Schedule of play:
Li Na vs. Zheng Jie
These 2 compatriots know each other's game inside out. Interestingly, Zheng leads the head to head at 4-2, but won their first 4 meetings before 2006. Li has since won the next 2, and will be the favourite here as the top seed. However, Li's form has been shaky since her triumph in Melbourne. After her shock loss in Doha, she played an absolute stinker of a match in a Hong Kong exhibition against Samantha Stosur. This is truly puzzling as players tend to play better in matches that have less pressure. If Zheng wants to beat Li again, this is the perfect opportunity, with all the pressure on Li to liver up to her seeding. However, Zheng barely made it through Ormaechea, so I doubt she can complete the task.
Pick: Li in 3 sets
Maria Sharapova vs. Julia Goerges
Even when she was in peak form in 2011, Julia Goerges was not able to defeat Sharapova in 3 meetings. I highly doubt she can upset the reigning champion here with her current bad form. Sharapova seems to be still recovering from her shoulder injury, but she should be able to overcome the flashy German. However, citing Azarenka's example, anything can happen. If Julia hits her spots, she might just be able to clinch anothet top 10 scalp. Otherwise, I believe Sharapova's mental strength will tide her through.
Pick: Sharapova in 2 sets
Garbine Muguruza vs. Alisa Kleybanova
Garbine must be still recovering from her shock collapse in Florianopolis, where she lost the plot in the final. Against the feisty Kleybanova, she better be prepared as Alisa will run down all the balls and send them back with interest. One really has to admire Alisa for her determination and fight in overcoming her cancer, and her willingness to scramble for every ball despite her limited movement. Garbine is susceptible to concentration lapses, so Alisa might captialize on that and capture a good win.
Pick: Kleybanova in 2 tight sets
Camila Giorgi vs. Sorana Cirstea
Do not expect long rallies in this match, as both ladies love to blast the hell out of the ball. Giorgi came through qualifying and clinched a good win over the volatile Petkovic, stamping her authority with hard and well struck ground strokes. If she can continue her form, she can cause trouble for the equally hard hitting Cirstea. The problem with these girls is that you don't know which version of them will turn up on the actual day. Giorgi actually edged Cirstea out in last year's Wimbledon in 2 tiebreaks, so I believe the Italian does have an added advantage here.
Pick: Giorgi in 3 sets
Sure win bets: Angelique Kerber, Flavia Pennetta, Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Kvitova
Upset alert: Sloane Stephens, Sabine Lisicki, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbine Muguruza