Sunday, 31 March 2013

WTA Charleston: Preview and Predictions

The American hard court season is over with the conclusion of Miami.  Today's final between Andy Murray and David Ferrer was torturous at times and ended a dire tournament for the men.  It featured a ton of errors, but did at least provide some cracking drama right at the end where Murray saved a championship point to beat Ferrer, 2-6 6-4 7-6(1).  The men take a week off, meanwhile there are two WTA stops this week.

Charleston has a tough place in the calendar following an exhausting March at Indian Wells and Miami, but it has attracted a terrific line-up in 2013.  Charleston is always a good stop on the WTA tour despite being odd in the only tournament to be played on green clay, an in-between of the hard courts and the clay courts.  Let's take a look at the draw where the top 8 players all have byes into round two.

First Quarter - S.Williams (1) v L.Safarova (6)
Sabine Lisicki
It had been an up-and-down year so far for Serena Williams based on the ridiculously high standards she set from 2012, but she claimed her biggest title of the year in Miami, defeating Maria Sharapova in a high intensity showcase where Serena rallied from a set and a break down to win the last 10 games for a 4-6 6-3 6-0 victory.  Serena, the defending champion in Charleston, will play Mandy Minella or Camila Giorgi in the second round before a potential third rounder against Sabine Lisicki.

Lucie Safarova and Sorana Cirstea headline up the chance to meet Serena in the quarter-finals. Safarova, who made the final at Charleston last year, could meet Romina Oprandi in the second round; Oprandi won a tight three setter when the pair played just last week  in Miami.  I would still back Safarova to come through that one and rediscover at least a litte bit of form on a surface she obviously likes.  Cirstea is likely to have get past Anabel Medina Garrigues in round two.

1st Round Predictions - Lisicki to beat Tatishvili in 2 tight sets, Medina Garrigues to beat Rus in 2 sets and Oprandi to beat Lucic-Baroni in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - S.Williams v Cirstea

Second Quarter - S.Stephens (4) v V.Williams (5)
The second quarter is littered with Americans players as Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams are on course to meet in the quarter-finals.  Sloane has a good draw and will meet Anastasia Rodionova or Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round.  However I am still not convinced by Sloane's form; she showed promise in her 4th round match with Agnieszka Radwanska at Miami, but the way she bombed out in the final set was disappointing.  Tamira Paszek is seeded to meet Sloane in the third round, but Madison Keys may be the one to watch as Paszek has won only one match all season.  A Stephens/Keys match-up would be a great spectacle between arguably, America's top two prospects.

If Venus is fit and healthy then I would fully expect her to make at least the quarter-finals; however a persistent back injury still makes me question her chances this week.  She takes on Monica Puig or Andrea Hlavackova in her first match and should then meet the winner of a tough all-American first rounder between Varvara Lepchenko and Christina McHale.  We were denied Venus-Sloane in Miami and I have a feeling for one reason or another, we may be denied once more...

1st Round Predictions - Mattek-Sands to beat Rodionova in 3 sets, McHale to beat Lepchenko in 3 sets and Puig to beat Hlavackova in 2 tight sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Keys v V.Williams

Third Quarter - M.Barthel (8) v S.Stosur (3)
Sam Stosur
Sam Stosur returns to action in Charleston having missed Miami with a calf injury.  She will face a testing opener against Daniela Hantuchova or Marina Erakovic.  In the third round, Stosur could face a US Open rematch with Laura Robson.  Robson's form has been shaky of late although she did make the Miami doubles final with Laura Raymond.

Mona Barthel is the other top eight seed in this section.  She went out in the second round to Magdalena Rybarikova in Miami and could be in trouble once again because the in-form Garbine Muguruza is likely to be her first opponent in Charleston.  Jelena Jankovic, who had a resurgence in Miami by making the semi-finals, is also in this section and will face off against Melanie Oudin in round one.  JJ has lost twice to Oudin, both on the grass, but the American has slipped into obscurity since winning Birmingham and beating Jankovic in the final.

1st Round Predictions - Jankovic to beat Oudin in 2 sets, Hantuchova to beat Erakovic in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Barthel v Stosur

Fourth Quarter - C S.Navarro (7) v C.Wozniacki (2)
The number two seed, Caroline Wozniacki accepted a late wildcard into the tournament following Sara Errani's withdrawal and will face Francesca Schiavone or Silvia Soler-Espinosa in her opener; Woz has not played Schiavone since 2011 and their matches have always been intriguing.  Schiavone's recent form would suggest though that she will be hard pushed to get past the first match. Wozniacki is projected to meet Yaroslava Shvedova in round three, who is on an incredible slump having lost her last five matches in a row.  Andrea Petkovic has another promising draw and will be the favourite to take on Wozniacki in the third round.

Carla Suarez Navarro earns top eight status with her strong start to 2013 and will play a qualifier or Stephanie Voegele in the second round.  Julia Goerges is the other seed in this section; her form has been disappointing in 2013 and a win over Yulia Putintseva in round one is definitely not a given. Jamie Hampton has been notching up the wins in 2013 free of injury and I think she will make it through to play Carla in round three; Suarez Navarro edged a gruelling three setter in Miami, but I would back Hampton in Charleston.

1st Round Predictions - Hampton to beat Govortsova in 3 sets, Goerges to beat Putintseva in 2 very tight sets, Petkovic to beat Townsend in 2 sets and Soler-Espinosa to beat Schiavone in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Hampton v Wozniacki

Charleston Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Wozniacki
I have gone for Serena again this week; she could easily bomb out early following her win in Miami, but I think she cares about this tournament and will beat Wozniacki in the final.  The draw has a lot of Americans and I think Keys and Hampton will be the two players to shine behind Serena.

I'm away from my computer so will upload my full predictions on Tuesday.  The main draw kicks off tomorrow.  There is also another tournament in Monterrey, Mexico where Angelique Kerber, Marion Bartoli, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Kirilenko are vying for the title; shall load up my full predictions for that on Tuesday too.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

ATP Miami Final Prediction: David Ferrer v Andy Murray

Andy Murray
The final match of what has been a disappointing mens tournament at the Sony Open in Miami will see the number 2 seed, Andy Murray square off against the number 3 seed, David Ferrer.  Murray had to fend off an at times, inspired Richard Gasquet with a 6-7(3) 6-1 6-2 victory. Gasquet started the match in terrific form and hit one breathtaking backhand winner in the third game, of which I have been hunting for a YouTube video!

Murray has played well this week, but nothing special has been required from the Brit who benefited from Gasquet running out of steam yesterday. David Ferrer also got past an opponent who appeared to waver at the end of their semi-final; Tommy Haas played some superb tennis to take the opener, 6-4, but Ferrer's dogged defences clawed his way into a decider and despite going a break down twice, he finished the match in super quick time for a 4-6 6-3 6-2 victory.

Ferrer and Murray last played at Wimbledon where Andy triumphed in a really tough four setter, 6-7(5) 7-6(6) 6-4 7-6(4).  Ferrer has had his fair share of wins over Murray including at last year's Roland Garros.  I think Ferrer has more of a chance against Murray than he does with the other big three.  If Murray can win this match, he takes the number 2 spot in the world from Federer.  This final is certainly his to lose...

Prediction - Murray to beat Ferrer in 2 tight sets

Friday, 29 March 2013

WTA Miami Final Prediction: Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will contest the second Premier Mandatory final of the year at the Sony Open in Miami.  After a shaky few rounds from Serena, she turned on the style in her semi-final with a 6-0 6-3 crushing of Agnieszka Radwanska.  Serena was flawless, particularly in the opening set and hit a staggering 40 winners, which was more points than Aga managed throughout the entire match.

Sharapova was also in dominant form as she defeated Jelena Jankovic, 6-2 6-1 in her semi-final.  It was a rough schedule for JJ, who finished a 2 hour 30 minute tussle with Roberta Vinci at 10pm on Wednesday and was then forced to play her semi-final with Sharapova at 1pm on Thursday.  Still, it just shortened the inevitable as the Russian world number two won her 11th match in a row and in straight sets too.

Sharapova is in great form, but over the course of Indian Wells and Miami she has not really been tested and Serena is going to ber a significant step up.  The American leads the head-to-head by 11 wins to 2 and has won their last 10 encounters.  In Doha earlier this year, Serena strolled past Sharapova, 6-3 6-2.  It is a puzzling head-to-head because Sharapova is feared by so many on tour and has one of the best fighting spirits, but she has a real mental block playing Serena and never brings her best tennis.  I think she is going to really struggle in tomorrow's final because I don't think that she actually believes she can beat an in-form Serena.  I fully expect Serena to bag her biggest title of 2013 so far...

Prediction - Serena to beat Sharapova in 2 sets

ATP Miami Semi-Final Predictions: Murray-Cilic, Haas-Ferrer

Richard Gasquet v Andy Murray
Andy Murray
It had been a good start to the season for Richard Gasquet having claimed two titles in Doha and Montpellier in the first two months of the season. However the Frenchman had struggled to beat the big guns with world number 24, Jerzy Janowicz his highest scalp to date. That has all changed in Miami though where Gasquet followed up his three set win over Nicolas Almagro with a 6-3 6-3 triumph over the number 4 seed, Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals.

Gasquet now plays one of the big four for the first time this year as he takes on Andy Murray, who beat Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-4 victory. Gasquet's head-to-head with Murray is an intriguing one; Murray leads 4-3 with two wins coming from two sets down on the big stage at Roland Garros and most famously, at Wimbledon in 2008. Gasquet did manage a win over Murray on clay in Rome last year, but I think he'll struggle to find a way past Murray on hard courts.

Prediction - Murray to beat Gasquet in 2 tight sets
Tommy Haas v David Ferrer
Tommy Haas's dream week in Miami continued as he reached the semi-finals with a commanding 6-3 6-1 victory over Gilles Simon.  Haas now takes on David Ferrer, who recovered from losing the first set to sweep past Jurgen Melzer, 4-6 6-3 6-0.  The Spaniard has taken advantage of the depleted draw as you would expect of the consistent number 3 seed and another Masters 1000 final is on the horizon having won his first in Paris.  Haas will be no pushover though; having taken out Novak Djokovic in the 4th round, the German veteran is riding a huge wave of confidence.  Ferrer leads the head-to-head with two wins in 2005 and 2008 and although I think Haas is going to be very difficult to beat, Ferrer's dogged determination is likely to win him a place in the final with a hard fought win.
Prediction - Ferrer to beat Haas in 3 sets

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

WTA Miami Semi-Final Predictions: Serena-Radwanska and Sharapova-Jankovic

Serena Williams v Agnieszka Radwanska
Serena Williams
The top two seeds, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska have progressed to the Miami semi-finals where they will meet for their first clash of 2013.  Serena has not been at her best this week as she fought back from 6-2 4-1 down against Dominika Cibulkova in the 4th round and then had to stage a second set fightback to defeat Li Na in a tame quarter-final, 6-3 7-6(5).  Radwanska has also struggled to hit top form, but like Serena, showed some fight to come through her last two rounds where she fell a set behind to both Sloane Stephens and Kirsten Flipkens.

Radwanska's quarter-final win over Flipkens sounded like an excellent match with the big talking point being her incredible hotshot, which you can see below... I love Flipkens's reaction.  The head-to-head for Serena-Aga is as you would expect, overwhelmingly in favour of Williams.  In four matches, Aga has won one set, which came in the Wimbledon final when we can all agree that Serena got very tight.  This court will offer Radwanska some opportunities and Serena is not playing at her best this week, particularly on serve.  I'm still going for Serena though!

Prediction - Serena to beat Radwanska in 2 sets

Shot of the year so far from Aga?

Maria Sharapova v Jelena Jankovic
The second of the semi-finals is one I do not think many would have predicted as a resurgent Jelena Jankovic will play the in-form, Maria Sharapova.  The 4th semi-finalist was always going to be difficult to predict with Victoria Azarenka's withdrawal, but I am surprised to see Jankovic there who has had a great week with straight set wins over Nadia Petrova and Sorana Cirstea, and a tough three set win over Roberta Vinci, 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 in 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Sharapova's quarter-final was just one minute shorter as she was forced to rely on all her fighting instincts to get past Sara Errani, 7-5 7-5.  It was an absolutely brutal encounter, both for the players on the court and for the fans watching.  Errani is getting closer to a set in this match-up, but just couldn't take her opportunities.  Sharapova and JJ last met in Cincy in what was a hilarious final for many different reasons.  Hopefully we get another dramatic match, but I think this is where Jankovic's run will end...

Prediction - Sharapova to beat Jankovic in 2 sets

ATP Miami Quarter-Final Predictions: Berdych-Gasquet and Murray-Cilic

Tomas Berdych v Richard Gasquet
Richard Gasquet
Richard Gasquet enjoyed arguably his best win of 2013 to date with a 6-7(3) 7-5 7-6(3) victory over the number 12 in the world, Nicolas Almagro.  It was a very tight match, but Almagro was poor in the breaker and Gasquet took his opportunities.  Gasquet will now play Tomas Berdych, who swept past Sam Querrey, 6-1 6-1 in just 51 minutes.  Berdych was on the edge of going out in round three, but saved two match points in an incredibly gutsy performance against Alejandro Falla.  Berdych won just last week over Gasquet in Indian Wells with a 6-1 7-5 victory.  Gasquet has played better in Miami, but Berdych will be another step up for the Frenchman and one that I believe will be too far...

Prediction - Berdych to beat Gasquet in 2 very tight sets

Andy Murray v Marin Cilic
Andy Murray is now the highest seed remaining in the mens tournament following Novak Djokovic's 4th round exit to Tommy Haas. His quarter-final opponent will be Marin Cilic, who was in excellent form to dispatch of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets.  The head-to-head is not a pretty sight for Cilic who has lost the last 4 encounters with Murray.  The most recent of those at last year's US Open was an extremely painful one as he blew a set and 5-1 lead before collapsing in 4 sets.  Murray is playing well this week and has defeated Bernard Tomic, Grigor Dimitrov and Andreas Seppi, all in straight sets.  Cilic has weapons and can be dangerous in-form, but I would still always fancy Murray to prevail.

Prediction - Murray to beat Cilic in 2 tight sets

ATP Miami Quarter-Final Predictions: Ferrer-Melzer, Haas-Simon

David Ferrer v Jurgen Melzer
Gilles Simon
The second quarter has been entirely plain sailing for David Ferrer who reached the quarter-finals with a straight sets win over Kei Nishikori, 6-4 6-2.  Ferrer's projected opponent in the quarter-finals was supposed to be Juan Martin del Potro, but following his exit in round two to Tobias Kamke, it has been a free-for-all; Jurgen Melzer emerges from the bottom half of section two, which saw all of its seeds lose in the second round.  Melzer defeated Albert Ramos in three sets and is on a nice run of form having won an Challenger event before Miami.  Ferrer has won 6 of 8 encounters with Melzer including the last 3.  It has been a perfect draw for Ferrer and he really should make the semi-finals...

Prediction - Ferrer to beat Melzer in 2 tight sets

Tommy Haas v Gilles Simon
Tommy Haas produced the upset of the week and the whole of March with a comprehensive 6-2 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic in just 80 minutes.  I really did not see this coming! Haas now takes on Gilles Simon who claimed a mini-upset win over Janko Tipsarevic, 5-7 6-2 6-2.  The top half of the mens draw resembles an ATP 250 line-up and offers a great opportunity for big ranking points.  Haas leads the head-to-head with Simon by 4 wins to 1 including two wins in 2012.  Both have played well this week, but obviously Haas has had the biggest results and he certainly has more weapons than Simon.  It is possible that Haas could have a come down, but I think he will power past Simon...

 Prediction - Haas to beat Simon in 3 sets

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

WTA Miami Quarter-Final Predictions: Sharapova-Errani, Jankovic-Vinci

1. Maria Sharapova v Sara Errani
Maria Sharapova
A rematch of the Indian Wells quarter-final between Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani will take place in Miami; in fact Sharapova and Errani are the only two players to have made quarter-finals at both Indian Wells and Miami.  Errani has had another excellent week; she tore past Daniela Hantuchova and Simona Halep before a comeback victory over Ana Ivanovic in the 4th round, 1-6 6-4 6-2.  In their last match-up at the French Open, Errani had also lost the first set to Ivanovic, 6-1 before coming through in 3 sets.  Sharapova had an easier time of it yesterday with a 6-2 6-2 win over the in-form Czech player, Klara Zakopalova.  Sharapova and Errani have met three times before and all of them have gone the way of Maria in straight sets.  Errani did chalk up some set points in their last match in Indian Wells, but I still think Sharapova will once again prevail and make the semi-finals.

Prediction - Sharapova to beat Errani in 2 tight sets

2. Jelena Jankovic v Roberta Vinci
Victoria Azarenka's withdrawal and third round exits for Angelique Kerber and Nadia Petrova gave way to a decimated 4th quarter and it is Jelena Jankovic and Roberta Vinci who will square off in an unlikely quarter-final at a Premier Mandatory.  Huge points are on offer for whoever can prevail and history would suggest it will be a close one.  Jankovic leads the head-to-head by 3 wins to 2, but Vinci has won their last two matches including a marathon in Sydney earlier this year with a 3-6 6-4 7-6(4) scoreline.  Jankovic's form in Miami has been by far the more impressive with straight set wins over Nadia Petrova in round three and Sorana Cirstea in round four.  Vinci, meanwhile had her second three set epic in two days as she edged past Alize Cornet, 2-6 6-4 6-4.  Form points to JJ, previous matches to Vinci... I'm going for Jankovic in a tight three setter.

Prediction - Jankovic to beat Vinci in 3 sets

Monday, 25 March 2013

WTA Miami Quarter-Final Predictions: Serena-Li, Radwanska-Flipkens

1. Serena Williams v Li Na
Li Na
The womens draw has been rather decimated in places, but what looked like the most anticipated of the potential quarters has come to life as world number one, Serena Williams will take on the Australian Open finalist, Li Na. Serena was on the brink of exiting Miami at 6-2 4-1 down to Dominika Cibulkova in their 4th round match, but she somehow found a way back into the match and the rest was history.  She eventually came through 2-6 6-4 6-2, but it was not a magical performance.

Li overcame the young Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza in straight sets, 7-6(6) 6-2, but like Serena it was not a performance to be proud of.  Li blew a 5-1 first set lead and hit a ton of errors, as did Muguruza in what sounded like a streaky match.  Serena has won 6 of 7 previous match-ups with Li; however all of them have been tough and lengthy. Neither played well in the 4th round, but I think Serena will be the more match tough and if Li did get into a winning position, I am not convinced she would be able to close it out.

Prediction - Serena to beat Li in 2 tight sets

2. Agnieszka Radwanska v Kirsten Flipkens
The incredible form of Kirsten Flipkens has continued in Miami as she backed up an upset win of Petra Kvitova in round three with a battling three set victory over the in-form wildcard, Ajla Tomljanovic. Flipkens will reach a new career high when the new rankings are released on Monday and she deserves it as she has been extremely consistent this year and plays a different and refreshing brand of tennis to most.  She now takes on Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter-finals, who started super slow, but finished frantically fast with a 4-6 6-2 6-0 win over Sloane Stephens.  Radwanska's magic was there for all to see and the way she turned the match around was impressive because Stephens was completely dominating in the first set.  Radwanska won her only previous match with Flipkens in a Fed Cup match back in 2010.  It has been a great week for Flipkens, but Radwanska is much more experienced in these big match occasions and will be the big favourite.

Prediction - Radwanska to beat Flipkens in 2 sets

ATP Miami 4th Round Predictions: Ferrer faces Nishikori, Djokovic plays Haas

1. David Ferrer v Kei Nishikori
David Ferrer
The two highest seeds in this section have comfortably made it to the 4th round and for one of David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori, a great shot at making the semi-finals awaits.  Ferrer defeated Fabio Fognini in the third round, 6-1 7-5, meanwhile Nishikori lost just one more game in a 6-2 7-5 win over Xavier Malisse. I predicted Nishikori to R4, but was concerned about an abdominal injury that saw him limp to a straight sets defeat to Carlos Berlocq in Indian Wells.  Nishikori has beaten Ferrer before at the Olympics last year, but Ferrer romped to a victory at the Australian Open where Nishikori was not 100%.  I am still not sure about Nishikori's fitness so I am going for Ferrer in this one.

Prediction - Ferrer to beat Nishikori in 2 tight sets

Novak Djokovic v Tommy Haas
The 34 year-old, Tommy Haas enjoyed a superb straight sets win over Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-3 6-2 and his reward is a match-up with the world number one, Novak Djokovic.  The Serb was never troubled in a 6-2 6-4 win over Somdev Devvarman in round three.  It is great to see Haas competing on the tour and he is playing some great tennis at the minute as he has reached the last 16 in both Indian Wells and Miami. Haas has beaten Djokovic on two occasions, both on grass in 2009 at Halle and Wimbledon.  It would be a real headline grabber if Haas could oust Djokovic, but I cannot see it happening in Miami.

Prediction - Djokovic to beat Haas in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)

Richard Gasquet v Nicolas Almagro
One of the tightest 4th rounders promises to be between France and Spain with Richard Gasquet up against Nicolas Almagro.  Gasquet had a good win over Mikhail Youzhny, 6-3 6-4, meanwhile Almagro defeated David Goffin in straight sets, who had knocked out Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round. Gasquet has won two titles this year and racked up many wins, but he cannot seem to find his A-game when he plays the big players, which is really holding him back this year and has done throughout his whole career.  In a battle of the beautiful backhands, Gasquet should be winning these types of matches, but I can see the Spaniard edging this one...

Prediction - Almagro to beat Gasquet in 3 sets 

Best of the rest: 4th round mens predictions
Gilles Simon to beat Janko Tipsarevic in 3 sets
Jurgen Melzer to beat Albert Ramos in 3 sets
Tomas Berdych to beat Sam Querrey in 3 sets
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to beat Marin Cilic in 2 tight sets
Andy Murray to beat Andreas Seppi in 2 sets

Sunday, 24 March 2013

WTA Miami 4th Round Predictions: Serena-Cibulkova, Aga-Sloane and Jankovic-Cirstea

1. Serena Williams v Dominika Cibulkova
Serena Williams
Serena Williams was a slow starter in her third round match with Ayumi Morita falling 0-3 down in the first set, but she turned things around to win six straight games and then complete a 6-3 6-3 win.  Her 4th round opponent will be Dominika Cibulkova, who has had her best week since making the final in Sydney back in January with straight set wins over Kristina Mladenovic and Romina Oprandi.  It is no surprise really as the Slovak has proclaimed that this is one of her favourite tournaments.  

Serena and Domi have met on one previous occasion and its a match I saw live from the back row of Centre Court where Serena won 6-0 7-5.  In this round last year, Cibulkova pushed Victoria Azarenka all the way in an absolute thriller and she certainly has the capability to zone with her powerful groundstrokes.  Serena is unlikely to be thrown off course here, but I think Cibulkova can at least make it competitive.

Prediction - Serena to beat Cibulkova in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)

2. Agnieszka Radwanska v Sloane Stephens
The star match on Saturday was cancelled when Venus Williams was forced to pull out of her third round clash against Sloane Stephens with a persistent back injury.  Sloane now takes on Agnieszka Radwanska in the round of 16; Radwanska had a really tough match yesterday against an inspired Magdalena Rybarikova, 7-6(5) 2-6 6-3 in what was a fun, fun match full of cat and mouse tennis.  Aga and Sloane have met once back in Cincy last year where Radwanska prevailed 6-1 4-6 6-4.  I am still not convinced by Sloane's form who snapped a losing streak to Olga Govortsova in round one.  Radwanska's form has also been shaky, but my instinct says the Pole will win this rather comfortably.

Prediction - Radwanska to beat Stephens in 2 sets

3. Jelena Jankovic v Sorana Cirstea
The destruction of the fourth quarter continued on Sunday as the two highest seeds remaining, both fell in straight sets.  Jelena Jankovic had her best win of the year against the number 11 seed Nadia Petrova, 7-6(7) 6-4.  It was a rare gem of a serving performance from JJ, who now takes on Sorana Cirstea who enjoyed a rare day of few errors as she dominated an injury-affected Angelique Kerber, 6-4 6-0.  If you put Kerber's performance to one side, it was a very solid effort from the Romanian, who made just two unforced errors in the second set.  Cirstea leads the head-to-head 2-1, and it was against the Serb at the French Open in 2009 when she had her big breakthrough.  Jankovic won their last match in dominant fashion in Dallas last year, 6-2 6-1.  Cirstea is still extremely unpredictable, which makes this a very tough match to call; having watched Cirstea's match today, i'm tentatively going for her to win this one...

Prediction - Cirstea to beat Jankovic in 3 sets

4. Garbine Muguruza v Li Na
Not many would have predicted that the talented Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza could have defended her 4th round points from last year for Miami, but that is exactly what she had done with victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Caroline Wozniacki.  Yesterday's win was the best of her career so far as she comprehensively beat the Indian Wells finalist 2 and 4.  Next up for Muguruza is Li Na who has looked super sharp this week as she beat Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2 6-4 in the third round. It is a first career match-up and I hope to catch some of this match because I have yet to watch Muguruza play; still predicting a Li win though.

Prediction - Li to beat Muguruza in 2 tight sets

Best of the rest: 4th round womens predictions:
Kirsten Flipkens to Ajla Tomljanovic in 2 sets 
Sara Errani to beat Ana Ivanovic in 2 sets
Maria Sharapova to beat Klara Zakopalova in 2 sets
Carla Suarez Navarro/Roberta Vinci to beat Alize Cornet in 2 sets

ATP Miami 3rd Round: Crunch time for Americans, Querrey plays Raonic, Isner against Cilic

Milos Raonic
1. Milos Raonic v Sam Querrey
The top-ranked American, Sam Querrey faces a tough task to replicate a 4th round performance from last week in Indian Wells as he squares up against fellow bullet server, Milos Raonic.  Querrey took three sets to get past Lukas Kubot, meanwhile Raonic won all of his first serve points in a straight sets win over Guillaume Rufin.  I remember bigging up Raonic for Wimbledon last year, but he fell in a tight four setter to Querrey.  Raonic did turn the tables on Querrey with a straight sets win in San Jose this year, but I think this will be a see-saw match-up over time with not much to call between the pair.  On this occasion, I like Raonic's chances...

Prediction - Raonic to beat Querrey in 2 tight sets

2. John Isner v Marin Cilic
John Isner
Yesterday was a lucky escape for John Isner as he came within two points of losing to Ivan Dodig, but a dodgy call from the umpire worked in Isner's favour and he survived a complete momentum swinger of a match, 4-6 7-5 7-6(5).  Isner now takes on Marin Cilic who defeated Santiago Giraldo and will be the favourite going into this match.  Isner's win over Dodig could have been the match that changes all of the former American number one's fortunes, but it didn't have that feel to it and I think Cilic will take this one rather comfortably.

Prediction - Cilic to beat Isner in 2 tight sets

3. Andy Murray v Grigor Dimitrov
Andy Murray dismissed a worse-for-wear Bernard Tomic, 6-3 6-1 and now faces another promising prospect in Grigor Dimitrov.  The Bulgarian benefitted from a withdrawal at 6-4 1-1 from Simone BolelliDimitrov has certainly been more consistent on the tour this year and showed peaks of potential, particularly in the first week in Brisbane where he made the final and in fact, lost to Murray in the final.  I think Murray will have a strong week in Miami and I do not see Dimitrov having much hope in this one.

Prediction - Murray to beat Dimitrov in 2 sets

Best of the rest: mens 3rd round predictions
Gasquet to beat Youzhny in 3 sets
Almagro to beat Goffin in 2 sets
Berdych to beat Falla in 2 sets
Tsonga to beat Nieminen in 2 sets
Seppi to beat Bellucci in 3 sets

Miami 3rd Round Predictions: Grand Slam Champs, Kuznetsova and Ivanovic to clash

1. Svetlana Kuznetsova v Ana Ivanovic
Ana Ivanovic
The highlight of Sunday's schedule will see two former Roland Garros champions go head-to-head in what promises to be an intriguing third round match.  Svetlana Kuznetsova took out the number 18 seed Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4 6-4 in round two to follow up a solid opener against Lourdes Dominguez Lino; with so many points on offer this week, it has already been a good week for Kuznetsova who is languishing at 45 in the rankings.  Ana Ivanovic could easily have been troubled by Urszula Radwanska, but made no fuss in getting past the Pole with a 6-2 6-1 victory.  

Kuznetsova and Ivanovic have played each other on many occasions and it is Ivanovic who leads the head-to-head by 7 wins to 3, which includes a straight sets win in their most recent match-up from Rome last year.  Kuznetsova is playing with much more confidence and vigour these days, but I am going to go for Ivanovic to prevail in a tight three setter.

Prediction - Ivanovic to beat Kuznetsova in 3 sets

2. Jelena Jankovic v Nadia Petrova
The two Serbian stars of womens tennis both have tough Russians to deal with on Sunday as Jelena Jankovic takes on Nadia Petrova.  JJ won her first match at the Sony Open with a 6-3 7-5 win over American wildcard, Victoria Duval as she recovered from a break deficit in the second set to triumph.  Petrova has recovered well from an early season slump and was no match for Zheng Jie, 6-3 6-1 as she recorded her 10th consecutive victory over the Chinese player if you exclude retirement wins.  Petrova though has struggled with Jankovic in the past and has lost their last their four matches; what does go in her favour is that they have not played since 2008 and Jankovic is a shadow of the player who reached the number one spot in the same year.  There are massive opportunities in this fourth quarter of the womens draw and if Petrova keeps her head in check, its hers for the taking...

Prediction - Petrova to beat Jankovic in 2 tight sets

3. Angelique Kerber v Sorana Cirstea
Sorana Cirstea
Angelique Kerber defeated Francesca Schiavone in her opening match, 6-7(5) 6-3 6-2.  Kerber had three set points in that opening set before losing on the tiebreak, but she eventually found her way past the slumping Italian.  Kerber now takes on hard-hitter, Sorana Cirstea, who was on verge of losing to Silvia Soler-Espinosa at a set and break down, but she clicked the switch in her game to record a 2-6 7-5 6-2 comeback win.  A few seasons ago, Cirstea would have lost this match, but she is at least starting to show a little bit more consistency in her results and a way of turning around those bad days.  Cirstea came close to beating Agnieszka Radwanska in Indian Wells and Kerber will be a similar kind of opponent.  Kerber won their only previous match at the beginning of 2012 in Hobart.  I think this will be another tough one for Kerber, but she has a habit of finding a way to the win in tight three set matches...

Prediction - Kerber to beat Cirstea in 3 sets

4. Kevin Anderson v Janko Tipsarevic
As you will have noticed from the leading three matches, the mens draw is certainly taking a back seat for me this week.  The 3rd rounder that most caught my eye was that between Kevin Anderson and Janko Tipsarevic.  The Serb won his first match since the Australian Open in round two with a comfortable 6-2 6-4 victory over Dudi Sela.  Anderson has been recording some excellent results on the tour this year and he won in straight sets against the Vina del Mar champion, Horacio Zeballos.  Anderson is not the kind of player that Tipsarevic would want to meet in the draw as he attempts to rebuild his year.  Anderson beat Tipsy in their only previous match and I expect another win here...

Prediction - Anderson to beat Tipsarevic in 2 sets

Best of the rest: womens 3rd round predictions
Sara Errani to beat Simona Halep in 2 sets
Maria Kirilenko to beat Klara Zakopalova in 2 sets
Maria Sharapova to beat Elena Vesnina in 2 sets
Carla Suarez Navarro to beat Roberta Vinci in 2 tight sets
Alize Cornet to beat Lauren Davis in 3 sets

Best of the rest: mens 3rd round predictions
Novak Djokovic to beat Somdev Devvarman in 2 sets
Tommy Haas to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov in 3 sets
Gilles Simon to beat Grega Zemlja in 2 sets
David Ferrer to beat Fabio Fognini in 2 sets
Kei Nishikori to beat Xavier Malisse in 3 sets
James Blake to beat Albert Ramos in 3 sets
Jurgen Melzer to beat Tobias Kamke in 2 sets

Saturday, 23 March 2013

ATP Miami 2nd Round Predictions: Murray faces stern opener against Tomic

1. Andy Murray v Bernard Tomic
Andy Murray
Miami in general but particularly the mens tournament, is completely uninspiring for me at the moment, not helped by an overwhelming lack of TV coverage from what is apparently one of the biggest tournaments of the year.  The one second round mens match that has offers potential will see Andy Murray take on Bernard Tomic.  The wild Aussie did not have an easy first match up against Marc Gicquel as he wrestled past the Frenchman in two very tight sets, 7-5 7-6(3).  Tomic's year has stabilised somewhat since winning the title in Sydney and making a respectable third round at the Australian Open.  His form though has been much more consistent compared to last year and he nearly netted a big top 10 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Marseille, letting slip a few match points.

Murray will play his first match since losing in the quarter-finals of Indian Wells to Juan Martin del Potro.  He never hit top form, but it wasn't much of a surprise as he had taken a lengthy break from the tour.  I think he will do much better in Miami although he has a significantly tougher draw compared to last week.  Murray has beaten Tomic before, in straight sets, but I anticipate a much closer match this time round.  Tomic seems to have his head screwed on these days and I wouldn't be surprised to see him nick a set.

Prediction - Murray to beat Tomic in 2 sets (1 tiebreak, 1 easy)

Best of the rest:
Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet should cruise past Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Olivier Rochus respectively.  The other top eight seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should also come through in straight sets against Victor Troicki.  If you are looking for upsets, Jarkko Nieminen, who had a very impressive comeback win over David Nalbandian yesterday, should comfortably take out Martin Klizan too.  A bit more high risk, but I think Ivan Dodig will beat John Isner too.

2nd mens predictions:
Gasquet to beat Rochus in 2 sets
Youzhny to beat Lu in 3 sets
Kohlschreiber to beat Goffin in 2 sets
Almagro to beat Pella in 2 sets
Raonic to beat Rufin in 2 sets
Querrey to beat Kubot in 2 tight sets
Verdasco to beat Falla in 3 sets
Berdych to beat Gimeno-Traver in 2 sets

Tsonga to beat Troicki in 2 tight sets
Nieminen to beat Klizan in 2 sets
Dodig to beat Isner in 3 sets
Cilic to beat Giraldo in 2 sets
Seppi to beat Bedene in 2 sets
Janowicz to beat Bellucci in 3 sets
Dimitrov to beat Bolelli in 2 sets

Friday, 22 March 2013

WTA Miami 3rd Round Predictions: Venus and Sloane set to clash

1. Venus Williams v Sloane Stephens
Venus Williams
There were two third round match-ups that I had my eye on; the first, which was Radwanska/Barthel bombed out yesterday when Mona lost to Magdalena Rybarikova, but the second one has thankfully materialised as Venus Williams will take on Sloane Stephens in the showcase match on Saturday.  Venus edged past a dogged Kimiko Date-Krumm who saved a flurry of match points before eventually succumbing to a 7-6(3) 3-6 6-4 defeat.  By all accounts, it was a great match and that does not surprise me at all having watched their second round match at Wimbledon in 2011, which remains one of my favourite matches from the past couple of years.

Sloane recovered well from a shocker of a start to beat Olga Govortsova, 0-6 6-4 6-4 and snap a three match losing streak.  Venus and Sloane have never played before, but we know how Sloane got on against her sister with that superb win over Serena in the Australian Open quarter-finals.  I originally went for Venus to win this match and I am still sticking by that premise.  Although neither has been playing well of late,  I think Sloane is stil adjusting to the added limelight and that Venus's greater experience will help her claw her way into the 4th round with a gutsy win.

Prediction - Venus Williams to beat Stephens in 3 sets

Kirsten Flipkens
2. Petra Kvitova v Kirsten Flipkens
After losing the first set of her second round match against Peng Shuai, Petra Kvitova looked in danger of facing a swift exit, but she recovered well to take the next two sets and her place in the third round with a 5-7 6-2 6-2 win.  Her next opponent is Kirsten Flipkens, who had a straightforward win over Stefanie Voegele, 6-4 6-2.  Flipkens has been super consistent this year and has only had one poor result, which was a first round exit at Florianopolis to Olga Puchkova.  Kvitova and Flipkens have not played for a couple of years and their head-to-head currently stands at 1-1.  Kvitova is always going to struggle in the Miami heat and I am going to be bold and go for Flipken's consistency and versatility to eek out the upset win.

Prediction - Flipkens to beat Kvitova in 3 sets

3. Caroline Wozniacki v Garbine Muguruza
Caroline Wozniacki had a mammoth struggle on her hands to get past Karolina Pliskova in her opening match, but she eventually made her way into the third round with a 5-7 6-3 6-3 win in 2 hours and 17 minutes.  The Dane is defending semi-final points from last year and takes on the up-and-coming Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza in round three.  Muguruza defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 4-6 6-2 6-2, who continues to struggle following that great first week in Brisbane.  Muguruza made the 4th round in Indian Wells and has backed it up with another excellent week here too.  I don't see an upset in this one, but it will be interesting to see how Muguruza shapes up against the solid rock wall of Wozniacki...

Prediction - Wozniacki to beat Muguruza in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)

Best of the rest: womens 3rd round predictions
Serena Williams to beat Ayumi Morita in 2 sets
Dominika Cibulkova to beat Romina Oprandi in 2 very tight sets
Li Na to beat Varvara Lepchenko in 2 sets
Agnieszka Radwanska to beat Magdalena Rybarikova in 2 sets
Andrea Petkovic to beat Ajia Tomljanovic in 3 sets

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Miami 2nd Round Predictions: Azarenka takes on Keys, Makarova/Kuznetsova to clash

Victoria Azarenka
*Vika pulled out before her match with Madison Keys so this first match preview is irrelevant now! Also just realised I had titled the thread Indian Wells :-S

1. Victoria Azarenka v Madison Keys
Will she, won't she? There has been much speculation over Victoria Azarenka's participation in Miami, but no news suggests she will take to the court in her first match, which will certainly not be easy as she takes on the young American, Madison Keys, for the first time.  Keys recorded a double bagel win in the first round over the superbly named, Allie Kiick.  The hard hitting American is having a good 2013 and she is frequently getting to size up her game against the big guns and Azarenka is the highest ranked player she will have played in her short career up till now.  So Madison's chances? Well, it all depends on Vika really, but I fancy the new world number three to come out strong and take the match in straight sets.

Prediction - Azarenka to beat Keys in 2 tight sets

2. Ekaterina Makarova v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Svetlana Kuznetsova soared in Melbourne when she reached the quarter-finals, but since then, her form has been so-so; not being seeded at these events is definitely more troublesome and she will take on fellow Russian, Ekaterina Makarova in the second round.  Kuznetsova beat Lourdes Dominguez Lino, 6-3 6-3 in the first round and will probably be the favourite going into this match despite not being the seed.  Makarova did great in Melbourne, like Kuznetsova, but has since struggled for consistency and bombed out in her first match at Indian Wells to Garbine Muguruza.  I think this will be a patchy match with little rhythm, but I sense Kuznetsova will have the stronger game to take it in the decider.

Prediction - Kuznetsova to beat Makarova in 3 lopsided sets

3. Alexandr Dolgopolov v Nikolay Davydenko
The best mens match for me comes from the first quarter where a dangerous floater is searching to upset a seed.  Nikolay Davydenko dished out two bagels to Paolo Lorenzi, but still needed three sets to make the second round in a strange, 6-0 2-6 6-0 scoreline.  His reward is a match-up with the quirky, Alexandr Dolgopolov.  The Ukranian has an incredibly watchable game, but his form and consistency in the last year has been disappointing and he has failed to push on up the rankings following a break-out year in 2011 when he made his first Grand Slam quarter-final in Australia.  Davydenko leads their head-to-head with two straight set wins in 2011 and 2012 and on a slow hard court, I fancy Davydenko to cruise this one.

Prediction - Davydenko to beat Dolgopolov in 2 sets

4. Ana Ivanovic v Urszula Radwanska
Urszula Radwanska
There are a number of good looking womens matches for Friday, but my last pick goes to Ana Ivanovic and Urszula Radwanska.  Ivanovic went out to Mona Barthel in Indian Wells in what was by all accounts, a dejected performance.  Radwanska had a much better tournament and already has one win under her belt in Miami thanks to a straight sets win over Annika Beck, 6-3 6-1.  This will be a tough opener for Ivanovic, who lost to Radwanska back in Tokyo last year having won the opening set of their second round match.  She will need to pick herself up from last week and get stuck in here with a workable draw that with some good performances, could see a 4th round or even quarter-final appearance.  Urszula is playing well at the moment, but I think Ivanovic will be scouting for revenge...

Prediction - Ivanovic to beat U.Radwanska in 2 tight sets

Best of the rest: 2nd round womens predictions
Sara Errani to beat Daniela Hantuchova in 3 sets
Simona Halep to beat Tamira Paszek in 3 sets *upset alert*
Maria Kirilenko to beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2 tight sets
Klara Zakopalova to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues in 3 sets
Elena Vesnina to beat Donna Vekic in 2 sets
Maria Sharapova to beat Eugenie Bouchard in 2 sets
Angelique Kerber to beat Francesca Schiavone in 2 sets
Sorana Cirstea to beat Silvia Soler-Espinosa in 3 sets
Jelena Jankovic to beat Victoria Duval in 2 sets
Nadia Petrova to beat Zheng Jie in 2 sets
Roberta Vinci to beat Christina McHale in 3 sets
Carla Suarez Navarro to beat Jamie Hampton in 3 sets
Laura Robson to beat Alize Cornet in 2 sets *upset alert*

Best of the rest: 2nd round mens predictions
Novak Djokovic to beat Lukas Rosol in 2 sets
Somdev Devvarman to beat Feliciano Lopez in 3 sets *upset alert*
Tommy Haas to beat Igor Sijsling in 3 sets
Gilles Simon to beat Lleyton Hewitt in a third set tiebreak
Florian Mayer to beat Grega Zemlja in 2 sets
Kevin Anderson to beat Horacio Zeballos in 2 sets
Janko Tipsarevic to beat Dudi Sela in 2 tight sets
David Ferrer to beat Dmitry Tursunov in 2 sets
Michael Llodra to beat Fabio Fognini in 3 sets *upset alert*
Xavier Malisse to beat Jeremy Chardy in 2 tight sets *upset alert*
Kei Nishikori to beat Victor Hanescu in 2 sets
Albert Ramos to beat Juan Monaco in 3 sets *upset alert*
Julien Benneteau to beat James Blake in 2 tight sets
Marcel Granollers to beat Jurgen Melzer in 3 sets
Juan Martin del Potro to beat Tobias Kamke in 2 sets

You can keep up-to-date with my original predictions by clicking on the tabs above and follow my updates on Twitter too :-) 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

WTA Miami 2nd Round Predictions: Petkovic comeback faces Bartoli, Li returns against Bertens

Andrea Petkovic
1. Andrea Petkovic v Marion Bartoli
Andrea Petkovic had a superb win yesterday over Bojana Jovanovski, 6-3 6-1 in just 57 minutes on the first day of action in Miami.  The German player, who was plagued by injuries in 2012, is giving it another go this year and hopefully, she can stay injury free and healthy with a less intensive training schedule.  She now takes on Marion Bartoli in an interesting second round match.  Bartoli had a good tournament in Indian Wells, falling to the ever-consistent Sara Errani in the 4th round.  She has always done well at this stage of the season; last season in Miami, she broke the winning streak of Victoria Azarenka and made the semi-finals.  The head-to-head is kind of irrelevant, but history would prove that it is a close call between these two.  Despite the early win, Petkovic is still making baby steps back on the tour and I cannot see her getting past Bartoli in this one...

Prediction - Bartoli to beat Petkovic in 2 sets

2. Li Na v Kiki Bertens
Li Na makes her return to the WTA tour following nearly two months out after the Australian Open final defeat to Victoria Azarenka where she twisted her ankle.  She deemed herself 100% ready in her interviews from the all-access hour yesterday in Miami and a solid test will await in the second round up against Kiki Bertens.  Bertens has had a very consistent year up till now and is close to breaking the top 40.  She has yet to lose a game in Miami as her opponent, Anna Tatishvili, retired hurt at 0-6 0-1 in the first round.  I think Bertens will push Li to start with, who will obviously be rusty to begin with, but in the end, Li has the firepower and the wealth of experience to get through this first encounter.

Prediction - Li to beat Bertens in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)

Best of the rest: 2nd round womens predictions
Serena Williams to beat Flavia Pennetta in 2 sets
Yanina Wickmayer to beat Ayumi Morita in 2 tight sets
Romina Oprandi to beat Lucie Safarova in 3 sets *upset alert*
Dominika Cibulkova to beat Kristina Mladenovic in 2 sets
Caroline Wozniacki to beat Karolina Pliskova in 2 tight sets
Garbine Muguruza to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets *upset alert*
Irina-Camelia Begu to beat Varvara Lepchenko in 3 sets
Agnieszka Radwanska to beat Hsieh Su-Wei in 2 sets
Mona Barthel to beat Magdalena Rybarikova in 3 sets
Venus Williams to beat Kimiko Date-Krumm in 2 sets
Sloane Stephens to beat Olga Govortsova in 2 tight sets
Julia Goerges to beat Alja Tomljanovic in 2 sets
Kirsten Flipkens to beat Stephanie Voegele in 2 sets
Petra Kvitova to beat Peng Shuai in 3 sets