Monday, January 21, 2013

Australian Open QF Preview

Azarenka vs Kuznetsova

World number one and defending champion Vika Azarenka reached the quarter-final without having faced much of a challenge so far, if we forget of her 3rd round match against Hampton, where she was forced to a 3rd set, where she didn't have much problems to face. Vika looked in great shape and surely determined on doing her best to defend her title here in Australian, her first and so far only Major. It has to be said though, that she hasn't faced a single seeded player so far as Urzula Radwanska was eliminated by Hampton in the first round and then in the 4th she dispatched Vesnina, who had won a very thrilling battle with Vinci just the round before.
Her next opponent is going to be unseeded once again, but the kind of non-seed one doesn't want to find on her own way: Svetlana Kuznetsova is a two-time Slam winner and former world number two coming back from a long break due to injury. Sveta had already made a great impact on the draw as she came through one of the highest quality match played so far to defeat former world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 in the third set. On her way to this QF Sveta showed a new fighting spirit and a far more focused game, without the black-outs that made her free fall in the ranking just a couple of seasons ago: the impressive scores with which waled to the third round and then the mental edge displayed in both 3rd and 4th are the proof.
Nonetheless Azarenka surely will enter the court as the clear favourite and a win by the Russian would be a great surprise, though I expect Sveta to make it close and even have her chances, I believe Vika will win this in straight 7-5 6-4.

Williams vs Stephens

The all American QF has a lot of fascination in it, as the two girls are somewhat of the past vs the future match up that everyone hopes to happen, Serena, the greatest player of that era and Sloane, the hope for the future of the American tennis, the sign that Williams made a track to follow for other black American girls. But it's highly improbable that the young Stephens could give much troubles to the clear favourite Williams, not yet at least.
Their way to that result alone would be enough of a reason to think so as Serena lost 6 games in all her matches combined so far, whilst Sloane had to win a very tough 3 sets battle against the Serbian hope Jovanovski just in the round before. Moreover Sloane might feel a little all-content by having reached her first Slam QF, while for Serena anything but a win is for sure a disappointment at this rate. 6-2 6-3 is my prediction in favour of Serena.

Li Na vs Radwanska

World number 4 Agnieska Radwanska is surely one of the players you can always count on having a deep run in whatever tournament she enters, but after having reached the final in Wimbledon last year, she has then acquired the status of slam contender and the terrific form in which she has arrived here in Melbourne can't but confirm that. Aga has indeed yet to lose a match since the beginning of the season after the back to back titles in Auckland and Sydney. What's more, she still hasn't dropped a set in those Australian Open taming in two easy sets Ivanovic in the 4th round too.
Her opponent is a very much more challenging one, as Chinese Li Na has showed her love for the Slam Downunder many times in the past, having reached her first slam semifinal and final on those courts. The Chinese still reaches that match having lost their latest meeting just a couple of weeks ago and in her last match against Goerges in R4 needed some help from the German to get away from the match in straight sets as her consistency was far from impressive and if she wants to trouble the Pole she can't afford any drop in her game level and will need to be ready for long rallies, where she has to play aggressive yet producing few errors, if she wants to stand a chance.
If we had to go for an upset out of the all QFs, that's the match where the chances are higher, but I still don't see Radwanska losing this, though she might drop a set taking the match for 6-3 5-7 6-2

Makarova vs Sharapova

As like as we have the all American match-up, the bottom half offers an all Russian one, where as like as in the other, one of the most successful player of that era is being featured. Maria Sharapova has already won once here in the past and last year she was capable of reaching the final before being completely blown out of court by Azarenka in it. Knowing the fighting spirit of the Russian she is surely back here willing to take revenge for that and winning her second title on the Rod Laver Arena. Masha had the most impressive run so far, having dropped only 5 games, four of them against her biggest opponent up to now, Venus Williams in round 3. But not even Venus looked ever close to bother the incredible solidity of Sharapova, whose shots seems as strong as usual, but much more reliable than in the past year, so it won't be easy for anyone to make it close with her.
It's going to be very unlikely that her next opponent, Ekaterina Makarova, would. The young Russian, though she's just one year younger than Masha, is of a much lesser league than her more famous opponent and that match is pretty probable to follow last year's way as the two met exactly one year ago again in the QF and Masha won it for 6-2 6-3. Moreover she leads the head to head for 4-0. So unless a very unlikely and surprising drop of level of Maria, Ekaterina will have her best done by making it slightly competitive and winning more than 5 games.
Don't get those words wrong though, Makarova did a great job to get this far as she tamed very important names like Bartoli and Kerber, but her game seem just to be unsuitable to challenge Maria's.

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