2015 Australian Open Week 2 Women’s Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It has flown by quicker than a jet fighter, but we are already half way through the first grand slam of the year. The main talking point was the early demise of seeded players in the first round. Lucie Safarova, Angelique Kerber, Jelena Jankovic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sabine Lisicki, Flavia Pennetta, Andrea Petkovic, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and most shockingly Ana Ivanovic bowed out in the opening round in Melbourne. I suppose ranking doesn’t matter In the WTA.
We have seen a lot of shocks, thrilling matches and drama in the first week, so let’s look back on the action and see is on the horizon for the second week of the Australian Open starting with the bottom half.
Round of 16 Matchups:
(2)Maria Sharapova vs. (21)Shuai Peng
It’s been a mixed bag so far from the number two seed. Sharapova cruised through her first round match against Petra Martic, before almost stumbling out to Alexandra Panova. The Russian star had to save 2 match points before overcoming the world 150.
Shaui Peng has made it to the round of 16 without dropping a set thus far, dispatching of Tatjana Maria, Magdalena Rybarikova, and Safarova conqueror, Yaroslava Shvedova. The Chinese number one reached the US Open semi finals last year, and has continued her great grand slam form thus far at the Australian Open.
That said, I don’t feel Peng has the game to beat Maria Sharapova in a grand slam. The match will be on the world number two’s racket, and will come down to how well she plays. I can only see Peng winning of Sharapova has a stinker, and even then it’s not certain with the fighting spirit of the 5 time grand slam champion.
(7)Eugenie Bouchard vs. Irina-Camelia Begu
The grand slam gods keep smiling down on Bouchard, who found herself the only seed left in this section after the opening round. The Canadian hasn’t let the seed collapse affect her game however, as she has been flawless in the opening three rounds. Straight set wins over Ana-Lena Friedslam, Kiki Bertens and Caroline Garcia have allowed the 20 year old to advance to the fourth round.
Begu is the woman who dispatched of ninth seed, Angelique Kerber in the first round and she hasn’t slowed down since. The Romanian hasn’t dropped a set since she upset the German. Begu defeated Katerina Siniakova, and Carina Witthoeft in the 2nd and 3rd round respectively.
It will be Bouchard’s biggest test to date, but with the Canadian’s tendancy to bring her best to the big events, I believe Bouchard should advance to the quarter finals. Begu will offer a big challenge and could upset the 7th seed, but the safe bet is on Bouchard.
(3)Simona Halep vs. Yanina Wickmayer
Number three seed, Simona Halep has looked good thus far as she continues on her quest for her maiden grand slam title. The Romanian didn’t drop a set as she dispatched Karin Knapp, Jarmila Gajdosova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the opening three rounds.
Yanina Wickmayer has claimed the scalps of two seeded players on her way to her 2nd round 4 appearance at Melbourne. The Belgian dispatched (28) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and (14) Sara Errani in three sets. In between those victories she defeated Lara Arrubarrena in three sets, so she has gotten used to going the distance.
If Halep is serious about winning her first grand slam here, she should dispatch Wickmayer with little trouble. The way things have been going however, we may see yet another upset down under. If I was to predict, I would say Halep in two sets though.
(10)Ekaterina Makarova vs. Julia Goerges
The tenth seed Ekaterina Makarova has been flawless in her opening three matches, winning all of them in straight sets. An-Sophie Mestach was the first victim of the Russian, followed by Roberta Vinci. Then came the much anticipated clash with an in form Karolina Pliskova, which Makarova made look easy, breaking the big serving Czech three times.
The biggest beneficiary of Ana Ivanovic’s exit has been Julia Goerges. The big serving German took advantage of the fifth seed’s exit to make her maiden grand slam fourth round appearance. Goerges took apart youngster Belina Bencic, Klara Koukalova and qualifier Lucie Hradecka on her way to this stage.
Makarova is another one of those players who brings her best to the slams, and this one has been no different thus far. Goerges has performed well in her best slam to date, but I feel this will be in the end of the road for her. Makarova in 2 sets is my prediction.
(1)Serena Williams vs. (24) Garbine Muguruza
The world number one hasn’t been as destructive as she has been in the past, but she’s managed to get it done in her first three matches, all with a bagel. Williams dispatched of Alison Van Uytvanck, and Vera Zvonareva in straight sets before coming from a set down to beat young star Elina Svitolina.
In round four she’ll face another young star in Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard has opened her own bakery this year, handing out a bagel in all but one of her matches in 2015. Muguruza defeated Marina Erakovic in straight sets before getting taken all the way by Daniela Hantuchova and the inform Timea Bacsinszky.
This is arguably the most interesting round four match as Muguruza handed Williams her biggest grand slam loss for over a decade last year. Serena will be motivated and looking for revenge, but Garbine has been playing well thus far despite her lapses in concentration. She can’t afford that against Serena, so I expect a tight battle no matter which way it goes.
(11)Dominika Cibulkova vs. Victoria Azarenka
Last year’s finalist didn’t build on her performance last year, but Cibulkova has returned to form in time to try defend her points from 2014. The Slovakian has only dropped one set on her way to the fourth round and that was her opening set of the tournament against Kirsten Flipkens. Since then, Cibulkova has defeated Tsvetana Pironkova and Alize Cornet.
Victoria Azarenka emerged the favourite to make the quarter final after her straight sets win over Caroline Wozniacki in round two. The former two time champion is looking to kick start her 2015 season after struggling last season, and she’s doing it the right way thus far. No sets dropped in her wins over Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova has shown the Belarusian to be in good form.
Interesting match with potential to go either way. A lot will depend on the form of Cibulkova because she has proven to give anyone a test when playing well. However, Azarenka is always at her best in Melbourne and is in good form, so I feel Vika should make the Quarter Finals.
Madison Keys vs. Madison Brengle
Big hitting American, Madison Keys shocked the tennis world with her straight sets victory over Petra Kvitova in the third round. Before that, she upset the home crowd by beating Australian Casey Dellacqua in three sets in round two and straight setting Lesia Tsurenko in round one.
The other Madison (Brengle) has had an upset of her own as she beat Andrea Petkovic in three sets. The American hasn’t dropped a set since that upset. Brengle defeated countrywomen Irina Falconi and Coco Vandeweghe on her way to the last 16.
The battle of the Madisons is very hard to predict. Keys has the bigger game and usually I would expect her to blast Brengle off the court. The question is how will Keys handle the pressure of being the favourite in the 2nd week of a slam? Any lapses in concentration and Brengle will be waiting to pounce, so interesting to see who makes their maiden grand slam quarter final.
(6) Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Venus Williams
The Pole has been in ominous form, only dropping 9 games en route to the fourth round. Radwanska dropped only three games against Kurumi Nara, one against Johanna Larsson and five against Vavara Lepchenko. In each one of her matches, the sixth seed has delivered a bagel.
Venus Williams was a potential dark horse to win the tournament coming off her Auckland triumph. The 34 year old has reached the last 16 for the first time since 2011, so maybe she’s having one last hurrah. It hasn’t been all easy for Venus however, she was tested my Camila Giorgi in the third round who failed to serve out the match, and that was after straight set wins Maria Theresa Torro-Flo and Lauren Davis.
Both players will be facing their biggest test in the fourth round, and will feel they have a golden opportunity to make the semi finals with Kvitova’s surprise exit. I picked Venus to win this encounter before the tournament, but with Radwanska’s form so far I am now siding towards the Pole. It will be tight, and most likely go the distance no matter which player ends up winning.
Sharapova d. Bouchard in 3
Halep d. Makarova in 3
Muguruza d. Azarenka in 3
Radwanska d. Keys in 2
I am sticking to my original prediction and saying that Sharapova defeats Bouchard in to set up a semi final showdown with Simona Halep. The world number two I feel is too experienced for Bouchard at this stage and I expect something akin to their Roland Garros battle last year.
Makarova is a great grand slam player, but Halep is the better overall player at the moment. The Russian will no doubt test the number three seed and may even get the win, but it’s hard not to back Halep in her undefeated form this year.
Our readers might have gathered I have a lot of faith in Muguruza fulfilling her potential. I am really feeling a big run from her here, especially given how the draw has really opened up for the Spaniard. Azarenka has looked very good thus far, but I still don’t think she’s the Azarenka of old yet, so I will go with my heart and say Muguruza in 3 sets.
Like I mentioned, I am now siding towards Radwanska in her fourth round match against Venus. The Pole is in good form, and she’ll have a deep run here. Keys will blast Brengle off the court, but Radwanska is a few levels above her at the moment. The 6th seed will be too crafty and experienced for the youngster in a straight sets win.
Halep d. Sharapova in 3
Radwanska d. Muguruza in 3
I am will also stick to my guns and say Halep narrowly defeats Sharapova in the semi final. The head to head is massively in favour of the Russian, but I just feel it’s Halep’s time to win her maiden slam. Sharapova puts up a great fight as usual, but ultimately ends up falling in a three set thriller.
Radwanska will make her second grand slam final appearance after defeating a tired Muguruza in the semi finals. The Spaniard may come out all guns blazing, but she is not quite ready for a huge breakthrough yet, so physical and mental fatigue will catch up with her. Radwanska fights back from a set down to defeat Muguruza in three.
Halep d. Radwanska in 2
Like I said, I just feel it is Halep’s time to win a grand slam, and with the exit of Kvitova and potentially Serena Williams, it may have just opened up for her perfectly. Radwanska would have made a tremendous effort to get this far, but I don’t see the Pole going all the way. The Pole leads the head to head, but Halep won comfortably in their last meeting. I expect a tight 2 set victory for Halep in the final, thus claiming her maiden slam title.