Monday, 13 January 2014

Melbourne day 2: Be careful, Maria

Upset of the previous day:

Luksika Kumkhum def. Petra Kvitova

Just when I thought Kvitova is almost back, she throws in a performance like this to show that she has never improved since her Wimbledon triumph. Luksika is a dangerous hard hitter, but with Petra's superior serve and experience, she should have taken this easily. Credit to the Thai girl, who went for her shots fearlessly, but Petra was just a mess out there. Kvitova's last 4 major losses were to Hampton, Flipkens, Riske and now, Kumkhum. She needs a new coach, a new direction, a change. If not, she's just going to be a one slam wonder.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova better have her A game on as Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a dangeous floater for anyone. Just last week, she completely overpowered Agnieszka Radwanska to score her biggest win of her career. If Maria is not match-fit, she might be the highest seed to get bounced out. The key to the match for Maria, is to be the first to strike. Bethanie will always be the aggressor, so if Sharapova takes the initiative, Mattek-Sands will be rushed into errors. It will be a tough match, but I believe Sharapova will squeak out this one.

Pick: Sharapova in 3 sets

Andrea Petkovic vs. Magdalena Rybarikova

Andrea's comeback wasn't the smoothest, but slowly she's inching up the rankings step by step. She faces Rybarikova, a very winnable match. Magdalena has pieced together a good pre-US Open run, which resulted in her seeding. But outside of that, she has done practically nothing. Petkovic has more big match experience despite their relative same age, and looks poised to upset the Slovak.

Pick: Petkovic in 2 sets

Kaia Kanepi vs. Garbine Muguruza

One of the more even matched up matches, Hobart winner Muguruza will clash with experienced Kaia Kanepi for a place in round 2. Muguruza will be a tough cookie for Kanepi to crack, but the Estonian likes the Australian surface, having won in Brisbane a few years ago, and pushing Sharapova to 3 sets. What is important is that Garbine might still be elated about her win in Hobart and suffer a 'hangover'. Kaia, barring any injury, should be able to tame the dangerous Spaniard in 3 sets.

Pick: Kanepi in 3 sets

Francesca Schiavone vs. Dominika Cibulkova

Cibulkova has a bad habit of bombing out of slam events after having good results in the warm-ups. With her so-so warm-up results, it seems that Dominika will finally live up to her seeding this time. Schiavone has more experience, but Cibulkova has the legs and power. Schiavone's spinny shots will be sitting fodder for the Slovak to hit for winners. It will take a very inspired performance from the Italian to upset the hard hitting Dominika.

Pick: Cibulkova in 2 sets

Sloane Stephens vs. Yaroslava Shvedova

The real question here is how injured is Sloane? She pulled out of Sydney as a precaution because of wrist pain, but was it just to have more time to prepare? Yaroslava can blow hot and cold, so it is very important for Stephens not to let her get into a rhythm. With Sloane's pesky counter-punching game, Shvedova will not be able to dominate the American, that is if Stephens is fully recovered.

Pick: Stephens in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Galina Voskoboeva, Simona Halep
Upset alert: Magdalena Rybarikova, Sorana Cirstea, Camila Giorgi, Ayumi Morita, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

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