2015 WTA Sydney Preview and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 WTA Sydney Preview
The WTA continues its tour down under with a trip to the beautiful city of Sydney for the APIA International tournament. The event is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1885. In 2000, the event moved to the Sydney Olympic park tennis centre, which also hosted the Olympic tennis event that year. The Sydney International is a joint event with the ATP hosted a week before the Australian Open. Previous champions include the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Aga Radwanska and Grand Slam champions Chris Evert, Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, and Martina Navratilova.
In 2014 Tsvetana Pironkova defeated Angelique Kerber in straight sets to claim the Sydney crown. The Qualifier also defeated seeds, Sara Errani and Petra Kvitova on her way to the title.
Apia Sydney International
WTA Premier Series
January 11-January 16, 2015
Prize Money: $731,000
Top 2 Seeds (Who receive first round byes) (WTA ranking in parentheses)
1: Simona Halep (3)
2: Petra Kvitova (4)
Two top 4 players headline Sydney, and receive byes to the next round. All the 8 seeds are within the top 20, so a strong field in the build up to the Australian Open.
First round matchups to watch:
(3)Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Alize Cornet
These two met in Perth during the Hopman cup, and it was Alize Cornet who managed get the win on that occasion in 3 sets. The Frenchwomen will be looking to do the same in the first round at Sydney. Agnieszka Radwanska however will be looking for revenge, and with that in mind this is one of the tastiest first round matches this week. Both players are known more for their technique rather than power, so we may see plenty of long rallies and tense points. Will we see another upset, or will Aga reign supreme this time?
Lucie Safarova vs. Sam Stosur
Big hitting Czech Lucie Safarova will be looking to silence the home crowd by vanquishing Australia’s Sam Stosur. Safarova played well in the Hopman Cup, winning two out of three singles matches. Stosur didn’t kick off the year in good style as she lost in 3 sets to Varvara Lepchenko in Brisbane round 1. It’s even worse when you consider, Stosur led 5-1 in the final set and still managed to lose. A lot of fans may be looking at this, and thinking ‘How could this be a match to look out for with their head to head record?’ Of course, 9-2 in favour of the Czech is lopsided, but you never know in the WTA. Lucie is hot right now and the obvious favourite, but you never know what a home crowd can do for a player. Stosur could rally and get her first win over the Czech in nearly 3 years.
Elina Svitolina vs. Ekaterina Makarova
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20 year old, Elina Svitolina will be looking to carry her Brisbane form into Sydney, where she faces new top 10 player Ekaterina Makarova in the first round. The Ukrainian made the quarter finals last week, but was dumped out by eventual winner Maria Sharapova. Makarova decided to have an extra week’s preparation, and will kick off her 2015 campaign in Sydney. Svitolina is a good mover across the court, which will benefit her against the powerful left handers of the Russian. Makarova will look to overpower the youngster and kick off 2015 the same way she finished 2014. The big question is how rusty will Makarova be? If she isn’t match ready, she could very well get caught off guard by the young Ukrainian.
Number one seed Simona Halep headlines a stacked top half of the draw that features eight top 20 players and a former Grand Slam finalist. The Romanian will receive a bye into the second round because of her seeding. She will face either big serving Czech Karolina Pliskova or a qualifier in round two. Pliskova will be the likely opponent even with the dangerous qualifiers in the draw. This is where it will get interesting for Halep, who has a bit of a dilemma. The Romanian won in Shenzen last week, and with the Australian Open coming, will she want to risk not being 100% for the first grand slam of the year and go all out in Sydney? Look for a potential upset in that one. The other seed in Halep’s quarter is Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian will play her first match of the season against 20 year old Elina Svitolina. With Makarova being potentially rusty, she could get caught out by the inform Ukranian, but the number six seed will be favourite to advance. Awaiting the winner will be Carla Suarez Navarro, and 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki has shown in the past she can beat anyone with her powerful serve and ground strokes. The German holds the world record for the fastest womens serve in history. She hit a 131 mph serve in Stanford last year. This isn’t grass however, and the Spaniard should expect herself to advance.
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The third seed is 2015 Hopman cup champion, Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole will be in her first WTA competition In Sydney, and faces a tough round one match against Alize Cornet. The Pole will expect herself to extract revenge on the player who defeated her in Perth, but an upset wouldn’t be surprising at all. Their potential round two opponents are Garbine Muguruza and Sara Errani. Muguruza is dangerous, but withdrew from Brisbane with an ankle injury, so there are big questions on her fitness. Errani will be looking to take advantage of the Spaniards problem and take out the 21 year old. If Muguruza is fit however, you would expect her to overpower the Italian. Angelique Kerber is the number five seed and will face a qualifier in round one; a match you would expect her to win. From there you would expect her to face highly touted youngster Belinda Bencic. The 17 year old is destined to be one of the world’s best players, but she faces a tough test against Angelique Kerber. This potential second round clash is no doubt one of the most anticipated matches of week. How will the youngster handle the tests that Kerber will bring to the court?
The number two seed is Czech powerhouse Petra Kvitova. Like Halep, Kvitova will receive a bye into the second round. She will face Shuai Peng, or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. You would expect the Wimbledon champion to make the quarter finals with that draw if she decides to be play hundred percent. The other seed in her quarter is Dominika Cibulkova. The Australian open drew lucky and will face a qualifier in the first round, so you would expect her to make the second round at least. She will likely face Andrea Petkovic in the second round, which will no doubt be tricky for the number seven seed. The winner of that match will really fancy themselves to make the semi-finals, with Kvitova’s commitment in question, with the Australian Open just round the corner.
In the other quarter, we have a stacked group of players with a lot of possible semi-finalists. The number four seed is former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane will open her tournament against Barbora Zahalova-Strycova. A potential banana skin for Wozniacki, as Strycova showed good form last season. You would expect Wozniacki to squeeze past the Czech, but an upset wouldn’t be shocking at all. The winner will face Lucie Safarova or Sam Stosur, and given their head to head and current form it will likely be the Czech. Safarova is a potential title winner in Sydney, with a lot of the top seed’s commitment in doubt. Lucie is in good form, and will no doubt see this as a good chance to win another WTA title. The number eight seed, Flavia Pennetta will be another player gunning for the crown. The Italian will face a qualifier (it’s a pattern isn’t it?) in round one, and you would expect Pennetta to make it through. Flava will face either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Madison Keys. This is one of those interesting round one matches that didn’t make my three to see. It’s another one of those ‘youth vs experience’ battles that will be a theme of the WTA throughout 2015. If I would be forced to choose, I say Keys makes it through to face Pennetta, and the Italian makes the Quarter finals
Kerber d. Suarez Navarro
Safarova d. Petkovic
With a lot of the top seeds potentially playing safe with the Australian Open in mind, these 4 players will stand out from the rest of the pack and make the semifinals. In the first semifinal, Kerber will narrowly defeat Carla Suarez Navarro in 3 sets. This match will be tight, as they are 2-2 in the head to head, but Kerber I believe will find a way to win. In the second semi final, I expect Lucie Safarova to continue her good form and defeat Andrea Petkovic to make the final. The Czech will be 100% focused here, with the title being a big possibility., and I think she’ll better the German this time around despite the head to head being 4-2 in favour of Petkovic.
Kerber d. Safarova
Angelique Kerber will be the 2015 Sydney champion after weathering the Safarova storm. In this final, I expect the Czech to make the better start and race to an easy one set lead. The German will keep retrieving and errors will finally start leaking from Safarova’s side of the court, allowing Kerber to turn the match on it’s head and win the title in Sydney.