Friday, 28 February 2014

Acapulco, Florianopolis F: Can Klara get over the final hurdle?

Acapulco F:

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Christina McHale

Congratulations to Christina for finally reaching her first tour final. It was a jittery semi-final affair with Garcia but she did it in the end. Against Cibulkova, she'll definitely be the underdog. Dominika has had plenty of final experience and is riding on a new wave of confidence. Still, it's still a good week for the American whose career has been interrupted by unfortunate injuries. 

Pick: Cibulkova in 2 sets

Florianopolis F:

Klara Zakopalova vs. Garbine Muguruza

In her 15th final, Zakopalova is the first player in 2014 to reach 3 finals. This is her second consecutive final after last week's Rio. However, she won't be the favorite as Garbine Muguruza just beat her two months ago in the Hobart finals. It's a pity as the Czech's game is free flowing when it's on. But she just doesn't show up in finals. I do not expect anything different to happen here. 

Pick: Muguruza in 2 sets

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Acapulco, Florianopolis SF: Buckling under pressure

Some players thrive under pressure, while others just crawl back into their holes. Eugenie Bouchard has been thrusted into the limelight and the added pressure on her seems to be taking a toll, as she succumbs meekly to Caroline Garcia. I guess it was too much too soon for the Canadian.

Acapulco match focus:

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Zhang Shuai

Cibulkova ought to be careful of Zhang, as she showed her fighting capabilities in all her matches here in Acapulco. However, Dominika has the experience on her side, so she should be able to get through this match. Cibulkova just needs to protect her serve and let her groundstrokes do the work.

Pick: Cibulkova in 2 sets

Christina McHale vs. Caroline Garcia

Fresh from her upset win over Bouchard, Garcia must be brimming with confidence. If she carries her form forward, she might be able to reach her maiden WTA final. Both players have never reached a final before, so it will be a nervous affair. Garcia has more flair while McHale is more steady. Contrasting styles make this match an interesting affair, and I predict a close 3 set match here. Hopefully Garcia will fulfil her potential and show that she's no one match wonder.

Pick: Garcia in 3 tight sets

Florianopolis SF:

Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Klara Zakopalova

If only this was a final, we would have an extremely interesting situation here. Both players are well known to falter in the finals, with Suarez Navarro winning 0 out of 5 finals, and Zakopalova winning 2 out of 14 finals. Carla has won their last 2 meetings, but they are tied at 2 all. I do think that Klara should be exhausted from all her activity recently, so I think the Spaniard will emerge the victor. And hopefully, whoever wins this can finally clinch the title!

Pick: Suarez Navarro in 2 sets

Yaroslava Shvedova vs. Garbine Muguruza

For someone who is able to golden set a top 10 player, Shvedova is really an underachiever. She has always been a streaky player but her lows are more than her highs. This week, she hits a high with this semi-final appearance, but the problem is can she keep it up? For Shvedova, she needs to know when to play the right shot. She has all the shots, but her mental game is a mess and she fades when things don't go her way. Garbine however is a fighter. She might not have the quickest feet or the biggest serve, but she perseveres until the end. Against Yaroslava, the Spaniard just needs to weather the storm and wait for Shvedova to crumble.

Pick: Muguruza in 2 sets

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Acapulco, Florianopolis day 4: Future of WTA

Acapulco schedule:

Florianopolis schedule:

Match focus:

Caroline Garcia vs. Eugenie Bouchard

It seems like yesterday when Garcia was slated to be the next big thing after she pushed Sharapova to the limits in Roland Garros. Caroline didn't capitalize on her good form and has since languished in the bottom half of the top 100. Compared to the meteoric rise of Bouchard, Garcia has a lot to catch up. She is one year older than Eugenie, but the Canadian has already accomplished more than her. If Garcia can get her mental game going, I believe this match-up has a potential to be a good rivalry. Right now, Bouchard has all the confidence in the world. Garcia did well against 2 retrievers in her first few rounds, which shows growth in her mental game. Eugenie should be able to win this, but it might go the distance.

Pick: Bouchard in 3 sets

Klara Zakopalova vs. Alexandra Dulgheru

Klara Zakopalova continues her busy schedule with wins here in Florianopolis. After reaching the finals in Rio, she continued her good form despite the surface change, and will vie for a spot in the semi-finals with resurgent Dulgheru. The pair has met twice before in 2011, splitting both meetings, but Klara has won their hard court meeting. I believe the surface suits the flat hitting Czech, but she might be fatigued from all the matches so far. Dulgheru also had to come through qualifying, so she will also be feeling the strain. Because of that, I believe Klara will snatch another win against the Romanian.

Pick: Zakopalova in 3 sets

Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Monica Niculescu

Defending champion Monica Niculescu faces a tough test against top seed, Carla Suarez Navarro. Monica clinched her first title here last year, but did relatively nothing after that. Carla is still seeking her first title and like Zakopalova, has the tendency to blank out during finals. The good thing for the Spaniard is that this is not a final On hard courts, I believe Carla's variety will be enough to counter Monica's junky balls.

Pick: Suarez Navarro in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Garbine Muguruza, Dominika Cibulkova
Upset alert: Alexandra Cadantu, Zhang Shuai

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Acapulco, Florianopolis day 3: Zhang impresses against Keys

Acapulco schedule:

Florianopolis schedule:

Match focus:

Aleksandra Wozniak vs. Zhang Shuai

Madison Keys wastes another chance at going far by throwing away a winnable match against Shuai. She was up a double break in the third set but somehow managed to lose it despite her huge serve. Kudos to Zhang for roughing it out but Keys has to stop losing matches like this. The Chinese now faces Wozniak, whose career has been interrupted numerous times by injuries. Given how she took out Madison, I think Shuai can win this if she keeps the same level up. She just has to keep making Wozniak hit that extra ball, and exploit the Canadian's lack of match practice. 

Pick: Zhang in 3 sets

Julia Goerges vs. Kaia Kanepi

There are small signs that indicate Goerges is back, but she reminds us of her dire form with some unexpected losses. It's tough to predict which Julia will appear, but she was exquisite in her demolition of the Mexican wildcard. That should give her the confidence boost. Kanepi struggled against Cepelova, so I think Julia does stand a chance. 

Pick: Goerges in 3 sets

Alexandra Dulgheru vs Teliana Pereira

The long road back continues for Alexandra, as she tries to get her ranking back into the top 30. When she was at her peak, Dulgheru is a pesky counterpuncher who doesn't give up. Alas, injury set in due to the nature of her game, and she's been struggling since. Against Pereira, Alexandra has to take the initiative and be the aggressor. Given her experience, I don't think she has a problem, the question is, will her body hold up? Pereira does have the homecrowd behind her and if she can hang in long enough, she might escape with a win. Still, I think experience will triumph, barring any injury from Dulgheru of course.

Pick: Dulgheru in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Monica Niculescu, Eugenie Bouchard, Bojana Jovanovski
Upset alert: Paula Ormaechea, Christina McHale, Kaia Kanepi

Monday, 24 February 2014

Acapulco, Florianopolis day 2: Madison Keys the dark horse

Apologies for the mistake yesterday. I seriously thought Florianopolis was played on clay as the draw was littered by claycourt specialists. No wonder the turn out for Rio was so bad as no one wanted to play a clay event in the middle of nowhere.

Acapulco schedule:

Florianopolis schedule:

Match focus:

Madison Keys vs. Zhang Shuai

It was strange to see Madison Key's in the qualifying draw, when her ranking was good enough to make it as one of the seeds here. I guess she was late in her commitment and decided to play more matches before heading into Indian Wells. Good move I would say as some players scoff at the idea of playing qualifying when their ranking reaches a certain height. She faces Zhang, the lowest seed in the draw in a strange turn of events. Madison just needs to be more disciplined with her power and I do see improvement with her wins in qualifying rounds. I believe if she continues her form, she can be a dark horse for the title.

Pick: Keys in 2 sets

Iveta Melzer vs. Victoria Duval

I had to do a double check when I saw the name "Iveta Melzer" in the draw. Iveta Benesova is back! Well, as Iveta Melzer as she married Jurgen Melzer in 2012. Those who are unfamiliar with her, Iveta was a top 30 staple with several wins over top players before her shoulder started acting up. She took a 2 year hiatus and is returning to the site of her first title as a comeback. Iveta won this event all the way back in 2004 as a qualifier, but it was held on clay back then. I believe it's asking too much for the Czech to immediately spring into action after such a long hiatus. Duval has had ample practice through qualifying, and should be able to edge out Iveta.

Pick: Duval in 2 tight sets

Klara Zakopalova vs. Donna Vekic

Donna Vekic was slated to be WTA's next best thing after her run to the finals in Birmingham. However, she fizzled out and almost lost all her matches since then. What happened? It's really tough to handle the expectations weighed on you and I believe Vekic felt the pressure and wasn't ready for the added attention. She will face a tough opening round as Klara's flat game will suit the hard court surface. One thing that Donna can capitalize on is that Klara will be tired after her final loss in Rio. Maybe she can upset the Czech and start her engines again. However, I highly doubt so as this is not a final.

Sure win bets: Dominika Cibulkova, Yvonne Meusburger, Garbine Muguruza
Upset alert: Alexandra Cadantu, Hsieh Su-Wei, Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Acapulco, Florianopolis day 1: Clay season continues in South America

For clay court specialists, clay season continues in Brazil, while others prepare for the North American hard court swin by entering Acapulco.

Acapulco schedule of play:

Florianopolis schedule:

Match focus:

Stefanie Voegele vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm

Stefanie's form has been on the rise for the past one year, and she looks set to continue her rich rein of form against the veteran, Kimiko Date-Krumm. The pair has met 3 times, with Voegele leading the head-to-head 2-1. It will be difficult for the Japanese to beat the younger more energetic Voegele, but she can disrupt her rhythm by throwing different balls at the Swiss. This will be a close match, but I think Voegele will sneak out the win.

Pick: Voegele in 3 sets

Kristine Mladenovic vs. Christina McHale

These 2 are ranked respectively at 72 and 71, so there's little to separate them. The problem with Mladenovic is that she has all the power, but not the discipline to use it effectively. McHale lacks in raw power, but she knows when to hit hard, and when to just hang in there. So it's a tough call, Mladenovic might just have her day and totally dominate McHale. Still, I think the steadier American will win as Kristina always loses her concentration after a few bad shots.

Pick: McHale in 2 tight sets

Vania King vs. Garbine Muguruza

Vania King has had a mixed bag of results recently. She defeated Errani in Shenzhen, and now is on a 4 match losing streak, reaching a new low when she lost to Begu last week. Clay obviously isn't the surface for her, so I wonder why she's playing here instead of Acapulco. Garbine will be more familiar with the red stuff, despite her better results on hard courts. King will have to put on an inspired performance to have a chance against te in-form Muguruza.

Pick: Muguruza in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Carla Suarez Navarro, Marina Erakovic, Bojana Jovanovski
Upset alert: Francesca Schiavone, Patricia Mayr-Achleitner

Rio final: The Kookie crumbles yet again

Rio final:

Kurumi Nara def. Klara Zakopalova 6-1 4-6 6-1

14 finals with only 2 titles to account for, Zakopalova shows that she's an absolute horror when it comes to finals. Even if her opponent is Kurumi Nara, who just reached her first WTA final and was outside the top 100 just last year. No words to describe how absurb the Czech is in finals. Maybe she just doesn't want to win. Overall a pretty dire match as Nara couldn't capitalize on her chances and end this misery sooner. Her break point conversion is abysmal, but she got the job done. With this win, she enters the top 50 and is Japan's highest ranked player now. I don't expect her to reach the heights of Ai Sugiyama or Kimiko Date, but I think Nara can be a top 30 staple.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Dubai, Rio Final: Venus claims her 3rd consecutive Dubai title

Dubai final:

Venus Williams def. Alize Cornet 6-3 6-0

Venus Williams should be singing "This Is How You Do It" to Serena as she ruthlessly punished Alize Cornet to claim her first title in 2 years, and her third consecutive Dubai final. Venus has been on scintillating form all week, winning all her matches in straight sets. Showing no signs of her illness, she covered the court like in her peak, and boomed down serves like rockets. Maybe this is a sign that Venus is finally back, as she soars back into the top 30 with this win. Cornet's performance was lackluster compared to yesterday. She couldn't keep her emotions in check and was frankly whiny throughout the whole match. Still, no one can take away her big win over Serena Williams, so she can have that as a consolation.

Rio final:

Klara Zakopalova vs. Kurumi Nara

In the much overlooked tournament in Rio, Klara Zakopalova has been virtually unchallenged in her path to the finals. The top seed has yet to drop a set, and is the huge favourite to claim her first title since 2005(!). Nara has never reached a final before, so this will be a nervous match for the petite Japanese. Klara needs to be careful though, as Nara has improved a lot throughout last year. Even though she struggled with her concentration in her semi-final, Nara is capable of playing scrappy tennis and springing surprises. Still, I do think that Klara will clinch the title despite her customary final meltdown, as she has too much experience over Nara.

Pick: Zakopalova over Nara

Friday, 21 February 2014

Dubai, Rio final: Venus to avenge for Serena

Dubai final:

Alize Cornet vs. Venus Williams

I was wrong about Alize. The Frenchwoman did not buckle under pressure, and played to her limits to upset the invincible Serena Williams. Something Alize did was unsettling Serena, and I'm sure the American will hit the practice court as soon as possible to sort out her troubles with handling high and deep balls. Venus might want to get some tips from Serena on what to avoid hitting, even though she has never lost to Alize. This new confident Cornet seems to be hitting the ball with more authority, and won't crumble mentally. Venus is the favourite here even though she is ranked lower. And I am sure Venus would want to help her little sister teach Alize a lesson. I predict a well deserved 3 peat for Venus Williams

Pick: Venus in 2 sets

Rio predictions: Klara Zakopalova and Kurumi Nara to reach the finals. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Dubai, Rio SF: High drama in Serena Jankovic QF

If only the match was as exciting as this. Serena cruised to another easy victory, but Jankovic made things interesting as usual. What she couldn't do with her racket, she did with her antics on court. Seemingly displeased with Serena taking too long to receive serve, she irritated Serena into saying "You want to do this again Jelena?" Just watch the video in case you missed it.
Anyway, Serena and Jelena seems to have gotten over the incident after the match, but I'm very sure these two won't be sending each other Christmas cards anytime soon. 

Match focus:

Serena Williams vs. Alize Cornet

Sorry Alize, your journey will definitely end here. Serena is back and with her demolition of Jankovic, she is announcing her comeback with a roar. Alize benefitted again with another mental midget performance from Suarez Navarro. Shows how crappy Kvitova was playing. Serena looks good to clinch the title, and the only person that can stop her is maybe Venus. And even if she loses to her sister, it's probably because she needs it more. 

Pick: Serena in 2 sets

Venus Williams vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline has never beaten Venus before, and this will be a good time for her to clinch her first win. These two have not met since 2008, and Venus's form has dipped considerably since then. Still, I won't count Venus out as she was very impressive so for in Dubai. Caroline did well too against Cirstea, but it was mostly due to the incessant errors from the Romanian. If Venus can continue her huge serving, she will be able to win. I do think that Caroline will snatch her first set against Venus though. 

Pick: Venus in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Paula Ormaechea, Klara Zakopalova
Upset alert: Teliena Pereira, Kurumi Nara

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dubai, Rio QF: Possible all Williams final?

3 shock exits yesterday as Radwanska, Kvitova and Errani were all bundled out. Petra's random losses are no longer surprises, but Agnieszka's defeat in the hands of Flavia was unexpected. If the Pole exits early in Indian Wells as well, she can be put on official slump alert.

Match focus:

Serena Williams vs Jelena Jankovic

A tough test for Serena as she will take on the pesky Serbian for a place in the semi finals. Jankovic's game can and will bother Serena, but when Serena is firing on all cylinders, there's nothing much Jankovic can do. If Serena's match with Makarova is any indication, it shows that the American has shaken off her rust. I expect a straightforward match with maybe a close set. 

Pick: Serena in 2 sets

Carla Suarez Navarro vs Alize Cornet

Carla actually wins a close match this time, against Kvitova. But it was easy as all she needed to do was keep the ball in and wait for the grotesque errors from the Czech. She's not going to get as many gifts from Cornet. Alize's elementary game is steady if unspectacular. Carla's variety should be able to overcome the Frenchwoman. As usual, the only thing holding her back is her head. Let's hope Carla's mental game has improved following her win over Kvitova. 

Pick: Suarez Navarro in 2 sets

Caroline Wozniacki vs Sorana Cirstea

Hot and cold Sorana Cirstea snaps out of her slump as she downs Errani in 3 sets. That was the perfect practice for this match, where Wozniacki plays a similar grinding game as Sara. Still, predicting a Cirstea match is akin to guessing when the rain will come. You just don't know. For this, I will choose the ever steady Wozniacki. She seems to be getting back into her groove with some good wins under her belt. 

Pick: Wozniacki in 3 sets

Venus Williams vs Flavia Pennetta

Queen of Dubai, Venus Williams, will look to extend her winning steak here against Flavia Pennetta. However, she trails 3-4 against the feisty Italian. Flavia is also high on confidence after upsetting Radwanska in her previous round. There is no doubt who the crowd will support though. Venus's commitment to tennis despite her illness is remarkable, so a lot of people will be rooting for her. Judging by their matches so far, I believe Venus has the edge. Pennetta had to come through qualifying, so fatigue might set in. 

Pick: Venus in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Serena Williams, Irina-Camelia Begu, Kurumi Nara
Upset alert: Flavia Pennetta