Wednesday, 31 October 2012

ATP Paris: 3rd Round Predictions

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
1. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Nicolas Almagro
The French hopes of a home champion will be high this week with a depleting draw offering an abundance of opportunities to the remaining French players in the draw.  The highest ranked of those is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who overcame a tough second round match with Julien Benneteau, which he won in a third set tiebreak.  

He now takes Nicolas Almagro, who needs to win the title to have any hopes of taking Tsonga's place at the World Tour Finals in London.  Almagro had a long first match in Paris against fellow compatriot Albert Ramos, 7-6 6-7 6-3.  Tsonga leads the head-to-head rather convincingly with five straight wins and I fancy him to notch his sixth over the Spaniard tomorrow.
Prediction - Tsonga to beat Almagro in 2 tight sets

2. Stanislas Wawrinka v David Ferrer
David Ferrer claimed his sixth title of 2012 in Valencia last week to continue his rather majestic year so far.  He started well in Paris with a 6-1 6-3 thumping of Marcel Granollers.  He now plays Stanislas Wawrinka, who had an equally impressive start to the week a 6-3 6-2 win over Carlos Berlocq.  Ferrer leads the head-to-head by 5 wins to 3, but Wawrinka did win their most recent encounter in Cincy, 6-4 6-1.  Ferrer was way below his best in that one, but I still fancy Wawrinka to win this one, albeit in a much closer match.
Prediction - Stanislas Wawrinka to beat David Ferrer in 3 sets

3. Juan Monaco v Janko Tipsarevic
Two players who have been out of form of late will go to battle for a place in the quarter-finals of Bercy.  Juan Monaco beat Grigor Dimitrov for the third time in straight sets, meanwhile Janko Tipsarevic edged past Igor Sijsling, 6-4 7-6.  Tipsarevic is pretty much confirmed for the World Tour Finals in London unless Nicolas Almagro unleashes an assault on the title so he will want to rediscover his form for next week where he will be the weakest player on paper.  The head-to-head is all square at 2-2; Tipsarevic won their last match in Stuttgart in three sets and I think he will edge past the tricky Argentine.
Prediction - Janko Tipsarevic to beat Juan Monaco in 3 sets

Best of the Rest: Predictions
Kei Nishikori to beat Gilles Simon in 2 sets
Tomas Berdych to beat Kevin Anderson in 3 sets
Andy Murray to beat Jerzy Janowicz in 2 sets
Juan Martin Del Potro to beat Michael Llodra in 2 tight sets
Sam Querrey to beat Milos Raonic/Jeremy Chardy in 3 sets

You can view my original predictions for Paris, which included predicting Djokovic to win the title... Ohh

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

ATP Paris Predictions Updated

I have updated my predictions for Paris where I have made a pretty good start.  The only real downnote was that my predicted semi-finalist, Julien Benneteau fell in a tight three setter against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-2 4-6 7-6.  In other matches, Kei Nishikori beat Benoit Paire, who was booed off court at the end by his home crowd.  He challenged a ball on match point, which was inside the baseline... never seen that before! Marin Cilic was the only seed to fall on day two as he lost to Jerzy Janowicz, who had already taken out Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round.

Benneteau's season is now over following his loss to Tsonga

Sunday, 28 October 2012

ATP Paris: Preview and Predictions

Its time to put my prediction skills to test for the last ATP event of 2012 before we head to the O2 for the World Tour Finals.  There will be no break between Paris and London this year and I have a feeling we could see the draw thin out rather quickly...

Tomas Berdych
QUARTER 1 - V.Hanescu v T.Berdych
There were many utterings that Roger Federer would pull out of this week's event in Paris and that has now be confirmed by the tournament organisers.  Federer was the runner-up in Basel this week and his withdrawal has unfortunately given a bye to Victor Hanescu, who will have a second round meeting with either Marcos Baghdatis or Gilles SimonFederer's withdrawal is good news for Kei Nishikori, who had that stunning run in Tokyo and has the draw to go deep this week and finish the season with a bang.  Tomas Berdych is the only top eight player left in this section.  He takes on Martin Klizan or Andreas Seppi in his second round match.  An intriguing third rounder against Richard Gasquet awaits if he can pass through his first obastacle.

Prediction - Nishikori v Berdych

QUARTER 2 - A.Murray v J.Tipsarevic
Andy Murray could face a potentially sticky second round match against Paul-Henri Mathieu who made the semi-finals this week in Basel displaying some very fine form.  His third round tie is likely to be decided between Philipp Kohlschreiber and Marin Cilic, both who have had their ups and downs this year but have potential to do well if Murray is off his game.

Janko Tipsarevic is Murray's projected quarter-finalist and by far the weakest of the top eight.  He has failed to deliver in recent weeks and retired hurt from his first match in Valencia.  This section is particularly weak with Juan Monaco also misfiring of late.  He will play either Jurgen Melzer (Valencia semi-finalist) or Grigor Dimitrov (Basel quarter-finalist).  The runner-up from Valencia, Alexandr Dolgopolov is also here too and could meet Tipsy in the second round.

Prediction - Murray v Tipsarevic

QUARTER 3 - J.Tsonga v D.Ferrer
Novak Djokovic
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer are projected to meet in the third quarter-final; however I am predicting a washout of seeds in this section (brave or foolish?!).  I think Tsonga will come unstuck against fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the second round.  Benneteau has the tools to upset anyone on his day and has done well in Paris before.  Ferrer has had a tiring week in Valencia having won yet another title in 2012 and will want to be at his peak for the World Tour Finals in London.  I think he will fall in the third round to Stanislas Wawrinka; the Swiss player is always unpredictable, but did beat Ferrer earlier this year in Cincy.

Prediction - Benneteau v Wawrinka

QUARTER 4 - J.Del Potro v N.Djokovic
Novak Djokovic has many tricky players in his path to the final, but I still think he is the one to beat in Paris.  In the second round, he takes on Fernando Verdasco or Sam Querrey; the latter I believe will progress and at least give Djokovic something to think about.  Milos Raonic could be awaiting Djokovic in the round of 16 for a blockbuster clash although I would favour Djokovic in that one with his superior returning.

Juan Martin Del Potro has just won back-to-back titles in Vienna and Basel including a three set epic win over Roger Federer, his first over the Swiss maestro since the first World Tour Finals at the O2 in 2009.  I think the past two weeks will catch up with him this week and to be honest, I hope they do because I want him to be well rested for London where I think he could be the dark horse.  Del Potro is projected to meet John Isner in the third round; however I think Radek Stepanek could be on the warpath of upsets once more as he has had favourable results over both Isner and Del Potro this year.

Prediction - Stepanek v Djokovic

Final Prediction - Novak Djokovic d. Andy Murray
I have predicted a lot of upsets throughout the draw, but I still think the final will be contested by the top two in the draw.  We are all on course for the final wrap-up to the 2012 ATP season now and you can view my full predictions for Paris HERE.

Serena Williams claims the last WTA landmark title of 2012, beats Sharapova 6-4 6-3 in final

Serena Williams wrapped up a sensational 2012 with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Maria Sharapova in the YEC final in Istanbul.  It was actually a respectable performance from Sharapova who earnt two more games than her last two matches against Serena combined.  Serena hit a staggering 40 winners to 14 unforced errors and did not face a break point throughout the 89 minute contest.  

I have said on many occasions, but this has been the best year for the WTA for quite sometime.  We are one step better than last year in that we have a world number one who has won a Grand Slam and was pretty marvellous all year.  You cannot deny though that Serena is the true number one and the one to beat having lost just one match since the French Open.  She will go into the Australian Open as the massive favourite, but it will be interesting to see how the challengers respond over the off-season and into 2013.  I also hear that Eurosport will only be covering Grand Slams now, which is very disappointing news.  Hoepfully there will still be live coverage of the lesser events but we will have to wait for an announcement.

The final final event (the Tournament of Champions) in Sofia takes place this week, but I have to admit I hold very little interest in it coming after what I see as the natural end to the year in Istanbul.

Serena - The player to beat in 2013

COMING SOON - My review of the top 20 WTA matches of 2012.... My analysis of how well I did at predicting this year including my original predictions I did at the end of 2011... And of course my predictions for 2013!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

WTA YEC Istanbul: Final Showdown Predictions for Serena vs Sharapova

Maria Sharapova
Once again, I missed the boat on predicting the Azarenka/Sharapova semi-final... I am tired just like the players ;-) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will contest the final showdown of 2012 in Istanbul and on paper, there looks to be one clear winner.  Serena Williams strolled into the final with a 6-2 6-1 win over Agnieszka Radwanska.  As to be expected, Radwanska was running on borrowed time and she was going to struggle at 100% to push Serena.  Sharapova scored a first win on hard courts over Victoria Azarenka in 2012.  She won 6-4 6-2 against a mentally and physically tiring opponent; Azarenka has not played anywhere near her best this week, but Sharapova did well to pick up the pieces and make the final.

Serena has completely owned Sharapova this year with two comprehensive wins to add to the 9-2 head-to-head record.  The stats and previous matches do not go in Sharapova's favour, and Serena is also relatively well rested having had Friday off and barely expending any energy today.  Sharapova will have to put past matches behind her and start well, serve well and get a foothold in the match because if she can stay close with Serena, she can at least make her think more and perhaps throw the American off.  Anyway I hope its not another Olympic beatdown, but I am backing Serena.

Prediction - Serena to beat Sharapova in 2 sets

Friday, 26 October 2012

WTA YEC Istanbul: Semi-Final Predictions

1. Maria Sharapova v Victoria Azarenka
Maria Sharapova confirmed her number one position in the white group with a convincing 6-0 6-3 victory over Sam Stosur.  It was a pretty atrocious performance from Stosur who won just five points in the first set and I think is now desperate for a well deserved break.  Sharapova meanwhile has more work to do and now takes on Victoria Azarenka in a show-stopping semi-final.  Azarenka confirmed her status as the year-end world number one as she beat Li Na, 7-6 6-3 in a scrappy encounter that demonstrated some fine hitting at times, but many errors and mental lapses too.

Azarenka has won all her hard court encounters with Sharapova in 2012; Azarenka won a three setter at the US Open and then cruised to victory in the final of the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing.  This match promises to be different.  Sharapova has been playing well and will be relatively well rested having eased through the first match of the day.  Azarenka on the other hand has played well up till now and did not finish her match until gone midnight.  I fancy a three setter here, but I still have faith in Azarenka to make the final; despite Vika's struggles so far this week, she still owns Sharapova on hard court...

Prediction - Azarenka to beat Sharapova in 3 sets
2. Serena Williams v Agnieszka Radwanska 
Serena Williams had a rather neat day as she would have been able to watch Agnieszka Radwanska and Sara Errani fight tooth and nail for a spot in the semi-finals of the YEC.  And fight they did as Radwanska edged Errani in the longest WTA match of 2012 with a 6-7 7-5 6-4 victory in three hours and 29 minutes.  Errani deserves a pat on her back for her performances this week and throughout the whole of 2012, but Radwanska was just that little bit tougher in the end.  The world number four, who has played two three hour plus matches this week, now faces the daunting prospect of Serena in a rematch of the Wimbledon final.

Serena progressed with three straight set wins over Angelique Kerber, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka.  In all three matches Serena had her issues, but she managed to exploit her opponent's weaknesses and essentially cruise into the semi-finals.  In their last match, Serena wobbled in the Wimbledon final, but was always too strong as she came away with a 6-1 5-7 6-2 victory.  Radwanska is no doubt going to be knackered from today's exploits but she will give it her all for sure... there is unfortunately only one winner from this match though.

Prediction - Serena to beat Radwanska in 2 sets

You can keep up to date with my predictions for Valencia and Basel... my champions are still alive in both! My predictions for Istanbul have been terrible these past two days so lets hope for better with these semi-final ones ;-)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

WTA YEC Istanbul: Day 4 Predictions

Li Na
1. Victoria Azarenka v Li Na
The final match from the red group will decide which player qualifies for the semi-finals in second place behind Serena.  Victoria Azarenka showed signs of tiredness in her 6-4 6-4 defeat by Serena Williams.  She threw in 9 double faults and all at crucial folds of the match including on match point.  I thought Azarenka handled with Serena very well from the back of the court, but it was the mental lapses that cost her the match.  Li Na kept her hopes of qualifying alive with a 6-4 6-3 victory over another weary player, Angelique Kerber.

Azarenka and Li are all square in the head to head with four wins apiece although Azarenka has won their last three encounters.  They last met on the slippery clay of Madrid where Azarenka recovered from losing the first set to win 3-6 6-3 6-3.  I think this will be a very tight match and I fancy it to go three sets.  Azarenka was all over the place at times today, but when a semi-final position is at stakes, I would back her over Li every time to hold her nerve and reach the semi-finals...

Prediction - Azarenka to beat Li in 3 sets

2. Agnieszka Radwanska v Sara Errani
Just like the red group, the second qualifier from the white group will be determined by whoever wins this match.  Agnieszka Radwanska came up just short in a total epic with Maria Sharapova; she lost 5-7 7-5 7-5  in 3 hours and 12 minutes to finish a stunning day of tennis following the Azarenka/Kerber match.  Sara Errani lost her opener against Sharapova, but came back fighting today to stun the alternate Sam Stosur, 6-3 2-6 6-0.  Stosur was on complete walkabouts in the decider as she double faulted the first and deciding sets away to keep Errani's chances of progressing alive.  Radwanska leads the head-to-head by five wins to one including a 6-0 6-1 rout in Madrid.  I expect this match to be closer, but I think it will be Radwanska progressing to a first career YEC semi-final...

Prediction - Radwanska to beat Errani in 2 sets

3. Maria Sharapova v Sam Stosur
Maria Sharapova confirmed her place in the semi-finals yesterday with a truly epic match with Agnieszka Radwanska.  Sharapova came from 7-5 4-2 down and showed real frustration at getting the ball past Radwanska, who was a complete wall at times.  She now plays an essentially dead rubber with Sam Stosur who suffered another disappointing loss in 2012 at the hands to Sara Errani.  Stosur cannot qualify, but will want to go out with some pride following today's horror show.  Stosur won their last encounter in Tokyo and also won here on the indoor courts of Istanbul last year.  I think Sharapova will be eager to finish the Round Robin stages on a high and after today's performance, I just cannot see Stosur coming back into any kind of form...

Prediction - Sharapova to beat Stosur in 2 tight sets

Coming Soon - I am starting to prepare my top 20 WTA matches of 2012 and this will be one of my feature posts during the off season... stay tuned as I hope to get the first part out soon ;-)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

WTA YEC Istanbul: Day 3 Predictions

Angelique Kerber
1. Angelique Kerber v Li Na
Angelique Kerber is essentially out of the tournament after coming up short in a truly outstanding duel with Victoria Azarenka that lasted 3 hours and 6 minutes, 6-7 7-6 6-4.  Kerber had two match points, but Azarenka brought her A-game at the crucial stages of the match to stay alive.  For anyone to call Kerber's tennis boring... just watch that match.  She also served the best I have ever seen at times, hitting 8 aces throughout the contest.  Li's match could not have been any different as she fell 7-6 6-3 to Serena Williams in an error-strewn affair.  

Kerber and Li have played several times this year; Kerber won their first match in Indian Wells, but Li rebounded with wins in Madrid and Cincy.  Their most recent encounter was particularly significant as Li came from a set and a break down to beat Kerber with some inspired tennis at the end to claim the Cincy title.  Originally I went for Li, but Kerber was extremely impressive against Azarenka and although tiredness may be a factor, if Li dishes up the same kind of errors she did against Serena then Kerber will win this comfortably...

Prediction - Kerber to beat Li in 2 sets

Victoria Azarenka
2. Serena Williams v Victoria Azarenka
The most anticipated round robin match will grace the court tomorrow as Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka do battle.  Serena has been anything but impressive so far although she tops the group with two straight set wins.  She beat Li Na, 7-6 6-3 in a dire match and was once again, highly emotional on the court.  Azarenka was also fiery on court as she had to fight for over three hours to get past a fantastic, Angelique Kerber.  The question will be how she recovers from that epic encounter.  Serena holds a tight grip over the head-to-head although their last match at the US Open has certainly wetted the appetite as Vika came within a whisker of claiming the title, eventually going down 6-2 2-6 7-5.  Both players were not at their best today, but I think Azarenka will use her stunning comeback today to spur her onto a big, big victory tomorrow.

Prediction - Azarenka to beat Serena in 3 sets

Sam Stosur
3. Sam Stosur v Sara Errani
Sam Stosur steps into action tomorrow following Petra Kvitova's withdrawal from the tournament; Kvitova revealed on Facebook that she was suffering from bronchitis and it is a real shame to see her pull out :-(  This opens the door for Stosur who takes on Sara Errani in her first match.  Errani gave a solid account of herself in her first match against Maria Sharapova, where she lost 6-3 6-2.  Stosur will be looking for revenge in this one having suffered a surprising loss in the semi-finals of the French Open to Errani.  Stosur had won their five previous encounters, which made that result all the more surprising.  I think Sam will be eager for revenge and want to take full advantage of the opportunity she has been given here...
Prediction - Stosur to beat Errani in 2 tight sets

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

WTA YEC Istanbul: Day 2 Predictions

Serena Williams
1. Serena Williams v Li Na
Serena Williams kicked off proceedings in the red group with a solid straight sets victory over Angelique Kerber, 6-4 6-1.  Serena was not at her best and displayed some fraught emotions at times as she let slip an early break in the first set before regrouping.  Li Na will play her first match in Istanbul and it is a tough starting act for the Chinese player.  

Serena and Li will play for the first time since 2010 when Serena edged a tight two setter in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.  Although Serena leads the head-to-head 5-1, all of their previous matches have been tight with three of them going to three sets.  Li has the groundstrokes to live with Serena, but whether she can take it to the next level and record a win is another question.  I think having played today will work in Serena's favour and she will beat Li once more...
Prediction - Serena to beat Li in 2 very tight sets

2. Victoria Azarenka v Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber gave a respectable performance in her first round robin match at the YEC against Serena Williams.  She looked both tired and nervous to begin with, but grew into the match and showed some heart in the first set before succumbing to defeat.  Things get no easier as she now takes on the world number one, Victoria Azarenka.  

Azarenka and Kerber have played twice this year with Vika winning both matches in straight sets; their last match at the Olympics was a fizzling encounter that featured some extraordinary rallies so hopefully more of the same is dished up tomorrow.  Kerber played really well in that match and couldn't even win a set.  Azarenka looked on fire in Beijing and more importantly, on the indoor courts of Linz so I cannot see her being troubled in her opener here...
Prediction - Azarenka to beat Kerber in 2 sets

3. Maria Sharapova v Agnieszka Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska got off to a great start with a 6-3 6-2 victory over the defending YEC champion, Petra Kvitova.  Kvitova was error strewn at best, but Radwanska went about her job well and lived with the highs and lows of an irratic Kvitova to record her first ever win over the Czech player.  Maria Sharapova beat Sara Errani, 6-3 6-2 to match the scoreline of this year's French Open final.  

Sharapova and Radwanska last met in the Miami final where Radwanska enjoyed her best win of the year.  The Istanbul court looks pretty slow, which will favour Radwanska Sharapova struggled at times to put Errani to bed, but found her groove on the forehand in the second set.  Radwanska will be more consistent and have plenty of tricks up her sleeves, but I think Sharapova will win this, running away with the decider after the pair split sets.
Prediction - Sharapova to beat Radwanska in 3 sets

ATP Action - I have updated my predictions for Valencia and Basel... I have lost a semi-finalist in Valencia (Kohlschreiber) but I predicted Tsonga and Tipsarevic (who fell in R1 action today) to go out before the semi-finals

Monday, 22 October 2012

WTA YEC Istanbul: Day 1 Predictions

Petra Kvitova
1. Petra Kvitova v Agnieszka Radwanska
Last year's champion, Petra Kvitova will open up the YEC in Istanbul for the second year in a row.  The first match is a potentially pivotal match against the world number 4, Agnieszka Radwanska.  Since claiming the title in New Haven, Kvitova has not played her best tennis.  She suffered a surprising 4th round at the US Open to a majestic Marion Bartoli and was disappointing in Asia.  In her defence, she did pick up a stomach bug in Beijing.  Radwanska raised her game in Tokyo where she reached the final and was dazzling in her semi-final against Angelique Kerber.  Her injuries came to the forefront again in Beijing where she was comfortably beaten by Li Na in the quarter-finals.

If Kvitova plays anywhere near her best, this will be a comprehensive win for the Czech player on her favoured indoor surface.  Kvitova has won all three of their previous encounters including a win in the group stages last year, which was their last match against each other.  I think Kvitova will be rusty tomorrow and throw in a load of unforced errors, and Radwanska will demonstrate enough craft and stickability to upset her rhythm. This will be a struggle, but I think Kvitova will win...

Prediction - Kvitova to beat Radwanska in 3 sets

Angelique Kerber
2. Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber
Serena Williams plays her first match since winning the US Open title against a YEC debutant, Angelique Kerber in the second match of the day.  The German player had to pull out of her quarter-final in Beijing with a foot injury and then withdrew from Luxembourg so her form is rather unpredictable.  In their only match this year, Kerber actually won 6-4 6-4 with a very consistent display.  Serena on that day was miserably poor and you cannot deny that fact, but it was still a huge mental win for Kerber because getting across the finish line against Serena is a mighty challenge.

I have been a big fan of Kerber this year and believe she has been one of the stars of this year; however I think she is going to really struggle at this tournament and I cannot see her beating Serena.  If she can get on the board early, that will be obviously be good for her chances, but Serena should be solid enough for a straight sets victory.

Prediction - Serena to beat Kerber in 2 tight sets

Sara Errani
3. Maria Sharapova v Sara Errani
The final match of the day will see a rematch of the French Open final.  That tournament provided a high point of 2012 for both players as Maria Sharapova claimed a career slam and Sara Errani reached her first ever Grand Slam final having defeated a top ten player for the first time in her career.  Sharapova had a pretty strong finish to 2012; she was disappointing in Tokyo where she lost to Sam Stosur, but reached the final in Beijing where she was soundly beaten by Victoria Azarenka.  Errani made another quarter-final in Tokyo, but has since been injured and taken a break following a knackering year.

The pair have only played once at the French Open final where Sharapova won 6-3 6-2.  Errani actually played a very good match that day on her best surface so for her to win here against Sharapova on an indoor court would be mindblowing.  Sara has got a tough group and I really hope she can give a respectable performance... no worries though for Sharapova as she will get off to a winning start here.

Prediction - Sharapova to beat Errani in 2 sets

Sunday, 21 October 2012

WTA Year Ending Championships Istanbul: Preview and Predictions

2012 has been a special year for the WTA and it is now time for the ladies to wrap up proceedings at the Year Ending Championships in Istanbul. The draw looks pretty even; the red group features Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Li Na, meanwhile the white group consists of Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani.  Lets now take a look at the 2012 credentials of each player and my predictions for the tournament.

The Top eight in Istanbul (More Images available on the WTA website)

Red Group: 

Victoria Azarenka
2012 Highlight - A first Grand Slam title in Australia nestled in between a stunning 26 match winning streak was pretty awesome.
2012 Low - A dip was inevitable after the great start to the season and that came during the clay court season.  Azarenka looked lacklustre at the French Open where she struggled in her opener and then fell in the 4th round to Dominika Cibulkova.
Best Win(s) of the Year - There were many but the way she handled her nerves in the Australian Open Final and tore through Sharapova was mightily impressive.
Fun Fact - Excluding retirements and withdrawals, Azarenka lost just seven matches and only one to a player outside of the top 10 (Cibulkova).

Serena Williams
2012 Highlight - Too many to choose! Wimbledon title, check... US Open title, check... Olympic title, check.
2012 Low - The loss in the French Open first round to Virigine Razzano still stands as the most shocking match of the year when so many (including me!) had her down as the clear favourite.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Again so many! Her demolition of Maria Sharapova in the Olympic Final was amazing, but also the semi-finals and final of Charleston where she lost a combined total of three games to Sam Stosur and Lucie Safarova.
Fun Fact - Serena played just seven three set matches this year (losing one to Razzano) and won three titles without losing a set (Charleston, Stanford and Olympics).

Angelique Kerber
2012 Highlight - A first ever title in Paris with top 10 wins over Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli was the tip of the iceberg for Kerber who went on to play some stunning tennis during the clay court season... a semi-final at Wimbledon was not too shabby either
2012 Low - Sara Errani was twice her nemesis in the Grand Slams where she could easily have reached a maiden Grand Slam final.  She has looked tired since making the final in Cincy.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Wins over Serena and Sharapova were great, but the one that sticks to mind was a 6-1 6-2 beatdown of Caroline Wozniacki in Stuttgart.
Fun Fact - Kerber has made 4 quarter-finals, 6 semi-finals, 2 finals and won 2 titles this year.  There was only one occasion where she lost her first match at a tournament (to Zheng Jie in Miami).

Li Na
2012 Highlight - Finally winning a first title since Roland Garros in Cincinnati and producing solid results at the Premier events.
2012 Low - Struggled at all the Grand Slams where she failed to get past the 4th round.  She was hyped to do well at all of them bar perhaps Wimbledon, but failed to deliver the goods.  Losing to Clijsters in Australia having had four match points was one of the heartbreaking losses of 2012.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Comeback wins over Kvitova in Sydney and Kerber in Cincy, and a triple whammy of wins over Radwanska this summer steadied the boat too.
Fun Fact - After losing to Clijsters in Australia and retiring in Paris, Li went on an impressive run of 4 straight quarter-finals and a final in Rome... consistency got her that final spot at Istanbul.

Red Group Predictions:
Both groups are tough but I think the red group will be more competitive.  We are immediately guaranteed another match-up between Serena and Azarenka, which promises to be very exciting.  I think Kerber will struggle in this group.  She holds little hope against Azarenka based on their most recent encounters and I think although she did beat Serena in Cincy this year, she will struggle to repeat that having endured a long, long season.  Li can easily throw a spanner in the works if she can secure a win over either Serena or Azarenka, which is not unlikely... however I have to go for Azarenka and Serena (in that order) to qualify for the semi-finals.

White Group:

Maria Sharapova
2012 Highlight - Claiming the career slam with a terrific win at Roland Garros.  Her whole form during the clay court season was immense with titles in Stuttgart and Rome.
2012 Low - There were no major lows although Wimbledon saw a slight hangover from the clay.  A 4th round loss to Sabine Lisicki was certainly not on the cards.  The 6-0 6-1 loss to Serena in the Olympics final was a blow too.
Best Win(s) of the Year  -  The quarter-final win over Stosur in Stuttgart where she saved one match point was a superb performance and set her up for glory in Paris.
Fun Fact - Sharapova was unbeaten in three set matches until her semi-final with Azarenka at the US Open; she is currently 13-1 for 2012.

Agnieszka Radwanska
2012 Highlight - Reaching her first ever Grand Slam final at Wimbledon and putting in an admirable performance where she pushed Serena to three sets.
2012 Low - The American hard court season really caught up with her where she failed to make it past a quarter-final and lost in the 4th round of the US Open.
Best Win(s) of the Year  -  Beating Sharapova in the Miami final was her biggest scalp in a final and a 6-1 6-1 demolition of Angelique Kerber in Tokyo was excellent too.
Fun Fact - Of Radwanska's 17 losses, over half of them came at the hands of Azarenka (6 times) and Li (3 times).

Petra Kvitova
2012 Highlight - Winning two titles in Montreal and New Haven and enjoying solid consistency through the opening three Grand Slams with two semi-finals and a quarter-final.
2012 Low - Struggled to pull off the wins over the big guns and ended the season in disappointing fashion with a 4th round exit at the US Open and poor results in Asia.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Beating Li in the final of Montreal was a great performance and showed she still has what it takes to win big titles.
Fun Fact - Kvitova did not beat a top 10 player until August when she her beat Marion Bartoli in Montreal.

Sara Errani
2012 Highlight - Reaching the final of the French Open, the semi-finals of the US Open and four titles in Acapulco, Barcelona, Budapest and Palermo.  Breaking the top 10 was a superb achievement for the Italian.
2012 Low - Struggled on the grass where she was victim of a golden set by Yaroslava Shvedova at Wimbledon and a heavy opening round loss to Venus at the Olympics.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Her run at the French Open was truly magnificent and the win over Sam Stosur was a huge scalp in her first ever Grand Slam semi-final.
Fun Fact - The highest ranked player that Errani beat all year was number 6 (Stosur at Roland Garros and Kerber at the US Open).

White Group Predictions:
Unforrtunately I cannot see Sara Errani progressing out of this group.  Her only real chance would have been if she drew Kerber in her group.  A win over either Sharapova or Kvitova would be mindblowing although based on her year, nothing is impossible.  Sharapova has owned Kvitova of late so she would be my tip to qualify top.  The match-up between Kvitova and Radwanska will be the decisive one.  I don't think Radwanska will disgrace herself at all this week, pushing both Sharapova and Kvitova, but I think she will come third in the group.

Final Prediction - V.Azarenka d. S.Williams
I have a feeling that Azarenka will scoop the YEC title.  Serena has won all of their encounters this year, but I am not sure how mentally prepared she will be for this tournament.  She has not played since that US Open final, meanwhile Azarenka has rebounded superbly and shown real character to win the titles in Beijing and Linz.  I think Azarenka will be hungrier than ever to beat Serena and confirm her number one status.  

Kvitova will be dangerous on the indoor surface and I really hope my prediction of a semi-final clash with Azarenka takes place because they have yet to play in 2012.  I see Sharapova running into Serena in the semi-finals and coming off second best every time.

It should be a fantastic ending to the tournament and each day, I will be previewing the three matches on show and giving my predictions so keep reading :-D

Predictions anyone?!

Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams win titles

Despite a dodgy overall set of predictions, I went out on a high as I correctly predicted that Caroline Wozniacki would win Moscow and that Venus Williams would be crowned the champion in Luxembourg.  Caroline Wozniacki showed her superior mental edge and an improved forehand as she beat Sam Stosur, 6-2 4-6 7-5.  Stosur is now 3-12 in finals, meanwhile Wozniacki is at an impressive 20-11.  Venus Williams capped off a tough, but ultimately rewarding 2012 with a straight sets victory over Monica Niculescu, 6-2 6-3.  The win will secure Venus an all important seeding for the Australian Open in January.

Caroline Wozniacki claimed her second title of 2012

We are not that far away from the release of the draw for Year-Ending-Championships in Istanbul with play beginning on Tuesday... previews and predictions to follow soon :-)))

ATP Valencia/Basel: Preview and Predictions

There are two ATP 500 events this week in Valencia and Basel... lets take a look at the draws.

David Ferrer
ATP Valencia
A very strong line-up is heading to the indoor event in Valencia with David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga headlining the draw.  Ferrer's quarter features four other Spaniards including Juan Carlos Ferrero who plays his final tournament before retirement.  Nicolas Almagro is Ferrer's projected opponent; Ferrer has won their three encounters in 2012 and has yet to lose a match to Almagro in all their 11 encounters.  Last year's finalist, Juan Monaco is in a strong second quarter that also features Marin Cilic, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Fernando Verdasco and Lleyton Hewitt... watch out for the German.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has had a gruelling schedule of late having played in Metz, Beijing, Shanghai, Stockholm and now Valencia.  He is currently still in Stockholm where he has made the final.  I therefore believe he will not have a successful week in Valencia.  He takes on Xavier Malisse in the first round and is likely to meet John Isner in the quarter-finals.  In the final quarter, Milos Raonic and Janko Tipsarevic are projected to clash in the quarter-finals.  Raonic could face Alexandr Dolgopolov for the first time in his career if they both win their openers, meanwhile Tipsarevic has drawn Giles Simon once more with the winner likely to take on the defending champion, Marcel Granollers... tough!

Final Prediction - David Ferrer d. John Isner

1st Round Predictions - Monaco to beat Hewitt in 2 tight sets, Cilic to beat Klizan in 2 sets, Dolgopolov to beat Volandri in 2 sets, Simon to beat Tipsarevic in 3 sets and Goffin to beat Andujar in 2 sets.

ATP Basel
Roger Federer
Roger Federer once again takes the limelight in his home tournament of Basel and will be confident of claiming his sixth title here.  He opens up against Jeremy Chardy and is projected to meet Moscow finalist, Andreas SeppiStanislas Wawrinka will also be carrying the cheers of the home crowd and has a good opportunity to at least make the semi-finals.  His first seeded opponent, Viktor Troicki is unlikely to get past Grigor Dimitrov in round one or Julien Benneteau in round two; the latter I think I will win several rounds here.

Juan Martin Del Potro has reached the final this week of a tournament in Austria, which is the first time he has played since the Davis Cup tie in September.  He takes on Alejandro Falla in the first round and should meet Florian Mayer in the quarter-finals.  Richard Gasquet and Mikhail Youzhny are the two remaining seeds who will battle it out in the third section of the draw.

Final Prediction - Roger Federer d. Florian Mayer

1st Round Predictions - Federer to beat Chardy in 2 tight sets, Seppi to beat Paire in 3 sets, Wawrinka to beat Davydenko in 2 sets, Dimitrov to beat Troicki in 2 sets and Youzhny to beat Tomic in 2 sets.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

WTA Moscow/Luxembourg: Final Predictions

Caroline Wozniacki v Sam Stosur (Moscow)
Caroline Wozniacki and Sam Stosur set up an all-star final in Moscow with both recording battling three set semi-final wins.  Wozniacki struggled once again to close her match out with Sofia Arvidsson; yesterday she twice failed to serve the match out against Dominika Cibulkova and today suffered the same fate in both the second and third sets before eventually breaking Arvidsson for a 6-4 6-7 6-4 victory.  Stosur lost the opening set to Ana Ivanovic but rebounded strongly to take the match, 2-6 6-3 6-2 as Ivanovic struggled with a hip injury. 

Wozniacki and Stosur have not played each other since the 2010 Season-Ending-Championships where Stosur won comfortably in straight sets.  Three of their five previous encounters have gone to three sets and I think this will be a really close call.  Stosur has really struggled to notch up the title wins and although Wozniacki has struggled in closing out matches this week, I think she will tough this one out...

Prediction - Wozniacki to beat Stosur in 3 sets

Monica Niculescu v Venus Williams (Luxembourg)
It has been a tough year for Venus Williams, but she is ending it on a real high as she has advanced to her first final of 2012.  She got away with a whopping 15 double faults to beat Andrea Petkovic in an absolute epic, 5-7 6-4 6-4.  Venus wasted set points in the opening set, but also came back from a 2-0 deficit in a crazy rollercoaster of a match. 

She now takes on Monica Niculescu who has done the unthinkable and defended her final points from last year.  I say unthinkable because her form throughout the whole of 2012 has been pretty shoddy.  Following comfortable wins over Julia Goerges and Lucie Hradecka, she eased past a disappointing Daniela Hantuchova, 6-1 6-3.  Niculescu is the favourite based on their form throughout the tournament, but you cannot count Venus out who I think will butcher the Niculescu second serve and use her wealth of experience to deal with Niculescu's junk... 

Prediction - Venus to beat Niculescu in 2 tight sets

I had a pretty bad week overall for predictions although my predicted title winners (Wozniacki and Venus) are still alive!!!

Friday, 19 October 2012

WTA Moscow/Luxembourg: Semi-Final Predictions

Ana Ivanovic
Sam Stosur v Ana Ivanovic (Moscow)
The first semi-final on Moscow promises to be an interesting encounter between two of the most popular players on the tour.  Sam Stosur and Ana Ivanovic will square off for the fifth time and the first time since 2009.  Both had relatively straightforward quarter-final matches; Stosur defeated Klara Zakopalova, 6-1 6-3, meanwhile Ivanovic took out Vesna Dolonc, 6-4 6-1.  The head-to-head is even at 2-2 and all four matches have been decided in straight sets making this a difficult one to call.  Stosur was ropey in her first match against Alize Cornet, but she showed improvements today and that early test will help her out against Ivanovic tomorrow...
Prediction - Stosur to beat Ivanovic in 2 tight sets

Caroline Wozniacki v Sofia Arvidsson (Moscow)
Caroline Wozniacki knocked out the defending champion, Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-final to set up a semi-final with Sofia Arvidsson.  Wozniacki was twice broken to love serving for the match in the second set when Cibulkova rose her level, but the Dane eased through the decider.  Arvidsson is having a superb week as she followed up a trouncing of Marion Bartoli with a solid straight sets win over Maria Kirilenko.  Wozniacki leads the head-to-head 6-2, but Arvidsson has certainly held her own against the Dane before and should have won in Indian Wells earlier this year.  However this surface is a match made in heaven for Wozniacki and she will make it into the final...
Prediction - Wozniacki to beat Arvidsson in 2 sets

Daniela Hantuchova
Daniela Hantuchova v Monica Niculescu (Luxembourg)
Daniela Hantuchova started the season in excellent form but an injury through the clay court season has sidetracked her season and she has really struggled the find her form again.  This week has seen a welcome return to form and her second round win over Kirsten Flipkens was particularly noteworthy.  Her opponent in the semi-finals will be Monica Niculescu, who has also seen a return to form as she beat another big hitter in Lucie Hradecka, 6-0 6-4.  Surprisingly, Hantuchova and Niculescu have never played each other so its hard to judge this one.  Niculescu is a tricky player with her crazy forehand slice that can throw some players off.  I think Hantuchova will struggle at first, but will eventually find a way through the Romanian to make the final.
Prediction - Hantuchova to beat Niculescu in 3 sets

Venus Williams v Andrea Petkovic (Luxembourg)
It is really great to see Andrea Petkovic winning matches again as she progressed to the semi-finals in Luxembourg with a straight sets win over Ksenia Pervak.  She now faces a much sterner test against Venus Williams who has had a terrific week so far and knocked out the number one seed Roberta Vinci in the quarter-finals with a 7-6 6-4 victory.  They have only played one full match in Eastbourne last year where Venus triumphed in a lengthy three set battle.  Both have lots to play for; Venus will want to confirm a seeding for the Australian Open, meanwhile Petkovic is just fighting to make the main draw! I backed Venus from the start and I still think she is the one to beat in Luxembourg.
Prediction - Venus to beat Petkovic in 2 sets

Thursday, 18 October 2012

WTA Moscow/Luxembourg: Quarter-Final Predictions

Caroline Wozniacki
1.  Caroline Wozniacki v Dominika Cibulkova (Moscow)
Caroline Wozniacki was in fine form in her first match in Moscow last night.  Many of the players have noted the slow court surface, but that actually favours Wozniacki's game and she is looking good for a strong assault on the title.  She defeated Urszula Radwanska, 6-3 6-1, hitting an impressive 25 winners to 19 unforced errors.  Her quarter-final opponent is the defending Moscow champion, Dominika Cibulkova.  The Slovakian world number 14 had been on a barren spell of form, but has managed to string two solid wins together.  She came from a set down to beat Ekaterina Makarova in her opener before easing past Tsvetana Pironkova in her second round match.  Wozniacki and Cibulkova last squared off in an odd encounter in New Haven where an injured Wozniacki got into Cibulkova's head with a 6-2 6-1 rout... I am expecting more of the same this time round.
Prediction - Wozniacki to beat Cibulkova in 2 sets

2. Venus Williams v Roberta Vinci (Luxembourg)
Venus Williams set up a all-star quarter-final with the number one seed, Roberta Vinci.  Venus overcame Mona Barthel in a tight two setter, 7-6 6-4, meanwhile Vinci edged a tight first set before strolling to a 6-4 6-1 victory over the lucky loser, Anne Keothavong.  This will be a tough match for Vinci who has fallen to Venus in both her previous matches in straight sets.  The only thing going in her favour is that those matches took place in 2010 and Vinci is a much more consistent and dangerous player these days.  I am still sticking by my original prediction of Venus making the semi-finals and onwards...
Prediction - Venus to beat Vinci in 3 sets

3. Andrea Petkovic v Ksenia Pervak (Luxembourg)
There is a lot up for grabs in the quarter-final between Andrea Petkovic and Ksenia Pervak.  Both have played little tennis in recent months due to injuries and lucrative ranking points are on offer for the winner.  Petkovic beat a struggling Jelena Jankovic, 7-5 6-0 in the second round for her best win since returning the tour from that horrid ankle injury she picked up in Stuttgart.  Pervak, whose ranking has dropped to 106, defeated Sorana Cirstea, 7-6 6-1 for an impressive victory over one of the most inconsistent performers on the tour.  The pair have only played once where Pervak had one of her best wins on the tour at Wimbledon last year.  Petkovic has been struggling, particularly with her serve but I think she can nick a win here...
Prediction - Petkovic to beat Pervak in 3 sets

Best of the rest:
Moscow QF's:
Ana Ivanovic to beat Vesna Dolonc in 2 tight sets
Maria Kirilenko to beat Sofia Arvidsson in 2 tight sets

Luxembourg QF's:
Daniela Hantuchova to beat Lourdes Dominguez Lino in 3 sets