error from Serena.

Stosur was so focused from the outset and played without any nerves

Stosur then backed up the break with a confident hold of serve as she used her kick serve to great effect and kept attacking with her forehand. Stosur had more break points in Serena's next service game as she continued to hit aggressive returns with superb depth to the baseline of Williams. She could not convert this time... but she did on the next service game as she raced to a surprising 6-2 first set in what was undoubtedly, the best set of tennis Stosur had ever produced; she won 92% of points on her 1st serves, 71% of points on her second serves and hit 8 winners to just 4 unforced errors.

Stosur did very well to start the match in top gear... Serena's match with Vika showed that if you stay with her you can force some doubt into Serena's head and Stosur did this from the outset

The second set continued in the same fashion as a confident Stosur went after Serena's serve. She also used her backhand slice to her great effect, which unsettled Serena. The big moment in the match came at break point for Stosur in the first game when Serena shouted "come on" before Stosur had a chance to hit the ball. It was going to be Serena's point but Stosur got her racket to the ball. The umpire, Eva Asderaki RIGHTLY gave the point to Stosur adhering to the rules but Serena was furious... the same situation happened in a match between Bartoli and McHale earlier this tournament where McHale won the point after Bartoli screamed "come on" before it finished - Serena called out even earlier than Bartoli did and Asderaki was well within her rights to hand the point to Stosur.

Serena totally let herself down and I lost all respect for her.

Serena's antics towards the umpire were disgraceful... she received a code violation and the crowd started jeering as Stosur prepared to serve. As to be expected, this situation totally fired up Serena and poor Stosur, had to try and remain calm in what was now an electric atmosphere. Serena quickly raced to triple break point but Stosur saved one with the point of the match as she produced incredible skills at the net, which even got an applause from Serena. Serena did eventually break, but she launched into a tirade at the umpire in the changeover calling her "unattractive inside" and "a hater" amongst other things. I have to admit that I have never been so angry watching a tennis match because of Serena's disgraceful and arrogant behaviour; it showed a total lack of respect to the umpire and Stosur.

Stosur's net skills were particularly impressive throughout the whole two weeks

The match continued with serve as Stosur produced two fantastic holds at 2-1 and 3-2 down as she continued to implement the backhand slice and remained both attacking and accurate on her forehand shots. Stosur then earnt a break point on Serena's serve at 3-3 and took it with a fabulous forehand return. She followed this up with a gutsy hold as Serena prepared to stay in the match down 6-2 5-3. Serena produced three sloppy errors as she gifted Stosur two match points... but Serena stayed strong and fended off both match points. Stosur got another chance as she produced ANOTHER thumping forehand return that blazed past Serena. It was then on the third match point that Stosur claimed the victory with another forehand winner.

It is probably the happiest I have ever been to see someone win a Grand Slam (even more so than Kvitova!) because of the circumstances. Stosur has gone up in "my top players" list... not that I am a glory hunter but I was so impressed with the way she carried herself this week! I will definitely being keeping more of an eye on in the future :)

I have never been so happy to see someone win and it was the most deserving win following the antics of Serena earlier on in the match. It was a superb match with some quality tennis but obviously it was slightly overshadowed by Serena's outburst. It was also the biggest upset in a Grand Slam final for quite some time and Stosur without doubt, played the match of her life and rose to the occasion. To her credit, Serena was very respectful to Stosur and sat with her at the end which was a very nice touch. She remained adamant she was beaten by the better player but unfortunately the damage was done following her outburst at Asderaki, who she did not shake hands with at the end.

Anyway I want to finish my post on a happy note... Congratulations Sam Stosur, you are a worthy Grand Slam Champion and have done Australia proud :)

Friday, 9 September 2011

US Open Day 11 - Angry Roddick into Quarters

The mens 4th round was finally wrapped up on Thursday after two frustrating days of rain. The drama continued yesterday though as Andy Roddick and David Ferrer were forced to move from the Louis Armstrong court to court 13 after hairline cracks were found in the court with water seeping through. Roddick was furious at the situation and even more so when the clueless organisers brought them back to try and play with Roddick shouting "I am baffled!". Roddick managed to harness his anger by defeating David Ferrer, 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-3 in what was a surprise victory for me. Roddick will now play Rafael Nadal in the Quarters who started to show some of his best form with a 7-6 6-1 6-2 victory over Giles Muller.

I really expected David Ferrer to win this one but credit to Roddick for reaching the Quarters after a poor year so far. I really felt like Roddick's best days are behind him and that his weapons don't threaten the top players anymore however here he is the US Open quarters again...

In the other 4th round matches, Andy Murray eased into the Quarters after a straightforward win against the lacklustre Donald Young, 6-2 6-3 6-3. He will play John Isner who beat Giles Simon, 7-6 3-6 7-6 7-6. The first men's semi-final was also decided and will be a rematch of last year's classic encounter between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Federer exacted revenge on Jo-Wilfred Tsonga with a 6-4 6-3 6-3 victory, meanwhile Djokovic was forced to battle past his compatriot, Janko Tipsarevic who had to retire trailing 6-7 7-6 0-6 0-3. I only watched the three games of the fourth set but there were some sensational rallies and a fantastic amount of respect between both players, which made for an absorbing encounter... it was such a shame that Janko was hampered by an injury.

Tipsarevic was playing some excellent tennis in his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final but was forced to retire hurt.

The US Open schedule has now been changed with the mens final on Monday and the womens final on Sunday. It is a good decision by the USTA because it would have been awful for the bottom half of the mens draw to have played 4 best of 5 set matches in 4 consecutive days. The only concern I have is putting the mens semis during the day session on Saturday and the womens semis on Saturday night with the winners of the womens semis having less than 24 hours to prepare for the Sunday afternoon final... I imagine once again it is all dominated by the TV coverage with the prospect of a Caro v Serena semi taking over what would have been the womens final on Saturday night

I am away this weekend so will not be able to blog for the next couple of days... I will be back on Sunday to give my round-up to the tournaments and both womens and mens final reviews. Enjoy :)))

Thursday, 8 September 2011

US Open Day 11 - Wozniacki sets up Serena showdown

Caroline Wozniacki made the US Open semis for the third straight year as she came through a tense second set to beat Andrea Petkovic, 6-1 7-6. Wozniacki was totally dominant in the first set making very few errors and hitting the ball with slightly more aggression than usual. Petkovic started with attacking intent but quickly went into her shell as she made 15 unforced errors.

The second set was error-strewn as both players held lengthy service games at the beginning of the set. Petkovic got broken at 2-1 but managed to break straight back as both players struggled for consistency. Wozniacki broke again to move 5-3 ahead but failed to serve it out as Petkovic attacked the predictable 2nd serve and kept fighting to break the Dane's serve. However Petkovic then played a disastrous service game at 5-6 and was broken once again. Petkovic seemed to get herself into winning positions so many time in this set but failed to put away the ball and was made to pay for those errors.

The tiebreak was really entertaining to watch with some gruelling and tense rallies. Wozniacki went 2-0 up with a forehand winner at the net and a mammoth 30 point rally ending in a Petkovic error. Petkovic levelled up at 2-2 but after another gruelling winner, Petkovic failed to put a simple forehand in the court as the grinding play of Wozniacki won her more points. This is the strength of Wozniacki because she makes her opponents play one more ball, which wins her those extra crucial points. By keeping her errors to a minimum, Wozniacki earnt three match points at 6-3 up... Petkovic saved two with volleys at the net; however Wozniacki took it on the third match point as she drew the error from Petkovic once again.

Wozniacki will now play Serena Williams in the semi-finals, after she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-5 6-1. Pav did very well to contend with Serena throughout the first set, which contained seven breaks of serve. However Serena strolled through the second set to set up a mouthwatering encounter with the world number one. I now see that the women's semis have been scheduled for Saturday night so I will not be able to watch them, but I look forward to seeing the result. I cannot see anything other than a Serena win; Wozniacki has the ability to chase down balls and will no doubt win a number of games this way. However she will have to show some attacking intent and serve extremely well to actually win this one. Good Luck Caroline...

Prediction - Serena 6-4 6-3

US Open Day 11 - Stunning Stosur into the semis

Sam Stosur produced a masterful performance to beat Vera Zvonareva, 6-3 6-3 and move into the semi-finals of the US Open. Both players started well in a competitive opening to the match; Vera was striking the ball well from the back of the court and Stosur was serving superbly. The first big moment in the match came at 3-2 when Stosur broke the Zvonareva serve. It was a real lapse in concentration from Vera who gifted the break to Stosur with a number of unforced errors. I felt that Stosur was not playing great in the first set and she was shanking quite a few forehands, but she played the key points much better. Zvonareva was extremely sloppy in the final game as she went long with 3 successive unforced errors and handed the set to Stosur on a plate.

At the start of the second set, Stosur was playing some marvellous tennis. She played a sparkling forehand down-the-line to gain three break points in the opening game. On the first break point, a lightning quick Stosur ran into the net and dinked a crosscourt winner past a stranded Zvonareva. Vera's tactics were totally off the mark today as she failed to hit enough balls to the weaker backhand side of Stosur and she kept bringing her into the net, which did not work as Stosur was masterful there - Zvonareva won just 50% of her net approaches compared to 69% for Stosur.

The second set went with serve as to her credit, Vera kept fighting and served well to remain in the contest. It looked like the momentum might be turning at 4-3 when Zvonareva went 0-30 up, but Stosur was so mentally tight during this match and won 4 straight points to extinguish any hopes that Zvonareva had of turning this match around. Stosur then earnt a match point on the Zvonareva serve at 6-3 5-3, which she duly took with an epic rally where Vera couldn't get hit past the incredibly rock solid Stosur.

Vera went to smash her racket at the end but drew away at the last minute! I was so impressed with Sammy... it was probably the best performance I have watched all week as she hit 25 winners to 17 unforced errors. I think the 7-2 (now 8-2) head-to-head record over Zvonareva really gave her the confidence today that she could win. I think her last two wins over Petrova and Kirilenko also helped as these were both superb performances, especially mentally and she is showing some excellent form as we move into the semis. I was made even happier as I had a cheeky bet on Sammy to win today ;)

Stosur will play the surprise package of the tournament, Angelique Kerber who overcame Flavia Pennetta in a momentum swinger of a Quarter, 6-4 4-6 6-3. Kerber has done extremely well to reach the semis but I cannot see her beating an in-form Stosur. It will be their first ever encounter on the WTA tour.

Prediction - Stosur to win 7-5 6-2

Monday, 5 September 2011

US Open Day 8 - Pav beats Fran, Serena next

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova progressed to her second Grand Slam quarter-final this year with a hard fought victory over Francesca Schiavone, 5-7 6-3 6-4. I watched the third set, which was an intriguing encounter. After an early exchange of breaks, both players held serve throughout the set. Schiavone was the more creative player as she moved Pav around the court and came into the net at the earliest opportunity; however she also made some sloppy errors as opposed to Pav who was very solid from the back of the court today.

After five successive holds, Schiavone served to stay in the match at 5-4 down. Pavlyuchenkova stepped up her game hitting some powerful returns with excellent depth to earn two match points. She played them both poorly - the first one Schiavone played a ropey looking drop shot but Pav hit a weak backhand volley into the net. The second one she hit a tight return into the net. Schiavone then served a double fault and gave Pav another chance to finish it off. This time she did so showing her talent with a sensational forehand down-the-line. I thought Pav played a smart match but still showed some real frailties on the 2nd serve. She is such a talented player and if she could work on her weaknesses (the serve and her fitness), she would easily be a permanent fixture in the top 10 because she is so talented. After the match, Greg Rusedski said on Sky Sports that she is supposedly going on a boot camp after the US Open to improve her fitness... good idea :)

Pavlyuchenkova will play Serena Williams in the Quarters who beat Ana Ivanovic, 6-3 6-4. Ivanovic gave a good account of herself in the windy conditions on Ashe but Serena was too consistent. It will be an interesting quarter final between Serena and Pavlyuchenkova; Pav has the game from the back to court to keep up with Serena but unfortunately the serve is very fragile at the moment and Serena will bludgeon it for sure!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

US Open Day 7 - Fighting Pennetta into Quarters

Flavia Pennetta beat Peng Shuai in an extraordinary 4th round encounter, 6-4 7-6. Pennetta was the better player in the first set as she controlled the rallies hitting many winners of her consistent backhand. She also served extremely well producing some superb aces down the T and out wide. Peng started to fight back at 5-2 down as she started to mix up her play introducing some loopier balls, which Pennetta failed to deal with. Pennetta held on to take the set as Peng hit too many unforced errors at crucial stages.

Flavia Pennetta put in a courageous performance to come through against Peng

The second set started with a succession of breaks; Peng started to come into the net more but Pennetta was winning the longer rallies as she moved her opponent around the court and exploited her two handed groundstrokes. Peng got the first hold of the second set and began to look the stronger player as Pennetta started to become tired and hit some loose backhands. Peng eventually got her chance to serve out the set... but she completely folded with a number of nervy shots. The game at 5-5 was unbelievable; Pennetta looked exhausted and was suffering from illness, and Peng's nerves looked totally shot. Pennetta eventually got the break, but looked close to being sick as she served for it. She somehow got to match point but Peng tightened her game and clawed it into the tiebreak by keeping the ball in play.

Peng seemed to have finally got things sorted again as she raced into a 6-2 lead in the tiebreak; however Pennetta gradually clawed each set point back with some courageous hitting and some support from an excited crowd. She then earnt a match point with an outrageous shot that came off her racket and landed in the court. Peng then folded as she came in on match point down and tamely hit into the net. As a Peng fan, this was a gutting loss :( I don't normally associate her with choking but the occasion got to her today as she played the key points poorly and kept trying with the useless drop shot! This kind of loss can be devastating (both for Peng and I!!!) so I really hope she can recover and learn from it.

It was the worst match I have ever seen Peng play :(

Pennetta deserves a huge amount of credit for this battling performance... her reward for this win is a Quarter-final with Angelique Kerber. I think knowing that the QF would be such a winnable match was why this match was such a nervous affair and explains Peng's nerves! If Pennetta has recovered in time, she should make it into the Semis...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

US Open Day 6 - Serena beats Vika

Serena Williams beat Victoria Azarenka, 6-1 7-6 in a match which produced some of the best women's tennis of the tournament. The first set was particularly underwhelming as a nervous Azarenka was totally overrawed by Serena who served and returned impeccably. The big difference between the two was the serves; Azarenka missed a number of 1st serves and looked very vulnerable on the 2nd serve, winning just 29% of the points. She was totally outhit, outpowered and outplayed. The most exciting part of the set was when the over talkative and frustrating Virginia Wade, trying to describe Serena as being stingy in giving up games, called her mingy!

The start of the second set was crucial for Vika and she held a tough first service game to stay in the match. She continued to grow in confidence and put more 1st serves in play to keep one step ahead of Serena. Vika was also hitting the ball much cleaner and was contesting Serena from the back of the court. However Serena remained in control and produced the shot of the match to go 3-3 with a sensational crosscourt forehand winner.

Serena then went onto break the Azarenka serve as she strolled to the victory... but Vika was not ready to lie down yet. Serena had 3 match points on the Azarenka serve at 5-3 but Vika showed fantastic fighting spirit to save all three in a number of superb baseline tussles. She then produce some of her best tennis to break Serena back and force the second set into a tiebreak.

The tiebreak was a sensational battle between two in-form players. Both players produced some smashing winners with Azarenka impressing the most; at 2-2 she hit a sensational on-the-run forehand winner and then showed some real initiative at 4-4 by coming into the net and closing the point out with a forehand volley. But in the end, Serena was not to be denied as she kept amazing depth and control with her shots to force the win through. Azarenka went wide on match point but I was pleased to see her really go for it and not sit back. It was probably the best set of tennis I had seen from the women this year as Azarenka went toe-to-toe with Serena at the end and actually rattled her a little bit. The stats were impressive in the second set with a total of 42 winners (Serena 26/Vika 16) to 31 unforced errors (Serena 16/Vika 15).

Serena was just too strong for Azarenka

I was very impressed with Azarenka in the 2nd set and had she avoided Serena, this could easily have been the final. After looking lost in the first set, she tightened her game in the 2nd set and gave it a really good go. This year Azarenka has been much more consistent in her results. The biggest improvement she has made in her game is in her mentality; she is so much more focused on court and does not beat herself up after every little error. Her chances of winning at a Grand Slam appear much more positive than the likes of Wozniacki and Zvonareva because she has that attacking edge. Her serve is still an area that can let her down at times but if she can continue to work hard during the off-season, she should start contending Grand Slam semi finals and finals on a regular basis.

Azarenka battled extremely well in the second set

Serena was immense last night hitting 39 winners to 24 unforced errors and I cannot see her being threatened during the remainder of this tournament more than in this match by Azarenka. She seemed to be grateful in her post match interview for the test and was very complimentary of Azarenka's second set performance. Serena Williams will now play Ana Ivanovic in the 4th round, who beat the American wildcard Sloane Stephens, 6-3 6-4.

Ivanovic has the tough ask of playing Serena in the fourth round

In other results, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova produced a mini-upset to beat Jelena Jankovic, 6-4 6-4 . Jankovic started the encounter in much the better form striking the ball with convinction and stepping in the court to hit some sweet backhand winners. She had the first break points at 3-2 in the first set; however she failed to convert them as Pav saved five break points in a game where she also served three double faults. JJ failed to take the initiative and struggled to recover from the wasted opportunities. She then played a poor game at 4-4 with a number of mis-timed backhands allowing Pav the chance to serve out the first set 6-4.

Jankovic was the better player in the first set but Pav won the key points

The second set was a tight affair, but JJ lacked the belief in her shots to push the match into the third set. Pav was hitting the ball very cleanly and was making less errors from the back of the court. However her serve still remains a question mark; she tightened at the end and was barely getting the serves in but JJ had gone mentally at this point and could not get her returns into the court. Pav will now play Francesca Schiavone in the 4th round, who she also met at this stage of the US Open last year. Schiavone saved a match point in a scrappy performance, 5-7 7-6 6-3. Scheepers should have won this match but lacked the mental toughness to finish off the Italian.

Schiavone was very lucky to reach the 4th round because she was well below her best in this match

US Open Day 5 - Murray and Stosur win epics

I thought I should just acknowledge two fantastic matches last night; Andy Murray came from two sets down to defeat Robin Haase, 6-7 2-6 6-2 6-0 6-4. I watched the final set, which was fantastic entertainment and easily the best tennis I have watched this week. Murray raced into a 4-0 lead but Haase hit a hot vein of form smacking some crunching winners past Murray. Both players were fist pumping away and there was a definite air of tension between the two of them. In the end, Murray just had enough to get across the finishing line. In the other great match which I couldn't watch... Sam Stosur defeated Nadia Petrova in the longest Women's match in US Open history, 7-6 6-7 7-5. The match took three hours and sixteen minutes, and Stosur wasted several match points throughout the encounter but eventually came through. Stosur will now play Maria Kirilenko in the 4th round and my prediction of a Stosur/Lisicki Quarter-final is still on :)))

Murray will play Feliciano Lopez in the next round

Friday, 2 September 2011

US Open Day 5 - Peng & Pennetta to clash, Sharapova out

Peng Shuai came through a tight encounter with Julia Goerges, 6-4 7-6. The first set was a close affair but Peng was the more consistent player; Goerges as usual, was spraying too many balls. It was a pretty average match for a set and a half but it came alive towards the end of the second set as Goerges fought off four match points (1 at 5-4 and 3 at 6-5) producing some stunning winners in the process to force the second set into a tiebreak. However after fighting so well to get there, Goerges was strangely subdued in the tiebreak and went totally off the boil. Peng eased to victory closing the match out with an ace down the T. So many players would have got tight wasting 4 match points, but Peng held her nerve superbly to wrap this match up in two sets.

Come on Peng... make the semis!!!

Peng will now play Flavia Pennetta who caused an almighty upset by beating the number 3 seed, Maria Sharapova, 6-3 3-6 6-4. Sharapova once again struggled with her serve and made 60 unforced errors in a disappointing performance. Normally she can find a way through but Pennetta played a superb match and kept battling hard despite letting a 4-1 lead in the third set go to 4-4. However the turning point came at 4-4 30-30 when Pennetta produced an exquisite drop shot to draw Sharapova into the net and create the winner. Pennetta did not lose another point in the match as Sharapova's serve deserted her in the final game. This totally smashes this section open and I am really hopeful now that one of my favourites, Peng Shuai can make the Semis!

Pennetta played a superb match, which came as a big surprise following a terrible summer hard court season

Monica Niculescu demolished Lucie Safarova, 6-0 6-1 in what was a dreadful performance by the Czech. Safarova struggled in the first set to deal with the crafty, Niculescu who used her unusual, yet effective forehand slice to good effect. It is almost a chop on the ball but it worked well at rattling Safarova. At the end of the match, Niculescu was barely getting her pedestrian serves over the net but Safarova continued to make errors and was unable to find a way to make winners past Niculescu. Monica Niculescu will now play Angelique Kerber in a somewhat surprising 4th round match-up!

Safarova played a terrible match, one that she will want to erase from memory!

Vera Zvonareva beat Anabel Medina Garrigues in a tight two set match, 6-4 7-5. Zvonareva never seems to impress in her matches but always manages to find a way to win. I must admit I am not a fan of Zvonareva; I find her pretty boring to watch and would like to see her go out soon because there is no way she should be number two in the world! She will next play Sabine Lisicki who played a stunning match to demolish Irina Falconi, 6-0 6-1. Lisicki is playing with a great deal of confidence but she will have to bury some demons against Zvonareva; she has lost their last two encounters in three sets but I fancy her to beat Zvonareva this time round.

Zvonareva will play Lisicki in an exciting 4th round match-up... come on Lisicki!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

US Open Day 4 - JJ, Petko battle through

Jelena Jankovic moved into the third round with a straight set victory over Jelena Dokic, 6-3 6-4. Jankovic started the match slowly and went down an early break. However she quickly found her form to win five straight games from 1-3 down. JJ served extremely well throughout the first set and was surprisingly aggressive in her play as she stepped into the court to hit 11 winners to Dokic's 2. Near the end of the first set, Jankovic called the trainer citing a back complaint. Jankovic must be winning the prize for "player most likely to call the trainer", but she did seem to be struggling as the match grew on!

Dokic went 3-1 ahead in the second set as JJ started to feel the effects of her injury. However Dokic could not maintain the lead as she was let down by her serve, which folded as the match went on with a total of 15 double faults. After a number of sloppy games from both players, Jankovic tightened her focus and managed to hold her serve before breaking thanks to another double fault from the inconsistent Dokic. JJ wrapped the match up on her second match point as Dokic went long again. Jankovic will be relieved to have finished this match in two sets but i'm slightly concerned that her injury may hamper her chances of progressing further. JJ will next play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in an exciting third round encounter after Pav beat Petra Martic, 6-4 2-6 6-4.

Andrea Petkovic survived a major scare as she fought past Zheng Jie, 3-6 6-3 6-3. Petkovic had to battle back from a 6-3 3-0 deficit as Zheng dominated the early proceedings with her powerful groundstrokes. Petkovic was very sluggish to start with and was making many uncharacteristic errors; it seemed that her knee injury was affecting her play. However Petkovic is known for being a fighter and she managed to battle through winning six games on the bounce in the second set.

Zheng went up an early break in the third but could not consolidate it as she started to make more errors and was taken apart on the serve by Petkovic. The win reminded me a little of Petkovic's win over Jarmila Gajdosova in Cincy; Petkovic was way short of her best but she found a way to win. Petkovic will next play Roberta Vinci in what is likely to be another testing encounter for the German.

Petkovic kissed her knee at the end of the match. In her current form and injury situation, Vinci will fancy her chances in the next round

In other matches, an all Spanish third round match was set up between Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Carla Suarez Navarro. Soler Espinosa took advantage of her good draw as she eased past Kaia Kanepi, who was playing her first tournament since Wimbledon. Suarez Navarro recovered from losing the first set to beat Li Na's conqueror, Simona Halep. I'm very happy to see Suarez Navarro back winning again; she is such a talented player and delightful to watch with her one-handed backhand.