Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Oeiras day 3: Torro-Flor, the real deal?

Schedule of play:


Match focus:

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor

Marrakech champion Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor continues her winning streak here in Portugal. She will face a major test here with former French Open winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian played extremely well in Stuttgart, losing in 3 tight sets to eventual finalist Ana Ivanovic. If Torro-Flor is the real deal, she will give Kuznetsova a good fight for her money. However, I think the vast experience of Svetlana will overcome the wild hitting of Maria-Teresa.

Pick: Kuznetsova in 2 sets

Jovanovski played well against Monica Puig in her opening match, but was lucky that Puig was broken while serving to stay in the set and the match. Vesnina is a more experienced opponent, so she will not suffer from the jitters. These 2 players are ranked relatively the same so it will be a close fight. The only thing that's in doubt is Vesnina's recent injury. If she's fully recovered, she should be able to clinch this.

Pick: Vesnina in 3 sets

Yanina Wickmayer vs. Roberta Vinci

With both players struggling with their forms, it can be a guaranteed horror show for this match. Yanina barely made it out of her first round against Urszula Radwanska, where she was helped majorly by the Pole. Against Vinci, she will have to step it up as Vinci is not playing club level tennis. The Italian might be struggling, but she did well against Cadantu in shorter rallies. If Yanina wants to win this, she needs to be patient and extend the rallies. The longer the rally goes, the more advantageous it will be for Yanina. However, given Wickmayer's wham-bam game, I doubt she will have the patience.

Pick: Vinci in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Kaia Kanepi, Carla Suarez Navarro
Upset alert: Ons Jabeur, Lucie Safarova

Monday, 28 April 2014

Oeiras day 2: How good is Bouchard on clay?

Schedule of play:


Match focus:

Alisa Kleybanova vs. Eugenie Bouchard

Alisa's recent fine form will be tested by Bouchard, whose 2014 has been stellar. Still, the young Canadian sparked some controversy by refusing to shake hands with her opponent during the Fed Cup pre-match interview. Maybe the success is getting to Eugenie's head, but she must also realise that it's important to stay humble. Alisa has the experience on the surface, while Eugenie is rather normal on clay. I think Alisa has a chance here, if she makes Eugenie hit that extra ball.

Pick: Kleybanova in 3 sets

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Zhang Shuai

Kuznetsova almost reached the semi-finals of Stuttgart, but faltered when it matters. This will not happen here as Zhang is no Ivanovic. The Chinese is better suited for hard courts, not the slow clay. The former French Open champion will treat this as a practice match and try out new things for her clay game. An easy win for the Russian.

Pick: Kuznetsova in 2 easy sets

Alexandra Cadantu vs. Roberta Vinci

Vinci may be struggling this year, but her level of play should be able to overcome Alexandra Cadantu. The Romanian is one of the most weaponless players on tour, and is only respectable on clay. With her vast experience on the red surface, Roberta is the huge favourite despite winning only a handful of matches this year. If she loses this one, we're in big big trouble.

Pick: Vinci in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Samantha Stosur, Carla Suarez Navarro, Kaia Kanepi
Upset alert: Elena Vesnina, Eugenie Bouchard, Peng Shuai

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Oeiras day 1: Strong field for small event

Schedule of play:


Match focus:

Yanina Wickmayer vs. Urszula Radwanska

Urszula Radwanska is just in dire need of a win and she might get a chance here. Wickmayer is very shaky for the past couple of years and her form fluctuates wildly. Gone are the days where she's a consistent top 30 player. Radwanska needs to be her normal scrappy self and frustrate the Belgian on the slow clay. If she succeeds, she might get her first win on the main tour this year. Still, I feel that Yanina will edge out the Pole in 3 tight sets.
Pick: Wickmayer in 3 sets
Bojana Jovanovski vs. Monica Puig

Jovanovski's form has been abysmal recently, so it will be a good opportunity for the young Puig to win here. Still, Monica is turning into a headcase as she wasted her best chance to reach her maiden semi-finals in Monterrey. Looks like all Bojana needs to do is to irritate the youngster. I am not hoping for much from Puig, just hopes that she makes this competitive. Maybe her success came too soon and she's not ready for it.

Pick: Jovanovski in 3 sets

Yaroslava Shvedova vs. Karin Knapp

Karin Knapp is on a 5 match losing streak and I don't see her ending it here. Yaroslava is a streaky player, and she has notched up a few wins recently. At this rate, she's going to beat the Italian and carry on her good form. Not sure what's happened to Karin but I guess the close loss to Sharapova stung for a long time. She needs to refocus and not dwell on the past. Because her favourite part of the season is here and she needs to be ready for it.

Pick: Shvedova in 2 sets

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Stuttgart, Marrakech F: Surprise ending in store?

Maria Sharapova vs. Ana Ivanovic

From her shakiness in her first match to her demolition of Errani yesterday, you can say that Maria has been playing herself to form. She was ruthless in sweeping aside the Italian, and will be poised to go a perfect 12-0 here in Stuttgart. Ana will face an uphill task trying to dethrone Maria in this mood. Still, Ana has already won 2 titles this year, and goes in with renewed confidence. The 2 tennis beauties have met 9 times, with Sharapova winning 7. I wouldn't say it's a foregone conclusion though, as Ana is showing signs of her 2008 form. Still, I believe Maria wants this more, and will achieve a rare three-peat.

Pick: Sharapova in 3 sets

Romina Oprandi vs. Maria-Teresa Torro Flor

I honestly did not expect these 2 players to emerge as the eventual finalists here. Oprandi was contemplating retirement just last year with her recurring injuries and now, she has the best chance of clinching her first ever tour title. Torro Flor's big game looks to be coming well as she absolutely demolished Muguruza in her semi-final. It will be a contest of guile and power. Romina's vast experience will put her at an advantage, as she will frustrate Maria-Teresa with her variety. The Spanish will be cound to feel the pressure for her first final. Still, you'll never know as she can have a good day and just can't miss. I still believe the Swiss can win this to get her well deserved title.

Pick: Oprandi in 2 sets

Friday, 25 April 2014

Stuttgart, Marrakech SF: There's no stopping Sharapova now

Maria Sharapova vs. Sara Errani

Every time Sharapova meets Errani, she will destroy the diminutive Italian. Even at her most vulnerable state now, I don't think this will change. Sara only benefited from a retirement from Carla, who unfortunately injured herself. The Italian plays her best tennis on clay, but her best just doesn't match up to Sharapova.

Pick: Sharapova in 2 sets

Jelena Jankovic vs. Ana Ivanovic

What was supposed to be a first round match became a semi-final, after Cibulkova withdrew from the event. Ana and Jelena have a long history and their matches have always been entertaining. I do not expect anything different here. Jankovic does seem to have a problem playing Ana though, as she gets too defensive and hopes that Ivanovic will implode. Conversely, Ana seems to raise her level when playing her countrywoman. Given how hard Ivanovic fought this week, I will give the edge to Ana. She is showing signs of her 2008 form and if she continues like this, she can be a dark horse for Roland Garros.

Pick: Ivanovic in 3 sets

Daniela Hantuchova vs. Romina Oprandi

Daniela didn't have to hit a single ball in her quarter-final against Peng, Looks like the Chinese will never win a singles title. The top seed will face the wily Oprandi, whose game works the best on clay. Romina has been plagued with injuries throughout her career, which is a pity as her game is fun to watch with plenty of variety. Daniela has won their only match on clay in 2011, so I believe Hantuchova has the advantage. She just has to be aggressive and not engage in gruelling rallies with the Italian.

Pick: Hantuchova in 2 sets

Maria-Teresa Torro Flor vs. Garbine Muguruza

Anyone who has watched Maria-Teresa Torro Flor play before will agree that she has a monstrous forehand. The problem with it is that it only lands in half of the time. She doesn't have the discipline to know when to pull the trigger. Looks like she's beginning to get that under control now as she advances to her first semi-final of her career. Her opponent will be daunting though, as Muguruza seeks her second title of the year. Garbine has been on a losing streak after choking her lead in Florianopolis, but has rebounded nicely here. If she keeps her game in check, I don't see why she cannot make her 3rd final of the year.

Pick: Muguruza in 2 sets

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Stuttgart, Marrakech QF: Determined Sharapova

Stuttgart schedule of play:


Marrakech schedule of play:


Match focus:

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Maria Sharapova

For her past 2 matches, Sharapova showed a lot of heart in defending her title here. Sure, she didn't play her best tennis, but her fighting spirit is insurmountable and Radwanska will need to work hard for a win here. Agnieszka has been very consistent this year, but faltered in matches where she's expected to win. This scenario is going to be a good test for the Pole to see if she has overcome her demons. If she wins here, she will deny Sharapova of a three-peat and kick her out of the top 10. Maria is sure as hell going to fight her heart out. Just because of that, I think Sharapova will win this and extend her top 10 stay longer.

Pick: Sharapova in 3 sets

Ana Ivanovic vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

Svetlana looks to be back at her best after ousting the higher ranked Simona Halep in straight sets. The Romanian seems to be injured, but it still takes a work to beat Simona. Svetlana will go into her quarter-finals with no pressure against Ivanovic. On clay, Kuznetsova has the more potent game but Ana seems to be fighting very well this year. If things get close, Kuznetsova will be the first to break. I still believe that Svetlana has the game to upset Ana, provided she keeps it together in her head.

Pick: Kuznetsova in 3 sets

Daniela Hantuchova vs. Peng Shuai

Daniela took a smart decision to play here in the lower tier Marrakech to gain some matchplay and wins. She has done nothing much this year and a few wins here will do her good. Same goes to Peng, who has been concentrating too much on her doubles career. The Chinese has a pretty decent singles game, and gaining wins here will give her singles career a much needed boost. Daniela leads the heads to heads at 2-0, but both wins came on hard courts. On clay, Daniela is at her most vulnerable with her compromised movement. Peng should be able to exploit that and give a close fight. I think Peng will clinch a tight win here given how vulnerable Daniela has been for her first few matches.

Pick: Peng in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic, Garbine Muguruza
Upset alert: Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Stuttgart, Marrakech day 4: Sharapova fights for her top 10 ranking

Match focus:

Maria Sharapova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Maria Sharapova needs to reach at least the semi-finals to maintain her top 10 ranking, and is in real danger of losing it against the dangerous Pavlyuchenkova. The lower ranked Russian upset Sharapova in Paris earlier this year, and will be poised to notch another win against the famous Sharapova after the way she struggled mightily against Lucie. Pavlyuchenkova's game suits clay, but I think Sharapova wants this more. She fought her heart out in her opening match, and I won't be surprised if she did the same here. A close match definitely, but Sharapova will scrape through again.

Pick: Sharapova in 3 tight sets

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Simona Halep

Svetlana Kuznetsova played very well against Barbieri, her first round match. It is always easy to play well against someone who you know isn't the same standard as you. Against Halep, Kuznetsova will need to play just as well. The problem with Svetlana is that her brain just wanders off sometimes. She starts going for outrageous winners and making ill advised shots. You won't expect that from Simona. The Romanian is very disciplined in her choice of shots, and even though she suffered a shock loss against Ivanovic in Fed Cup, I think her steady game will still prevail. Kuznetsova will make it interesting, but she won't win.

Pick: Halep in 3 sets

Yvonne Meusburger vs. Estrella Cabeza Candela

Yvonne Meusburger has to be one of the most underestimated players on tour. Sure, she will never match up with the top players, but she is a benchmark for players who want to go to the next level. There is a fine line between being a consistent top 20 fixture, and a player whose form fluctuates wildly from match to match. Beating Yvonne will prove that the player has what it takes, but losing to her means that the player will probably remain as a journeywoman. Estrella has the game on clay, but does she have the qualities of a top 20 or even 30 player? I don't think so. The Spaniard's game is fundamental at best, so Yvonne will tough out another close win.

Pick: Meusburger in 3 sets

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Stuttgart, Marrakech day 3: Slumping Germans

Stuttgart schedule of play:


Marrakech schedule of play:


Match focus:

Julia Goerges vs. Sorana Cirstea

Two of the tour's most unpredictable players will clash in this opening match. It is hard to believe that Goerges was a winner here in 2011, given how far she has fallen now. This place will bring back good memories for the German, but Sorana is looking good after upsetting Ivanovic in Fed Cup. It will be a tough match for the slumping Julia, but Sorana can be beaten. If the German crowd gets behind her, she might be able to cause an upset here.

Pick: Goerges in 2 tight sets

Ana Ivanovic vs. Sabine Lisicki

Looks like the long downward spiral of Lisicki will not stop. After being humiliated by Petkovic in Charleston, Sabine was left out of the Fed Cup team last week. If I had to make a choice, I would also pick Andrea over Sabine as she was absolutely horrendous. Sabine has got to be the only player who faltered so badly ever since a grand slam final appearance. She did absolutely nothing apart from the Wimbledon run, and she seems to be content with mediocrity. Ana will show no mercy here, and Sabine will almost definitely hit herself out of this tournament.

Pick: Ivanovic in 2 easy sets

Zhang Shuai vs. Polona Hercog

Zhang's clay record is not that spectacular, so she will be in danger of falling against clay courter, Polona Hercog. Even though she just returned from injury, Hercog always performs her best on the red surface. It is also quite impressive for her to maintain a respectable ranking at 69 despite not playing since Australian Open. This shows how much percentage of her points come from the clay season. Shuai will need to be patient and work out the points, something I don't see her doing.

Pick: Hercog in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Peng Shuai, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova
Upset alert: Zhang Shuai, Flavia Pennetta, Sorana Cirstea

Monday, 21 April 2014

Stuttgart, Marrakech day 2: Errani in danger

Stuttgart schedule of play:


Marrakech schedule of play:


Match focus:

Klara Koukalova vs. Sara Errani

Even though these 2 players never faced each other in Fed Cup, Errani will be eager to take revenge for Italy's loss to Czech Republic just last week. The thing that is going against Sara is her poor form, and her injury. The Italian has been struggling this year, falling out of the top 10 for the first time since 2012. Klara on the other hand is playing her best tennis. She has just won in Florianopolis, and clinched an important win in Fed Cup doubles. The one thing that favours Errani is that the surface is clay. Clay loving Errani might be too much for Koukalova, but Stuttgart's clay is famous for being quick. I don't think that will play into Sara's hands.

Pick: Koukalova in 3 sets

Lucie Safarova vs. Maria Sharapova

This will be an interesting match after their titanic tussle in Miami. Sharapova will be looking for a three-peat here in Stuttgart, and draws one of the most dangerous unseeded player. The field has always been strong for Stuttgart, so I think Maria is well prepared. Lucie's game on clay is less potent, while Sharapova has evolved her game to suit clay. This type of quick clay surface will favour the Russian more, having more experience and matches on it. It will be a tough fight, but Sharapova should emerge the winner.

Pick: Sharapova in 3 sets

Patricia Mayr-Achleitner vs. Elina Svitolina

Patricia Mayr-Achleitner is one of the tour's most hated players with her sorry attitude. It will take a lot of maturity from young Elina to look pass that and beat her with calmness. This is a good test for the young Ukrainian on her mental toughness. If Elina plays to her normal standard and not let Patricia get to her, she should be safe. I believe Svitolina has the game to go far here.

Pick: Svitolina in 2 sets

Sure in bets: Jelena Jankovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Francesca Schiavone
Upset alert: Sara Errani, Roberta Vinci, Chanelle Scheepers