Sunday, 30 October 2011

Istanbul Day 6 - Kvitova claims title

Petra Kvitova won the YEC in Istanbul to cap off a fine year and cement herself as the 2011 player of the year. Kvitova beat Victoria Azarenka in a gripping, momentum swinging match, 7-5 4-6 6-3. Things looked ominous early on for Azarenka as she was broken to ease in her first service game with Kvitova starting and finishing the game off with crunching forehand return winners. Kvitova won the first five matches and Azarenka, playing in one of the biggest matches of her life was nervous and making too many uncharacteristic like errors. At 5-0 down, Azarenka did start to settle as she used her serve out wide to set up some winners and she held for her first game of the match at 5-1.

Suddenly the momentum swung as a near perfect Petra turned totally wayward as she hit a string of errors to surrender her next service game. Kvitova had 2 set points in the next game, but Azarenka improved the intensity of her serving and saved both of them. Before you knew it, Azarenka was back at 5-5 in the first set. Kvitova stopped the rot in the next game producing one of the finest shots of match as she mixed up her play with some deft slices. She played a poor drop shot but Vika could not do anything with it as Kvitova played a perfect pass. The momentum was back with Kvitova and she took the first set, 7-5.

At the start of the second set, Azarenka was much the sharper player and Kvitova was looking a little ragged. There was a succession of breaks in the middle of the set before Azarenka cemented one of her breaks easily playing her best tennis of the match. In places she was dominating the match hitting the ball with such convinction and excellent depth not allowing Kvitova the chance to hit winners. Azarenka held on well and won the second set, 6-4. Kvitova was looking tired at the start of the third set but dug deep and showed her competitive edge by saving 4 break points. At this stage, Kvitova's barking was becoming excessive and practically after every point. It was even coming off a number of Azarenka errors, which I thought was a little classless from Petra.

Kvitova was now playing her best tennis since the start of the match as her screeching rallied herself into form. Azarenka got on the board at 3-1 and kept putting pressure on Kvitova not allowing her to run away the match. However she made some poor errors at crucial times in the match where she could have made inroads against a still tiring Kvitova. Kvitova had her first championship point at 5-2, but Vika saved it with a beautiful down-the-line backhand, which set up the winner. You sensed Petra might get tight, but to her credit she held her service game and claimed the title.

Kvitova has had an excellent breakthrough season and will now rise to number two in the rankings. She has not played her best this week, but she has still been the best player by far. There is still a lot of work to do to improve her game, but she is breathing down Wozniacki's neck for that number one spot. Azarenka has had a very solid year and has made more inroads at the top events, but is still coming up a little short. If Serena and Clijsters can come back injury free at the start of next year, the 2012 season could be an exciting year for the women. Finally, I must say what a great week it has been in Istanbul. I was expecting half empty crowds but Turkey has put on a fabulous show and its been an entertaining YEC to wrap up a good season for the women.

In the coming weeks - Attention switches to the final tournaments of the mens season and I will be doing a blog about the best matches on the women's circuit this year!

Istanbul Day 5 - Azarenka and Kvitova into Final

The final at the YEC will be played between the two best players of the week as Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova won their semi-finals on Saturday. Petra Kvitova was first into the final with a 5-7 6-3 6-3 victory over Sam Stosur. I felt this match was on the cusps of being a very good match, but just failed to deliver slightly although i'm glad we got a competitive match. Kvitova started the much brighter of the two and got the early break. Her serve was causing Stosur all sorts of problem, in particular the left out swinger to Stosur's backhand. At 4-2, Stosur started to get a read on the serve and was returning much better and managed to get the break back with some thumping winners. Kvitova seemed to get a bit nervous and almost passive (if that is at all possible!) as Stosur started to get Kvitova on the run and force more errors from the Czech. Stosur managed to break again and take the first set, 7-5.

It looked like Stosur might run away with it, but Kvitova showed what a great competitor she is as she saved break points to hold at the start of the second set. Kvitova then went on a tear as everything seemed to drop in the court for her. The intensity on Stosur's serve also dropped as Kvitova caused problems in every one of her service games before comfortably wrapping up the second set, 6-3. Kvitova was on top form as she raced into a 5-0 lead in the third set. Stosur did provide a mini fightback winning three games from 5-0 to 5-3 but she had left herself with too much of a mountain to climb. If only she had raised her intensity at an earlier stage of the third set she might have got back into it, but Kvitova completed the victory holding to love.

In the other semi-final, Victoria Azarenka overcame Vera Zvonareva, 6-2 6-3 in a low key affair. The match was closer than the scoreline suggested but Zvonareva committed far too many errors in another disappointing performance from the Russian. In the first set, although Zvonareva looked to do more with the ball than Azarenka, she made 22 unforced errors to just 8 from Azarenka. Zvonareva looked to be building in the 2nd set and she saved numerous break points in a mammoth third game that lasted 12 minutes. However she then wasted break points on the Azarenka serve in the next game with some criminal errors and from then on, the match slipped away from her grasp.

Azarenka in truth was disappointing but was more solid than Zvonareva and played the big points much better. Azarenka will have to step up her game and be more aggressive against Kvitova who will not give her such an easy ride. It was the final that most people wanted (and I predicted yay :D) and as ever, I hope its a good one. I do fear though that Kvitova is going to be too strong for Vika and run away with the title and the number two spot in the world...

Prediction - Kvitova to beat Azarenka 6-3 6-4

Friday, 28 October 2011

Istanbul Day 4 - Kvitova wins, brave Radwanska out

Agnieszka Radwanska was tumbled out of the YEC by Petra Kvitova after a 7-6 6-3 loss, but she can hold her head high after a terrific week in Istanbul. Radwanska gave everything and i'm disappointed she has been eliminated because her three matches were probably the most entertaining over the whole week. Radwanska looked to be on her way to the Semis after racing into a 5-1 lead against the wayward Kvitova. Kvitova was totally lost early on even heading to the changeovers when the game wasn't over - this prompted a laugh from both Kvitova and her coaches! But to her credit, Kvitova played this match like any other match and dug in, her shots started going in and she managed to pull the set out. She continued to dominate in the second set but it was never easy as Radwanska continued to soldier on.

Azarenka's performance was on a completely different level to Kvitova's as she tanked the end of her match to hand Bartoli a 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory. Azarenka did well to turn around a 4-0 deficit in the first set using some stunning slower angled shots, but increasingly became disinterested in the match as Bartoli continued to battle on. It was disappointing to see from Vika and she got booed at the end of the match. I can understand she doesn't want to waste energy for tomorrow's matches but it is disrespectful to the fans who have paid good money to see this match even if nothing essentially rides on it. She really needs to sort her attitude out... In the other match, Sam Stosur totally destroyed Li Na, 6-1 6-0. Li just could not handle Stosur who I still felt was a little short of her best but was simply not challenged. This match-up is just a terrible one for Li!

I'm looking forward to the semi-finals, which will see Petra Kvitova play Sam Stosur and Victoria Azarenka play Vera Zvonareva. Kvitova against Stosur should be a stunner; their match-up at the Australian Open earlier this year was a high quality match so i'm expecting a lot from two of the nicest women on tour. The other Semi will be interesting too - where on earth will Vera be mentally after her shocker last night against Radwanska?!?!?!?!?! Should be a good day, still expecting an Azarenka v Kvitova final but its not clear cut for sure... look out for the review blog on Sunday :)))

Kvitova to beat Stosur in 2 sets
Azarenka to beat Zvonareva in 3 sets

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Istanbul Day 3 - Radwanska beats Zvonareva in epic

The final match of day 3 was by far the most dramatic off the tournament as Agnieszka Radwanska kept her hopes of qualifying for the Semis alive by saving 3 match points to beat Vera Zvonareva, 1-6 6-2 7-5. Zvonareva raced through the first set finishing right where she left off against Wozniacki with some clean, consistent tennis and playing with a much heavier ball than Radwanska. Zvonareva then went walk about in the second set hitting 20 unforced errors and allowing Radwanska back in the match.

The third set featured some of the best tennis of the tournament - one particular rally, which Radwanska won showed how instinctive and crafty she is at the net. It was also highly entertaining purely for the fact to see if Zvonareva was going to totally lose her cool! She looked to have the match under control at 5-3 in the third set, but got broken after wasting three match points with two down-the-line errors. The third match point she was screaming like I had never seen her before and the sheer desperation of finishing this match off became apparent. It is also important to mention that Zvonareva had lost her last three matches to Radwanska in straight sets so this would have been a big win. It never came though as the brick wall of Radwanska kept battling and getting the ball back in court and after wasting her opportunity to serve it out, Zvonareva was mentally spent.

Radwanska can now qualify by winning just a set against Kvitova otherwise Zvonareva will progress. This tournament has displayed the good, the bad and the downright ugly from Zvonareva. She is classed as the epitomy of consistency, but this week she has been extremely inconsistent in all of her matches. With the form that Kvitova is in, I would say it is unlikely Radwanska will get the set she needs and Zvonareva will make the Semis.

Petra Kvitova beat an off colour Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4 6-2 to end Wozniacki's chances of progressing. Kvitova did not face a single break point throughout the match. The first set was not as close as the scoreline suggested as Kvitova dominated proceedings. Wozniacki did well to keep her shots to a solid depth and force the errors from Kvitova. Wozniacki called the trainer after the 1st set citing dizziness. This definitely affected her in the second set as a solid Kvitova did all that was needed of her to claim the win and that place in the semi-finals. It was a anticlimactic match for me and featured very few good rallies so I was disappointed! In the other match, Victoria Azarenka produced another superb performance to completely overwhelm Li Na, 6-2 6-2. There were too many errors from Li, but generally speaking she did not play that badly and was beaten by a much better player on the day.

Friday Predictions:
Stosur to beat Li in 2 sets
Kvitova to beat Radwanska in 2 sets
Azarenka to beat Bartoli in 2 sets

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Istanbul Day 2 - Zvonareva outpowers Wozniacki

Vera Zvonareva defeated Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2 4-6 6-3 on day 2 of the YEC in Istanbul. Zvonareva played a stunning first set, the best I had seen from her all year as she took the game to Wozniacki, stepped up the court and moved her opponent around using the court superbly. Her stats of 18 winners and 9 unforced errors backed this up. The second set went with serve for the majority and although Zvonareva seemed to have the upper hand, Wozniacki kept plugging away. The Dane saved a break point at 2-2 and played a superb game at 3-3 to come back from 0-30 including a terrific smash. Wozniacki was still not playing her best, but she kept battling and forced the match into a third set as Zvonareva started to make a few more errors as the self-belief started to desert her.

Full credit today to Vera for executing her gameplan perfectly and keeping her chances of reaching the Semis alive

Zvonareva regained her composure in the third set as she raced into a 4-1 lead using her stunning crosscourt backhand to good effect. Zvonareva did have a stutter letting slip 2 games to 4-3; however Zvonareva finished the match in a flurry by holding and then breaking to love to claim the all important win. This was one of the best matches I have seen Vera play this year and she deserved it for her intent to take the match to Wozniacki. Her tactics were spot on just like in her triumph over Wozniacki in the US Open semi-final last year. Zvonareva hit 49 winners compared to just 13 from Wozniacki, who put up an admirable fight in the second set but ultimately never looked like winning the match. The middle set that Wozniacki won could prove crucial in her chances of reaching the semi-finals.

The match between Wozniacki and Zvonareva was by far the best on day 2; the other two matches were both disappointing. Victoria Azarenka produced a clean display to comfortably defeat Sam Stosur in a one-sided contest, 6-2 6-2. Azarenka was solid throughout the match hitting 16 winners to just 13 unforced errors. Azarenka also targeted the Stosur backhand and did not allow her to play her A game. Stosur committed far too many errors and only raised her level in the final game, which lasted 10 minutes. However the damage had been done and Azarenka completed victory on her third match point. Azarenka certainly lay down her credentials for this tournament and will have been delighted to have got this done in super quick time. The only question mark I have with her is whether she can stay fit following her victory in Luxembourg last week because she seems to struggle physically playing a lot of matches in a short space of time.

Azarenka's win saw her installed as the favourite with the bookmakers just ahead of Kvitova

In the other match, Li Na won her first match in two months beating Maria Sharapova, 7-6 6-4. Sharapova later pulled out of the YEC citing a left ankle sprain although her chances of qualifying were effectively over and based on her form here, a royal thrashing would have been on the cards in her final game against Azarenka. Sharapova was up a break three times in the first set, but was forced into a first set tiebreak. Sharapova looked comfortable at 4-0 in this tiebreak but totally lost it at this stage losing seven points in a row, the majority with sloppy errors.

Li pushed forward in the second set to a 5-2 lead. She did have a mini-choke but eventually managed to finish it off. It was a pretty horrendous match and I couldn't get excited about it after the first set; Li's stats were actually the worst with 12 winners to 37 unforced errors (Sharapova hit 3 more winners) but she played the big points much better, which was a surprise for someone who had been so low on confidence. I now predict Azarenka to stroll into the Semis with Stosur following in 2nd place. Despite the win today, I still believe Li is well short of her best...

It was a bad match between Li and Sharapova, but credit to Li for winning it in straight sets

Predictions for Thursdays Matches:
Azarenka to beat Li in 2 sets
Kvitova to beat Wozniacki in 2 sets
Zvonareva to beat Radwanska in 3 sets

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Istanbul Day 1 - Stosur finally beats Sharapova!

Sam Stosur overturned a losing 9-0 head-to-head record to finally beat Maria Sharapova in an intense match, 6-1 7-5. The first set was closer than the scoreline suggested, but Stosur won the key points and played a solid set of tennis against a visibly rusty Sharapova. Sharapova raised her game in the second set, but looked short of match play as he wasted three break points at 3-0. Stosur took full advantage of this as she got herself back in the second set.

There were some really tight games at the end of the second set; Sharapova fought hard to 5-4 and Stosur then at 5-5. Once again, Stosur showed her remarkably improved mental game as she fought off the pounding Sharapova strokes. It must be said how improved Stosur's backhand is and just like against Serena Williams in the US Open final, the backhand slice caused Sharapova many problems.

Sharapova blinked at 5-5 with a wayward game to hand Stosur the chance to serve the match out. As to be expected, Sharapova came out swinging and earnt herself a number of break points. However Stosur held strong with some excellent serving and managed to get across the finish line for one of the biggest wins of her career. Sharapova will have to regroup as she takes on Li Na tomorrow and will hope to continue to improve over the week. Li Na has caused her problems in the past, but she is way short of form so this could be a chance for Sharapova to get off the mark.

I must say how refreshing it was to see a packed crowd for day 1! I really enjoyed the first day of the YEC and felt that the last two matches were very entertaining and I hope for more of the same tomorrow. I also have to make a point on the Eurosport commentary - I really wish we would get more of Sam Smith. I think she is an excellent commentator and really knows her stuff. On the other hand, i'm finding Simon Reed particularly frustrating to listen to!!!

Istanbul Day 1 - Wozniacki grinds past battling Radwanska

Caroline Wozniacki beat her close friend Agnieszka Radwanska, 5-7 6-2 6-4 in a fascinating battle that lasted 2 hours and 39 minutes. Radwanska was by far the better player in the first set and seemed to have a clear game plan to attack the fragile Wozniacki forehand. She got the early break but lost it and found herself down three set points at 4-5. Radwanska managed to save all three of them, two of them with weak serves to the Wozniacki forehand, which were dumped into the net. Radwanska then went onto hold and broke to love in the next game with a stunningly timed return winner and a fabulous passing shot. Radwanska then held to take the first set, 7-5.

Radwanska twice claimed early breaks in the second set but Wozniacki showed her battling qualities to stay in the match. Wozniacki's game started to gather momentum and she got the break as Radwanska started to struggle with her shoulder strapping and feel some pain resulting in her calling the trainer. This definitely affected her and the game plan started to evade her. Wozniacki got the second set, 6-2.

At the start of the third set, both players held with ease before Wozniacki made the first breakthrough. Radwanska battled superbly though to break straight back after going 0-40 down on the Wozniacki serve. The last couple of game featured some tense and grinding rallies, but a fragile Wozniacki just had enough to hold on and get over the finish line. It is certainly a worry that Wozniacki struggled so much to put away an injury affected Radwanska at the end. I really think her confidence has taken a hit following some shocking losses over the summer.

In the other match in the red group, Petra Kvitova completed a straight set win over Vera Zvonareva, 6-2 6-4. It was a disappointing match, which started in strange fashion with five breaks of serves. Zvonareva in fact did not hold serve once in the first set as Kvitova converted all of her break points. Kvitova was excellent in the middle of the match playing some superb tennis from the back of the court. She looked to come into the net at the earliest stage and seems to have been working hard on not just plain ball bashing, but waiting for the right moment to unleash.

Kvitova did get nervous at the end of the second set as she let slip a 4-1 lead to 4-4. However she was helped over the finish line by a below par Zvonareva. You could see how much it meant to Kvitova as she squawked louder than I have ever seen before and also on the Zvonareva errors, which I didn't like much! But well done Petra... she looks good to qualify from this group with Radwanska in particular looking not 100% with her shoulder.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Istanbul YEC preview

The season is drawing to a close and the draw is set for the penultimate tournament of the 2011 tennis season. In the red group, the world number one Caroline Wozniacki is joined by Petra Kvitova, Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska. I think this will be the more competitive of the two groups. I believe Kvitova stands the best chance of progressing; she will be at home on the hard indoor courts and will be riding on a wave of confidence following a dominating title performance in Linz. She has blown all three players in her group out of the park in previous matches. However she has been vulnerable against Wozniacki and Zvonareva in the past when she has been error-strewn so consistency will be important. In other matches, Radwanska would be favourite to make it 4-0 against Zvonareva for this year and I would think that Wozniacki would beat Radwanska. The match between Wozniacki and Zvonareva could therefore be a crucial tie to decide which players progress to the Semis.

Wozniacki is the number one seed, but will be vulnerable... I predict she will just scrape into the Semis behind Kvitova

The white group looks comparatively easier to predict with number two seed Maria Sharapova joined by Victoria Azarenka, Li Na and Samantha Stosur. I predict Azarenka will win all three of her matches; she has the game to trouble Stosur and I would expect her superior form to be too much this time round against the crumbling Li, who has knocked her out of two majors this year. Sharapova will be playing for the first time since the ankle injury she picked up in Tokyo. However I predict she should beat both Li and Stosur; the latter who she has tremendous success against in the past including three straight set victories this year.

Sharapova has been in Istanbul for nearly two weeks and should progress to the Semis without too many problems

I am going to go for Kvitova to claim the title... I think the courts will suit her and that she will out power everyone in her group. It should be a great week and I am particularly looking forward to Sharapova v Azarenka and Wozniacki v Kvitova in the group stage. I am hoping to watch a lot of the action this week and will be blogging all week :)

SF Predictions:
Kvitova def. Sharapova
Azarenka def. Wozniacki

Petra Kvitova

Azarenka against Kvitova is my predicted final with Petra winning overall!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Radwanska in, Istanbul line-up decided

Agnieszka Radwanska claimed the final spot for the YEC, which begin next week in Istanbul. Radwanska lost in the second round to Lucie Safarova, but Marion Bartoli who had to win the tournament in Moscow to qualify pulled out of her quarter-final match with Elena Vesnina. Moscow and Luxembourg have been littered with surprises and retirements this week. A special mention though to Anne Keovathong who has had a stunning week winning 6 matches including a win over Ana Ivanovic, which surely ranks as one of her best ever career wins. She will now face off against the in-form Monica Niculescu who continues to rack up the wins...good luck Anne!!!

Coming Soon - Preview of the YEC and reviews of all the matches as the women wrap up 2011

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Kuznetsova and Pervak win in Moscow

Svetlana Kuznetsova progressed into the second round of the Kremlin Cup with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Alize Cornet. Kuznetsova was patchy, but showed sparks of some good form. It was a nice match-up for Kuznetsova against a passive and ineffective opponent - Cornet hit just 4 winners in the whole match and was playing from way behind the baseline without any chance to make an impression on the match. I have felt that Kuznetsova has the game to win many more majors, but I feel that her time has now passed. She always shows flashes of the form that took her to two majors, but she is so inconsistent and seems to lack the passion to reach the top of the game again.

Ksenia Pervak beat Galina Voskoboeva, 6-4 7-5 in a topsy turvy 1st round encounter. This was the first time I have ever watched Pervak play and to be honest, I was a bit disappointed. Pervak has been on a steady rise up the rankings and is currently ranked at number 37 in the world. She has some solid groundstrokes, but her serve is pedestrian at best and she doesn't seem to possess any special stroke that is likely to set her apart from the rest. I would have to say a top 20 player at best. Voskoboeva was in and out today and needs to keep her head in check if she is to progress further up the rankings. Pervak was just the more consistent player today and will face a difficult test in the next round against the in-form, Marion Bartoli. A win here would be a good way to end the year... I doubt it will happen though ;)

In Luxembourg, there were a number of surprises as Daniela Hantuchova was knocked out by Lucie Hradecka and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was shocked by the out-of-form, Rebecca Marino. I am particularly pleased to see Marino win as I have followed her on the tour since her solid performance against Venus Williams at the 2010 US Open. I read some of her blogs on the WTA website and they were by far the most thoughtful and interesting I have read all year, which instantly made me a fan! Marino has really struggled in recent months to string any wins together so this was a big one for her today. Marino will next play either Angelique Kerber or Bibiane Schoofs (great name!) in the next round.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Kvitova wins Linz, Bartoli stays in the hunt for YEC

Petra Kvitova claimed the Linz title yesterday with a dominant performance over Dominika Cibulkova winning 6-4 6-1. Everything seemed to come together perfectly for Kvitova this week as she made the perfect preparations for the year-ending-championships (YEC) in Istanbul next week. This week sees the final week of tournaments in Moscow and Luxembourg. Vera Zvonareva headlines the Kremlin Cup in Moscow where the final place for the YEC will be decided. Marion Bartoli hit a hot streak of form to win the title in Osaka last week and she will have to win the title this week in Moscow and hope that the number two seed, Agnieszka Radwanska falls in the second round. Bartoli is projected to meet Jelena Jankovic in the Quarters and Vera Zvonareva in the Semis so you would have to put your bets on Radwanska making the final spot. That is not to say Radwanska has an easy draw; Lucie Safarova could pose a tricky test in the second round.

In Luxembourg, Victoria Azarenka returns to action as the number 1 seed in a strong field. Azarenka will play Barbara Zahlavova Strycova in round 1 and could meet her doubles partner, Maria Kirilenko in the Quarters. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the number two seed and has a much tougher draw with Angelique Kerber and Ana Ivanovic in her way of making the Semis. Sabine Lisicki, Daniela Hantuchova, Flavia Pennetta and Julia Goerges are also all battling for the title here...

Kremlin Cup Final - Radwanska def. Zvonareva
Dark Horse - Kaia Kanepi

Luxembourg Final - Azarenka def. Lisicki
Dark Horse - Tamira Paszek

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Kvitova edges Jankovic to make Linz Final

Petra Kvitova defeated Jelena Jankovic, 4-6 6-4 6-3 in a terrific semi-final in Linz. I thought this would be a comfortable victory for Kvitova much like her 6-2 6-2 quarter-final win over Daniela Hantuchova yesterday, but I underestimated how good Jankovic's defence is and how she can make her opponent play one more ball. Jankovic led 6-4 4-3, but could not push her advantage through. Kvitova really turned it on at the end of the second set and into the third as she produced some crunching play from the back of the court. She was actually setting up the points well, before finding the right time to hit the winner.

Kvitova looked to be heading to a third set bagel but Jankovic competed extremely well fighting off 6 break points in a marathon game at 3-0 down. She kept holding in the match and showed some of the fighting spirit that seems to have been lost in recent years. Kvitova was inspired at times today and did extremely well to turn the second set around in one of her most impressive wins to date. Jankovic continues to show the play that got her to number one, but she has lost the mental toughness to compete at the top. She desperately needs to win one of these tight three setters and that should start to bring her depleted confidence back.

Kvitova will now play Dominika Cibulkova in the final as she swept aside Lucie Safarova in a comfortable semi-final win, 6-1 6-4. Cibulkova is searching for her first title on the WTA tour, but she will have to play a blinder or hope that Kvitova is not firing on all cylinders tomorrow. Anyway, a great match today, a good advertisement for women's tennis and hope for more of the same tomorrow!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Hantuchova fightback sets up Quarter with Kvitova in Linz

Daniela Hantuchova staged a superb fightback from 7-5 3-0 down to beat Ksenia Pervak, 5-7 6-3 6-4. Pervak looked to be on the way to the biggest win of her career but she let slip her lead to allow the more experienced Hantuchova eventually prevail after she herself wasted several leads in a see-saw swinging third set. She will play Petra Kvitova in the most exciting of the quarter-finals on paper to play tomorrow. Kvitova breezed past Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, 6-2 6-3. The Eurosport commentator, Simon Reed was quite critical of her ballbashing and in truth, she was going for it a lot and making quite a few errors; however this is Kvitova's game and I actually thought she was showing some positive tactics today with the use of the slice shot and attempts at trying to mix up her game with many net approaches. Kvitova has served superbly in her first two matches - today she hit 7 aces, no double faults and most impressively, converted 73% of her second serve points.

In other matches, Anne Keothavong played an excellent first set against Jelena Jankovic before letting the errors mount in a 6-3 2-6 1-6 loss. Dominika Cibulkova also progressed despite letting a 5-1 lead in the first set disappear against the Italian, Sara Errani. Eventually, she managed to get a grip and wrap the match up, 6-7 6-3 6-1!!! Lucie Safarova completed a routine victory over Lisicki's conqueror, Alberta Brianti and will now face the in-form Sorana Cirstea in the quarter-finals.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Disappointing Lisicki out in Round 1 of Linz

Sabine Lisicki was knocked out of WTA Linz by Alberta Brianti in a 7-5 4-6 6-3 loss. Lisicki raced out into a 5-2 lead but struggled throughout the set with her serve and ball toss. This then seemed to affect the rest of her game as she could barely get a ball in court and she lost five straight games to hand Brianti the first set. Lisicki steadied the ship in the second set as she earnt one break and served much better, winning 80% of both 1st and 2nd serves. Lisicki then carried the momentum into the third set to take an early lead, but was pegged back by a plucky Brianti who went onto to claim the surprise win against the German. I imagine Lisicki is still recovering from the food poisoning she picked up in Beijing, but this was still a bad loss for her after holding leads in the two sets she lost. Brianti will now play Lucie Safarova in the second round.

In other matches, Daniela Hantuchova took three sets to beat Petra Martic and Sorana Cirstea scored her biggest win of the year to take out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 4-6 6-0 6-4. In the final match of the day, Julia Goerges is currently struggling against Evgeniya Rodina after losing the first set 6-3. This would be a surprise but I think Goerges will turn it around!!!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Goerges scrapes past Sevastova in Linz

Julia Goerges saved two match points to defeat Anastasija Sevastova, 6-4 3-6 7-6 on day 1 of singles action in Linz. Sevastova played some good quality tennis that was well above her ranking of 108 in the world. Sevastova made the 4th round at the Australian Open this year, but has been injured for long periods of the year. Unfortunately, her lack of match practice went against her and she got tight in the final set tiebreak as she served a double fault on her second match point. Her first serve was constantly troubling Goerges at the end of the match, but the second serve was a liability. Goerges was inconsistent as ever and struggling in her returns today, but showed some real guts at the end to save the first match point with a crunching down-the-line winner. She will now play Evgeniya Rodina in the second round.

In other matches, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-4 2-6 6-3. All I have to say is please sort out the serve Nastia!!! She has so much to work on during the off-season! Jelena Jankovic also progressed after Kateryna Bondarenko retired at 4-1 down in the first set. Bondarenko served 8 double faults and was broken to love in each of her three service games as she eventually succumbed to injury. I was hoping to watch a bit of Petra Kvitova against Rebecca Marino in the final match of the day, but Eurosport decided not to play any of it :(

Sunday, 9 October 2011

WTA Linz - Kvitova headlines strong line-up

An excellent field are heading to the indoor courts of Linz in Austria for what should be an exciting. The last week has been pretty disappointing in Beijing with sparse crowds throughout and so many withdrawals. A special mention though to Petkovic and Radwanska for an excellent final... I loved them doing the Petko dance in the post-match ceremony!!! You can see this at This really made me smile :)))

Back to Linz... Petra Kvitova has received a wild card into the tournament and will play Rebecca Marino in Round 1. Kvitova has been poor since winning her first grand slam, but I have high hopes for her this week. Her game is particularly suited to the fast indoor courts; she had a superb week back in February where she won on the indoor courts of Paris beating Kim Clijsters in the final. I was interested to hear that Kvitova dislikes the humidity and struggles with asthma, which affected her performance in China. The problems with humidity would certainly help to explain her indifferent performances in America this year with early exits before the Quarters in Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati. This week though Kvitova should be more at home and she is my pick for the title.

Kvitova is projected to meet Jelena Jankovic in the semi-finals. Jankovic suffered early exits in both Tokyo and China and looks woefully short of confidence right now. She has a kind draw in Linz opening up against Kateryna Bondarenko and she should get a few wins under her belt. I expect her to face Julia Goerges in the quarter-finals who has failed to reach the heights of her stunning triumph in Stuttgart. A return to indoor courts could spark a resurgence and I actually think Goerges could do well here.. She beat JJ in Cincy so another win here (if they do in fact meet in the Quarters) is definitely on the cards.

In the bottom half, the two quarter-finals on seeding should be between Sabine Lisicki and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Dominika Cibulkova and Flavia Pennetta. I think Sabine will progress through this section but I think the home favourite, Tamira Paszek will also do well. Pennetta is coming off the back of an excellent week in China and has been helped out by being jumped up to number 9 seed and taking the injured Petkovic's place in the draw.

Quarter Final Predictions:
Kvitova - Pervak
Jankovic - Goerges
Lisicki - Paszek
Cibulkova - Pennetta

China Open - Well done Aga!

Radwanska completed a double triumph as she claimed her first Premier Mandatory title and backed up her win in Tokyo by beating Andrea Petkovic in a fantastic final, 7-5 0-6 6-4. I only saw snippets of the first set but both players gave their all and the stats were mighty impressive... Radwanska hit 32 winners throughout the match, which must be a record for her!!! This was to only 12 errors, which is astonishing for a match that lasted over two and a half hours. Petkovic's stats were also complimentary with 54 winners to 33 errors.

Radwanska has been so impressive this week and is reaping the rewards of working with her new coach. In the first set, she was hitting so many winners of the forehand and generally attacking the ball with so much more convinction than I have ever see her play with before. Radwanska should now qualify for the season-ending championships. Petkovic, who suffered an injury scare in the first set of the final has now pulled out of Linz ending her chances of qualifying for the championships in Istanbul, although she will go to Istanbul as an alternate. Radwanska should join the top 7 who have all officially qualified now; they are Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Li Na, Vera Zvonareva and Sam Stosur. The majority of these top 7 have been struggling with injury and/or poor form so if Radwanska does officially qualify, she will have a great shot at some more ranking points!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

China Open - Aga keeps rolling, Petko in the final

Agnieszka Radwanska continued her sensational recent form as she cruised into the final after beating an injured Ana Ivanovic in the quarters and Flavia Pennetta in the semis. Radwanska is looking to complete a double triumph in Asia after winning in Tokyo last week. She has now put herself in a great position to qualify for the season-ending championships this year. Her opponent in the final will be Andrea Petkovic, who is also still in contention to qualify for the championships in Istanbul. Both players have been solid and consistent this week, but no doubt they have benefited from the array of retirements and shocks that have been seen in Beijing this week, but credit to them for taking this opportunity. It has to be said that Beijing has been a very disappointing tournament, but I suppose it is to be expected so close to the end of the season where everyone is exhausted and nursing injuries... I predict that Radwanska will take the final in 2 sets.

Next week, there are two tournaments in Linz and Osaka. The tournament in Linz has an excellent draw this year with Petra Kvitova, Andrea Petkovic and Jelena Jankovic all competing. There will also be a number of dangerous floaters so I am expecting a lot of shocks along the way!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

China Open - Aga beats battling Zheng, Ana on fire

Agnieszka Radwanska continued her fabulous recent form with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Zheng Jie. Radwanska was playing with a great deal of confidence and was totally dominant during the 1st set. The second set was much closer as Zheng kept fighting and the two played out some stunning rallies. Eventually Radwanska's consistency was too much for Zheng and she completed the victory. Zheng should take heart from this performance and build on this for 2012. She has struggled after returning from a long lay-off with a wrist injury, but has shown signs of coming back to the form that took her to two Grand Slam quarter in the last months. I also wish she would try and add some more bite to the serve, especially the second serve... she won just 11% of points on her second serve today!

Ana Ivanovic beat a top 5 player for the first time since 2008 as she destroyed Vera Zvonareva, 6-1 6-2. The serve and the forehand was completely on song as she continued her excellent week where she has lost just 10 games in three matches. I think it is important not to get carried away with the victory; yes it is an excellent win, but Ivanovic has given us this hope before... she needs to keep on building so her next match will be crucial to continue this good form. It is likely it will be Aga Radwanska in the Quarter-Finals so she will have to be at her best for that!

In the final match of the day, Andrea Petkovic beat Marion Bartoli in an epic encounter that lasted two hours and 46 minutes. Bartoli was the more consistent player at the beginning as she edged the first set, 6-4 and went up an early break in the second set. Petkovic was surprisingly inconsistent, especially on the forehand side. However she dug deep in some lengthy games and steadied the ship as she got the break back and levelled at one set all. Petkovic raced into a 5-1 third set lead before Bartoli exhibited some of her superb fighting spirits as she saved a number of match points, several of them after some epic rallies. Petkovic eventually got herself across the finish line, 4-6 6-4 7-5. This win was huge for Petkovic who will hope to progress and improve her chances of reaching the year-end championships...

Monday, 3 October 2011

China Open - Caro scrapes through, Ivanovic beats Kuzzy

Ana Ivanovic produced one of her cleanest performances of the year as she comfortably saw off Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-2 6-3. Ivanovic struggled to close both sets out but eventually got the job done against a disinterested Kuznetsova. Ivanovic's forehand was looking particularly potent today and she will now play either Vera Zvonareva or Klara Zakopalova in the third round. Ivanovic has avoided the huge amount of 1st round defeats she has suffered in the last two years, but she is still struggling with her consistency during a tournament and producing a performance like she did today throughout the whole week. I think the off-season will be a big time for Ana and her coach, Nigel Sears to fine tune her game ready for 2012.

Caroline Wozniacki suffered a scare as she recovered from the loss of the first set to beat Lucie Hradecka, 3-6 6-0 7-5. Hradecka was fearless from the back of the court as she bludgeoned the ball throughout; however Caro will take heart from this performance as she worked her way out of the match and into the next round to play another fearless ball basher, Jarmila Gajdosova. They played last week in Tokyo where Gajdosova should have won, so she will hope to do better this time round.

In other matches, Dominika Cibulkova produced an excellent serving display to beat Francesca Schiavone, 6-2 6-2 and Peng Shuai was once again beaten by Flavia Pennetta in a nervous 7-6 7-5 loss. The Chinese now only have Zheng Jie to cheer on after Li Na suffered a dreadful loss to Monica Niculescu yesterday, 6-4 6-0. It is amazing how someone can lose so much confidence after winning their first Major less than six months ago... the off-season could not come any quicker for Li!!!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

WTA China Open Preview

It is time for the final Premier mandatory event in Beijing this week with play already kicking off today! There are a number of notable absences including Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. I must say that my opinion of Serena continues to go down rather rapidly! There seems to be no reason for her not turning up to this event, which I think is ridiculous and shows another level of arrogance from the American. I wish she would take the tour seriously!!!

Anyway getting back to the actual tournament... this week is literally wide open! The number one seed Caroline Wozniacki looked well short of her best in Tokyo as she succumbed to a disappointing defeat to Kaia Kanepi. In both her matches in Tokyo, she wasted huge leads and is mentally looking rather suspect at the moment. Wozniacki will open up her campaign against the out-of-form, Lucie Hradecka. She could play the German number 14 seed, Sabine Lisicki in the third round. I'm going for Lisicki, who has beaten the Dane twice before to make it three wins if they do in fact meet.

The number two seed, Victoria Azarenka looked sluggish in her semi-final loss against Agnieszka Radwanska and then pulled out during her doubles match with an achilles injury. Azarenka has a bye into Round 2 but I don't think this will be enough for her to recover and I cannot see her winning five matches to win the title. I would therefore expect either Marion Bartoli or Andrea Petkovic to reach the Semi's and beyond. Petkovic has already made it into the second round with a competent victory over the dangerous Lucie Safarova, 7-6 6-4.

Li Na will have the pressure on her shoulders from her home crowd as she takes on Monica Niculescu in round 1. Li crumbled in her last matches on the American hard courts and has now ditched her coach, Michael Mortensen. I don't think she is going to progress far this week, but she has been handed an extremely kind looking draw. Sam Stosur is also in this section, but may have to face Maria Kirilenko in the second round. Stosur was scheduled to meet Jelena Jankovic in the third round, but she was knocked out today by Tamira Paszek in another painful loss for the Serb.

The stars from Tokyo are all in the second section of the draw; Vera Zvonareva is scheduled to meet Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals. Kvitova may have to get past Radwanska in the third round in what would prove to be an interesting match. Kvitova has the power, but Radwanska has the consistency and craft... I would actually go for the in-form Radwanska to win that one. Zvonareva may have to get past a duo of Russians with Nadia Petrova and Svetlana Kuznetsova in her section of the draw.

Final Tip - Sabine Lisicki v Sam Stosur... Lisicki wins!

Round one matches to watch out for:
Kirilenko v Goerges - Kirilenko won easy in their first encounter in Stanford but Goerges is playing much better now so I expect a closer match
Peng v Pennetta - A terrible draw for Peng :( I hope she can put the horrid match she had with Pennetta at the US behind her and break a losing 5-0 head-to-head!

Dark Horses - Daniela Hantuchova, Petra Cetkovska, Chanelle Scheepers and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez

Radwanska conquers Tokyo

Agnieszka Radwanska capped off a fine win with a commanding 6-3 6-2 victory over Vera Zvonareva in the final of the Toray Pan Pacific in Tokyo. Zvonareva started the match in superb fashion picking up from where she had left off in her semi-final against Petra Kvitova, but she quickly wilted in surprisingly error-strewn fashion. I must admit I am not a fan of Zvonareva and it is performances like today that make me certain she is not capable of winning a major. Radwanska continues to flourish this year winning her second title of the year and looks to finally be moving with the times as she has added an attacking edge but still remains remarkably consistent and crafty around the court. The only concern I still have with Radwanska is whether she could produce a similar performance at a Grand Slam as she is still susceptible to getting blown off the court by a hard hitter who has a good day. All in all, I am delighted to see Radwanska win another title... the year-ending championships is probably just out of her grasp, but a good performance in China this week might make things interesting...

Next - Previews and reviews for the Premier event in Beijing :)