Monday, 20 October 2014

Singapore day 2: Caroline to win again?

Firstly, I want to apologize for missing out the first day. I've been on the grounds covering for another lifestyle blog, Please refer to that blog for daily highlights! Due to the busy schedule, I can only update the matches with text. No fancy photos this time. Sorry!

Maria Sharapova vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Sharapova lost to Caroline in their last encounter in US Open. However, the Russian seems to be hitting well again after winning Beijing. Judging by her practice seesion, Maria seems to be getting her groove back. This will not bode well for Caroline, as the surface suits the flat hard hitters. Caroline will need to take initiative or run around with out of this world defence.

Pick: Sharapova in 2 sets

Petra Kvitova vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

It's really a no-brainer to call Kvitova the favourite here. Radwanska's form is nowhere to be found, while Petra thrives on the hard indoor surface. Will be surprised if Petra loses more than 5 games here.

Pick: Kvitova in 2 sets

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Singapore player focus: Serena Williams

Season highlights

Current world number one has had a less than satisfactory season by her standards. Despite winning tour-leading 5 titles, her early exits in Roland Garros and Wimbledon marred her 2014 campaign. However, like the saying "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going", Serena stepped it up big time in her US Open run-up and salvaged the season with a win in Flushing Meadows. Withdrawing from the China tournaments with injuries, Serena doesn't look to be 100% going into the tournament. But I believe the world number one is dead set on retaining her ranking, and will be hungry to prove her detractors wrong again. 

Playing style 

Serena really needs no introduction. She perfected the power game, bullying her opponents around the court with well struck and powerful strokes. Her serve is the best on tour, and can even rival some of her counterparts on the ATP tour. Serena has somewhat evolved her game to introduce more spin, which is great for her game as her younger and raw-er game is more error prone.

Chances of winning Singapore: 95%

After her draw ceremony, Serena went straight to the practice courts, showing how committed she is to perfecting her game before Monday. When she's this serious, she's almost unstoppable. Besides, only Ana has beaten her in her group, so she should emerge safely from the group stages. 

Prediction: Winner

Singapore player focus: Maria Sharapova

Season highlights

Easily the dominant player on clay, Maria collected her 5th grand slam in Paris, her second in 3 years. It's a stark difference to the past when she described herself as a cow on ice. Sharapova's clay season made up for the other disappointing ones, like her struggles during the American hard court season, and her early ouster in Wimbledon. With another title in Beijing, she is peaking just at the right time for this tournament. Can she claim her second tour championships title?

Playing style

Loke Kvitova, Sharapova doesn't need to overthink her points. Her hard hitting game is a joy to watch when in full flight. Even though she's not the best mover, she has improved leaps and bounds since her 'first career'. She now has the ability to grind out points on her best surface, clay, and paired with her superior mental game, she's a force to be reckoned with. The only weakness is her iffy serve. When Sharapova loses confidence with her serve, her whole game goes down with her. 

Chances of winning Singapore: 90%

I believe Sharapova knows she has a good chance to win this tournament. With her missing the tournament last year, she has nothing to lose. With Serena under an injury cloud, she might very well end up winning the whole thing and ending the year as number 1. 

Prediction: Finals

Singapore player focus: Petra Kvitova

Season highlights

Like Wozniacki, Kvitova's first half of the season is totally forgettable. However, she turned it on for Wimbledon, dominating her matches to win in style. With her confidence back, she went further by adding titles in New Haven and Wuhan. A recent finalist in Beijing, her form coming into Singapore is stellar. She has a chance to end the year number one depending on how Serena and Sharapova performs. Great turnaround for someone who has been ousted from Melbourne in the first round. 

Playing style

Kvitova doesn't need to overthink much. Her game is pure power, there is no need for cute drop shots or lobs. If she's on, she's unplayable, as evidenced in the Wimbledon final. Petra's fitness is also an asset, having won numerous three set matches, but mostly due to her lapse in concentration during matches. Lately, she has been able to harness her power to great effect. If she continues her free hitting, she might just add another tour championships to her resume. 

Chances of winning Singapore: 80%

There is no doubt Petra's game works well on fast surfaces. Given the quick indoor surface of Singapore, she will thrive and be able to dominate with her laser like ground strokes. However, it remains to be seen if she can overcome the top 2 seeds. She has never beaten Serena before, and hasn't beaten Sharapova since 2011. If she can overcome that, she can be the trophy holder at the end of the week. 

Prediction: Semi-finals

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Singapore player focus: Simona Halep

Season highlights

Carrying on her momentum from 2013, Simona Halep continued her assault to the top, peaking at number 2 in the middle of the season. The steady Romanian captured her biggest title yet in Doha, and enjoyed a strong clay season, reaching the finals of Roland Garros and Madrid. However, she experienced a dip in form post Winbledon, being ousted early in the American hard court events, ultimately being shocked by over-the-hill veteran Lucic in New York. Are the wheels falling off for Simona? Let's see how she performs here. 

Playing style

Simona Halep doesn't overpower you with her huge serve or ground strokes. Everything she does is well produced but not overwhelming. Covering the court like speedy Gonzalez, Halep is the smart counterpuncher who waits patiently for her chance to strike. Patience is a virtue, but she comes across as too passive sometimes, when her opponent is on song. 

Chances of winning Singapore: 40%

Simona's recent form has cast a dark cloud over her Singapore campaign. She's hardly in any sort of form, and together with Radwanska will be struggling to win matches here. Not too sure what happened to the steady Romanian, but she needs to get her confidence back. When Simona is playing her best tennis, it's a joy to watch her dismantle opponents with bigger weapons. 

Prediction: Round Robin

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Moscow, Luxembourg QF: Unseeded players galore

Moscow schedule of play:

Match focus:

Alison Riske vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Alison Riske comes off her Tianjin title with renewed confidence, having won the title there all by herself. She will be looking forward to extending her winning streak against Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian can play a good game, followed by 4 heinous errors. You'll never know what Pavlyuchenkova's level is. Riske's level of play is surprisingly high, evidenced by her easy first round match. An upset here is possible.

Pick: Riske in 3 sets

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Vitalia Diatchenko

Cibulkova needs to win this match to ensure her alternate status in Singapore. Why is this important to her? Well, just by being an alternate, she will get a good pay cheque without having to hit a single ball. However, with her recent dire form, nothing is concrete. I mean, who loses a match to a 15 year old girl? Dominika looks lost on the courts, but is lucky enough to draw a lowly ranked Diatchenko. Vitalia had a few main draw appearances in the past, but was sidelined by injury. I don't think she's capable of upsetting the top seed, but she can make it close.

Pick: Cibulkova in 3 sets

Johanna Larsson vs. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

With the top seeds out, the pressure is on Barbora Zahlavova Strycova to live up to her seeding and win the title. Against Larsson, I'm sure Barbora is confident of her chances. The Swede cannot just depend on her forehand to win matches. Strycova's all court game will test Johanna's backhand, and cruise to an easy victory.

Pick: Zahlavova Strycova in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Varvara Lepchenko, Annika Beck, Kristina Mldaenovic
Upset alert: Tsvetana Pironkova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Singapore player focus: Eugenie Bouchard

Season highlights

The most consistent player in the Grand Slams, Eugenie Bouchard makes her debut in the year end championships. The hard working Canadian has won the most matches in the Grand Slams, but still lacks a Premier title. She did win one international title in Nuremburg, but competition is comparatively weaker. It remains to be seen if Eugenie can consistently bring it against the top players, but she has beaten some of the top 8 players and fully deserves her place here. It will be interesting to see how she follows up her breakthrough year in 2015. 

Playing style 

Taking the ball extremely early, Bouchard takes time away from her opponents, staying aggressive camping near to the baseline. There isn't much weakness in her game, except her second delivery. One of her assets is her ability to stay calm under pressure, and her calculated risks. However, she has the tendency to be overpowered, mistiming the balls that cannot be taken too early. 

Chances of winning Singapore: 50%

This is her first appearance in the elite eight, which is an accomplishment in itself. I think Eugenie knows she is here to gain experience, not to actually win the whole thing. She still needs to solve the Kvitova puzzle if she wants to win this event. She might win a match and push the other players, but winning the title is a bit far fetched. 

Prediction: Round Robin