Monday, 31 December 2012

Brisbane, Shenzhen, Auckland: No snacks allowed


Sara Errani vs. Daniela Hantuchova
Serena Williams vs. Alize Cornet
Petra Kvitova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Urszula Radwanska vs. Ksenia Pervak


Klara Zakopalova vs. Elina Svitolina
Jessica Pegula vs. Jelena Jankovic
Na Li vs. Mandy Minella
Ayumi Morita vs. Shuai Peng
Su-Wei Hsieh vs. Annika Beck
Ying-Ying Duan vs. Bojana Jovanovski
Laura Robson vs. Monica Niculescu


Lara Arrubarrena-Vecino vs. Yaroslava Shvedova
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Greta Arn
Stephanie Dubois vs. Marina Erakovic
Anastasija Sevastova vs. Julia Goerges
Heather Watson vs. Sorana Cirstea
Nudnida Luangnam vs. Romina Oprandi
Mona Barthel vs. Grace Min

Match focus:

Petra Kvitova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Kvitova doesn't look to be in her best shape in her opening match. This clash would be interesting as Pavlyuchenkova hits a good ball and will make Kvitova move around the court. The problem with both these girls is their mobility. If they improved on this area, they have the chance to dominate the sport. Pavlyuchenkova should trouble Petra, but not enough for the win. In the meantime, keep the snacks away from these 2 girls.

Pick: Kvitova in 3 sets

Laura Robson vs. Monica Niculescu

Newcomer of the year, Laura Robson, meets the queen of junk balls, Monica Niculescu. Monica's crazy slices and spins will take away all of Robson's rhythm, and Laura is one who feeds off this. This is a very good test for the teen on how to handle different types of game on the tour and not only play at one pace. I believe Robson will take some time to adjust to Niculescu's balls but will emerge the winner eventually.

Heather Watson vs. Sorana Cirstea

One of the most brainless ballbashers on tour, Sorana will face the opposite of what she does, a player who brings a lot of balls back. Watson is coming off a high after winning in Seoul late last year and looks to continue her winning ways here in Auckland. Sorana's game plan has never deviated and Watson's gameplan should be simple: wait for her to miss. Unless Cirstea is having one of her unmissable days, no prize for guessing who I'm picking.

Pick: Watson in 2 tight sets

Sure win bets: Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Agnieszka Radwanska
Upset alerts: Urzsula Radwanska, Bojana Jovanovski, Sorana Cirstes

Brisbane, Shenzhen, Auckland Day 1/2: Caroline flops

Brisbane 1st round:

KSENIA PERVAK (KAZ) D [8] CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (DEN) | 2 - 6 | 6 - 3 | 7 - 6 (1) |
[5] SARA ERRANI (ITA) D OLGA PUCHKOVA (RUS) | 6 - 1 | 6 - 3 |
[4] ANGELIQUE KERBER (GER) D ANNA TATISHVILI (GEO) | 6 - 2 | 4 - 6 | 6 - 2 |
SOFIA ARVIDSSON (SWE) D [7] SAMANTHA STOSUR (AUS) | 7 - 6 (4) | 7 - 5 |
ALIZE CORNET (FRA) D BOJANA BOBUSIC (AUS) | 2 - 6 | 6 - 3 | 6 - 1 |


[2] MARION BARTOLI (FRA) D WING-YAU CHAN (HKG) | 6 - 1 | 6 - 0 |
JULIA COHEN (USA) D NINA BRATCHIKOVA (RUS) | 0 - 6 | 7 - 6 (7) | 7 - 5 |
YING-YING DUAN (CHN) D KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM (JPN) | 7 - 6 (5) | 7 - 5 |
KAI-CHEN CHANG (TPE) D SILVIA SOLER-ESPINOSA (ESP) | 4 - 6 | 6 - 1 | 6 - 3 |
[6] SHUAI PENG (CHN) D ANNE KEOTHAVONG (GBR) | 6 - 4 | 6 - 0 |
AYUMI MORITA (JPN) D YUNG-JAN CHAN (TPE) | 6 - 4 | 6 - 4 |


JOHANNA LARSSON (SWE) D MISAKI DOI (JPN) | 4 - 6 | 6 - 3 | 6 - 2 |
SIMONA HALEP (ROU) D ARANTXA RUS (NED) | 4 - 6 | 6 - 3 | 6 - 1 |
KIRSTEN FLIPKENS (BEL) D GALINA VOSKOBOEVA (KAZ) | 6 - 1 | 6 - 7 (7) | 7 - 5 |
KIKI BERTENS (NED) D SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA (RUS) | 6 (5) - 7 | 6 - 2 | 7 - 5 |
JAMIE HAMPTON (USA) D [4] JIE ZHENG (CHN) | 7 - 5 | 6 - 1 |
ELENI DANIILIDOU (GRE) D COCO VANDEWEGHE (USA) | 1 - 6 | 7 - 6 (5) | 6 - 4 |


KSENIA PERVAK (KAZ) D [8] CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (DEN) | 2 - 6 | 6 - 3 | 7 - 6 (1) |

You know you're in trouble when you are being overpowered by Ksenia Pervak. Wozniacki seemed to have wasted her off season jetting alongside her boyfriend around the world and playing meaningless exhibitions. The first set was what Caroline was supposed to have improved. Controlled aggression and going for the shots at the right moment. However, it all went awry when Pervak started to play smarter. Also worth a mention is Piotr Wozniacki's monologue during Caroline's on-court coaching. Caroline looked like she couldn't care less on what Piotr had to say and didn't even want to acknowledge him. Maybe it's time for Piotr to go. Players change coaches from time to time to get a different opinion and ways to improve. It is high time that Caroline does that too.

SOFIA ARVIDSSON (SWE) D [7] SAMANTHA STOSUR (AUS) | 7 - 6 (4) | 7 - 5 | 

Brisbane + Stosur = disaster. The Aussie has never done well in Brisbane and this year is not different. Hitting wild shots one after another, you wonder if Stosur actually practised here before. Arvidsson didn't have to do much except keep the ball in and let Stosur self-destruct. Looks like Samantha can forget about ever winning in Melbourne given how she freezes up everytime she plays in her home country.

JULIA COHEN (USA) D NINA BRATCHIKOVA (RUS) | 0 - 6 | 7 - 6 (7) | 7 - 5 | 

6-0 4-2 up, Nina Bratchikova manages to choke and squander 3 match points for WTA's first massive choke of the year. Let's be honest, Cohen's game is not adequate for the main tour. Nina should have more experience then to implode the way she did here. Not to mention that the Russian was up 5-1 in the third set. Just plain ridiculous. 

KIKI BERTENS (NED) D SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA (RUS) | 6 (5) - 7 | 6 - 2 | 7 - 5 | 

Like I said, Kuznetsova will need a couple more matches to get back into the groove. She falter at the pivotal moment but it is understandable. Good job by stretching this into 3 sets but the result was never in doubt for Svetlana's high risk game. I expect her to be back to her winning ways after the Australian Open. Hopefully she's not too deflated by then.

JAMIE HAMPTON (USA) D [4] JIE ZHENG (CHN) | 7 - 5 | 6 - 1 | 

Defending champion, Zheng Jie suffers a disgraceful exit in Auckland, losing her first round match in straight sets. This petite Chinese has a beautiful game when she's on. But when her shots aren't connecting, it is a disaster. It seems like Jie will play to her opponent's level. If she's playing a high ranked player, she will raise her level to match them. But if she faces someone unheralded, she commits the ugliest of mistakes. Good win for Hampton who has a handy game. Top 30 is very possible with her talent.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Brisbane, Shenzhen, Auckland: Full steam ahead

2013 season kicks off into full gear with all 3 tournaments rolling out their schedule of plays for the first round. Plenty of action to choose from!


Sabine Lisicki V Lucie Safarova
[8] Caroline Wozniacki V Ksenia Pervak
Sofia Arvidsson V [7] Samantha Stosur
Anna Tatishvili V [4] Angelique Kerber
[5] Sara Errani V Olga Puchkova
Olivia Rogowska V Monica Puig
Alize Cornet V Bojana Bobusic
Sloane Stephens V Dominika Cibulkova


Yung-Jan Chan vs. Ayumi Morita
Anne Keothavong vs. Shuai Peng
Wing-Yau Chan vs. Marion Bartoli
Ying-Ying Duan vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm
Alexandra Cadantu vs. Bojana Jovanovski
Nina Bratchikova vs. Julia Cohen
Klara Zakoplaova v.s Andrea Hlavackova
Shahar Peer vs. Elina Svitolina
Silvia Soler-Espinosa va. Kai-Chen Chang
Timea Babos vs. Stefanie Voegele


Eugenie Bouchard vs. Elena Vesnina
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Kiki Bertens
Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Yanina Wickmayer
Jie Zheng vs. Jamie Hampton
Christina McHale vs. Pauline Parmenier
Eleni Daniilidou vs. Coco Vandeweghe
Johanna Larsson vs. Misaki Doi
Galina Voskoboeva vs. Kirsten Flipkens
Simona Halep vs. Arantxa Rus

Match focus:

Sabine Lisicki vs. Lucie Safarova

2 of WTA's most volatile players meet in this intriguing first round match. Lisicki has been on a losing streak last year but seemed recharged and ready for 2013. Her sudden loss of confidence caused her to fall out of the top 30 but she is still a dangerous opponent. Lucie Safarova on the other hand, ended her year on a high by clinching the Fed Cup for her country. She was pivotal in that win and will surely be very optimistic of her chances this year. A player struggling with confidence and a player who is brimming with it. you do the math.

Pick: Safarova in 2 sets

Olivia Rogowska vs. Monica Puig

2 relative unknowns will vie for a place in the 2nd round of this premier event. Rogowska gave the then world number 1, Dinara Safina a real fright in the 2009 US Open, where she pushed the Russian all the way, only to falter at the crucial moment. This Australian was never ever able to recapture that moment and has been languishing in the challenger events for the past few years. She will be facing a promising young player in Monica Puig. Puig was a very good junior who is transitioning into the senior tour. With already a few high caliber challenger wins, Puig is ready to make the big move into the big leagues. Will she handle the pressure of facing a home crowd favourite well? Or will Rogowska be too much for the young upstart?

Pick: Puig in 3 sets

Shahar Peer vs. Elina Svitolina

One player is very much on the way up, while the other is going no where but down. Shahar Peer enjoyed a good few years in the top 20 but is definitely winding down her career. Svitolina's rapid rise up the rankings can be seen as she captured one of the big challenger titles in Pune last year, defeating Date-Krumm in the finals. Peer's game is too focused on getting balls back and her mobility. Sadly, mobility decreases with age no matter how hard we train; and she isn't talented enough to evolve into a hard hitter. Svitolina should take this easily.

Pick: Svitolina in 2 easy sets

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Kiki Bertens

Svetlana Kuznetsova finally makes her comeback after an injury plagued season. The Russian stopped her season after the French Open to have an operation and seems to be fully recovered. However, is she match-fit? After being out from the game, it takes some time, even for champions to find their footing. Kiki Bertens will be a good test for the 2 time grand slam champion. There is no doubt that Kuznetsova will take this easily when she's in full flight. The million dollar question is, is she? I believe Svetlana still needs some matches to be really back. So I'm going with the Dutch girl.

Pic;: Bertens in 3 sets

Zheng Jie vs. Jamie Hampton

Auckland defending champion Zheng Jie is back to try to recapture her title. She opens her defense against American, Jamie Hampton. Zheng had an injury in her last tournament in Sofia but seems to have fully recovered from it. Will Zheng be feeling extra pressure since she has never defended any of her titles before? Or will she have too much game for Hampton? Jamie has a pretty good game so Zheng needs to be careful, or else the American might just cause another upset.

Pick: Zheng in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani, Elina Svitolina
Upset alert: Alize Cornet, Klara Zakopalova, Elena Vesnina

Brisbane and Shenzhen Day 1: Serena cruises

The new season kicks off with the commencement of the Brisbane tournament! Not a lot of matches played today but one star was in action.

Completed matches:

Brisbane Round 1:

JARMILA GAJDOSOVA (AUS) D ROBERTA VINCI (ITA) | 4 - 6 | 6 - 1 | 6 - 3 |
URSZULA RADWANSKA (POL) D TAMIRA PASZEK (AUT) | 2 - 6 | 6 - 0 | 6 - 2 |

Shenzhen Round 1:

ANNIKA BECK (GER) D GARBINE MUGURUZA (ESP) | 6 - 2 | 6 - 7 (9) | 6 - 4 |
[4] SU-WEI HSIEH (TPE) D MELINDA CZINK (HUN) | 6 - 3 | 6 - 2 |

(3) Serena Williams def. Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-1

Serena shows off her new commitment to tennis by appearing in this smaller premier event. Featuring the top 3 players, Brisbane will be the one to focus on this week. Varvara had a nice resurgence last year but she was unable to handle Serena's barrage of winners. Shows how far the level is below Serena as Varvara is a top 25 player who has caused several upsets last year. Will Serena do her best here and win another title? Maybe, but the younger sister is known to tank in smaller tournaments before the slams. We'll see.

(WC) Jarmila Gajdosova def. Roberta Vinci 4-6 6-1 6-3

Jarmila Gajdosova suffered personal problems last year and tumbled down the rankings. She seems to have exorcised her personal demons now and emerged the winner against a steady top 20 player in Vinci. Jarmila always had a big game but she could never contain herself. When she's on, she's unplayable. However, that almost never happens throughout a match. Hopefully this win will give her a confidence boost for the new season as she is a very kind and polite girl who just happened to have lost her way.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

2012 WTA awards

The results are revealed for the 2012 WTA awards and deservingly, Serena Williams won the player of the year award. Let's take a look at the other winners.

Player of the year: Serena Williams

If you take away the first half of the year, Serena Williams has had her best year on tour. Sweeping all the tournaments she participated with only 1 loss to Angelique Kerber, she proved that even at 30 years old, she can still dominate the sport. She left her competition gasping for air as she bulldozed her way to Wimbledon, Olympics, US Open and Year-End Championships titles. Even though she's ranked at a lowly number 3, she's no doubt the number 1 player in everyone's heart.

Honourable mention: Victoria Azarenka

Combine Victoria Azarenka's strong start of the year with Serena's strong finish, we will have a complete domination of the women's tour. Azarenka went on a 26 match winning streak and captured her maiden grand slam, Australian Open. She pushed Serena to her limits in their US Open finals but faltered at the crucial point. However, this is a positive sign as Serena can be pushed to the limit and Azarenka can take comfort in knowing she's only a few points from toppling the great Serena Williams

Most Improved Player: Sara Errani

Just after her breakthrough in Roland Garros, Sara Errani went through a rough patch and people are starting to write her off as a one hit wonder. However, she shut the haters up by reaching the US Open semi-finals and qualifying for the Year-End Championships. She gave a very good account of herself against Radwanska and looks set to stay in the top 10. To think that she started this year ranked 45, she has indeed made the biggest transition into the elites.

Honourable mention: Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber started her breakthrough late last year as she reached the semi-finals of the US Open. Most expected her showing to be a flash in the pan but did she prove everybody wrong. She went from strength to strength and achieved her career high ranking of 5 this year. She has beaten all of the older elites of the game this year: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova. Not to mention her wins over former (although slumping) number 1, Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic. I guess the reason Sara was picked was because of her superior record over Kerber and Angelique's improvement really started late last year. Anyway, I don't think Kerber will look too much into this as she continues to improve herself and establish herself as a threat on all surfaces.

Comeback player of the year: Yaroslava Shvedova

Ending 2011 with a ranking of 204, Yaroslava came back with a vengeance and ended the year inside the top 30 at 29. Highlighted by her quarter-final finish at the French Open and her demolition of Errani in Wimbledon, she had a season to remember. It is tough for somebody to comeback from a knee injury as there will always be doubts when you move on the court but Shvedova did just that. Let's hope that she can continue her form in 2013.

Honourable mention: Venus Williams

Venus Williams' struggle with her autoimmune disease is an inspiring tale as she doesn't know which day she will be affected. Despite that, she continued to battle her way and culminated in her first title since 2010 by winning in Luxembourg. Venus has had a wonderful career and could have just hanged up her racquet. However, she refused to give in and at the age of 32, still can beat the top players. Age is definitely a factor but Venus's fight make me want to root for her in 2013. All the best Venus!

Newcomer of the year: Laura Robson

Laura Robson wins this award after having a breakthrough event in the US Open. She defeated the beloved Kim Clijsters and top 10 player, Li Na, for a 4th round showing. Armed with a huge serve and stinging forehand, Robson was bound to breakthrough and it was done at the expense of my favourite player, Kim. Nevertheless, she has the game to make some real damage and she will be the one to watch for 2013 definitely.

Other award winners:

Doubles team of the year: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci
Fan Favorite Singles Player: Agnieszka Radwanska
Fan Favorite Doubles Team: The Williams Sisters
Fan Favorite Twitter: Caroline Wozniacki
Fan Favorite Facebook: Agnieszka Radwanska
Fan Favorite Video: Agnieszka Radwanska & The Bee (click here)
Player Service Award: Venus Williams
Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award: Kim Clijsters

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sofia final: Flopniacki appears again

Nadia Petrova def. Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-1

Somebody ought to shut Piotr Wozniacki up. Just when he claimed that Caroline will go back to the old system and she will go back to her winning ways, Caroline suffers a humiliating loss in the final by an aging veteran. All the credit to Petrova for having a late surge at this point of her career. She dominated Caroline from the start with big serves and heavy groundstrokes. Caroline did nothing as usual and tried to draw the errors, which wasn't coming. The Dane needs to see Sharapova as an example, who also had an overbearing father at the earlier stages of her career. However, Maria realised she needed someone with a more professional input and eventually got rid of Yuri Sharapov. Look where Maria is right now and contrast it to Wozniacki. Anyway, Nadia has virtually nothing to defend the beginning of next year and she might very well re-enter the top 10 with a couple of strong results. Well done Nadia!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Sofia finals: Caroline back in top 10

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Nadia Petrova

Caroline Wozniacki makes her way back into the top 10 with this final appearance as she ploughed through Pironkova with no trouble. Caroline will face resurgent Nadia Petrova for her first mini-YEC title. Nadia had a tough match against Roberta Vinci in her semi-final and will no doubt be a little bit affected. Caroline will definitely make Petrova move and expose her lacklustre movement. After attempting to change her game, Wozniacki decided to shut out the naysayers and go back to her original game plan which brought her to the top. Immediately you can see results coming. Does it make for enjoyable tennis? Not really. But as long as the Dane is winning, I don't think she minds. Look out for Wozniacki to waltz to another easy victory.

Pick: Wozniacki in 2 sets

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Sofia Day 4: Sofia makes her debut

Sofia Arvidsson vs. Zheng Jie

After the withdrawal of Kirilenko, Sofia Arvidsson steps in to take her place in this last round robin match. Zheng should be happy that she doesn't need to face the Russian but she only has herself to blame for being winless after 2 matches here. Not too sure how prepared Arvidsson would be but Zheng is an expert at losing to players who are not supposed to be there. So I'm going with the Swede for the win.

Pick: Arvidsson in 2 sets

Nadia Petrova vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

Nadia is guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals with the withdrawal of Kirilenko. Will she tank this match and make the home crowd happy? If Zheng wins her match in straight sets and Pironkova goes down in 2, Zheng advances. Pironkova just needs to win 1 set to march into the semi-finals of this event. Hard to see Petrova losing this but I expect a half-hearted effort here from the Russian. She is not young anymore and would be looking to conserve her energy against most probably Roberta Vinci.

Pick: Pironkova in 3 sets

Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Daniela Hantuchova

A meaningless match here so I don't really know how to predict the outcome. These 2 have met earlier this year in Phuket, where Hantuchova won her lone title. I expect the Slovak to be too much for the Chinese to handle but it has been a long season for Daniela. Hsieh would be hungry for a win to show that she belongs there so I expect her to put up a good fight.

Pick: Hsieh in 3 sets

Sofia Day 3: Mental midget Daniela

Hi guys! I'm finally back! Sorry to have missed the first couple of days but I'll be back updating this blog from now onwards.

Caroline Wozniacki def. Daniela Hantuchova 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4

Story of Daniela's life. How many times have we seen Daniela so close to victory but choke badly and make retarded mistakes at crucial points? If Daniela had the mental strength of Wozniacki, She would have been a perennial top 10 player. Wozniacki does what she does best, scrambling and waiting for mistakes as usual. The Dane is just one win away from a return to the top ten and I believe she will take this title easily as the rest of the field is... abysmal.

Roberta Vinci def. Hsieh Su-Wei 6-1 6-2

Despite being the only player with 2 international titles, Hsieh bombed out of the tournament suffering lopsided losses in all her matches. This shows that Hsieh is not yet ready to consistently play with the top guns yet. Vinci did well compared to her dreadful match against Wozniacki and could be a real contender for the title if she cleans up her game. The Italian veteran advances to the semi-finals with this win as both Hantuchova and Hsieh cannot overtake her regardless of their last match.

Nadia Petrova def. Maria Kirilenko 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3

Kirilenko loses a heartbreaker to her doubles partner Nadia Petrova. Kirilenko withdrew from the tournament shortly after this match so I believe she has some health problems during this encounter. Nadia is enjoying a good revival and I believe will break the top 10 with some good results in the beginning of next year. At the grand old age of 30, who would have thought that Nadia would still be going strong? Well done to Petrova for not giving up despite less than stellar results for the past couple of years.

Sweet Caroline

She ended 2010 and 2011 as the number one player in the world. This year has seen her plummet out of the top 10 with 2 first round grandslam exits. Players know how to play her already. Step in and drill the forehand.

Caroline is definitely a top 8 player and she definitely has more power than we might believe. She just needs to have the guts to hit through the ball. When she plays well, it's a marvel to watch.

She ended the WTA season with a victory in Moscow over top 10 player Stosur. This, as well as a strong showing in Sofia should set up a renascences of sorts for her in 2013. It would be nice to have 2 counterpunchers (Radwanksa and Wozniacki) in the top 10 contending with the big guns.

Caroline seems like a lovely girl and is a great ambassador to the game. While she certainly doesn't make a fitting number one, she does make a very reliable and entertaining top 10 player and for the sake of the tour, let's hope she is a contender for big titles in 2013.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

YEC Finals Review

Serena def Maria 64 63