2015 WTA Seoul and Guangzhou Previews and Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
As well as touching down in Tokyo, the Asian swing also calls in at Seoul and Guangzhou for the Korea Open and the Guangzhou International.
The event launched in 2004 at the Seoul Olympic park in South Korea. Previous champions include Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska. Last year’s champion was Karolina Pliskova who is playing in Tokyo, so will not defend her title.
The Korea Open Tier: International
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Prize Money: $426,750
Date: 21st– 27th September 2015
The seeded players (ranking) 1. Irina Begu (30)
2. Anna Schmiedlova (32)
3. Sloane Stephens (33)
4. Varvara Lepchenko (38)
5. Mona Barthel (48)
6. Alexandra Dulghuru (51)
7. Julia Goerges (54)
8. Alison Van Uytvanck (55)
First round matches to watch
(8) Alison Van Uytvanck vs Andreea Mitu
Interestingly, these two young players battled each other for a place in the French Open Quarter finals back in June, now they are drawn together again in the first round of an International tournament.
The Belgian won on that day in Paris and holds a 2-1 head to head lead against her opponent, but Mitu claims the only victory on a hard court. Neither player has managed to kick on since Roland Garros but it will be interesting to see which one pulls through in Seoul.
Christina McHale vs Yaroslava Shvedova
Both unseeded, but both have more talent than their rankings suggest. Two underachievers? I believe so, and they will face off in round one here.
Shvedova has seen her ranking tumble since reaching the top 30 in 2012. She is more of a doubles specialist these days but on her day is capable of producing tennis that not many players can deal with. McHale comes in on decent form after making the semi-finals last week and holds the victory in their only previous meeting. This one could go either way.
Yeah, Date Krumm is still around. She will turn 45 years old this month, and despite her 26 year old career heading into its twilight, she still will play the Asian swing. First round is Tomljanovic, who is a fairly big hitter of the ball which gives a nice stylistic contrast. The Croatian-Aussie was successful in their meeting in Tokyo last week. Can she repeat that performance?
Top seeded Romanian Irina Begu has quietly made her way into the top 30 this season, and she’ll be looking to cement that position this week with a title win. She could very well be the pre-tournament favourite. A qualifier in round one should be simple enough, whilst Polona Hercog or Lauren Davis will provide an interesting, but winnable round two.
Julia Goerges is the other seed in this section. The former top 20 player has not been able to re-capture that form, but she is still a highly dangerous big hitter. Lara Arruabarrena might be tricky in the first round, but if she can get through that Jo Larsson awaits in the second.
Lepchenko will be looking to build off the back of an impressive US Open run this week. The American has been dealt with a fairly difficult round two after a qualifier round one. Heather Watson could await, though the Brit is not in the best of form.
Van Uytvanck and Mitu will conduct their Roland Garros rematch in the first round in one of my three to see, but Irina Falconi in the second round will certainly be interesting. The American faces Siniakova in round one.
Sloane Stephens may arguably be the favourite in the minds of many. She now has the title duck off her back after winning in Washington, can she add a second title to her collection? The third seed will play local wildcard Han Nae-Lan in round one. Round two will be either Tomljanovic or Date Krumm, both of which possess different challenges for the American.
Dulgheru is the other seed in this section, but she has also been dealt with a toughie. A qualifier in round one could be simple enough, but Magdalena Rybarikova or Klara Koukalova in the second could spell an early exit for the sixth seed.
Schmiedlova’s gradual rise up the rankings has continued with some impressive title efforts this year. The young Slovakian is the second seed here and will fancy her chance at going all the way. Big serving twin of Karolina Pliskova, Kristyna. Shvedova or McHale could provide an upset in round two.
Barthel is the last remaining seed yet to be covered. The talented German will face a local wildcard in the first round before meeting to winner of Bertens vs Duque Marino in the second.
Like the Korea Open, the Guangzhou International launched 11 years ago as part of the Asian Swing. Li Na won the inaugural event to become the first Chinese titlist. Other former champions include former world number one’s Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina and last year’s champion Monica Niculescu.
The Guangzhou International Tier: International
Location: Guangzhou, China
Prize Money: $226, 750
Date: 21st– 27th September 2015
It was just meant to be wasn’t it? Just days after competing in the Tokyo International final, Wickmayer and Linette will play each other again in the first round of Guangzhou.
The Belgian won on that occasion to win her third career title, so the Pole will be out to avenge that loss this week. Will Wickmayer inflict more misery on Linette, or will the Pole find her revenge.
(5) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Daniela Hantuchova
Kuznetsova and Hantuchova will meet for the 15th time in the first round of the Guangzhou International.
The Russian leads the head 9-4, winning their past three meetings, including on Chinese soil in Beijing last year. Both players are past their prime, but it could still be a good battle between two tour veterans. Certainly the marque round one match-up.
(4) Jelena Jankovic vs Elena Vesnina
The always un-predicatble Jankovic opens up her tournament with a tough round one against former top 20 player Vesnina.
These two battled for hours at Wimbledon earlier in year in a marathon three setter that Jankovic eventually won 10-8 in the third. The Serbian leads the head to head 6-1, but a lot of those victories were before Vesnina made any impression. Despite the pigeon status, Vesnina is not a player you would want to be drawing in the opening round of an International. And given Jankovic’s randomness, who knows what might happen?
The reasons are still unclear as to why the world number two is playing an International with Wuhan right around the corner, but she is here and ready to play. Halep opens with a qualifier before likely facing Timea Babos in round two. Both of which are should wins if she takes it seriously.
20 year old Kovinic is the other seeded player in this quarter. The Montenegrin faces a dangerous unseeded player in Bojana Jovanovski in the opening round in a potential upset. The winner will face either Denisa Allertova orAnna-Lena Friedsam.
It is not on clay, but Errani must be considered amongst the favourites for the title as the third seed. Duan, then two qualifiers should be simple enough for the Italian, who is looking to replicate the success of her compatriots from the US Open.
Saisai Zheng will be motivated in her home country to make a deep run this week, so the last of the seeded players might play a little bit above that level. The draw has been kind to the Chinese, Alexsandra Krunic in round one follow by Su-Wieh-Hsieh or a qualifier should see her into the quarter finals at the very least.
Perhaps the most interesting quarter is headlined by former world number one Jankovic. A tough round one against Vesnina will test her at the very least. Francesca Schiavone could await the winner in the second round.
Amongst this veteran section is Kuznetsova, who faces Hantuchova is a difficult first rounder. Urszula Radwanska could be a potential second round opponent if she can get past her qualifier opponent
Petkovic is looking for form after sruggling in her US Open third round match with Johanna Konta. The German faces Monia Puig in round one. The young Puerto Rican has not kicked on at all this year so it should be no problem. Wickmayer or Linette, both of whom are in form, awaits the winner.
Defending champion Niculescu returns as the sixth seed here. Yulia Punitseva is her round one opponent, and if she can get through that there should be no problems in making the quarter finals.
Bacsinszky Completes Mexican Double, Wozniacki Wins Kuala Lumpur Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
With the Indian Wells and Miami double just around the corner, many of the top players decided to take a week off to prepare for two of the biggest tournaments on the WTA tour.
The lack of star power didn’t hinder the excitement though, as the tournaments in Monterrey and Kuala Lumpur provided some tense and dramatic matches, with the two best players of the week coming out on top.
WTA Monterrey Embed from Getty Images
Timea Bacsinszky can now call herself the queen of Mexico, as she claimed the Monterrey title to go with her Acapulco crown from last week.
It felt like deja vu in Mexico, but the stars were Timea Bacsinszky and Caroline Garcia this time, not Denzel Washington. In a rematch of the Acapulco final a week prior, Garcia and Bacsinszky took to the court for the right to be called Monterrey champion. On the previous occasion, the Swiss was too strong for Garcia as she romped to an easy 6-3,6-0 victory in Acapulco. This time, it would be the same result, albeit a hell of a lot closer.
Fresh off her upset victory over Ana Ivanovic in the previous round, Garcia looked like she was ready to extract revenge on her opponent. Despite being broken in the opening game of the match, The French woman rallied back to take the first set 6-4; breaking the Swiss’ serve to seal it.
Garcia couldn’t carry that momentum into the second set, as Bacsinszky started to find her range. An early break for the world number 31 had the Swiss on a roll, but a rain delay soon halted the momentum. Four wet hours passed before play was allowed to resume, meaning this one was going to carry on after midnight. When play restarted, it seemed like the fourth seed never left the court. Bacsinszky swung freely from both wings, and soon leveled the match by taking the second set 6-2.
Unlike Garcia though, The Swiss was able to carry the momentum into the next set, breaking at 1-1. The number three seed continued to fight towards the back end of the match, having numerous opportunities to break back at 4-3. Despite having six attempts at leveling the match, Garcia couldn’t convert, allowing Bacsinszky to roll on and closeout the match 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The Monterrey title is her second in as many weeks, and third overall as Bacsinszky’s amazing comeback continues. After an injury plagued start to the decade, the 25 year old is happy to be back and playing her best tennis.
“I’m just really happy to play so well at the beginning of the year,” a tearful Bacsinszky said in her post-match press conference. “I’m going to keep trying to push my limits in the next tournament I’m playing. I hope to keep improving all parts of my game, doesn’t matter if I’m winning or losing. I always just want to be a better tennis player, and be a better person too.”
Garcia’s runners-up efforts over the past few weeks shouldn’t get her down. The French woman has shown why she is one of the brightest rising stars on the WTA tour. She’ll be hoping to go one better next time around.
In the doubles, fourth seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska defeated third seeds Anastasia Rodionova and Arina Rodionova 6-3, 2-6, 10-3 to claim their first doubles title together.
WTA Kuala Lumpur
Caroline Wozniacki has finally won her first title of 2015 at the BMW Malaysian Open, coming from behind to defeat Alexandra Dulgheru 4-6,6-2,6-1.
Wozniacki was the pre-tournament favourite but people (including myself) wondered if the top seed would preserve her energy for Indian Wells and Miami. The Dane did aim to preserve her energy, but she went about it in a different way; not dropping a set on the road to the final.
Her opponent Dulgheru had upset second seed Sabine Lisicki in the opening round and had used the momentum to carry herself all the way to the final.
That momentum got the Romanian off to a great start, as she broke early to establish a 3-1 lead. The break advantage was soon relinquished, but the heavy top spin strokes of the world number 72 proved tough to deal with. Dulgheru broke at 4-4 and served out the set to give herself a 1-0 lead.
If anything, dropping the first set seemed to motivate Wozniacki further. The world number five was on fire in the second set, breaking in the second game and then again to seal the set. The former world number one only dropped three points on serve throughout the set.
It was all Wozniacki in the third set, as she began to show the world why she is a former world number one player. Wozniacki raced into a 5-0 lead in the third and had match point on the Dulgheru serve, but couldn’t convert. The Romanian avoided a bagel, but couldn’t avoid the break stick, as Wozniacki easily served out the match to take the Kuala Lumpur title.
Despite the lopsided second and third set, Wozniacki praised her opponent’s approach.
“I think she played well the whole match,” Wozniacki said. “She tried to play aggressive and take the ball early. But I knew she had a tough match yesterday, so I just kept playing my game and kept trying to put pressure on her. I think I stepped it up in the second and third sets, and it paid off.”
This was Wozniacki’s 23rd WTA title, and the latest triumph has put her in good form heading into Indian Wells, a tournament she won back in 2011.
“I think things have been going my way. Things are great,” Wozniacki said. “I’m excited for Indian Wells. It’s one of my favourite tournaments of the season, so hopefully I can play well there.”
The doubles title went to Liang Chen and Wang Yafan, who beat third seeds Yuliya Beygelzimer and Olga Savchuk in the final, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4.
That wraps up the WTA tour of the Asia-Pacific. Now we will head to North America and Europe until the summer. You can follow it all on Tennis Atlantic.
Niall Clarke’s 2015 Australian Open Women’s Week 1 Preview/Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 Australian Open Women’s Preview
We are here at last. The first Grand Slam of the season is finally here with 128 of the best WTA players competing for the right to be known as the 2015 Australian Open Champion.
The Australian Open was launched in 1905, and has been staged in seven cities down under. The event moved to its current location, Melbourne Park, in 1988. That was also the year when the surface changed from grass to hard. The facility features two courts with retractable roofs, making it arguably the best organised Grand Slam out of the four. In 2008, the surface switched from Rebound Ace to Plexicusion and the courts switched from green to blue in order to Increase visibility. The Australian Open is also the most financially lucrative tournament on the calendar, offering the most prize money to the winner.
Serena Williams is the most successful women’s player at the Australian Open in the open era. The current world number one has won five single titles down under. Just behind her with four titles are the likes of Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.
2014 saw Li Na win her second grand slam title in Melbourne. The Chinese star overcame Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets 7-6, 6-0 in the final. Li had previously been a finalist in 2013, where she narrowly lost to Victoria Azarenka. Unfortunately the Chinese Star won’t be here to defend her title, as she announced her retirement last year.
January 18- February 1, 2015
Prize Money: $15,561,973
Top 8 seeded players (WTA ranking in parentheses)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (2)
3. Simona Halep (3)
4. Petra Kvitova (4)
5. Ana Ivanovic (5)
6. Agnieszka Radwanska (6)
7. Eugenie Bouchard (7)
8. Caroline Wozniacki (8)
Only Petra Cetkovska is missing from the players who would be in the main draw. So all the top WTA players will be in action come Monday.
First round matchups to watch:
(12)Flavia Pennetta vs. Camila Giorgi
The clash of the Italians is one of the matches that could see a potential upset in round one. The big hitting Giorgi is always dangerous with her power, but the 23 year old hasn’t started the season in good. Camila was some-what of an error machine in her loss to Kurumi Nara in Hobart, but a match against a seeded player should be enough to motivate Giorgi to play her best here. Flavia Pennetta is coming off a great 2014, which saw her climb to number 12 in the world. However she lost her opening match at Sydney to Tsvetana Pironkova, so there are also question marks over the 32 year olds form. The winner is very unpredictable and the match could go either way, but with the potential upset it will certainly be one to look out for.
Sloane Stephens vs. Victoria Azarenka
You remember the last time these two met in Melbourne, right? If not, I will try my best to refresh your memory. Let’s travel back two years to the Australian Open 2013 semi finals. Stephens was coming off the biggest win of her career when she defeated Serena Williams, whilst Victoria Azarenka was the defending champion and favourite for the title. The Belarusian looked like she was heading to a routine victory over the American, but blew five match points whilst serving for the match. What followed turned out to be one of the most controversial moments in recent tennis history. Azarenka took a medical time out after blowing the match points, and when she returned to court, the Belarusian broke Stephens to win the match. The controversy surrounded the timing of the medical time out, the reasons why Azarenka decided to take it and whether it had an effect on the match. Both players have declined since then and come into the tournament unseeded, but with the 2013 controversy, it is no less interesting.
Timea Bacsinszky vs. (15)Jelena Jankovic
Another match with upset potential. Bacsinszky recently made the final in Shenzhen, beating the world number four, Petra Kvitova in the semi finals. Jankovic started her season in the worst possible way as she lost in straight sets to Ajla Tomljanovic 7-6, 6-0 in Brisbane. Both with completely opposite starts to the season, so you can see why the 15th seed might be in danger of bowing out early here. This is their first meeting so there is no head to head to reference, but this will no doubt be an interesting match to watch.
(8)Caroline Wozniacki vs Taylor Townsend
You would usually look at this match and think that Wozniacki will win, and most of the time you would be right. However, this match is different because Wozniacki isn’t 100 percent fit heading into the tournament. Townsend is 18 years old, and a player to look out for in the future, so this would be a big scalp for her at this point in her career. Wozniacki beat The American in straight sets in Auckland, so it could yet be another comfortable win for the eighth seed. Considering the injury however, Wozniacki could be the biggest casualty in round one.
(16)Lucie Safarova vs Yaroslava Shvedova
16th seed Lucie Safarova has been handed one of the biggest enigmas in the tennis for her opener in Melbourne. Slava Shvedova has produced brilliance, like her golden set at Wimbledon in 2012, and moments of complete madness like when she wasted match points at the US Open that year. Who knows what Shvedova will turn up at the Australian Open, and that is why this is a match to watch. Safarova enjoyed one of her best seasons in 2014, and will look to carry that momentum into this year. Shvedova failed to capitalise on a great run in the summer of 2012, and currently ranks at 63 in the world. They have met once, and it was in that breakthrough year for Shvedova. The Kazakh came through in straight sets on that occasion, but since then Safarova has improved, and Shvedova has declined. A match between two powerful and dangerous players, we should see some heavy hitting from both sides of the court. The big question is which side of Slava will we see?
(20)Sam Stosur vs Monica Niculescu
The home crowd favourite for this tournament will no doubt be Sam Stosur. The Aussie crowd will no doubt be gunning for a deep run from one of their compatriots, but will they get it from the former US Open champion? Stosur has failed to go beyond round four in her home slam. Not a good record considering her achievements in other grand slams. Niculescu however is statistically better in Melbourne than in any other grand slam. She has never made it past the third round, but holds a 7-7 record at the Australian Open, which is better than her negative win loss ratios in the other three major events. With the head to head 4-0 in favour of the Aussie, it looks like Stosur should advance here, but you never know how she will react to the home crowd pressure.
The upcoming Kazakh vs the less known Radwanska is one of the tightest matches in the first round. Diyas has been very steady for the past year, defeating the players she should and making the third round in three of the four grand slams including the Australian Open. Urszula Radwanska is better known for being the little sister of Agnieszka Radwanska, but she was a top 30 player once. Granted that was 2 years a go, but that shows the Pole certainly has something about her. A shoulder injury saw her slide down the rankings, as she struggled to recover, but a solid start to 2015 see’s the 24 year old in good form heading into the first grand slam of the year. These two previously met in Rome last year, and Radwanska was the winner despite her struggles. Will she sable to repeat that in Melbourne?
Serena Williams comes into every grand slam the bookies favourite, and despite poor Hopman cup form, The Australian Open is no different. The world number one has dominated the tour for some time, but she hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2010. Having said that, she is the most successful player at this tournament since the open era began; winning 5 titles in Melbourne. In round one she faces Belgian, Alison Van Uytvanck. Anything but a dominating Serena Williams victory will be shock. The 5 time champion shouldn’t drop more than 3 or 4 games in her opener, and that’s if she isn’t in good form. Interestingly, Serena could end up facing Vera Zvonareva in the second round, which would be a rematch of their 2010 Wimbledon final. On that day, Williams was the victor in straight sets, and the 18 time grand slam champion leads the head to head 7-3. Zvonareva is way past her peak though and using her Protected Ranking to get into the main draw. No matter who Serena Williams faces in the second round, you would expect her to make the third round at least. She will likely meet Elina Svitolina at the round of 32. You would expect the 20 year old to beat Jana Cepelova, and the winner of Nicole Gibbs/Olivia Rogowska as she is in good form and reached the third round here last year. Serena can be prone to an upset if she is off her game, but I don’t expect that to happen at this stage. They have met once before 3 years ago in the Fed Cup play-offs and Serena defeat the 20 year old in straight sets. I expect Williams will have too much firepower and experience for the world number 26 at this stage. I would be surprised if Williams doesn’t make the second week in Melbourne as there aren’t many challengers in her way in the first three rounds.
The number 15 seed, Jelena Jankovic has a tough opener against Timea Bacsinszky. Like I mentioned in my matches to watch, this has upset potential as the Swiss is in better form than the Serbian at this point. I predict Jankovic to be dumped out in the first round by the Shenzhen finalist in a somewhat messy affair. From there she will face the winner of Kimiko Date-Krumm/Ana Tatishvili in the second round. The Japanese star is now 44 years old, making her the oldest player in the tournament. Tatishvili came through qualifying to main draw and will fancy her chances of making the second round. Either way, I expect Bacsinszky to beat her second round opponent and make the third round. At this stage, her projected opponent is Garbine Muguruza. The 24th seed should dispatch Marina Erakovic in the first round without much trouble, but her second round match could potentially be tricky. The Spaniard will face the winner of Daniela Hantuchova and Saisai Zheng, and if the Slovak gets through her first round match, there could be an upset in round two. I personally don’t see Muguruza having any problems until round three against Bacsinszky, but this is the WTA and you never know what will happen. The third round match between Muguruza and Bacsinszky could end up being a tight encounter, but the Spaniard is overall the better player at the moment so I see her prevailing here and setting up a meeting with Serena Williams in the fourth round.
In the lower section of Serena’s quarter is the number eight seed and good friend of the world number one, Caroline Wozniacki. The US Open finalist is heading into Melbourne with a lot of doubt surrounding her fitness after a niggling wrist injury forced out to retire against Barbora Zahalova-Strycova in Sydney. However, the Dane says she is raring to go in Melbourne, and she must be as she faces Taylor Townsend in round one. Townsend may provide problems, but Wozniacki won their last meeting and has too much experience and tools for her young opponent. She’ll then have a blockbuster round 2 awaiting her, as Wozniacki will face the winner of the highly anticipated Sloane Stephens/Victoria Azarenka match. I expect Vika to come through that match as she always seems to do against Stephens, setting up a great round two with Wozniacki. The winner of this clash comes down to the Danes fitness. If the injury is no longer concerning her, I expect Wozniacki to grind this one out. Azarenka isn’t the player she was currently, and Wozniacki is recaptured some of her best form last year. If the wrist is still a problem, then I expect Vika to advance to the round of 32. With Wozniacki recently saying that it’s fine, then I will say the 8th seed advances to the third round, where I expect her to meet Strycova for the second week in a row. The Czech shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through the first two rounds, but I expect with Wozniacki now fit, her run ends in the third round.
Last years runner-up, Dominika Cibulkova will have a testing round one against Belgian, Kirsten Flipkens. The 11th seed played great tennis at the start of last year but faded in the second half of the season. Flipkens now ranks outside the top 40 after reaching a career high of 13 in 2013; the year in which she also made the Wimbledon semi final. Cibulkova is not in great form, but neither is Flipkens, so I expect The Slovak to make it through. The 2nd round will be tricky for the 11th seed as she’ll either face an in form Heather Watson or Tsvetana Pironkova. Watson might be a little tired after her Hobart heroics, but riding the great wave of form, the Brit will advance to the 2nd round. Cibulkova might be there for the taking, but fatigue might just catch up with Watson, so I predict Cibulkova to advance to the third round, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Watson there instead. I believe, Alize Cornet will await her at this stage. The French woman is seeded 19th for the tournament, and will be expected to get through her first two matches. Cibulkova leads Cornet 3-0 in the head to head, and was a finalist last year, but I don’t trust the Slovak’s form enough to back her here. I will predict Cornet to get her first ever win over Cibulkova and make the 4th round against Wozniacki.
Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova will head into Melbourne off the back of a title winning effort in Sydney, thus giving her a good run of form heading into the first grand slam of the year. The Czech will face qualifier Richel Hogenkamp in the first round in what you would expect to be a dominant victory for Kvitova. Youngsters Donna Vekic and Mona Barthel will play for the right to face Petra in the second round. Barthel is talented, but out of form after coming back from injury, whilst Vekic recently lost in straight sets to Pironkova. I will say Barthel advances because despite injury she is overall the better player at the moment, but I don’t see the German troubling Kvitova much in her current form. There I expect either Madison Keys or Casey Dellacqua to await the number four seed in the third round. I can see these two making it through their first round matches, but the winner of this one is harder to predict. They met in Melbourne 2 years a go, and Keys was the winner that time, so I will predict the American to win yet again in a tighter 3 set match. Keys has a lot of power in her game, but Kvitova is arguably the most powerful player on tour. In this third round clash we will see a lot of amazing winners and a lot of easy errors. I think Petra is just the more powerful of the too and has the big match experience that Keys lacks at this stage of their careers. Kvitova advances to the 2nd week in 3 sets.
13th seed Andrea Petkovic has an interesting first round clash against Hobart finalist Madison Brengle. The German has reached the Quarterfinals here before back in 2011, but was dumped out in round one last year. Brengle comes into the tournament In good form following her Hobart run, but I believe Petkovic will be a little too much for her. The likely 2nd round opponent is Kaia Kanepi. The Estonian should ease past Irina Falconi in round one to set up this intriguing match-up against Petkovic. Kanepi has a 3-0 head to head advantage over the 13th seed and even beat her at the start of the season. I Believe Kanepi will make it to the third round against Coco Vandeweghe. The big serving American should beat a past it Francesca Schiavone, and with Sam Stosur’s home record, I back Coco to make it past the Aussie in round two. Kanepi is overall the more solid, and the more experienced of the two so I expect her to make the second week.
The other projected quarterfinalist from this section is Agnieszka Radwanska. Poland will lay their hopes on the 6th seed to bring a grand slam title to their country. Her first test will be from Japan’s Kurumi Nara. The Japanese can no doubt test Radwanska but I don’t see her beating the world number six. The Pole should sail through the third round where her likely opponent will be Vavara Lepchenko. The 30th seed is one of eight Americans in this quarter, but like most of her compatriots in this section she’ll likely bow out in the first week. Radwanska will be too crafty and too good for the left hander, and should make the second week.
While Radwanska may be the projected Quarterfinalist, many will be expecting Venus Williams to make the last eight in this tournament. The 18th seed arrives in fantastic form after winning Auckland and has more Grand slam winning experience than anyone in her quarter. The 34 year old should walk into the third round without much hassle where I see her facing 12th seed Flavia Pennetta. The Italian has a tough road to this stage with Camila Giorgi in round one and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni her likely second round opponent. Despite the difficult draw, I believe Pennetta is overall the better player, so I expect her to meet Venus in round three. It will be the American’s biggest test so far in the tournament, but the 2003 finalist should prevail if she continues her form from Auckland. That will set up a blockbuster round four match with Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole will be the favourite as she is overall the better player at this point in time, as indicated by the world rankings. But in the form table, I would give a slight edge to Venus. It will no doubt be one of the matches of the tournament.
Halep comes into the first grand slam of the year on back of an illness that kept her out of Sydney. But with that behind her, the number three seed will be looking to show the world she has what it takes to become a grand slam champion. Simona will open the proceedings on Rod Laver against Karin Knapp on day one. It should be a comfortable win for the Romanian, as the Italian doesn’t have the weapons to really test her. Halep should also breeze past her round two opponent to set a round three date with Sabine Lisicki. The inconsistent German will be happy with her draw, and has a great shot at making round three. Kristina Mlandenovic awaits in the first round. It could prove to be difficult for Lisicki, who has shown she is very prone to random losses off of grass, but I expect the 28th seed to find a way to pass her first test in a messy three setter. Bethanie Mattek-Sands should await Sabine in the second round. The American has only just returned from injury and is in the main draw courtesy of the protected ranking system. With Mattek-sands likely rusty and not 100, I expect Lisicki to use her big serve and powerful ground strokes to not let the American find her rhythm, and therefore cement a third round place. Unfortunately for Lisicki her journey should end here at the hands of Simona Halep. The Romanian took Lisicki apart at Wimbledon last year, and we all know how good Sabine is at SW19. This surface should suit the Romanian even more, so unless Lisicki is in red hot form, Halep ill advance to the second week without many problems.
The other half of this section is very much wide open, and we could see a player make their first second week of a grand slam. 14th seed Sara Errani is best suited to clay, and with her game style of keeping the ball in play without much power, the Italian often leaves it in the hands of her opponent. I won’t predict a round one loss to Grace Min, but I do believe the Italian will fall in round two to young German Annika Beck. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be the favourite to meet Beck in the third round, but her known inconsistency will leave a lot of question marks around her. Despite that, I will predict the Russian to battle her way past Yania Wickmayer in round one and Lara Arruabarrena/Renata Voracova in round two. With the tendency to make errors on key points, and the known steadiness of Annika Beck, I expect Pavlyuchenkova’s run to end in round three. Therefore we get a Shenzhen rematch between Beck and Halep in the fourth round.
The section to decide Halep’s potential quarter finalist should really come down to three players. Number five seed Ana Ivanovic will undoubtedly be the bookies favourite, but there are some very dangerous players in this section. The Serb should see herself easily into round three where I believe she’ll face the winner of Klara Koukalova and Belinda Bencic. I think they will get through Storm Sanders and Julia Goerges in the first round respectively to set up an enticing round two clash. Bencic is a young talent promising to do big things in the future, but right now she is too raw for a deep slam run, so I think that Koukalova’s experience will see her through to the third round. I don’t see the Czech beating Ivanovic in a grand slam, but she is certainly capable of pushing the Serb all the way so don’t be surprised to see a three setter.
The race to face Ivanovic in the fourth round will likely come down to Ekaterina Makarova and Karolina Pliskova. These two big hitters shouldn’t have many problems reaching round three where they will likely face off in a great contest. Makarova always brings her A game to the grand slams, and she showed that in New York last year where she made the semi finals. Pliskova has a huge game and showed how good she can be in her runner-up effort in Sydney last week. With Makarova’s tendency to be at her best in the big events, I will say she squeezes through in three sets. It could go either way though and will undoubtedly be a match to watch.
Given the difference in fortunes in the first week, many people have Maria Sharapova down as the favourite to win the title over Serena Williams. The world number two battled hard in typical fashion to beat Ana Ivanovic in Brisbane and will look to continue that momentum in Melbourne. The first round against qualifier Petra Martic shouldn’t be a problem at all for the Russian, and you would expect the former champion to make a statement in her opening match. The second round will be trickier, but Sorana Cirstea shouldn’t pose too many problems for Sharapova. It’s hard to predict the third round opponent for Maria. It features the interesting Zarina Diyas/Urszula Radwanska clash, and youngster Anna Schmiedlova who upset Venus Williams at Roland Garros last year. I expect the winner of Diyas/Radwanska to have too much for the young Slovak in round two. Regardless of which one it is though, Sharapova should have little trouble dispatching them and will make round four without dropping a set.
Lucie Safarova is the 16th seed and favourite to make round four, but there are lots of interesting obstacles in her way. Firstly, Yaroslava Shvedova in round one, then the winner of Monica Puig/Anastasia Rodionova in round two, then most likely Shuai Peng in round three. If Shvedova brings her A game, Safarova will be in huge trouble. But that is a huge if. I will stay safe and predict a Safarova-Puig round two with Safarova coming through her second round clash fairly comfortably. The Czech may face a big test in round three, but with head to head in favour of the Czech I will back her to beat Peng and make round four to face Maria Sharapova.
The section to decide the other quarter finalist is perhaps the most interesting in the draw. 7th seed Eugenie Bouchard enjoyed some great grand slam results last year, which saw the Canadian finish inside the worlds top 8. With the huge pressure now on her shoulders we will see how Bouchard copes in Melbourne. The seventh seed shouldn’t be troubled until the third round though, where she’ll likely meet experienced Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian has a tricky path to the round of 32, with Caroline Garcia her round one opponent and Stephanie Voegele her likely round two opponent. It will be tough for the former US Open champion, but I think she’ll make the third round before eventually losing to Bouchard.
The Canadian’s fourth round opponent will likely be the winner of Angelique Kerber/Carla Suarez Navarro. The German shouldn’t face many problems before round three with Elena Vesnina likely being her biggest test. Navarro shouldn’t have any troubles at all in the opening two rounds thus setting up one of the best looking potential round three matches. The head to head is dead even, so this should be a tight encounter. However their past three meetings have all been routine victories, so that could suggest that the winner will be victorious in fairly straight forward fashion. I don’t buy that this will be done in straight sets, and I am feeling a potential upset here with Suarez Navarro beating Kerber in 3 sets.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Muguruza d. S.Williams
Wozniacki d. Cornet
Kvitova d. Kanepi
V.Williams d. A.Radwanska
Ivanovic d. Makarova
Halep d. Beck
Bouchard d. Suarez Navarro
Sharapova d. Safarova
It may have been a glorified exhibition, but Serena Williams didn’t look good at all at the Hopman Cup. Add that to the fact that Muguruza beat her in their last meeting, and her ability to bring her best to the big matches, I have gone for the upset. Muguruza defeats Serena for the second straight time. Wozniacki will meet the Spaniard in the quarter finals after grinding down Alize Cornet. The Dane is the better player and will not have many problems defeating her French opponent.
Kvitova may need three sets to beat Kanepi, but I expect the world number four to overpower the Estonian in three sets. Meeting the Czech in the Quarter finals will be Venus Williams. I expect Venus to carry her form into this tournament and use it to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska in a tight two or three sets.
Makarova will provide tough opposition for Ana Ivanovic, but the Serb will out fight the Russian in a long three set battle. Simona Halep should have little trouble dispatching Annika Beck despite their close encounter in Shenzhen.
Bouchard always brings her best to the grand slams and I expect no different in Melbourne. Her match against Carla Suarez will be tight like their previous match, and I expect Bouchard to prevail again in three sets. Safarova will provide a huge test for Maria Sharapova, and I expect the Czech to take a set. However, Sharapova is arguably the best fighter on tour and it will show yet again as she prevails in 3 sets.
Picking the rest of the way
Quarters: Wozniacki d. Muguruza
Kvitova d. V.Williams
Halep d. Ivanovic
Sharapova d. Bouchard
Last year, Muguruza got the better of Wozniacki at this event. But I don’t see history repeating it’s self here. Wozniacki will eventually grind the Spaniard down in my opinion, after a strong start by Muguruza. Garbine can often blow hot and cold in the same match and this will be one of those.
Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova have often provided with some classic encounters, but the head to head doesn’t lie. 5 times out of 6 the Czech has prevailed and I don’t see a reverse in fortunes here.
Despite the 3-1 head to head advantage Ivanovic holds, I expect Halep to beat her here. Halep will be riding a huge wave of momentum after an easy run to the quarter finals, whilst Ivanovic will likely be tired after a gruelling match against Makarova.
Sharapova vs Bouchard will be a rematch of their Roland Garros semi final last year. Sharapova won in three sets on that occasion, and she will do the same here. Sharapova has made a career of winning these type of matches, so you must favour the Russian.
Semis: Kvitova d. Wozniacki
Halep d. Sharapova
Kvitova vs Wozniacki is hard to predict as we don’t know how fit these two will be at this stage. Kvitova is in the better form heading in to the tournament and has the bigger weapons of the two, so I will predict Kvitova in 3.
Simona Halep will extract her revenge on Maria Sharapova after their Roland Garros final last year which saw the Russian win yet another three setter. Halep is currently Sharapova’s pigeon, but with me predicting Halep to win the tournament in pre season, I will stick to my guns and say Halep in three.
Final: Halep d. Kvitova
Halep’s time will finally arrive in Melbourne after an impressive display against Kvitova in the final. I expect Simona to use her previous experience to not make the same mistakes as she did in the Roland Garros final and defeat Kvitova in a great three set final.
2015 WTA Sydney Preview andPredictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 WTA Sydney Preview
The WTA continues its tour down under with a trip to the beautiful city of Sydney for the APIA International tournament. The event is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1885. In 2000, the event moved to the Sydney Olympic park tennis centre, which also hosted the Olympic tennis event that year. The Sydney International is a joint event with the ATP hosted a week before the Australian Open. Previous champions include the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Aga Radwanska and Grand Slam champions Chris Evert, Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, and Martina Navratilova.
In 2014 Tsvetana Pironkova defeated Angelique Kerber in straight sets to claim the Sydney crown. The Qualifier also defeated seeds, Sara Errani and Petra Kvitova on her way to the title.
Apia Sydney International WTA Premier Series Sydney, Australia January 11-January 16, 2015
Prize Money: $731,000
Top 2 Seeds (Who receive first round byes) (WTA ranking in parentheses)
1: Simona Halep (3)
2: Petra Kvitova (4)
Two top 4 players headline Sydney, and receive byes to the next round. All the 8 seeds are within the top 20, so a strong field in the build up to the Australian Open.
First round matchups to watch:
(3)Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Alize Cornet These two met in Perth during the Hopman cup, and it was Alize Cornet who managed get the win on that occasion in 3 sets. The Frenchwomen will be looking to do the same in the first round at Sydney. Agnieszka Radwanska however will be looking for revenge, and with that in mind this is one of the tastiest first round matches this week. Both players are known more for their technique rather than power, so we may see plenty of long rallies and tense points. Will we see another upset, or will Aga reign supreme this time?
Lucie Safarova vs. Sam Stosur
Big hitting Czech Lucie Safarova will be looking to silence the home crowd by vanquishing Australia’s Sam Stosur. Safarova played well in the Hopman Cup, winning two out of three singles matches. Stosur didn’t kick off the year in good style as she lost in 3 sets to Varvara Lepchenko in Brisbane round 1. It’s even worse when you consider, Stosur led 5-1 in the final set and still managed to lose. A lot of fans may be looking at this, and thinking ‘How could this be a match to look out for with their head to head record?’ Of course, 9-2 in favour of the Czech is lopsided, but you never know in the WTA. Lucie is hot right now and the obvious favourite, but you never know what a home crowd can do for a player. Stosur could rally and get her first win over the Czech in nearly 3 years.
Elina Svitolina vs. Ekaterina Makarova 20 year old, Elina Svitolina will be looking to carry her Brisbane form into Sydney, where she faces new top 10 player Ekaterina Makarova in the first round. The Ukrainian made the quarter finals last week, but was dumped out by eventual winner Maria Sharapova. Makarova decided to have an extra week’s preparation, and will kick off her 2015 campaign in Sydney. Svitolina is a good mover across the court, which will benefit her against the powerful left handers of the Russian. Makarova will look to overpower the youngster and kick off 2015 the same way she finished 2014. The big question is how rusty will Makarova be? If she isn’t match ready, she could very well get caught off guard by the young Ukrainian.
Number one seed Simona Halep headlines a stacked top half of the draw that features eight top 20 players and a former Grand Slam finalist. The Romanian will receive a bye into the second round because of her seeding. She will face either big serving Czech Karolina Pliskova or a qualifier in round two. Pliskova will be the likely opponent even with the dangerous qualifiers in the draw. This is where it will get interesting for Halep, who has a bit of a dilemma. The Romanian won in Shenzen last week, and with the Australian Open coming, will she want to risk not being 100% for the first grand slam of the year and go all out in Sydney? Look for a potential upset in that one. The other seed in Halep’s quarter is Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian will play her first match of the season against 20 year old Elina Svitolina. With Makarova being potentially rusty, she could get caught out by the inform Ukranian, but the number six seed will be favourite to advance. Awaiting the winner will be Carla Suarez Navarro, and 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki has shown in the past she can beat anyone with her powerful serve and ground strokes. The German holds the world record for the fastest womens serve in history. She hit a 131 mph serve in Stanford last year. This isn’t grass however, and the Spaniard should expect herself to advance.
The third seed is 2015 Hopman cup champion, Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole will be in her first WTA competition In Sydney, and faces a tough round one match against Alize Cornet. The Pole will expect herself to extract revenge on the player who defeated her in Perth, but an upset wouldn’t be surprising at all. Their potential round two opponents are Garbine Muguruza and Sara Errani. Muguruza is dangerous, but withdrew from Brisbane with an ankle injury, so there are big questions on her fitness. Errani will be looking to take advantage of the Spaniards problem and take out the 21 year old. If Muguruza is fit however, you would expect her to overpower the Italian. Angelique Kerber is the number five seed and will face a qualifier in round one; a match you would expect her to win. From there you would expect her to face highly touted youngster Belinda Bencic. The 17 year old is destined to be one of the world’s best players, but she faces a tough test against Angelique Kerber. This potential second round clash is no doubt one of the most anticipated matches of week. How will the youngster handle the tests that Kerber will bring to the court?
The number two seed is Czech powerhouse Petra Kvitova. Like Halep, Kvitova will receive a bye into the second round. She will face Shuai Peng, or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. You would expect the Wimbledon champion to make the quarter finals with that draw if she decides to be play hundred percent. The other seed in her quarter is Dominika Cibulkova. The Australian open drew lucky and will face a qualifier in the first round, so you would expect her to make the second round at least. She will likely face Andrea Petkovic in the second round, which will no doubt be tricky for the number seven seed. The winner of that match will really fancy themselves to make the semi-finals, with Kvitova’s commitment in question, with the Australian Open just round the corner.
In the other quarter, we have a stacked group of players with a lot of possible semi-finalists. The number four seed is former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane will open her tournament against Barbora Zahalova-Strycova. A potential banana skin for Wozniacki, as Strycova showed good form last season. You would expect Wozniacki to squeeze past the Czech, but an upset wouldn’t be shocking at all. The winner will face Lucie Safarova or Sam Stosur, and given their head to head and current form it will likely be the Czech. Safarova is a potential title winner in Sydney, with a lot of the top seed’s commitment in doubt. Lucie is in good form, and will no doubt see this as a good chance to win another WTA title. The number eight seed, Flavia Pennetta will be another player gunning for the crown. The Italian will face a qualifier (it’s a pattern isn’t it?) in round one, and you would expect Pennetta to make it through. Flava will face either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Madison Keys. This is one of those interesting round one matches that didn’t make my three to see. It’s another one of those ‘youth vs experience’ battles that will be a theme of the WTA throughout 2015. If I would be forced to choose, I say Keys makes it through to face Pennetta, and the Italian makes the Quarter finals
Semis: Kerber d. Suarez Navarro
Safarova d. Petkovic
With a lot of the top seeds potentially playing safe with the Australian Open in mind, these 4 players will stand out from the rest of the pack and make the semifinals. In the first semifinal, Kerber will narrowly defeat Carla Suarez Navarro in 3 sets. This match will be tight, as they are 2-2 in the head to head, but Kerber I believe will find a way to win. In the second semi final, I expect Lucie Safarova to continue her good form and defeat Andrea Petkovic to make the final. The Czech will be 100% focused here, with the title being a big possibility., and I think she’ll better the German this time around despite the head to head being 4-2 in favour of Petkovic.
Final: Kerber d. Safarova
Angelique Kerber will be the 2015 Sydney champion after weathering the Safarova storm. In this final, I expect the Czech to make the better start and race to an easy one set lead. The German will keep retrieving and errors will finally start leaking from Safarova’s side of the court, allowing Kerber to turn the match on it’s head and win the title in Sydney.
2015 WTA Hobart Preview andPredictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 WTA Hobart Preview
Many stars of the WTA venture to Hobart, Australia, to continue their preparations for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
The tournament was launched in 1994. Interestingly it has produced a different winner every year. Hobart is usually won by rising stars or relatively unknown players who look to kick start their season. Past champions include the likes of Petra Kvitova, and Kim Clijsters. The 2014 edition saw young star Garbine Muguruza win her maiden title. The Spaniard came through qualifying and dominated the field en route to winning the Hobart crown.
Hobart International WTA International Series Hobart, Australia January 11-January 17, 2015
Prize Money: $250,000
*Lepchenko withdrew and will be replaced by a lucky loser
Unfortunately, the original number 4 seed, Vavara Lepchenko was forced to withdraw from the tournament. She has been replaced by a lucky loser, and Stephens is now the number 4 seed. Roberta Vinci is the next highest ranked player and therefore gets seeding.
The number one seed will return from Hopman Cup duty for the home Aussies in Perth to square off against American Lauren Davis in Hobart. What makes this match interesting is the respective form of the two players leading into the event. Dellacqua struggled in the Hopman cup, not winning any of her singles matches. Meanwhile, Davis started the year well by reaching the semi finals in Auckland before losing convincingly to compatriot Venus Williams. There is big potential of an upset here, so this certainly a match to keep an eye on. Dellacqua will no doubt be the home crowd favourite, but look for the 21 year old American to silence them.
Monica Puig vs. Kaia Kanepi
Not all interesting matches have to feature a seeded player, do they? Hobart has produced some interesting round one matches this year, but this particular match may fall under the radar. It is another one of those ‘Youth vs experience’ matches with Puig (21) facing Kanepi (29). Kanepi started the season with a Quarterfinal run in Brisbane, losing to Ana Ivanovic. Puig on the other hand lost her opener in Auckland to Marina Erakovic. Expect the Estonian to try and use her power to overwhelm Puig, who in return will look to use that power to counter Kanepi. I expect another tight 3 setter here that could go either way.
The top half of the Hobart draw is stacked with talent and potential winners. Number one seed, Casey Dellacqua will no doubt be one of those players looking to take the Hobart crown. However, the Aussie doesn’t come into the tournament in good form and might get dumped out earlier than you’d expect from a top seed. The winner of the Dellacqua-Davis will likely make the Quarter Final where I expect either Mona Barthel or Kirsten Flipkens will be waiting. Barthel is talented, yet inconsistent, and has also recently suffered from an injury. The 7th seed could be another player who is dumped out earlier than expected. I can see unseeded players, Davis and Flipkens making the Quarter finals here.
The second quarter is headlined by number three seed Camila Giorgi. The big hitting Italian is another young star who can do a lot of damage. The 23 year old will face Australian wildcard Storm Sanders in the first round. It should be a relatively comfortable match for Giorgi who should over power her opponent. Puig or Kanepi will await her in the second round in another potential slobberknocker (Copyright WWE’s Jim Ross). No matter which one of them advances, it will no doubt be one of the matches of the week should. Interestingly, I expect Kanepi to beat Giorgi, and Giorgi to dispatch Puig despite the 2-0 head to head in favour of the Puerto Rican. If I was to hazard a guess, I would say Kanepi makes the Quarter Finals. Giorgi’s form is unknown and Puig lost her opener last week. There, the Estonian will likely meet Czech Republic’s Klara Koukalova. The number six seed was a finalist last year so knows these courts well. She will face Kurumi Nara in an interesting round one battle. I expect the 32 year old to advance in a tight match despite a round one loss last week. Koukalova’s experience will likely guide her through to the quarterfinals, where I believe she will face Kaia Kanepi. Out of all the likely opponents I expect the Czech to bow out at this stage as the other section of this quarter is just too strong.
Zarina Diyas is the number two seed and therefore the automatic favourite to advance from this half. But tennis isn’t that simple, especially in the WTA. Diyas faces a qualifier or lucky loser in the first round, which isn’t as simple as it may seem. Qualifiers can often be streaky players, so It will be tough, but I believe Diyas will pull through. Daniela Hantuchova should await in the second round, but the lottery of the qualifier/lucky loser also awaits the Slovak in round one. I will stay safe and predict Diyas defeats Hantuchova in the second round. Any of the four potential quarterfinal opponents for the Kazakh could realistically make it to the last eight. The seeded player is Alison Riske. The 24 year old got off to a bad start in Brisbane where she was dumped out in the first round, so the American will look to kick start her 2015 with a win over fellow countrywoman Christina McHale. The world number 45 also lost in the first round of Brisbane, and will be looking for her first win of the season in Hobart. McHale lost to potential second round opponent Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in Brisbane. Baroni was the 2014 comeback player of the year and is the most experienced player out of the four. Her first round opponent is Bojana Jovanovski. The world number 57 lost to Kvitova in the Shenzhen 2nd round, so her form is also unknown. I will go with experience here, and say Lucic Baroni faces Diyas in the Quarter finals after battling through Jovanovski and Riske.
The 4th seed is Sloane Stephens from the USA. The American was once a highly touted youngster, but she was unable to build on her 2013 form. Sloane will look to start her climb back up the rankings with a successful run in Hobart. The 21 year old lost to fellow American Lauren Davis in the 2nd round of the ASB Classic, so doesn’t come into the event in any sort of form. She faces crafty Romanian Monica Niculescu in round one in Hobart. The 27 year old lost to Polona Hercog in the opening round in Shenzhen; a disappointing result for the Romanian. Sloane will be fairly confident of getting by Niculescu and her round two opponent, who I expect to be Heather Watson. The Brit will be returning from Hopman Cup duty, where she lost two of three matches, but I expect the 22 year old to squeeze past Magdalena Rybarikova. The replacement 5th seed, or 9th seed is experienced Italian Roberta Vinci. The 31 has one of the best slices in the game and will be a handful for her first round opponent, Olivia Rogowska. Vinci should be good enough to make the second round at least here, where she will face either Annika Beck or Jana Cepelova. Cepelova will be low on confidence after her thrashing at the hands of Venus Williams, so Beck will be the favourite to face Vinci In round two. Beck is one of the steadiest players on tour, but Vinci has more variety which will see her through to the Quarter finals.
Semis: Kanepi d. Davis Diyas d. Stephens
Kanepi had a good week in Brisbane, and could have gone further that the Quarter Finals if it wasn’t for Ana Ivanovic. Davis went one further in Auckland, but lost comfortably to Venus Williams. I feel Kanepi will be a little too much for Davis here, and defeats the American in 3 sets. Diyas vs Stephens could be match of the tournament. Both are talented youngsters looking to really kick start their seasons by winning the Hobart title. Diyas is currently the higher ranked and better player of the two, so I will predict her to squeeze past Stephens in a very tight 3 setter.
Final: Kanepi d. Diyas
The Estonian will build on a good Brisbane run to take the crown in the Hobart. Kanepi won their only previous meeting at Roland Garros in 2010. However, the Kazakh was raw at that time, so you can’t take much from that match. Diyas will be hoping to win her first WTA title here in her second final. That time she lost to Sam Stosur in Osaka, and I expect something similar here. Kanepi’s experience will see her beat Diyas in 2 or 3 tight sets and win the Hobart title.
2015 WTA Brisbane Preview andPredictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 WTA Brisbane Preview
It’s here, it’s finally here! The start of the new tennis season has arrived, and there aren’t many better places to start than Brisbane. The Queensland capital has hosted its own tournament since 2009 as a joint event between the ATP and WTA. It went from an International event to a Premier event in 2012, with the prize money increasing to $1 million in that time. It’s the ideal place to kick off a new season with the world’s best competing for the title. Grand Slam champions such as Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova and Kim Clijsters have previously won the season opener. However, none of those three mentioned have entered the tournament this year, so we have only one ex-champion in the draw; Kaia Kanepi. Therefore the chances of a new champion being crowned at Brisbane are high. The 2015 season promises to be a special one, and we hope you follow all the action on Tennis Atlantic.
Brisbane International presented by Suncorp WTA Premier Series* Brisbane, Australia January 4-January 10, 2015
Prize Money: $1,000,000
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (Top two seeds receive first round byes) (WTA ranking in parentheses) 1: Maria Sharapova (2)
2: Ana Ivanovic (5)
3: Angelique Kerber (9)
4: Dominika Cibulkova (10)
A strong seeding line up, with eight top 20 players and 3 former world number ones.
A classic serve vs return match-up here. Karolina Pliskova brings one of the best serves on tour, and Azarenka brings one of the best returns on tour. Which one will dominate the match? That’s the question that will decide the winner of this match. There are also question marks about the level Azarenka will show here after an injury hit 2014. Will the Azarenka of old show up here? Or will the Czech defeat last years finalist?
Sam Stosur vs. Varvara Lepchenko
Any match involving the ‘Home’ player is interesting. Add a grand slam title, and a dangerous opponent and you get one of the most intriguing round one matches. Sam Stosur brings one of the most dynamic games on the tour, as she hits with a heavy amount of top spin. Vavara Lepchenko hits a very flat and her main weapon is her forehand, so you have a forehand orientated match here. Will the spin of Stosur be too much for the flat hitting of Lepchenko? This match has potential to go the distance, and the potential to silence the home crowd.
(4)Dominika Cibulkova vs. Madison Keys
One of the tour’s hottest prospects vs the 2014 Australian Open finalist. Sounds mouth-watering doesn’t it? Cibulkova couldn’t have asked for a more difficult first round tie, as Madison Keys brings huge power and a big serve to the court. However, the Slovak brings her own weapons to the fray and if she hits 2014 Australian Open form, Keys could be in for a long night. A close match here that could go either way, so don’t be surprised if the number 4 seed is dumped out in the first round.
(5)Andrea Petkovic vs. Kaia Kanepi
In this first round clash, you have a former top 10 player in Petkovic vs a former winner in Brisbane, Kaia Kanepi. Both will look to take control in the rallies and dominate from the back of the court. This match will come down to who can do that better, and who can take the initiative. Petkovic will be the favourite, but you would be a fool to count out Kanepi.
Number one seed Maria Sharapova will go into the tournament as the favourite to win the title. The 5 time grand slam champions has received a bye into the second round due to her seeding. She will face either a qualifier or Sabine Lisicki in the second round, both could potentially be dangerous. Lisicki has shown great grass form over her career, but has struggled to translate that form onto other surfaces. However The German is still very dangerous and could cause problems. Sharapova will likely battle her way to the quarter finals where she is set to face Carla Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard could cause the number one seed some problems, but Sharapova will fancy herself to make the semi finals here.
The number 3 seed, Angelique Kerber has a potential banana skin tie in the first round when she faces Caroline Garcia. The French woman has caused problems for top 10 players in the past, but Kerber should get through a tricky first round clash. From there she will likely face Jelena Jankovic in the quarter finals in one of the more interesting potential matches in Brisbane. It will likely be a three setter, but I believe Kerber is currently the better player and will squeak past the Serb.
4th seed Dominika Cibulkova has a difficult match against highly touted youngster, Madison Keys in the first round. I can see an upset there, so Keys advances to face Stosur in the second round. Stosur will use the home crowd advantage to make the quarter finals where she will face another highly touted youngster Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard has a potentially difficult path to the Quarter Finals, where she could face Victoria Azarenka. However, I think Garbine will have enough skill about her to reach the semi finals here.
Number 2 seed Ana Ivanovic receives a bye into the second round, where she will face Jarmila Gadjosova or Shuai Zhang. Ivanovic should get through that match fairly comfortably to set up a match against Petkovic or Kanepi (Most likely). Both of these potential opponents can be tricky and will give the Serb a good match, but Ivanovic will most likely make the semi finals here.
The top two seeds will squeeze past their semi final opponents in 3 sets to set up a top 5 clash for the title.
Sharapova def. Ivanovic
The final will be highly fought contest that will raise both players blood pressure a few notches (You got the joke, right?). Sharapova will, in typical Sharapova fashion, battle back to win the final in 3 sets.
Be sure to read the recap here on Tennis Atlantic after the tournament has finished
Niall Clarke’s 2015 WTA Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
WTA is notoriously hard to predict. With so many twists and turns, it’s almost impossible to get predictions completely right. However I am going to have a go, so here are my 2015 WTA predictions.
Year end top 10
10: Angelique Kerber
The German has been in and around the top ten for the past few years and I expect 2015 will be no different. Kerber will be fighting with many others for that last spot at the season ending championships, but a lack of big results will be her downfall. Another top 10 finish could very well happen though, and I believe that it will. Kerber will finish tenth for the second straight year.
9: Victoria Azarenka
Vika had her struggles last season. Injuries meant she missed the chance to defend her Australian Open crown, and thus she slipped down the rankings. Upon her return, the former world number 1 struggled to get back to form and finished 31 in the rankings. With a good off season I can see Azarenka re-entering the top 10 in 2015, but she’ll just fall short of the tour championships.
Aga has been one of the most solid performers on the WTA tour in recent years. The Pole has finished in the top 10 for the past four years. It’s beginning to look like now or never for Radwanska, as she seeks the so far elusive Grand Slam title. Unfortunately, I don’t see her making that step up in 2015. Another solid year will see her finish just inside the top 8.
7: Ana Ivanovic
Ivanovic is another former world number one who had somewhat of a resurgence in 2014. However, I don’t see the Serb being quite as successful in 2015. The 2008 Roland Garros champion will be solid, but unspectacular in 2015, which sees her finish inside the top 8 for the second straight season.
6: Garbine Muguruza
Muguruza is one of the WTA’s fastest rising stars, and I think 2015 will be her breakthrough. Garbine had a solid 2014, and finished just inside the top 20. The Spaniard has the potential to be a grand slam champion, but will have to be more consistent to do so. Garbine’s time won’t come in 2015, but she’ll produce some big results that see her make the tour finals.
5: Petra Kvitova
The Wimbledon champion will be one of the favourites on the grass courts and could very well retain the Wimbledon title. Kvitova will be dangerous in every event she enters, but inconsistent results will see her finish fifth in the world rankings. The Czech will pick up the majority of her points on the faster courts where her power really comes into play.
In 2014 we saw more of the Wozniacki that got to number one in the world rankings. I see Caro having a consistent season, where she will go relatively deep in most events. However, I don’t believe she will have one big stand out result to take her higher in the rankings, so the Dane will have to settle for a fourth place finish.
3: Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova will have a similar season to 2014 that will guide the Russian to third in the world rankings. Sharapova will continue to grab titles on clay, which seems to be her best surface at this time. The 27 year old will be looking to add to her 5 grand slam titles, and she could very well do that. Her best chance will be at Roland Garros again, where she is a two time champion.
2: Simona Halep
The Romanian had her best season in 2014, and will build on that in 2015. Halep will be fighting for the major titles throughout the year and might even go all the way in a Grand Slam. I believe that the loss at the French Open final in 2014 will benefit her, and will help the current world number 3 in future Grand Slam finals. Halep won’t have the success of Serena in 2015, but will be ahead of the rest of the pack.
1: Serena Williams
Serena Williams will once again finish the year as the number one ranked player in women’s tennis. It may not be as simple for the American as it has been in previous years, but Serena will be one step ahead of the competition yet again. With her natural power and booming serve, Williams will overcome any difficulties that she may face with her movement to win most of the events she competes in. This may be the final year of Serena’s reign, but I do believe she will be Queen of the tour yet again.
Australian Open: Simona Halep
Runner up: Caroline Wozniacki
The Australian Open is very difficult to predict. This has been the slam that has alluded Serena since her return to the top, and I feel that it will continue to allude her in 2015. Simona Halep will feel confident after a good 2014, and I believe she could win her maiden grand slam in Melbourne. Wozniacki has a good run to the final but is ultimately stopped by the Romanian in 3 sets.
French Open: Maria Sharapova Runner up: Garbine Muguruza
Maria Sharapova may not be favourite to defend her crown given her record against Serena Williams. I feel the world number one will have another shock exit before they get to meet, leaving the door open for Sharapova to claim her third title at Roland Garros. Garbine Muguruza will have a breakthrough grand slam performance, but will ultimately fall under pressure.
Wimbledon: Serena Williams Runner up: Sabine Lisicki
Whilst we are on the subject of losing your maiden slam final; Sabine Lisicki will once again have a great run in her favourite tournament. Unfortunately for the German, she will be opposite Serena Williams, who will extract revenge on Lisicki. Lisicki defeated Serena at this tournament in 2013. Williams will stream roll her way to the title without dropping a set, and look ominous whilst doing so.
US Open: Serena Williams
Runner up: Simona Halep
The two best players of the year will meet in the final Grand Slam match of 2015. Williams will be riding a wave of great form after her Wimbledon triumpth, and that will see her over the line in a classic US Open final. Halep puts up a good fight, but Serena pulls through in 3 sets to claim her 4th straight title at Flushing Meadows and 20th Grand Slam overall.
Premier Mandatory and Premier 5 predictions
Dubai: Serena Williams
Indian Wells: Simona Halep
Miami: Serena Williams
Madrid: Maria Sharapova
Rome: Simona Halep
Canada: Serena Williams
Cincinnati Serena Williams Wuhan: Caroline Wozniacki
Beijing: Petra Kvitova
WTA Championships: Serena Williams
Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard falls out of the top 10
Former world number one; Martina Hingis, returns to singles competition
Venus Williams announces her retirement
Belinda Bencic will crack top 20
Vinci & Errani won’t finish the year as the number 1 doubles team
Our New Journalist Niall Clarke: What to Watch For in the 2015 WTA Season Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2014 was one of the most exciting years in recent memory for the WTA. If there is one thing that women’s tennis provides, it is great drama, and if you like drama then the upcoming season won’t disappoint.
2014 saw the impeccable Serena Williams finish the year as world number 1 for a third straight year. The American racked up 7 titles, including her 18th Grand Slam title at the US Open en route to claiming the year end number 1.
Li Na won the Australian Open, claiming her second Grand Slam title. Unfortunately for the world of tennis, she decided to call it a career later in the year. Tennis lost one of its biggest stars in Li, who was huge in her home country of China.
Simona Halep emerged as a top player, reaching her first Grand Slam final and finishing the year as world number three. But the Romanian wasn’t the only youngster to have a major breakthrough. Eugenie Bouchard had some great runs in the major events to finish inside the top eight for the first time in her career. There were also Grand Slam wins for Maria Sharapova, and Petra Kvitova, who won Roland Garros and Wimbledon respectively. With the strength of Serena’s grip on the tour loosening, 2015 will no doubt be one of the most dramatic season in years.
Serena, the world number one, has dominated the tour for the past three years, but at the age of 33, is her reign in jeopardy? The American claimed her 18th Grand Slam title in New York, and will look to catch Steffi Graf’s record 22 Grand Slam titles. However, it may not be as easy for Serena as many may expect. With the emergence of younger talent, and Williams’ potential decline, her ranking is now under threat. The world number one could easily fall down the rankings, but she could also just as easily bulldoze her competition yet again. The question of ‘How long can Serena’s reign last?’ is one of the most interesting storylines of 2015.
One of the hunters of the world number one will be Maria Sharapova. The 27 year old captured her 5th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, and will look to build on that in 2015. The world number two is one of the biggest names in women’s tennis, and that isn’t just down to her on court abilities. The brand of Maria Sharapova is growing bigger, and with the release of her candy ‘Sugarpova’ plus dating ATP star Grigor Dimitrov, the eyes of the tennis world won’t just be focused on the court when it comes to Sharapova.
The emergence of Simona Halep was one of the biggest storylines of 2014. The 23 year old broke through and established herself as one of the world’s best, and she’ll be looking to carry that momentum into 2015. Halep reached the French Open final, but narrowly lost to Maria Sharapova in 3 sets. The Romanian will be looking to go one further in the upcoming season, and write her name onto the Grand Slam honours list. Simona showed last year that she certainly has the potential to become world number one, and no doubt that she’ll be fighting for that honour in 2015. The question is, does she have enough firepower in her arsenal to do so?
Petra Kvitova will go into 2015 as the world number 4, and defending Wimbledon champion. The Czech has one of the biggest games on tour, and is a threat to anyone on any given day, but inconsistency has stopped her from reaching her full potential. Kvitova was touted to dominate the tour when she burst onto the scene and won her first Wimbledon title in 2011, but it hasn’t quite happened as of yet. Maybe 2015 will be the year Petra steps up and full fills her potential, or it may very well be another inconsistent year for the Wimbledon champion.
2014 saw the emergence of some of the younger talents in women’s tennis. Eugenie Bouchard led the pack with some great results in the bigger events, particularly at Wimbledon where she made the final. Bouchard may just be the future face of women’s tennis, but one must wonder whether she can handle the weight of expectation that is now on her shoulders. We will see how she copes with that pressure in 2015. Another prospect touted for big things is Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza. The 21 year old had an inconsistent 2014, but showed her potential in numerous of matches, the best being her destruction of Serena Williams at Roland Garros. Garbine finally resolved the issue of country representation, when she chose Spain over Venezuela. Now Garbine can focus on a potential top 10 finish in 2015. Other youngsters such as Madison Keys, and Belinda Bencic will also be looking to make a big impact on the WTA tour in the coming months. Both will have aspirations of finishing in the top 20 for the first time, and going deep in one of the major events.
Of course, these aren’t the only interesting players to follow in 2015. Caroline Wozniacki will be looking to continue her resurgence. The former world number one had relationship issues off the court, but her results on the court told a different story. Caro reached the US Open final last season, and will look to build on that and win her first major next season. Ana Ivanovic will be looking to build on an impressive 2014 too. The Serb is another former world number one who re-enteretd the top 8 last season. Ivanovic will be looking to win her second major in 2015. Agnieszska Radwanska will look to step out of the shadows of the top players and win her maiden grand slam title. The Pole has come close before and has been on the fringes in recent years. But despite her finesse, Aga hasn’t yet put it all together to win a slam. Will 2015 be her year?
2015 promises to be an open and dramatic season both on and off the court. The WTA always provides the drama and entertainment to keep us on the edge of our seats, and we will see that plus more in the upcoming season.
You can follow the WTA tour on Tennis Atlantic throughout the year.