Saturday, 31 May 2014

Roland Garros day 8: Another breakthrough for Bouchard

Upset of the previous day:

Lucie Safarova def. Ana Ivanovic 6-3 6-3

Another one bites the dust! Pre tournament favourite Ana Ivanovic throws in an erratic performance and is sent packing home by the unpredictable Lucie Safarova. Lucie does hold a commanding lead over Ana in previous meetings, but I figured that Ana is able to win with her confidence sky high. Perhaps with the top seeds falling out and the focus shifting to her, Ana couldn't handle the pressure as usual. Poor Ana. It always seem like one step forward, two steps back for her.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Eugenie Bouchard vs. Angelique Kerber

Anyone who watched Kerber's previous match would have seen the controversial point where Kerber claimed  point that wasn't hers. Well, it's not entirely her fault that the umpire, Louise Engzell, is totally incompetent at her job, but Angelique showed poor sportsmanship by telling Daniela to carry on with the game. Back to this match up, Eugenie's game should be able to trouble Kerber. The Canadian takes time away from Kerber, and is confident after winning her first title last week. Even if the umpire incident didn't happen, I would expect Bouchard to beat Kerber anyway.

Pick: Bouchard in 2 sets

Garbine Muguruza vs. Pauline Parmentier

Who would have expected one of these ladies will be in the quarter-finals of Serena Williams's section. Garbine is riding on her high right now and is the clear favourite. Nevertheless, Parmentier has been springing surprises throughout the tournament. Lifted by the French crowd, Pauline is making one last dash in her long career. It will be a fairytale for her to reach the last 8, but I believe Garbine is too solid to let that happen. Pauline had the luck of drawing easily affected opponents so far. Muguruza was so steady in her dismissal of Serena, that I believe she will easily trounce Parmentier to reach her maiden quarter-final.

Pick: Muguruza in 2 sets

Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Carla Suarez Navarro

Another youngster trying to make it to the last 8, Tomljanovic will be facing a big test in trying to topple Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard clearly excels on clay, and will be sure to make Ajla work for her points. The only way for another upset is to hope for another listless performance from her opponent. Carla has struggled in her first 2 matches, and seems to be back on form with her win over Taylor Townsend. It is all about peaking at the right moment and I believe Carla is doing just that. Unless she has another mental breakdown, which I believe she has overcome that with her win in Portugal.

Pick: Suarez Navarro in 2 sets

Samantha Stosur vs. Maria Sharapova

Just like Cibulkova who doesn't match up well to Stosur, Samantha's game just doesn't trouble Sharapova. The Australian's spinny game goes right into the strike zone of the statuesque Russian. and she will not hesitate to pound them for winners. Maria is also on a roll, winning her last match with a double bagel. Signs are not good for Samantha, but if she can upset the Russian (!), she has a chance to reach the finals.

Pick: Sharapova in 2 sets

Friday, 30 May 2014

Roland Garros day 7: Can Kuznetsova grab this chance?

Upset of the previous day:

Ajla Tomljanovic def. Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 6-4

Surprise, surprise! With Radwanska's unceremonious exit, the women's draw is officially without its top 3 seeds. It seems that we are destined for a Sharapova vs Ivanovic/Halep final here. Agnieszka was not her usual crafty and consistent self against Ajla. Committing numerous unforced errors and just lacking drive, she fell behind in both sets quickly. Credit must also be given to Tomljanovic for staying strong and completing the win. Will more top seeds fall? Hopefully not as I think the tournament still needs some stars in the second week.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Petra Kvitova

Kuznetsova's clay season has been better than average, and she seems to be progressing steadily here. She faces the unpredictable Kvitova, who did just enough to win her first 2 matches here. Petra's game isn;t suited for clay, but she powers through anyway. Part of it is due to her opponents's lack of game as well. However, Svetlana has tons of clay playing experience and will be looking to score another upset here. The Russian just has to hang in and hope Petra implodes.

Pick: Kuznetsova in 3 sets

Andrea Petkovic vs. Kristina Mladenovic

With the epic collapse of the draw, Petkovic is suddenly the highest seed left in her quarter. She will face French favourite, Mladenovic for a place in the last 16. Kristina has a huge serve, but is often undone by her errors. She's able to rein it in so far, but there's always a chance that she'll self destruct any day. Andrea just needs to ignore the partisan crowd, hang in there and take her chances. I think the German has a good chance to make a breakthrough here.

Pick: Petkovic in 2 sets

Jelena Jankovic vs. Sorana Cirstea

Cirstea rose to prominance right here, where she upset Jankovic, marking her first big win. These 2 will reignite the rivalry as Jankovic attempts to chase that elusive slam. There is no doubt that Cirstea has the game to beat Jankovic. But the stars have to be aligned at the exact positions for that Cirstea to appear. The Romanian has no lower gear and only know one ball bashing game. Jelena should be able to hang on and draw the errors from Sorana.

Pick; Jankovic in 2 tight sets

Sloane Stephens vs. Ekaterina Makarova

No matter how bad her form is preceding a grand slam, you can always count on Sloane Stephens to at least reach the 4th round. She continues this trend here, just one win away from a successive 6 consecutive round of 16 showings. Makarova should be a good test for Sloane though, but Stephens is clearly a big match player. She raises her level of play with respect to the tournament, and Makarova isn't in stellar form coming in anyway.

Pick: Stephens in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Simona Halep, Sara Errani, Silvia Soler Espinosa
Upset alert: Petra Kvitova

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Roland Garros day 6: Stosur the dark horse

Upset of the previous day:

Julia Glushko def. Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 3-6 6-4

The horror year continues for Flipkens as she suffers another early round exit in Roland Garros. She and Lisicki are guilty of not fully utilizing their elevated rankings to get consistent results, and will most probably be dropping out of the top 40 after Wimbledon. Kirsten seems to be confused at the moment, doing different things that gave her this ranking. She should continue to deploy her slice as not a lot of players on tour can handle that. Let's hope she can have better results on grass.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Samantha Stosur

 Cibulkova must be cursing at her rotten luck having drawn Stosur in her third round. The Slovak hasn't found any solutions to the Stosur puzzle and will probably go down tamely as usual. With the top half of the draw collapsing, Stosur might have a chance to go far in this tournament. That is provided she can upset Sharapova though. Nevertheless, Stosur can breath a sigh of relief as Dominika just doesn't trouble her. A 4th round showing will be good enough for the Aussie.

Pick: Stosur in 2 sets

Daniela Hantuchova vs. Angelique Kerber

Players all aim to peak at the right tournament and these 2 are doing exactly that. In their warm-up tournaments, they were posting horrid results and looked poised for an early upset. Surprisingly, they chose this tournament to shrug off the bad form, both living to their seed status. Daniela's best surface will never be clay, but neither is Kerber's. Daniela does have some good wins on the red stuff, and is capable of creating an upset once in a while. I still believe Angelique's grinding game will cause Daniela to go for too much and make the errors. It might get close though.

Pick: Kerber in 2 tight sets

Taylor Townsend vs. Carla Suarez Navarro

Taylor Townsend proved to be delight to watch as she displayed her powerful game (on a show court nontheless) against Alize. Even though she's carrying extra weight, her movement isn't that compromised, and she showed some fine power and delicate touch as well. Carla will need to be on alert as Taylor is fearless and has nothing to lose. The Spaniard's form isn't exactly stellar so far, but she has been doing enough to win her matches. Let's see if she does enough to tame the youngster.

Pick: Suarez Navarro in 3 sets

Pauline Parmentier vs. Mona Barthel

Sometimes, crowd support can give you the advantage you need, like in the case of Pauline Parmentier. The French crowd was obviously behind her, but the way they abused Shvedova in their second round was disgraceful. No player deserved to be jeered like that. On a bigger court, I think the crowd will be less partisan, so I believe Mona can finish the job without being affected. Parmentier has done practically nothing this year, so it's a huge surprise to see her outlasting Alize, the highest ranked French player. She'll need a lot of help from the crowd if she wants to win this.

Pick: Barthel in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Agnieszka Radwanska, Maria Sharapova, Eugenie Bouchard
Upset alert: Dominika Cibulkova

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Roland Garros day 5: Anyone's title now

Upset of the previous day:

Garbine Muguruza def. Serena Williams 6-2 6-2

Shocking the tennis world with her early exit, Serena Williams was powerless to stop the sublime Garbine Muguruza from upsetting the world number one. The Spaniard hit her balls with conviction, stayed with Serena in the rallies, and forced the American to come up with the answers. Serena didn't. Well, Serena had an off day but she always fights to her last breath when she's not playing well. Garbine was superb in not letting up and calmly closed the match out with a service hold to love. Serena said that Garbine could win the tournament playing like this. Maybe not. However, the tennis world better take serious notes about this Spaniard who's bound to be one of the top players. For Serena, she'll be back with a vengeance on grass. Look out.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Sloane Stephens vs. Polona Hercog

Sloane Stephens survives Peng, showing the fight that she's capable of. The American has made it a habit of performing well in Slams, and I think she will continue the trend here despite barely winning any matches before Paris. Polona has a handy clay court game, but her iffy mental strength will cause her problems. Stephens may be pushed, but she will eventually win the match.

Pick: Stephens in 3 sets

Camila Giorgi vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

Former French Open champion Kuznetsova seems to be forgotten by the majority. The Russian has had solid results coming into the tournament and will be a dark horse for the title given how the draw has collapsed. She will have to deal with hard hitting Giorgi first. The Italian's game is not really suited for clay, but she powers her way to wins nevertheless. Kuznetsova's clay game should be enough to make Camila overhit and commit the errors. Experience will prevail here.

Pick: Kuznetsova in 2 sets

Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor vs. Magdalena Rybarikova

Rybarikova had a lucky first round, drawing a virtual bye in Urszula Radwanska. She will not be so lucky against the in-form Maria-Teresa. A recent titlelist in Portugal, the Spaniard is realising her potential by upsetting Klara in her first round. Armed with a gigantic forehand and growing up on the red surface will give Torro-Flor the advantage. Magdalena's game will be more suited for grass, which I'm sure she's already looking forward to.

Pick: Torro-Flor in 2 sets

Elina Svitolina vs. Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic came out of the Garcia challenge unscathed, with the Frenchwoman imploding. She will need to be careful of Svitolina though, as the Ukrainian is capable of fearless hitting. Ana's form is picking up, and will be an obvious pick for the second week. Can she keep up that intensity throughout 7 matches to win the title again? I doubt so. But she's making progress, and that should be commended given how much she struggled with her confidence for the last 5 years.

Pick: Ivanovic in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Sara Errani, Ekaterina Makarova
Upset alert: Magdalena Rybarikova, Alison Riske, Yanina Wickmayer, Kirsten Flipkens

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Roland Garros day 4: Lower seeds in trouble

Upset of the previous day:

Kristina Mladenovic def. Li Na 7-5 3-6 6-1

Li Na said in her post match interview that she would have lost playing anybody. I have to agree. It's been a while since she couldn't control anything on her groundstrokes. Yesterday was an example of what Li Na can do on her worst day. Sadly, she only has one gameplan and cannot adapt when things are not working. Looks like the current Australian Open champion has a lot to reflect on. Coming into this tournament as the 2nd seed must have added pressure to her. Well, there's always grass season coming for Li, which suits her better.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Mona Barthel vs. Sabine Lisicki

Sabine Lisicki is only in the second round because she struck lottery playing against an underpowered French wildcard. Even then, she didn't win convincingly as expected. Mona will definitely revel at this chance against her fellow struggling German. Mona seemed to be back on track after demolishing Knapp in her first round. If Mona goes on a roll, it will be hard to stop her.

Pick: Barthel in 2 sets

Alize Cornet vs. Taylor Townsend

Playing her first Grand Slam maindraw, Taylor Townsend will make her debut on a show court against homecrowd favourite Alize Cornet. Taylor is an exceptional shot maker with talented hands, but is hampered by her lack of conditioning. It will be a tough task for the American to upset Alize on the show court, but it will give the world a chance to see what she's capable of. If only she can put some effort into staying fit, I believe she has what it takes to be a top player. Just not now at this state.

Pick: Cornet in 2 sets

Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Elena Vesnina

Ajla has already accounted for the upset of Francesca Schiavone. Can she go one better by beating Vesnina? The Russian's form is quite fragile at the moment, and Ajla can take advantage of that. Riding on her confidence, I believe the Croatian can cause another upset here if she goes for her shots. Elena is feeling the pressure after her breakthrough year last year, and seems overly cautious so far. She should replicate the fearless tennis she displayed last year that won her 2 titles.
Pick: Tomljanovic in 3 sets
Julia Goerges vs. Eugenie Bouchard

For someone who excels on clay, Goerges has surprisingly weak results here in Paris. Her best showing was a third round, where she lost to clay-hating Bartoli. Still, Eugenie cannot let her guard down, as Julia always lifts her form to match her opponent. Bouchard is coming of her first title in Nurnberg, and will like her chances of going far this year. Her game takes time away from Julia's loopy groundstrokes, which will cause trouble for the German. Despite Julia showing some signs of a revival, I believe Bouchard will still win this.

Pick: Bouchard in 2 tight sets

Sure win bets: Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Yaroslava Shvedova, Flavia Pennetta, Samantha Stosur
Upset alert: Daniela Hantuchova, Elena Vesnina, Angelique Kerber, Sabine Lisicki

Monday, 26 May 2014

Roland Garros day 3: Is Wozniacki in the right state of mind to play?

Upset of the previous day:

Pauline Parmentier def. Roberta Vinci 3-6 6-3 6-2

Roberta's troubles refuse to go away as she gets bounced out by someone who has absolutely done nothing for the past year. I though Vinci was better than this but losing to Parmentier is a new low. Apparently, Vinci seems to be injured and was barely moving at the end of the match. Still, it doesn't explain the weird losses she has suffered all year and the doubles success with Errani. If you're injured, your doubles results will also suffer (unless Sara does all the work). With this loss, Vinci is safely out of the top 20, and will look to slip further down if she continues her losing ways.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Yanina Wickmayer

Caroline Wozniacki is suffering from a different kind of injury: heartbreak. Her very public break up will definitely shake her confidence, but she has the pity of the mass public now. The problem is how much practice did she get before this match. She was nursing a wrist injury and if she's not 100%, she shouldn't be here. Wickmayer will definitely not beat Caroline if she's not injured. However, under such special circumstances, you have to favour the Belgian. Let's see if Caroline rushed back too early, or is eager to prove that she plays better tennis without distractions.

Pick: Wickmayer in 2 sets

Caroline Garcia vs. Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic has the misfortune of drawing one of the most dangerous floaters in the draw. Caroline Garcia is sky high in confidence after a recent run of good results, and will be hoping for success at home with a good run here. Ana is susceptible to early upsets that's for sure, and losing to Garcia isn;t exactly shameful. However, it remains to be seen if Garcia can handle to pressure of causing the upset. Ana just needs to impose her game on Garcia, make her panic. If she can do that, Caroline will succumb to the pressure.

Pick: Ivanovic in 3 tight sets

Klara Koukalova vs. Maria-Teresa Torro Flor

Like all Czech players, Klara is a mystery. You'll never know which Koukalova will show up. After winning her first title in god knows how many years, she went MIA again and has been barely winning matches. She will need to be ready as Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor can hit a mean ball. When given time, the Spaniard can unlease bombs with her forehand, If Klara doesn't hit enough deep balls, she'll be looking at another early exit. An upset here is possible.

Pick: Torro-Flor in 3 sets

Alisa Kleybanova vs. Simona Halep

A brutal draw for Alisa, who is playing somebody who loves to dismantle a slow hard-hitter. Simona has mastered the art of playing ball bashers with limited movement, and will be salivating at this encounter. Alisa's movement just isn't going to be sufficient against someone who gets almost everything back. Alisa will need to have a very good day when she paints all the lines and gets the first strike. If not, she's as good as out of the tournament.

Pick: Halep in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Li Na, Elina Svitolina, Ekaterina Makarova, Magdalena Rybarikova, Teliana Pereira
Upset alert: Klara Koukalova, Alison Riske, Caroline Wozniacki, Alexandra Cadantu, Barbora Strycova Zahlavova