Thursday, 31 October 2013

Sofia day 4: Pavlyuchenkova and Cornet vie for semi-final place

Ana Ivanovic vs. Elena Vesnina

Ana proved to be the undisputed queen of this event by winning against Stosur. She maintains her flawless record in Tournament of Champions and looks set to continue her winning ways against Vesnina. The Russian lost a set against Pironkova, which is an indication of her dire form. Ana will wallop Elena and end the Russian's season here.

Pick: Ivanovic in 2 sets

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Alize Cornet

The winner of this match proceeds to the semi-final, so I believe they will be fighting their hearts out. On the fast indoor courts, you have to favour the Russian. Cornet's loopy strokes will be sitting ducks for Anastasia to punish. However, I believe the Frenchwoman will put up a good fight before going down.

Pick: Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets

Samantha Stosur vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

Stosur in 2 easy sets. I repeat myself, Pironkova doesn't belong here.

Sofia day 3: Can Ivanovic spring a surprise?

Ana Ivanovic vs. Samantha Stosur

These 2 players just played a few weeks ago in Moscow, so I don't expect a different result on a similar surface. Ana needs to study what she did wrong in Moscow, and try to correct them against Stosur. I do expect a closer match this time, but I don't see Ana springing a surprise here despite her being higher ranked.

Pick: Stosur in 3 sets

Elena Vesnina vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

Vesnina in 2 easy sets. Pironkova doesn't belong here and never did.

Simona Halep vs. Elina Svitolina

Simona has already qualified, so it depends whether she wants to put in the effort or not. Still, I expect a half assed Simona to be too much for Svitolina. Elina only made it here by winning one of the weakest tournaments on tour.

Pick: Halep in 2 sets

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sofia day 2: Forgone conclusions

Samantha Stosur vs. Elena Vesnina

Coming off a disappointing Istanbul, Vesnina will attempt to brush that away with a win over Stosur. It doesn't bode well for the lower ranked Russian as she was the weak link in the doubles match final. Committing numerous crucial errors and dragging Makarova down, Vesnina didn't deserve to win the final. She might also be suffering from a hangover from the disastrous showing there, so I expect Stosur to even the heads to heads. Playing indoors will definitely help Samantha with less elements to disrupt her serve and whippy strokes.

Pick: Stosur in 2 sets

Simona Halep vs. Alize Cornet

Simona Halep has won 5 titles this year and looks good to add another title here in Sofia. Against Cornet, she will stand as the firm favourite, even though Alize has a win under her belt. Simona's lightning quick court coverage will make Alize go for her shots, something which she is not used to. Also, Simona's forehand will murder Cornet's loopy forehand. I expect a quick win for the Romanian without much drama.

Pick: Halep in 2 sets

Elina Svitolina vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

As expected, Kirilenko's injury flared up and Svitolina was called in for a replacement. Anyway, Pavlyuchenkova will beat anyone who's not named Halep in her group, so this match is a forgone conclusion. Elina probably is just happy to be there and not fully prepared for this match. Look out for an easy win for the Russian.

Pick: Pavlyuchenkova in 2 sets

Monday, 28 October 2013

Sofia day 1: Simona the huge favourite

Ana Ivanovic vs Tsvetana Pironkova

These two are the only wild card entries here but only one is deserving of her wild card. Pironkova's appeal in Bulgaria is debatable, so it makes no sense to me to award a wild card to her for doing nothing much this year. Granted, she had a good run to the fourth round in Winbledon, but other than that, she practically invisible. Look out for an easy win for Ana.

Pick: Ivanovic in 2 sets

Maria Kirilenko vs Alize Cornet

It's difficult to predict Maria's matches as she has a thing for competing injured. We don't know for sure if she's fully healthy yet. However, she did push Serena in Beijing, so I expect her to be almost back. Against Cornet, she should have an advantage as Alize prefers the slow clay, even though she has a losing record against the Frenchwoman. Kirilenko needs to be careful though, as Cornet can spring a surprise if she's not focused.

Pick: Kirilenko in 3 sets

Simona Halep vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

A rematch of the recent Moscow semi finals, Halep takes on Anastasia again in their opening Sofia match. On a similar surface, I expect the same results as Moscow, where the Russian got blown away by the Romanian. This tournament is Simona's to lose, having a stellar second half of the season and recent wins over the players participating here.

Pick: Halep in 2 sets

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Istanbul final: Serena's worst opponent will always be herself

Serena Williams vs. Li Na

Anyone who watched Serena vs Jankovic will be scratching their heads at the disappearance of Serena midway through the match. Actually, throughout almost the whole match, Serena was barely there. Maybe it was Summer or Tequanda, but it was definitely not a 100% healthy Serena. Still, she manages to get the job done, and survives to play Li Na. The world number 1 cannot afford to do this against the rejuvenated Li, who was clinical in her disposal of Kvitova. Serena needs to overcome her demons (which is herself) and give her all in the last match of the season. If both players play to their best, we are guaranteed a crackling final. As usual, it will be difficult to pick against Serena. But if one of her alter egos appears, Li might just become the first Asian to win the year-end championships.

Pick: Serena in 3 sets

Friday, 25 October 2013

Istanbul SF: Career high at stake for Li

Li Na vs. Petra Kvitova

A win here will give Li a number 3 career high ranking, so a lot is at stake for the Chinese. For someone who has a Grand Slam and a long illustrious career, not reaching the top 3 is a blemish. I'm sure Li will be very motivated to achieve that milestone. However, Kvitova looks to be in ominous form and looks ready to take down Li (in 3 sets no doubt). Petra has won 2 of their 3 hard court encounters, and their last meeting in Beijing. Will she inflict the same damage to Li? Against Azarenka, Li had the tough task of playing against the injured opponent, but she never lost focus and continued playing her game. Looks like she is working on her concentration and it's showing. Against someone whose concentration fades in and out, Li can take advantage.

Pick: Li in 3 sets

Serena Williams vs. Jelena Jankovic

I guess Jelena already knew she qualified, so she didn't give her 100% against Errani. But any self-respecting professional will give her all no matter what the circumstances. Against Serena, Jankovic will be bludgeoned even if she gives her all.

Pick: Williams in 2 easy sets

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Istanbul day 3: Serena vs Petra the highlight

Li Na vs. Jelena Jankovic

These 2 good friends will battle for a sure pass to the semi-finals in Istanbul. Jankovic surprised everybody by defeating Azarenka handily, but it was more due to Azarenka's errors than Jankovic's winners. Still, she scrambled well enough to trouble Azarenka to go for her shots. Will she cause the same troubles to Li Na? Li played a good match even though she had a bit of trouble closing out the match against Errani. With Azarenka's suspect form, Li looks good to emerge as the top player in her group.

Pick: Li in 3 sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Angelique Kerber

Agnieszka's Istanbul campaign is as good as over. Will she give Kerber a charity win? Or will she even step on court? Radwanska, Kerber and Wozniacki are good friends, so I won''t be surprised if 1) Radwanska withdraws and lets Wozniacki play, 2) Radwanska loses this match to give Kerber more chances of going into the semi-finals. If these 2 players give their best, I believe Radwanska has the steady game. But with 2 losses so far, I doubt Aga will be motivated in this match.

Pick: Kerber in 2 sets

Serena Williams vs. Petra Kvitova

If there is a player who can match Serena with her power and serve, it will be Petra Kvitova. When she's firing from all cylinders, she's almost impossible to stop. However, the mental strength of Kvitova is not as tough as Serena, so I expect the Czech to crumble at key points of the match. It will be a good match featuring huge serves and hitting, but Serena will probably come out on top.

Pick: Serena in 2 tight sets

Istanbul day 2: Favourites to win

Li Na vs. Sara Errani

Nothing against Sara, but against top players, she stands no chance with her ultra weak serve. Li is going to take full advantage of that weak delivery and cruise to a straightforward victory. The only thing Li needs to do is keep her mind in check. If she concentrates throughout, Sara will be the first to bid adios to this tournament.

Pick: Li in 2 sets

Victoria Azarenka vs. Jelena Jankovic

As the lower seed, Jelena will always be the underdog. Victoria seems to have shaken her fall rust off with a clean performance over Errani, so Jankovic is likely to be her next victim. For the Serb, I feel that she's just happy to be there with no intention to win the title whatsoever. Given the conditions on how she qualified, I wouldn't place too much high hopes on myself either. Jankovic hasn't performed well in majority of her tournaments and had only two to three highlights in her season. The highlights were a result of the seeds collapsing and Jelena taking advantage.

Pick: Azarenka in 2 sets

Serena Williams vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

If Radwanska couldn't beat a half fit Serena in Toronto, she can forget about defeating a fully healthy and motivated Williams. The Pole just doesn't have enough firepower to trouble Serena. Sad to say, Radwanska looks to be the highest seed to get kicked out of the tournament today.

Pick: Williams in 2 sets

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Istanbul day 1: Kvitova the dark horse

I have to apologize for going MIA for the past 2 days as I was on a short trip and there was no internet access! Anyway, I''m back just in time for Istanbul!

Match focus:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Sara Errani

Both players are not in good form right now, but Errani is obviously the weaker player. Azarenka suffered early exits in Tokyo and Beijing, but these defeats will only spur her to work harder. Compared to Errani, who is still very prone to being overpowered and currently low on confidence, the Belarussian should be able to cruise through this match.

Pick: Azarenka in 2 sets

Serena Williams vs. Angelique Kerber

Kerber got here under dubious circumstances, getting a wild card where sh wasn't supposed to have under the rules. However, she won Linz and that''s what got her here, so she still deserves to be here. Serena seems to be back in full control as she won Beijing comfortably. If her back holds up well, I do not see anybody stopping her in this tournament. Kerber will be the perfect opponent to hit a lot of balls and get back into match rhythm.

Pick: Serena in 2 sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Petra Kvitova

When Kvitova is hitting her strokes, there is barely anyone who can stop her, including Radwanska. The Czech owns a commanding 4-1 heads to heads lead over the Pole, as well as winning their last encounter in Dubai. Still, Radwanska has a chance as she did defeat Petra last year here in the same round with a straightforward victory. I expect a close fight here with the big hitting Czech signalling her return to form. She seems to be finally connecting the dots again and ready to assaultfor the top spot.

Pick: Kvitova in 3 sets

Friday, 18 October 2013

Luxembourg, Moscow SF: All Russian finals possible

Luxembourg SF:

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sabine Lisicki

Caroline barely escaped the hard hitter in Jovanovski, and she will face a harder basher in Sabine Lisicki. The heads to heads is tied at 2 all, but I believe Sabine has the advantage in this fast indoor courts. Wozniacki did win their last encounter in Melbourne this year, but it was a hard fought 3 set match. With her injury supposedly healed, Sabine should be able to blast Wozniacki into submission.

Pick: Lisicki in 3 sets

Stefanie Voegele vs. Annika Beck

2 surprise semifinalists here as Voegele manages to upset the favoured Sloane Stephens in their quarter-final match. Sorry for shifting the focus, but Sloane is making too much noise for someone who cannot even reach the finals of a depleted event. She should concentrate on being consistent instead of saying things that she cannot live up to. Anyway, Voegele seems to picking up pace again after her impressive Charleston run. Still, I will give the advantage to Annika Beck, whose consistent strokes will be hard to break down. Annika has also won their only encounter, so she should be able to replicate her success.

Pick: Beck in 3 sets

Moscow SF:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Simona Halep

Simona lead their heads to head 2-0, but I''m going to favour Pavlyuchenkova this time. Firstly, she is playing in Russia, and will get the full crowd support. Second, she was so close to beating Simona in Tokyo, but was undone by her fatigue after her Seoul final appearance. Now well rested and seemingly in the form of her life, Anastasia looks like a safe bet for the final. Halep had the good luck of drawing Kleybanova, who must be exhausted with her long drawn matches.

Pick: Pavlyuchenkova in 2 sets

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Samantha Stosur

Battle of the massive forehands here as doubles partners take on each other in this semi-finals. Stosur was impressive in her conquest of Ivanovic, but it was also due to Ana's mental fragility. What's more impressive is Kuznetsova''s demolition of Vinci, having lost their last match in Dubai. Will Svetlana turn the tides against the Aussie, having lost their last 2 matches as well? It seems so as Svetlana will be lifted by the home crowd, and Stosur must be tired from her recent matches. Also, Kuznetsova will be eager to join Pavlyuchenkova in the finals, should Anastasia win her match before this.

Pick: Kuznetsova in 2 tight sets