2016 WTA Mallorca Preview Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Wimbledon is fast approaching, and the WTA will take to Mallorca for their grass court preparations.
Location: Mallorca, Spain
Prize money: $226,750
Date: June 13th– June 19th
Top eight seeds (ranking)
Garbine Muguruza (2)
Jelena Jankovic (24)
Ana Ivanovic (25)
Kristina Mladenovic (32)
First round matches to watch
Muguruza (Photo: Mallorca Open)
Garbine Muguruza vs Kirsten Flipkens: it is always interesting to see how a first-time grand slam winner performs after winning a maiden major, and with Muguruza it is no different.
The Spaniard returns to her home country in preparation for Wimbledon where she made the final in 2015. She has traditionally struggled to adapt to the different conditions, but she found the formula at Wimbledon and seems much more comfortable on the grass.
Flipkens, though is a very solid grass courter and a former Wimbledon semi- finalist in her own right. The Belgian’s form is not great, but she might take inspiration by returning to the grass.
Kiki Mladenovic (Photo: Christopher Levy @Tennis_Shots)
Kristina Mladenovic vs Sabine Lisicki: On the subject of former Wimbledon finalists and players who suit the grass, Mladenovic has been drawn against Lisicki.
There is something about the grass that brings the German to life no matter how poor her form. Mladenovic, on the other hand, has found form in recent weeks after a poor start to the season.
Lisicki leads the head to head 2-1, but all their meetings have been on hard courts. This match will likely come down to who is in better form.
Top seed Muguruza is clearly the best player in the draw, but there’s some real danger in her section. An opening round match against Flipkens is one of them, and it doesn’t get any easier. Julia Goerges or Monica Puig will await in the second round for the winner. Laura Siegemund has also landed in this section, but her form has dropped as of late. Nao Hibino and Saisai Zheng will look to take advantage of that.
Ana Ivanovic’s ranking has fallen outside the top 20 and she will look to use this event as a good booster for Wimbledon, where she will be hoping to climb up a few places. Pauline Parmentier is her round one opponent, and then the Serb is expected to play a Spanish wildcard in the second round. Ivanovic will likely go untested until the quarter final where she is projected to play Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman scored a number of victories over the former world number one last year, but she is not a fan of the grass. Carina Witthoeft will look to send Garcia packing early.
Garcia’s doubles partner Mladenovic lands as the fourth seed and in good form. She will play the ever dangerous but inconsistent Lisicki in the first round. The Frenchwoman will be the favourite to make it out of this section after playing her way into form in recent weeks. Mariana Duque Marino or Alison Van Uytvanck will play Mladenovic in the second round. Eugenie Bouchard is the other seed in the section, but her results recently could lead to a first round exit to Danka Kovinic.
Jankovic is the second seed here, but has a tough draw ahead. Young star Ana Konjuh is not the ideal first round opponent, and the Croatian could cause the upset. Yulia Putintseva will bring her game and feistiness to this section, but she also has a tough drawn with Daniela Hantuchova or Yaroslava Shvedova being her round two opponent.
It is difficult to look past Muguruza here. She might have a post slam hangover, but the Spaniard has a strong mentality and will be motivated to win at home. Mladenovic will continue her good form into this week but will ultimately fall short.
With the new season finally upon us, the WTA is hosting three tournaments to kick off 2016 in style. With tournaments in Brisbane and Shenzhen also taking place this week, the WTA goes to the island of New Zealand for the ASB Classic in Auckland.
The season opener started back in 1985 for the start of the 1986 season and has been a staple on the calendar ever since.
Previous champions include Marion Bartoli, Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic and last year’s winner Venus Williams.
The ASB Classic
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Prize Money: $226,750
Date: January 4th-10th 2016
All the seeds ranks inside the top 50 with three former grand slam champions and a former world number one set to compete.
First round matches to watch
(4) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Mona Barthel
Kuznetsova had the misfortune of drawing the next highest ranked player outside of the seeds in the opening round, Mona Barthel.
The German is known as an underachiever, being blessed with plenty of talent but has seemingly been unable to translate it into the desired results. Kuznetsova on the other hand is a former grand slam champion but t 30 years of age, can she reproduce that form?
An interesting round one here with two inconsistent players which means it could go either way. Don’t be surprised to see the fourth seed flounder at the first hurdle.
There is an argument that the top players are potentially most vulnerable at the start of the season having not played for a few months. Can Kovinic take advantage and claim the scalp of the former world number one?
Wozniacki did not enjoy the best of 2015’s, finishing outside the top 10. But the former world number one must not be under-estimated. She is still one of the best defenders on tour and difficult to break down.
That is the task ahead of her 21 year old opponent who enjoyed her bests season to date in 2015. The Montenegrin almost broke the top 50 last year, and a win over Wozniacki will give her a huge confidence boost to start the season.
First Quarter: Top seed Venus Williams is back to defend her title after a small resurgence in 2015. The former world number one will kick her season off against Daria Kasatkina in the opening round. If the American predictably makes round two, she will face the winner of Mariana Duque Marino vs Nao Hibino. It would be a huge shock if Venus does not make the quarter finals.
Barbora Strycova’s 2015 did not go as planned as she surrendered her top 30 place to finish just inside the top 50. The Czech however enjoyed the Fed Cup success and will be hoping to translate that form into 2016. The seventh seed opens against a qualifier, but Lucie Hradecka or Julia Goerges could throw a spanner in the works in round two.
Second Quarter: Kuznetsova on the other hand will want to re-kindle old glory in 2016 after a respectable 2015 that saw her finish inside the top 30. The Russian has a difficult round one against Barthel with round two proving much easier for the winner against a semi retired Francesca Schiavone or a qualifier.
Coco Vandeweghe is one of the many Americans in the draw, but she is still searching for her major breakthrough. She made a good run at Wimbledon last year on a surface that suits her game but the courts here are slower, will that impact her effectiveness? It is an all American round one against Irina Falconi with Bethanie Mattek Sands likely for round two- Plenty for the American fans to enjoy.
Third quarter: Wozniacki lost her top 10 status in 2015 but her quest to regain her position amongst the elite starts in Auckland against Kovinic. If there aren’t enough Americans in the draw, Christina McHale is possible for round two against the winner providing she can defeat Misaki Doi.
Talented Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck is name that may be familiar due to her quarter final run at Roland Garros last year. However she has not built on that run, will 2016 be her time to break through? Van Uytvanck faces Alexandra Dulgheru in the opening round. Home favourite Marina Erakovic or Yulia Putintseva await the winner.
Fourth Quarter: Like Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic lost her top 10 status last year, finishing 15th in the world. The Serbian will kick off her 2016 season against a qualifier before meeting Jelena Ostapenko or Joanna Larsson- a good draw for the second seed Sloane Stephens completes the American line up for Auckland as the fifth seed. She only has one title to her name, can she add a second here? Stephens opens against Hercog before meeting the winner of Witthoeft vs Maria. A decent little section here.
I have gone for the defending champion again. Williams showed superb form at the end of the season and won the title last year for a reason. A good run for Barthel to the semi finals too with Ivanovic being the defeated finalist.
2015 US Open Women’s Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Yep, it’s fake.
We have reached the Big Apple for the final grand slam of the year, the US Open. All the focus heading into Flushing Meadows is the potential of history being made. Serena Williams is chasing her 22nd grand slam title and is looking to complete the calendar year grand slam for the first time in her illustrious career.
But it would be foolish to think that this will be a one woman show. Expect the unexpected when it comes to women’s tennis as we will be treated to the drama and the upsets we have come to expect from the WTA.
Tier: Grand Slam
Location: New York, USA
Prize Money: $20,102,700
Date: August 31st- September 13th 2015
Top eight seeds (ranking):
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Simona Halep (2)
3. Maria Sharapova (3)
4. Caroline Wozniacki (4)
5. Petra Kvitova (5)
6. Lucie Safarova (6)
7. Ana Ivanovic (7)
8. Karolina Pliskova (8)
All of the top players will be taking part in the final grand slam of the year.
First round matches to watch:
(3) Maria Sharapova vs Daria Gavrilova
Third seeded Maria Sharapova will open her bid for a second US Open title by facing compatriot and youngster Daria Gavrilova in round one.
The world number three’s preparation was cut to nothing due to injury, but one thing we know about Masha is that she will give it her best. We can question whether the injury will be a factor here, but even if she is healthy, Gavrilova is not the player you want to face in the opening round. The 21-year-old is a feisty player and could catch Sharapova off guard just like she did to Lucie Safarova in Toronto.
She holds a victory over the world number three, which came on the hard courts of Miami. Sharapova avenged it in Rome a few months later leaving their head to head 1-1 but in terms of hard courts Gavrilova holds the advantage. The third seed will be favourite, but there could be potential for an upset.
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs Dominika Cibulkova
The fifth meeting between Ana Ivanovic and Dominika Cibulkova is one of the round one matches that catches the immediate eye. With their head to head balanced at 2-2, who will get their third victory in this series?
Ivanovic is looking to sustain her top eight ranking by going deep in the only grand slam she hasn’t made the semi-finals of. The Serb’s best result came in 2012 where she made the quarter finals. Ivanovic has not hit her top form since making the semi-finals of the French Open earlier in the year, but he did push Serena in Cincinnati.
Former Australian Open finalist Cibulkova is still trying to re-climb the rankings after an injury kept her out for a few months earlier in the season. Now at 58, the Slovakian is one of the more dangerous unseeded players in the draw.
Ivanovic won their previous two meetings and comes in to this one as the better player and the favourite. However, Cibulkova is certainly capable of an upset.
(29) Sloane Stephens vs Coco Vandeweghe
This battle of American youngsters will no doubt give the New York crowd plenty of action and excitement as Sloane Stephens faces Coco Vandeweghe.
After somewhat labouring through 2014 and the early part of 2015, Stephens has rediscovered some of the form that saw her break the top 20 in 2013. The 22 year old won her maiden title in Washington and made the round of 16 in Cincinnati.
Vandeweghe has struggled with her form since making the Quarter Finals of Wimbledon. In fact she has only won one singles match since that breakthrough grand slam performance at SW19. With her big serve and powerful ground strokes, the 23 year old’s game should suit the US Open hard courts.
Stephens won their most recent meeting in Strasbourg but overall the head to head reads 2-1 in favour of Vandeweghe, albeit them results are from 2012 and 2010. Sloane is a much better player now and will be the favourite, but either way should satisfy the home crowd.
(6) Lucie Safarova vs Lesia Tsurenko
In a rematch of their New Haven semi-final contest a few days prior to the event, sixth seed Lucie Safarova faces an in form Lesia Tsurenko in one of the picks of the opening round matches.
The Czech pulled through in straight sets that time around, making Tsurenko even keener to avenge that recent defeat. Safarova is not quite at French Open level just yet, but she is in decent form heading in to Flushing Meadows. Her run to the New Haven final was proceeded with a quarter final appearance in Cincinnati.
Tsurenko’s form has seen her not only win her first WTA title in Istanbul, but reach the top 50 with aims of going much further. The Ukrainian came through qualifying in Toronto to defeat Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza in straight sets and make the quarter finals. That run has been backed up by an impressive run to the semi-finals of New Haven. Certainly an unseeded player to avoid. Interestingly, these two have met before at the US Open. That came two years ago and Safarova ran out the victor in three sets. Expect a repeat in 2015 with a potential early exit for the French Open finalist.
(18) Andrea Petkovic vs Caroline Garcia
The final match of my round one picks sees 18th seed Andrea Petkovic face talented Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia. Both players’ form is hard to judge after having a rather up and down build up to the US Open. Petkovic may consider herself unlucky to draw Serena Williams and Simona Halep in consecutive weeks but her form has been quite iffy. It will be interesting to see what level she is at come the US Open.
With Garcia you never know what you are going to get. She put together impressive back to back wins against Sabine Lisicki and Petra Kvitova in Cincinnati before putting in a poor performance against Elina Svitolina. It was a repeat in New Haven, two good wins followed by an awful performance against Wozniacki. So who knows which Garcia we will see in New York.
With both players’ form hard to gage, it is a tough match to predict. Petkovic won their only previous meeting in Eastbourne, so this is their first meeting on a hard court. It will be a nice style clash which could go either way depending on which version of each player shows up.
Serena Williams will begin her quest to make history against Vitalia Diatchenko. It should not be a problem for the world number one, but round two could be very tricky if Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is on form. The Croatian defeated Simona Halep here last year and has a big game to trouble Williams. It might not get any easier in round three where she is projected to face Sloane Stephens. That is of course if she could make her way through the opening two rounds.
Another young American looking to make an impact is Madison Keys. The big hitting 19th seed has been drawn with Agnieszka Radwanska in this mini section. The 20 year old will open against Klara Koukalova who is not at her best but still dangerous. There is a potential Radwanska sibling clash in round two with Ula facing Magda Linette and Aga facing Katerina Siniakova in matches both should win. The more well-known Radwanska will be favourite for this one but strange things can happen in these sister battles. We could see an interesting round three between Keys and A.Radwanska which will provide an interesting style clash. The American will bring her big serve and power, whilst The Pole will bring her variety and counterpunching game.
Karolina Pliskova’s rise to the top 10 has been one of the stories of the season so far, but the Czech- for all her great play- has failed to make an impression at grand slam level. The 23 year old should be good enough to make the third round without much trouble- It will get more difficult from there. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the projected third round opponent but Magdalena Rybarikova is a difficult round one for the Russian. Casey Dellacqua or Saisai Zheng will await the winner in the second round, so you would expect Pavs or Rybarikova to make round three. Pliskova will be favourite to make it to round four but there is a potential banana skin in round three.
One player who captured the attention of the tennis world heading in to the US Open was Belinda Bencic. The Swiss put together a string of amazing wins on her way to taking the Toronto title putting herself amongst the outside contenders for the title. Can she respond positively to the pressure? We will get our first look when she faces Sesil Karatancheva in the opening round before meeting the winner of Daniela Hantuchova vs Misaki Doi. Bencic could potentially meet both Williams sisters, starting with Venus in round three. The 35-year-old will face struggling Monica Puig in round one and likely to face Irina Falconi in round two. Williams struggles to grind out victories when not playing well so she must watch her back in the first two rounds. But her run likely will be ended by Bencic in round three.
Maria Sharapova had a non-existent build up to the US Open after injury kept her out of Toronto and Cincinnati. One wonders whether she will be 100% for the last grand slam of the year. Looking to take advantage of a diminished Sharapova is countrywoman Gavrilova. The 21-year-old upset the third seed in Miami so we know she is capable of producing a big result. Ana Konjuh or Tatjana Maria will be the round two opponent for the winner. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the projected opponent in the third round, but she has a tough opener against Kristina Mladenovic. A potential seed casualty there with Kuznetsova’s form very much in the question. You would expect the winner to make the third round with Bojana Jovanovski or Lara Arruabarrena. Sharapova has some tricky roadblocks in this section and it will be hard to gage how well she will do with the lingering injury.
It is a Russian heavy section of the draw with Ekaterina Makarova finding herself amongst her three compatriots in this section. Teliana Pereira will await in the first round. The Brazilian is more of a clay court specialist therefore making it difficult to look past the 13th seed here. Heather Watson or Lauren Davis could both provide a tough test in the second round but you would expect Makarova to make round three at least. Amidst the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, we could see the border clash make its way over to tennis with Elina Svitolina the likely round three opponent of Makarova. Albiet this conflict will be tamer. Svitolina should make her way through the first two rounds with Kaia Kanepi looking like the most dangerous opponent. Svitolina vs Makarova will be an interesting style clash and do not be surprised to see the lower seed advancing. The Ukrainian is in very good form after reaching the semi-finals of Cincinnati.
Ana Ivanovic’s blood pressure should be fine after seeing the draw for her section at the US Open. She is in a possibly injured Sharapova’s quarter and has a few out of form seeds in there too- this could get messy. Dominika Cilbulkova will no doubt raise the Serb’s temperature, but if Ivanovic is serious about making a deep run, she should come through that match. Alison Van Uytvank- who has done nothing of note since Roland Garros- will likely await in round two. The seventh seed got the lucky draw of a slumping Bouchard as the projected round three opponent. You can’t project anything with the Canadian at the moment however, she has struggled since the Australian Open. Alison Riske will look to take advantage of that in round one. Polona Hercog or Zarina Diyas (who did well at Wimbledon) will await in round two. Anything but Ivanovic making it out of this section will be a surprise.
Whilst we are on the topic of out of form players, Carla Suarez Navarro is another candidate for an early exit. The Spaniard has struggled since clay season, barely being able to win matches. Such a shame for her after a very solid start to 2015 that saw her break top 10. Denisa Allertova is a should win match, but Roberta Vinci will provide problems in round two. The Italian has shown good form over the summer hard court season. Jelena Jankovic will probably await in round three as she has a very good draw before the third round.
Despite mono and a lack of form, Petra Kvitova managed to defend her New Haven title putting her in good stead heading in to a grand slam she has traditionally struggled in. The Czech has a fairly good section to play her way in to the tournament here. Laura Siegemund in round one will be followed by the winner of Nicole Gibbs vs Lourdes Dominguez Lino in the second round- Both of which the fifth seed should win. Anna Schmiedlova’s steady ranking progression has seen her seeded for a grand slam for the first time. As the 32nd seed she will look to take advantage of avoiding the top players before the third round. She faces Julia Goerges in a tough but passable first round. The winner will face the victor of the Balkan battle between Danka Kovinic and Aleksandra Krunic. Kvitova will likely be a bridge too far for Schmiedlova, though Petra is certainly capable of some shocking performances. The Slovak has the consistency to take advantage.
Garbine Muguruza has been in a bit of a rut since making the Wimbledon final. The Spaniard has lost 4/4 sets to players ranked outside the top 50, and news has recently broke about her splitting with long-time coach Alejo Mancisidor–strange decision given the timing. Carina Witthoeft must not be overlooked in the first round, though Muguruza has a habit of bringing her best to the big events. She could face Johanna Konta again in round two. The Brit is riding a 13-match winning streak and defeated the Spaniard in Eastbourne. Can Konta repeat that feat in New York? Andrea Petkovic and Caroline Garcia may look at this news as a blessing. The winner of that opener will fancy themselves to make round four here with Muguruza’s questionable form. Petkovic will be the favourite, though Garcia, then Laura Robson or Elena Vesnina will provide some tough challenges.
The Great Dane is still searching for the big grand slam breakthrough her career has lacked thus far. A finalist last year, Wozniacki knows how to get around these courts. Can she translate that in to grand slam success? The fourth seed opens up against wildcard Jamie Loeb in a match she should progress in. In round two it will either be Christina McHale or Petra Cetovska- again Wozniacki should prevail. Round three is where it gets interesting with Flavia Pennetta potentially waiting in the wings. The Italian has not lived up to her 2014 but is still dangerous opposition at this stage of a slam. The 26th seed has a fairly easy draw to the third round with Jarmila Gadjosova and Monica Niculescu being her likely first two opponents. Wozniacki should make it through this section, but Pennetta could push her in the final 32.
Sara Errani secured a top 16 seeding with a good run in Toronto, and now the Italian will begin her quest to re-enter the top 10 at the US Open. She has been drawn with 2011 champion Sam Stosur in her section with a potentially interesting round three meeting between those two on the cards. Errani will face Mayo Hibi in round one, then likely Annika Beck in the second round. Stosur faces Timea Babos before meeting the winner of Rodina-Mrdeza. I believe Stosur’s previous experience at this event will allow her to advance from this section.
Lucie Safarova will look to top off a good year in the grand slams by making another deep run, only this time in New York. The sixth seed has drawn dangerous floater Lesia Tsurenko in round one, a player she defeated in New Haven the week prior to this event. The winner gets either Varvara Lepchenko or Kirsten Flipkens in round two. You would believe that the winner of Safarova-Tsurenko will make round three here given their respective forms. There they could face Irina Begu who is the other seed in the section. The Romanian however has a tough test I the form of Olga Govortsova in round one, and should she survive they first round, the next opponent will not be any easier. Mona Barthel vs Tsvetana Pironkova is a good looking match between two unseeded players, both of which will fancy their chances of round three.
Angelique Kerber has had the misfortune of getting the ‘Azarenka draw’ making this section one of the most mouth-watering of the lot. Barring a big upset or two, we should see this round three clash that most tennis fans undoubtedly want. Of course there are a few players who will no doubt be looking to spoil the party, not least Karin Knapp who on paper seems to have the best shot in stopping this meeting. Should we get the Azarenka-Kerber match the Belarusian will be favourite despite the seedings. Kerber has never defeated Azarenka in four attempts.
Simona Halep is still bidding for the elusive grand slam title to add to her collection of trophies. It will start with Marina Erakovic before facing the winner of Kateryna Bondarenko vs Yulia Putintseva in what should be simple enough wins for the second seed. The third round could be tricky with Alize Cornet possibly awaiting the Romanian. The Frenchwoman for whatever reason seems to bring her A-game to these sort of matches. She has defeated Serena and she got a victory over Halep in Madrid too. Cornet will face Kurumi Nara in the first round before possibly moving on to face Sachia Vickery or Shelby Rogers in the second round. Can Cornet spring another surprise against the world number two?
Timea Bacsinszky’s momentum has gone off the rails since Wimbledon and the Swiss has struggled to get wins under her belt in the build up to the tournament. The comeback story is one of the better tales of the 2015 season, but she needs to re-find that early season form. Barbora Strycova is a testing round one despite the Czech not enjoying her 2014 levels of success. The winner should make the third round. Sabine Lisicki (surprisingly not the Wimbledon woman this season) is the other seed in this section. The German has overall performed very well on American hard courts this year. The 24th seed should make it past her qualifier opponent in round one before meeting Camila Giorgi in round two. This one could be interesting with both players known for their power. They will fancy their chances of making the fourth round with Bascinszky out of form.
I can’t see Radwanska troubling the world number one on these courts. Bencic will carry her momentum into the US open to defeat Pliskova and set up a rematch with Serena. Sharapova’s place in the quarter final is questionable due to her fitness but I am going to presume she will be fine to compete. Ivanovic should take advantage of a good draw to make the quarter finals.
Kvitova’s form in New Haven has given me confidence that she will make the quarter finals here, beating Petkovic. Wozniacki’s defence will be too much for Stosur to create a New Haven rematch against Kvitova. Azarenka likes these courts so I feel she will beat Safarova to set up a quarter final against Halep. The Romanian will defeat a Lisicki who takes advantage of Bacsinszky’s bad form.
It would be an incredible story if Bencic was able to shock Serena yet again, but this is a grand slam so I see the world number one prevailing this time. Again, Sharapova’s injury could hamper her progress here so I am going with Ivanovic to make it through that quarter. Kvitova defeated Wozniacki in New haven, but I feel a mix of fatigue and Caro liking these courts will allow the Dane to advance this time. Azarenka is not the player that made the final here anymore, so I feel Halep will prevail in that one.
Ivanovic has tested Serena numerous times over recent years and could do so again here. But it is hard seeing the world number one losing at this stage of a grand slam. Halep and Wozniacki could be a marathon, but I can’t see the Dane making back to back finals.
Embed from Getty Images Final:
Serena def. Halep
If Serena makes it to the latter stages I don’t see her losing. It should be a historic tournament for Williams who will add to her ever growing legacy.
2015 French Open Week 1 Women’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 French Open Women’s Preview
It’s finally time for the pinnacle tournament of the clay court season, the second grand slam of the year, The French Open.
First held in 1881, the French Open was originally held in Paris’ Stade Francais club, and only accepted French club members. It was until 1925 that the French Tennis Federation allowed overseas entrants. In 1928, it was decided that the tournament needed a new site and thus it moved to the Porte d’Auteuil, where it has stayed ever since. 40 years a later after seeing victors from across the world, the French Open became the first Grand Slam to embrace professionalism.
From then a whole host a champions lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, with the likes of Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Chris Evert winning multiple titles in the following years. In the following decades, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Justine Henin and Serena Williams captured multiple French Open titles. Most recently Maria Sharapova lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the second time in 2014, defeating Simona Halep in a classic final. Her previous triumph came two years earlier. Serena Williams won the title in 2013.
French Open Tier: Grand Slam Location: Paris, France Surface: Clay Prize Money: $15,980,135 Date: May 24th- June 7th 2015
Top 8 seeded players (Ranking)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (2)
3. Simona Halep (3)
4. Petra Kvitova (4)
5. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
6. Eugenie Bouchard (6)
7. Ana Ivanovic (7)
8. Carla Suarez Navarro (8)
The only main draw player out of the tournament is Kateryna Kozlova. All the top players are entered into the main draw.
(15) Venus Williams vs Sloane Stephens:
I am sure this stood out to everyone who has looked at the full draw. Venus vs Sloane, with a potential round four with Serena at stake? That is quite the Hollywood blockbuster.
Venus Williams has only played one clay court tournament leading up to the French Open, and that was Rome two weeks ago. The world number 15 made the round of sixteen before slumping to a 6-2, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Simona Halep. Clay has traditionally been the weakest surface for Venus, but she is a former finalist at Roland Garros 13 years ago. On that occasion she lost to her sister Serena in straight sets. The 34 year old lost to Anna Schmiedlova in a crazy second round last year, which also saw her sister lose that same day.
Sloane Stephens is still going strong in Strasbourg as I write this. The American is currently in the semi-finals with potential to go all the way and win it. The 22 year old was once touted the future of women’s tennis, but she has failed to live up to them expectations, and now finds herself ranked 41 in the world. After a good run in Strasbourg, Stephens will be full of confidence heading into this match. Stephens has made the fourth round in her past three French Open appearances, so she knows her way around Roland Garros.
These two have never met before even though they were touted to face each other in Miami two years ago. The match should be very forehand orientated, with both players looking to dictate from that wing. In an extremely packed section, this is the round one highlight and should produce a very interesting and potentially great match that could go either way.
(6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Kristina Mladenovic:
2014 semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard has failed to bring her 2014 form into this season, and as a result, the Canadian is in a mini slump. With semi-final points to defend it’s time for Genie to kick into gear, but unfortunately for the sixth seed she has drawn home crowd favourite Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round.
Bouchard’s performances in the biggest tournaments earned the Canadian a top eight seeding, but this year has thus far been a poor one for Genie. Starting from Indian Wells, Bouchard lost six straight matches. The losing streak was finally snapped in Rome, where Bouchard managed to defeat Zarina Diyas in straight sets. The Canadian lost to Carla Suarez Navarro in the following round, but she took the inform Spaniard to three sets, which was encouraging signs for the Genie army. Bouchard’s impressive run to the semi-finals was halted by eventual champion Maria Sharapova last year.
Kristina Mladenovic is still going strong in Strasbourg, as she guns for her first career title. The 22 year old is in good form, and in front of a home crowd when she faces Genie Bouchard, and that is why this match is so interesting. The Frenchwoman is no stranger to upsetting top players at Roland Garros as she dumped former champion Li Na out last year in the opening round. Mladenovic’s run to the third round last year is her best result at her home grand slam. If she is to go one further, she must upset Bouchard in the opening round.
This match is a must watch because of the sheer upset potential. Bouchard is not in great form, and Mladenovic is in good form. Couple that with the French crowd being completely behind the world number 54, Mladenovic could easily upset Bouchard like she upset Li Na last year.
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs Yaroslava Shvedova: To continue the upset trend, Ivanovic has been dealt a round one clash against the enigma known as Yaroslava Shvedova.
Ivanovic’s resurgence towards to the top of the rankings has stagnated in recent weeks. The Serbian has found herself 2-3 so far in the clay season, which is a poor record for a top eight player. Most recently, the former world number one lost to Daria Gavrilova in three sets in Rome. Despite the recent form, one would be a fool to count Ivanovic out. She is a former champion at Roland Garros, so she knows what it takes to go the distance. With a top eight seeding, the Serbian will look to go further than the round of 32 where she fell last year.
Shvedova fell a round earlier in 2014 to Pauline Parmentier, and the Kazakh’s recent form is not encouraging. However, Shvedova is a former two time quarter finalist at this event and with her known talents, she can beat almost anybody in the world on her day. The 27 year old has lost three straight matches on the clay, but she can peak at any time as shown by her 2012 run from qualifying all the way to the quarter finals. That run included a three sets win over then defending champion Li Na.
The potential of Shvedova to randomly peak against an out of a form Ivanovic makes this match very intriguing. The Kazakh has the talent to blast her opponent off the court, but of course she has to find some good form for that to happen. The head to head reads 1-1, so both players know how to beat the other. Look out for this one because it could be interesting.
Where do I start with this one? The world number one Serena Williams has been dealt with a tough section, which could see her play Victoria Azarenka and sister Venus before the quarterfinals. The path to round three looks relatively simple for the top seed, but when the round of sixteen beckons things will get very interesting. Only a few weeks ago in Madrid, Victoria Azarenka came within millimetres of defeating the world number one. Three match points on serve came and went, and soon a deflated Azarenka fell in the tiebreak. With a potential rematch on the horizon, the Roland Garros crowd will be relishing the opportunity to see the rematch.
The winner of that epic round three encounter could face either Sloane Stephens or Venus Williams In the round of sixteen. The American pair will compete in the pick of the opening round matches. The winner might be favourite to make the fourth round against Serena or Vika, but Barbora Strycova might have something to say about it. The 22nd seed has a crafty game, and could easily catch Venus or Sloane off guard. First, the Czech must defeat Tsvetana Pironkova and the winner of qualifier/Allertova in round two. Either way, Williams or Azarenka will have a difficult round four opponent.
Caroline Wozniacki comes into Roland Garros with no points to defend after around one defeat to Yania Wickmayer last year. However the fifth seed has shown improvements on her worst surface under the tutelage of Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, making the final of Stuttgart and the quarter finals in Madrid. Dangerous Italian Karin Knapp is the round one opponent, and then the Dane will be tested by a big serve in round two as she will face either Coco Vandeweghe or Julia Goerges. The projected round three is Jelena Jankovic, but the Serb pulled out of Strasbourg in the build up to Roland Garros so her condition is unknown. That could open the door for a qualifier or Irina Falconi to make the third round. With Wozniacki’s improvements on clay it’s difficult to see her not making the fourth round unless a Vandeweghe or Goerges zone in.
As well as Jankovic, Andrea Petkovic pulled out of Nurnberg this week citing injury, so the German’s condition is also unknown. Susan Rogers in round one or Cristina McHale in round two will look to take advantage of any potential injuries to the world number ten, but the biggest beneficiary will be former finalist Sara Errani. The Italian was runner up in 2012, and has proven hugely difficult to hit through on the clay. Alison Riske will test the defence of Errani in round one, as will Carina Witthoeft in round two, but the world number 17 should grind her way through. Petkovic’s unknown injury status will make Errani the favourite to make the fourth round and potentially face Caroline Wozniacki in a match between two of the best movers on tour.
After triumphing in Madrid, many people put Petra Kvitova as one of the favourites for the French Open title. But with Petra you never know, and with some dangerous seeds in her section such as Timea Bacsinszky, Irina Begu and Madison Keys, there’s potential upset in the early rounds. Kvitova opens against Marina Erakovic, before moving on to either Sylvia Soler Espinosa or Pauline Parmentier. Irina Begu’s recent good form was highlighted by a straight sets victory over Angelique Kerber in Rome, and a quarter final run in Madrid. Her great run in the Spanish capital was halted by her projected round three opponent Petra Kvitova. The Czech was successful in straight sets that time around, and you would expect the word number four to repeat that success here.
Round four will be interesting choose which way it goes. Bacsinszky vs Keys will be the projected and likely round three, but there are plenty of players who could spoil that party by defeating the American and the Swiss in the opening rounds. Belina Bencic, or Daniela Hantuchova could face Keys in round two providing she defeats Vavara Lepchenko in round one. Bacsinszky faces tough opposition in the form of Lara Arruabarrena whose good form as earned her a semi-final position in Nurnberg. The Swiss’ good form has somewhat faded, making her more prone to an upset. Despite that, she should at least make round three and potentially round four. Kvitova will rightfully be favourite to advance from this section, but there will be potential banana skins in there.
Section four is wide open for a surprise quarter finalist. The top seed in this section is Eugenie Bouchard, whose recent form and first round opponent makes her prone to an upset. If Mladenovic can capitalise on the Canadian’s poor form and the home crowd advantage, the section will open up hugely. A Mladenovic, Schmiedlova or Diyas could find themselves in the fourth round if they can successfully get through the opening rounds.
Perhaps the favourite to advance from this section is 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who re-discovered her grand slam winning form with a final run in Madrid. A leg injury that hampered her against Kvitova forced the Russian to withdraw from Rome, but with two weeks rest behind her Kuznetsova will be prime and ready for the French Open. An interesting round three against Karolina Pliskova stands out as one of the better potential third round clashes. The big hitting Czech is having her best season to date as she continues her climb towards the top ten. Kuznetsova on clay is a difficult task, but with the Russian’s known inconsistencies there is a good chance that Pliskova could make a quarter final run.
Simona Halep’s bid for her first grand slam title continues as she reaches the place where she made her first grand slam final. Maria Sharapova proved too much last year, but with that experience can the world number three take that final step towards Grand Slam success? To do so she may need to face the woman who spectacularly knocked her out of Madrid a few weeks ago, Alize Cornet. Providing Halep gets past Rodina and then the winner of Lucic Baroni/Davis, the Frenchwoman could be staring at a rematch, only this time in front of a home crowd. Cornet has a difficult round one against Roberta Vinci, and then Alexandra Dulgheru will provide a tough test in round two. With this being a grand slam you would expect Halep to have that extra motivation to get her through to round four.
Her opponent at this stage is projected to be Agnieszka Radwanska, but the Pole’s decline in form this year has seen her fall outside the top 10 for the first time in years. Radwanska could face a succession of Germans in round one and two with Annika Beck and Mona Barthel waiting in the wings. Things will get interesting for the Pole in the third round where Elina Svitolina could be waiting. The Ukrainian has Yania Wickmayer in round one, who upset Li Na at this stage last year. If Svitolina can get past the Belgian and her round two opponent, we could be treated to an intriguing round three match between two consistent baseliners. The winner will have a round four match against Simona Halep, who should prove too strong.
Ana Ivanovic hasn’t had the best of clay seasons so far, and drawing one of the WTA tours most erratic yet dangerous unseeded players may just make it worse. Former quarter finalist, Slava Shvedova will be gunning for the upset, and even if Ivanovic overcomes that test, she’ll have an even bigger one in round three. Caroline Garcia defeated the Serbian three times in a row in Mexico and Stuttgart. With that in mind, the Frenchwoman upsetting Ivanovic for the fourth straight time doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The recent good form of Carla Suarez Navarro saw Ekaterina Makarova lose her top eight seeding, but despite being the number nine seed the Russian has a good draw to possibly make the quarter finals. The first two rounds should provide no problem for Makarova, but the third round might give the world number nine her first real test. Shuai Peng is the projected opponent, but the Chinese player has struggled with injuries that have seen her not have much clay practice leading in to the tournament. That could open the door for Elena Vesnina or Kirsten Flipkens to make the third round. It would be surprising to see Makarova not make the fourth round, and with Ivanovic prone to an upset in the first three rounds, she could find herself the favourite to make the last eight. Makarova and Vesnina are frequent doubles partners.
Maria Sharapova will open her defence against Kaia Kanepi in what could be a tough first round match-up for the second seed. Kanepi is a former top 20 player, so if the Estonian can channel that form she will provide the defending champion a difficult test. From there, the Russain shouldn’t have a difficult test until round three where she could face Sam Stosur. Sharapova has a commanding head to head of 14-2 over Stosur, but the Aussie pushed the second seed to three sets last year.
Lucie Safarova is the likely fourth round opponent of Sharapova. The Czech faces the inconsistent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round, and then likely faces Kurumi Nara in round two. Sabine Lisicki is touted for the third round, but the German aggressive style leaves her prone to errors, especially against her first round opponent Monica Puig. The Puerto Rican has struggled this year, but if she can stay consistent she can frustrate an out of for Lisicki. Sharapova vs Safarova will be a good round four clash, which has potential to go three sets, but as Sharapova has shown over the years, she has the fight and determination to get through these difficult three set matches. I expect more of the same there.
Carla Suarez Navarro’s excellent final run in Rome has earned the Spaniard an eighth seed position, but that has not made for an easy draw with the potential of facing Flavia Pennetta, Angelique Kerber and doubles partner Garbine Muguruza. First, Navarro faces crafty Romanian Monica Niculescu. The Spaniard should have too much experience to fall for the spin variation that Niculescu provides. Virginie Razzano in round two could be interesting with the Frenchwoman no stranger to upsets at Roland Garros. In 2012, she knocked out Serena Williams in a dramatic encounter, but I don’t see it repeating against Suarez Navarro. Pennetta will likely await in round three, but with Carla’s recent form, anything less than a round four appearance will be disappointing.
From the round of 16 onwards it will get very interesting for the world number eight. Angelique Kerber vs Garbine Muguruza could be an interesting round three clash providing they can weave their way through some difficult round two clashes. Kerber opens against Timea Babos, before moving onto an Australian clash against either Casey Dellacqua or Alija Tomljanovic. Muguruza on the other hand faces a qualifier in round one and then the winner of the Camila Giorgi vs Tatjana Maria. The Spaniards recent form has been concerning, and it almost feels she needs a good run here with quarter final points to defend. The round two match I feel is key to her tournament, as Muguruza needs momentum and confidence for a good run. She can blast Kerber off the court as proven earlier this year, even though she eventually went on to lose the match. Either way it should be a fascinating round four against Carla Suarez Navarro for either Kerber or Muguruza.
Round of 16:
Serena d. Stephens
Wozniacki d. Errani
Kvitova d. Bacsinszky
Kuznetsova d. Schmiedlova
Garcia d. Makarova
Halep d. Radwanska
Suarez Navarro d. Muguruza
Sharapova d. Safarova
Serena d. Wozniacki
Kvitova d. Kuznetsova
Halep d. Garcia
Sharapova d. Suarez Navarro
Serena d. Kvitova
Halep d. Sharapova
Final: Serena d. Halep
With the tough draw, Serena will be tested early and therefore will be ready when the latter stages come around. I see either Serena losing to Azarenka or going all the way, and I chose the latter because it is the safer bet. That is unless Kvitova repeats her Madrid performance and defeats the world number one for the second straight time
Halep will get revenge of Sharapova for last year’s final defeat, but yet again she will fall at the last hurdle as Serena will be too much to handle.
The draw has opened up for a surprise quarter final run by Garcia, but Halep will prove too difficult to hit through on the clay. Kuznetsova will also have a good run.
So Serena will be the Queen of Roland Garros yet again according to my predictions, but it should be an interesting tournament none the less.
Stan Wawrinka narrowly avoided his second shocking opening round match loss in a row, as he had to scrape past the gritty Carlos Berlocq 6-7(9) 7-5 6-2, on a windy afternoon at the Miami Open. Wawrinka opened the match in the same poor form that had seen him exit the Indian Wells masters tournament to underdog Robin Haase in his last match, and Berlocq clearly was spurred on by that previous upset, as he fully believed he could win the match, at least for the first two hours of it.
Berlocq staved off two match point chances to hold 2-2 in the first, and then shockingly broke Wawrinka for 4-3. Wawrinka would calmly, and easily break him back, evening the match up, but the Swiss couldn’t convert a set point chance 5-4 up, on the Argentine veteran’s serve to clinch the opening frame. Berlocq ball bashed his way to a first set tiebreak, and it was handled incredibly poorly by both players. Wawrinka had to save a multitude of set points, some of which were on Berlocq’s serve, and couldn’t convert his own, eventually letting the Argentine close it out 11-9, in an error filled, and sloppy first set. At the end of the set, Wawrinka sent his racquet on a ride enraged at having blown his chance at a routine victory against an underdog opponent, and guaranteed the need for three sets of tennis if he was to come back, which is never something a top player wants in the opening round.
Wawrinka got off to a good start in set 2, and broke Berlocq at love, as the Argentine was perhaps still delirious from his tiebreak triumph. He would recover, breaking back for 2-2. He later saved break points for a 4-3 lead, but Wawrinka would save a pair serving 3-4 to prevent the Argentine from having the chance to serve out the match. Berlocq would be broken on the third break point chance of the game at 5-5, and Wawrinka would eventually close out the second set 7-5 on his third set point chance, as it was a long and grinding game.
Come the third set, Wawrinka had the momentum, and the hopes of Berlocq began to fade, Wawrinka rushed out to a 5-1 lead, and though Berlocq would save a match point on his own serve, in what was a long game at 1-5, Wawrinka would close the match out on his fourth chance to do so, finishing 6-2, as the third set was still quite long, and more challenging than the scoreline would indicate for the Swiss number 2. All the same, he will be pleased with his tenacious victory, having mentally overcome the horrors of Indian Wells.
Joining Wawrinka in the third round is another player top player who has been prone to be upset this year, that being Spanish lefty Rafael Nadal, as he blitzed past his countryman, and occasional rival Nicolas Almagro 6-4 6-2.
Rafa was trademark quality in his opening match in Miami (photo credit Esam Taha)
The world #3 took on a somewhat on form Almagro in a tricky matchup. Almagro had to battle past Sergiy Stakhovsky in the 1st round, who’s in the form of his career, and staved off a massive collapse to do so. Nico himself has been finding his rhythm lately after the injury layoff, making a deep run in Buenos Aires before losing to Monaco in the semifinal. Nadal meanwhile has been looking like a shadow of his old self since returning from injury. Having said that he looked much better in Indian Wells, although he would lose to a Raonic that he would’ve likely put away a couple of years ago. Playing well in Miami would provide the Spaniard with a pivotal confidence boost entering the clay season.
The first set didn’t start off the way Rafa would’ve liked, piling on unforced error early on as he struggled to hold serve. Almagro meanwhile looked much sharper, getting nice pace on his forehands and placing the one-handed backhand well. However, completely against the run of play, Nadal would find a way to break Almagro to take a 2-1 lead, as the latter double faulted and missed a forehand sitter. Nadal would consolidate the break to go up 3-1. Nico would not be let down by the break and continue to put Nadal on the backfoot with some attractive attacking tennis, holding at love to keep the lead at a single break. Nadal still seemed a bit shaky with several shanks and uncharacteristic misses, but managed to hold serve to keep the lead at 4-2. Nico’s level at this point would start to deteriorate, committing error after error, but he still managed to hold.
At this moment in the match the tennis wasn’t of the highest quality. Almagro would sum that period of play by producing back to back double faults, falling into a 0-30 hole. He would regain his composure with some good serving and force Rafa to serve out the set at 5-4. Almagro would somehow keep himself in that pivotal game despite not playing his best tennis, and eventually generate double break point. Nadal however would step his game up, he had started to find his groove towards the tail-end of the 1st set. Both break points were be saved. Almagro would have another break chance but blew that as well. The set was be sealed with the point of the match. Nadal played incredible defense to keep himself in a point, that Almagro virtually won twice, before turning defense into offense with a blistering DTL forehand winner to freeze a stunned Almagro. The Miami crowd going wild at the beautifully played point.
Nico was feisty on the day but came up short (photo credit Esam Taha)
Almagro still had some fight left in him, he would hold with relative comfort to kick things off in the 2nd. Nadal would hold easily and it was clear to the crowd that the 4-time Miami Open finalist had elevated his level. Rafa was now hitting his spots and Almagro was having trouble dealing with the massive top spin the former generates. It didn’t surprise the crowd when Nadal broke a game later on double break point to go up 2-1. He would follow that with a quick love hold and generating break points again on Nico’s serve. Rafa would flash some of his doubles skills with some almost super-human reflexes at the net to generate those break points, leaving Almagro standing with his hand on his hips completely deflated. Nadal would get the break and put a firm grip on the set going up 4-1. Even when Nadal gifts Nico a couple of double faults, the latter found a way to not take advantage, this time he would miss a routine overhead smash. Nadal would serve at 5-2 to close out the match, and face little resistance from Almagro as he wrapped up a relatively routine 2nd round victory 6-4, 6-2.
Vamos! (photo credit Esam Taha)
After the match Nadal commented on his ankle in press, “I am well, no? I had just a little bit, how do you say, small torn in the beginning, so it was going to be tough. The day after I had pain, but after 2 days I improved 50% and stays the same. It’s not limiting my movements.” It appears Nadal is growing in confidence the more hard court matches he plays this season, as he was better here than in most of his Indian Wells matches.
Tomas Berdych, who may be on a track to face Nadal later on in the tournament, was also a winner today 6-3 6-4, as he had the early match against the South Korean teen Hyeon Chung, and adapted well to the conditions, and his unfamiliarity with Chung. The Korean young gun hung in there with the powerful Czech until he was broken to go down 4-2 in the first set, and though he responded boldly by breaking back, he couldn’t hold his serve in the next game, and eventually Berdych held to take it 6-3.
In the second set, Chung shockingly broke Berdych for 3-1, and was at one point 4-1 up, only to lose the plot, and find Berdych come back on him to even it up at 4-4. His inexperienced showed at that point, as he lost the next two games, and in fact five consecutive games from 4-1 in the second set, to lose the match in straight sets. He has a lot of raw potential, but it’s still going to be some time, and experience needed before he is a true threat to upset top 10 players like Berdych.
Tomas’s doppleganger, and most frequent opponent on the ATP Tour, Kevin Anderson, snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat 6-7 7-6 6-4 against Sam Querrey, a player he has struggled with before, and did for large parts of today. Though big Kev is ranked more than two spots higher than Querrey in the rankings, they were quite evenly matched on court. With big serving and powerful forehands the norm, Anderson saved a pair of break points in the first set, eventually forcing a tiebreak. Shockingly, both players saw their serve desert them in that tiebreak, but eventually Querrey would convert his second set point chance to take it.
In the second, Anderson had to break back Querrey twice, once 3-4 down, and the second time 5-6 down, when Querrey was serving for the match. The South African number 1, who rarely breaks his opponents serve, amazingly broke a choking Querrey from 0-40 in that final game of the second set. They went to another tiebreak, and Anderson continued his momentum, racing out to a 5-1 lead, that he never looked back from, finishing it off 7-3 to force a third set.
Querrey is severely lacking confidence in his game, and just like in Indian Wells where he lost a set and a break up against Sergiy Stakhovsky, he lost hope in the third, Anderson broke in the opening game, and then bludgeoned the American on serve to eventually close it out on his only match point chance 6-4.
We could see Anderson matchup with Andy Murray, playing at his personal training facility this week, later in the tournament. Murray dominated Donald Young yet again, 6-4 6-2. Murray had a minor slip up, after gathering a big lead 5-1 in the first, but otherwise Young was abysmally confident as he got ran off the court by the time the second set came around.
Austin Krajicek put up a valiant effort at an upset, but he would be the final domino that would confirm an 0-3 record for American men in day 4. Krajicek fell to Bernard Tomic 7-6 7-5, in a closely contested match, as Tomic had to work his way back into form from injury problems in Indian Wells, where he was a quarter-finalist. Other players into round 3 include Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (6-4 6-4 over J.L. Struff), Leonardo Mayer (6-4 7-6 over Jarkko Nieminen), Santiago Giraldo, who regained some form of his own, and snapped Robin Haase’s sudden momentum, with a 6-2 3-6 6-0 victory, and Dominic Thiem, who beat Feliciano Lopez for the second time in his career.
The Spanish slice server Flopez, who remains markedly improved as of late compared to his previous history, played a solid first set and got off to a strong start, but he failed to maintain his break of serve 4-2 up, and later he would be forced into a tiebreak, as Thiem would erase any chance at another break of serve. In that tiebreak, Thiem played brilliant tactically and technically, getting the one minibreak of serve he needed to go up a set. Lopez fought back, breaking to go up 4-2 in the second, and this time he fought off break point chances (two of them to be exact at 4-3), to eventually hold and force a third set. Lopez almost seemed fatigued in the third, as Thiem played some of his best tennis, and perhaps his best match of 2015, to score what is in fact the best win of the year for the Austrian young gun. He saved a trio of break point chances at 1-1 in the third, and never looked back, breaking for 3-1 and holding serve for a 7-6 4-6 6-3 victory. Thiem masterfully dealt with Lopez’s serve and volley aggressive, not getting rushed, or forcing his shots too much, his gameplan was executed to its peak, and he hit some masterful shots, especially passing shots, to the thrill of the crowd, in what was a high quality contest, with either player likely to beat many other players in the field, had they faced someone else.
All of the big names got through their 2nd round singles matches on Friday in Miami on the WTA side. Sloane Stephens beat fellow American Madison Keys in a slugfest 6-4 6-2, in what was a big win for her. Belinda Bencic beat Casey Dellacqua in an unexpected 3 set struggle 6-2 4-6 6-2, and Simona Halep ended, what would have been a cinderella run, from comeback kid Nicole Vaidisova 6-2 2-6 6-1. Still the Czech has to be pleased with her performance this tournament as a wild card, and taking a set off an elite WTA player bodes well for the rest of her season.
Sabine Lisicki beat her countrywoman Julia Goerges 7-6 6-7 6-4 in a matchup featuring power tennis at its best, Cici Bellis continued to make everyone feel old, as the 15 year old shocked a listless Zarina Diyas, the world number 32 in a mere hour 6-2 6-1. Italians Flavia Pennetta and Camila Giorgi both had the mojo to win, Pennetta 6-7 6-3 6-3 over Tsvetana Pironkova. and Giorgi more easily 6-3 6-2 over Alison Van Uytvanck. Garbine Muguruza was another seeded winner 6-1 6-3 over Sesil Karatantcheva, Ana Ivanovic avoided a collapse and slipped past American Irina Falconi 7-5 6-7 6-3. Ivanovic had three match points in the second set and served for the match. Victoria Azarenka destroyed Jelena Jankovic, who was likely fatigued, 6-1 6-1, Svetlana Kuznetsova relied on her experienced to beat Alison Riske 6-2 6-2 and Johanna Larsson upset Lucie Safarova 7-6 6-2, one of the few WTA upsets on the day.
The big doubles match of the day, and one of the biggest matches on the day in general, featured Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic, good friends and both leaders of Serbian tennis, teaming up to take on Robert Lindstedt and Jurgen Melzer. It was Tipsarevic’s first match back on tour in over a year, since more surgeries and a benign tumor in his foot kept him sidelined. The Serbian veteran baseliner was happy to be back on court, and not only seemed to relish playing with Novak, he also played well for himself, hitting some great shots, as did the world number 1. However, Lindstedt/Melzer play doubles much more often for a living, and their experience helped them to a 6-4 3-6 10-7 victory.
After the match, Novak did press, and here is what he had to say about his role in supporting his former top 10 countryman and friend, Tipsarevic.
“Yeah. It’s incredibly sad story with him in last 17 months. I know him for such a long time. We are great friends. His last official match was in October 2013, and ever since then he was suffering from injuries. Mostly from the heel that he had to operate I think two or three times. Along the way he also hurt some other muscles and joints. Just a very dreadful time for him. I tried to, as a friend and as a colleague, be close to him, to give him support, to let him know that I’m there and I wish him to have a speedy recovery and to come back as quick as possible. So the opportunity to play today with him was very special for me, really, as a friend and I cared very much to win this match today. I got very tight in the super-tiebreaker, I have to say, because it was a very tough match. We lost to two of the great, very good doubles players. But we talked after the match, and he appreciated the fact that he can actually play. Just feel that match play you know, have that sensation of how it feels and what it takes to be on the court. 17 month is a long time for injuries, and he’s also not young. You know, he’s now 31 this year, but he’s eager to play. He’s motivated. He feels 100% and he decided actually it’s better to skip this tournament in singles because he needed to a little bit more time to get in to it. Hopefully this doubles match today can help him. When he plays now in Houston after Miami he can perform his best. He can relax. He know, that’s the top 10. I really wish him that.”
Tipsarevic seemed to be pleased with his level of play, and given his general ease out there, I expect to see him fit, healthy, and perhaps causing some surprises the rest of the season, just like another Serb who made a recent comeback, Viktor Troicki did.
The other ATP doubles winners were Ryan Harrison/Rajeev Ram (1-6 6-4 10-4 over Eric Butorac/Sam Groth), and Nicolas Mahut/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (6-3 1-0 ret. over Viktor Troicki/Roberto Bautista Agut).
Martina Hingis and her partner Sania Mirza advanced over Bodgan/Melichar in WTA doubles 6-1 6-0, and in other scores, Babos/Mladenovic beat Date-Krumm/Pliskova 6-2 6-7 13-11, Dabrowski/Rosolska beat Medina/Tomljanovic 7-6 6-3, Hlavackova/Hradecka beat Aoyama/Voracova 7-5 4-6 10-5, and Makarova/Vesina, an all Russian pair, beat Krajicek/Zahlavova-Strycova 6-2 2-6 10-4.
Rain suspension adds to busy Saturday schedule in Crandon Park
The night matches were canceled due to rain in Miami, meaning the Saturday schedule is jam packed. Serena Williams, Aga Radwanska, and Caroline Wozniacki will all be action on stadium court in WTA singles, while top men’s players on stadium will be Novak Djokovic in the evening, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov during the day.
Kei Nishikori will take to grandstand, as will top American John Isner, Venus Wiliams, and Milos Raonic, the Manitoba missile. American Jack Sock got pushed onto court 1, along with David Ferrer, talented shotmaker Alex Dolgopolov, and the Bryan Brothers.
Eugenie Bouchard, Gael Monfils, Borna Coric. Ernests Gulbis, and many other other intriguing, and fan favorite players have been pushed onto the outer courts given the tight schedule tomorrow.
As for matches in progress before the rain delay, Adrian Mannarino and Albert Ramos were locked in a struggle, one set each, before the rains came, and they will conclude with the third set of their match on Saturday. Two other WTA singles matches were also well underway at the time the rain struck, Heather Watson had dropped the first set to Angelique Kerber 7-5, and Sara Errani was on the verge of closing out Anatasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 4-1.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Final: 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.
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.
BOUCHARD ADVANCES TO THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN SEMIFINALS 19-year-old Canadian beats Ivanovic for the second time at a Grand Slam
Montreal, January 20, 2014 – On Monday at the Australian Open, Eugenie Bouchard (Westmount, QC) became the second Canadian in history to reach the singles semifinals of a Grand Slam, matching the performance of Carling Bassett at the U.S. Open in 1984.
Bouchard, seeded no. 30 in the tournament, took on Serbian Ana Ivanovic, who upset World No. 1 Serena Williams in the Round of 16. Even though she lost the first set, Bouchard continued to battle and play aggressively, a strategy that ultimately paid dividends as she came out on top 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. In victory, the 19-year-old Canadian hit 47 winners compared to 34 for her opponent and she was able to break Ivanovic’s serve seven times in the match. She remained calm and focused until she converted her first match point.
Bouchard will now take on world no. 4 Li Na of China, a finalist last year at the Australian Open who defeated Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-1 in her quarter-final match. The two players met in 2012 in the second of the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and it was Li Na who came away with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph.
Following the Australian Open, Bouchard will be in Montreal for Canada’s World Group II first round tie against Serbia at the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex on February 8 and 9.