Thursday, 31 July 2014

Stanford, Washington day 4: Venus to trump rusty Azarenka

Stanford schedule of play:

Washington schedule of play:

Match focus:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Venus Williams

Venus Williams will be happy that she's facing a rusty Azarenka, who has won only one match since her return from injury. Not that the elder Williams's isn't capable of beating Azarenka when she's healthy, but coupled with her auto-immune illness, you take whatever advantage you can get. Victoria's best surface is the hard courts though, so she might put up a good fight.

Pick: Venus in 3 sets

Garbine Muguruza vs. Daniela Hantuchova

Fresh from her upset win over Cibulkova, Muguruza will like her chances against fading veteran Daniela Hantuchova. The Slovak is barely hanging onto her ranking, and is only bolstered by her surprise quarter-final appearance in US Open last year. Daniela needs to disrupt Garbine's rhythm and attack the net whenever possible. However, if the Spaniard is firing, it's difficult to get a chance to volley.

Pick: Muguruza in 2 sets

Vania King vs. Christina McHale

All American clash as Vania King takes on Christina McHale. Christina took out 4th seed Sloane Stephens in 3 tight sets, but it was worth nothing that Sloane doesn't bring her best tennis to smaller events. King has the experience and leads the heads to heads against Mchale 2-0. Although the wins were during 2010, I think King has the game to upset the relatively passive Christina. Vania needs to take good care of her serve and attack the net when possible.

Pick: King in 3 sets

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Stanford, Washington day 3: Serena starts her comeback!

Stanford schedule of play:

Washington schedule of play:

Match focus:

Serena Williams vs. Karolina Pliskova

Serena claims to be healthy and ready to go for her US Open series campaign. Nevertheless, there will be doubts about her health given how out of sorts she was in Wimbledon. Serena did mention that she will get a health check after the season, so maybe the mysterious illness is still bugging her. The question is can Pliskova take this chance and upset the rusty Serena? Karolina's game is pretty one-dimensional, so Serena shouldn't have a problem. The Czech isn't exactly known for her fighting abilities as well. Looks like a straightforward opener for the world number 1.

Pick: Serena in 2 sets

Naomi Osaka vs. Andrea Petkovic

Samantha Stosur's days as a top 20 player are number if she can lose to someone who's making her main draw debut. Naomi Osaka has a hard-hitting game, but it's not something that Stosur isn't accustomed to. Her mental frailty was painfully exposed by the teenager, who seemed like the veteran on court. Petkovic is likely to impose herself on the gutsy teenager. Andrea's game is scrappy, so Naomi will have to hit that extra ball to win the point. Tough to do it for the whole match.

Pick: Petkovic in 2 sets

Kristina Mladenovic vs. Taylor Townsend

Mladenovic unceremoniously dumped top seed Lucie Safarova in her opening match, opening up the top half of the draw. Kristina's game blows hot and cold, so it's important to stay with her when she's hitting the spots. Taylor Townsend has an all court game which will give Kristina no rhythm to work with. Coupled with her tricky lefty serve. the American is poised to take this match. I just hope that the pressure doesn't get to Taylor, playing in front of her home crowd.

Pick: Townsend in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Monica Puig, Agnieszka Radwanska, Serena Williams
Upset alert: Sorana Cirstea, Kurumi Nara, Marina Erakovic

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Stanford, Washington day 2: Revenge for Ivanovic?

Stanford schedule of play:

Washington schedule of play:

Match focus;

Sabine Lisicki vs. Ana Ivanovic

Ana's last loss was against Sabine Lisicki on grass in Wimbledon.The Serbian will be looking forward to taking revenge here on her favoured hard courts. Sabine's game is quite elementary on surfaces other than grass, so Ana should have the advantage here. Nevertheless, Lisicki might have a day where she can't miss, then Ana will just have to blame it on her bad luck.

Pick: Ivanovic in 2 sets

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Garbine Muguruza

Dominika's title defense will face a tough test in her first round, where she faces the hard hitting Muguruza. Garbine's year has been impressive so far, although she went missing for a few months after losing the final to Koukalova. With Garbine back on track with her impressive showing in Paris, Dominika will have to play her A game to open her title defense. Cibulkova plays her best tennis on American hardcourts though, so she still has a slight edge over Muguruza, who didn't have too much of an impressive record before.

Pick: Cibulkova in 3 sets

Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Ekaterina Makarova

Another titlelist will find her title defense tough as Rybarikova faces the dangerous Makarova in her opening match. Magdalena has won the title for the past 2 years, but with a stronger field this year, defense of her title seems impossible. Makarova is playing better now, as compared to Rybarikova, who had some puzzling losses recently. I'm afraid Magdalena's ranking will take a tumbling after this match.

Pick: Makarova in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Venus Williams, Daniela Hantuchova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Upset alert: Yanina Wickmayer, Kirsten Flipkens, Marina Erakovic

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Stanford, Washington day 1: US Open series begins

Stanford schedule of play:

Washington schedule of play:

Match focus:

Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Karolina Pliskova

The evergreen Kimiko Date-Krumm continues to give young girls fits with her unorthodox game. The only thing that's holding her back is her lac of finishing touch. The Japanese had lost too many matches due to her nerves and weak serve. She has a chance against the lanky Pliskova, as her low flat strokes will cause the Czech problems. However, as usual, I think Kimiko will buckle at the important moments and Karolina will advance to the next round.

Pick: Pliskova in 3 sets

Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Andrea Petkovic

Rising star Alja Tomljanovic has defected to Australia, but is still competing under the Croatian flag for regular events. Let's see if this defection will cause her some distractions. Petkovic has been playing well for the past months, winning a title in Bad Gastein despite not playing her best. The German will be the slight favourite here, as Alja is showing signs of slowing down. Still, Andrea must play her best to overcome the big serving Alja, as the Australian/Croatian can hit a mean ball. It should be a close match.

Pick: Petkovic in 3 sets

Julia Goerges vs. Taylor Townsend

Julia Goerges had a good season in 2011, and prompty faded into oblivion. There were signs of her coming back with sporadic good wins, but her losses to unknown entities kept coming. At this point of her career, it's almost certain to say that the German will not be back in the top 20. Her strokes are just too erratic and there's no game plan at all except wallop the ball at full speed. Taylor Townsend is America's new hope with her exciting all court game and deceptively good movement. With Julia's confidence at an all time low, Taylor should be able to capitalize on that and gain momentum from the home crowd support. Look out for Taylor.

Pick: Townsend in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Samantha Stosur, Madison Keys, Alison Riske
Upset alert: Sorana Cirstea, Caroline Garcia, Vania King

Baku final: Svitolina repeats

Baku final:

Elina Svitolina def. Bojana Jovanovski 6-1 7-6(2)

Elina Svitolina successfully defends her title to become the first teenager to have multiple titles after Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 2011. With Jovanovski starting out nervously, Elina stamped her authority by playing her own game well. The first set was over in a flash. Bojana settled down in the 2nd and gave a good fight, but Elina was too steady in the end. It is difficult for a young player to win a title these days, and to repeat it's even more difficult. Hopefully this will give Elina the confidence and become a steady top 20 player that she's capable of.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Baku final: Multiple Baku winner will emerge

Bojana Jovanovski vs. Elina Svitolina

The past 2 winners of this event will fittingly vie for the Baku trophy in this final. Both came through their tricky semi-final opponents and earned their spot deservingly. The edge definitely has to go to Svitolina, the steadier of the 2. The Ukrainian has been more consistent this year, and looks to be assering herself as a consistent top 30 player. Jovanovski's year has been up and down, but when she's hitting the ball well, she can do real damage. It really depends on which player will turn up. From their performances in their previous match, I believe Elina will triumph with a 3 set win.

Pick: Svitolina in 3 sets

Friday, 25 July 2014

Baku SF: Can Svitolina repeat?

Stefanie Voegele vs. Bojana Jovanovski

Stefanie Voegele seems to have snapped out of her awful slump this year with some good wins in recent tournaments. She will face 2012 champion, Jovanovski for her first tour final appearance. Even though she is playing well, much has to be attributed to her opponent's level of play. Cirstea was just woeful in her match against Voegele, so the Swiss didn't have to do much. Bojana obviously loves this tournament given how well she has performed her before, so the edge has to go to her.

Pick: Jovanovski in 3 sets

Francesca Schiavone vs. Elina Svitolina

Francesca gained sweet revenge over Mladenovic with a win over the Frenchwoman after the umpire overruled a call that was way out last week in Istanbul. It wasn't Kristina's fault, but Francesca really didn't deserve such an appalling call. It's nice to see Schiavone still fighting hard at the twilight of her career. She will have an uphill task to beat defending champion Svitolina. The Ukrainian looks good to defend her title but Francesca definitely has the game to trouble her. Let's see if Schiavone can hold her stamina.

Pick: Svitolina in 3 sets

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Baku day 4: Where the real action is

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Sorana Cirstea vs. Stefanie Voegele

Compared to yesterday's matches, today's matches are more interesting, with several title hopefuls in contention. Top seed Cirstea will be looking to advance to her first quarter-final this year and break out of her horrible slump. The Romanian has been lacklustre this whole season, and it's good to see her play lower tier events to gain confidence. Voegele's game is pretty much reactive, so if Cirstea can keep her errors low, she has a high chance of defeating the Swiss. Knowing Cirstea though, she will make things difficult for herself.

Pick: Cirstea in 3 sets

Kristina Mladenovic vs. Donna Vekic

This match of the rising stars pits Mladenovic against Kuala Lumpur titlist, Vekic. Kristina has been on a roll lately, reaching the semi-finals of Istanbul last week. She will be the favourite here despite her lower ranking. Vekic was expected to perform great things after her triumph in Kuala Lumpur, but failed to gain any momentum after that. Perhaps it's due to the weight of expectations on her young shoulders. It will be a good win if Vekic manages to beat Kristina, but the erratic Donna needs to get a few wins under her belt to get rolling.

PickL Mladenovic in 3 sets

Silvia Soler Espinosa vs. Elina Svitolina

Defending champion Svitolina has had a rough couple of months. She had some weird losses to players she's supposed to cruise by, so Elina's form is suspect. However, as this is played on hard courts, the Ukrainian will still have the advantage. Silvia's scrappy game works best on slow clay courts, and will find it difficult to track down so many of Elina's flat shots. Maybe we'll have a multiple Baku champion here.

Pick: Svitolina in 2 sets

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Baku day 3: Return of form for younger Radwanska?

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Misa Eguchi vs. Urzsula Radwanska

Who is Misa Eguchi and how did Rybarikova lose to her? Since nobody really watched the match, we can only imagine it was due to Magdalena's non-existent form this year. Well, at least she will always find a way to beat Andrea Petkovic. Urszula must be relieved at facing a lower ranked player, having to retire in her last match against Rybarikova. If Urszula is injury-free, she should be able to cruise through this match.

Pick: Radwanska in 2 sets

Vesna Dolonc vs. Shahar Peer

Vesna Dolonc took half a year off to recover from her injury, and it will be a tough task to get into a winning groove immediately. She got lucky by drawing a local wildcard in her opening match, but against veteran Shahar Peer, she's not going to get it easy. Not saying that Dolonc cannot trouble her, but Peer will be more sharp having played in more tournaments. Nevertheless, Peer has been slumping for a while now, so an upset is also possible.

Pick: Peer in 3 sets

Jana Cepelova vs. Pauline Parmentier

Coming off a strong showing in Bastaad, Cepelova will fancy her chances against Parmentier. However, the surface now is hard courts, which will favour Pauline's heavier groundstrokes. Jana will need to cover a lot of court to draw the errors from the Frenchwoman. Pauline was impressive in her dismissal of Dulgheru, let's see if she can continue to surprise.

Pick: Parmentier in 3 sets

Monday, 21 July 2014

Baku day 2: Return of Kateryna Bondarenko

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Julia Glushko vs. Kateryna Bondarenko

Now this is a name you haven't seen in a while. Kateryna Bondarenko makes her main draw appearance after several years off the tour. During her break, she recovered from her injury, and had a child as well. Another Kim Clijsters in the making? Well, she's definitely not going to be as accomplished as Kim, but kudos to her for continuing on tour despite having a baby. Glushko will not be an easy opponent, but if Bondarenko plays to her former potential, she has a chance.

Pick: Bondarenko in 3 sets

Francesca Schiavone vs. Kurumi Nara

Francesca is obviously at the twilight of her career, but can still play good tennis in flashes of brilliance. She has a chance here against the slumping Nara, who has really struggled since winning her first title in Rio. Schiavone has also been a victim of bad luck last week, when umpire Eva Asderaki overruled an out call which was obviously correct. Let's hope she gets sweet vengeance this time.

Pick: Schiavone in 3 sets

Heather Watson vs. Kristina Mladenovic

Heather Watson's perseverance finally paid off, as she obtains a seeding for this tournament. It has been a long way back for the Brit, but the results are finally coming in for the hardworking girl. Still, the road isn't going to get easier as she faces an in form Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman had a good result last week in Istanbul, and is pretty tough when she's clicking. Heather will have to bring her running shoes and wear the erratic Kristina out if she wants to win this. 

Pick: Watson in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Jana Cepelova, Magdalena Rybarikova, Elina Svitolina
Upset alert: Julia Glushko, Sorana Cirstea

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Baku day 1: Surprisingly strong field this year

Baku schedule of play:

Match focus:

Pauline Parmentier vs. Alexandra Dulgheru

Pauline Parmentier enjoyed an inspiring run in Paris, but continued her bad run of results immediately after that. Looks like that Paris run was a fluke. Alexandra will be the slight favourite here, being a former top 30 player. However, the hard courts will suit Pauline more, so Dulgheru will need to make the Frenchwoman work for her points. If the Romanian stays healthy, she should be able to outlast Pauline.

Pick: Dulgheru in 2 sets

Alexandra Cadantu vs. Stefanie Voegele

Stefanie Voegele must be thanking her lucky stars upon drawing slumping Cadantu. The troubled Romanian is utterly dismal this year, and even though Voegele herself isn't in sparkling form, it will definitely be enough to defeat the dire Cadantu. Not too sure what is wrong with Alex, but I think she needs to take a break to regroup herself. Her losing ways cannot be good for her mentality.

Pick: Voegele in 2 sets

Patricia Mayr-Achleitner vs. Bojana Jovanovski

As a former champion here, Jovanovski will be confident of her chances here. Mayr-Achleitner's game is more to annoy her opponent than outplaying them, so I don't expect Bojana to fall for that trap. With a better field this year, Bojana may not be able to repeat her triumph 2 years ago, but should be able to cruise through her opener.

Pick: Jovanovski in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Yvonne Meusburger, Stefanie Voegele, Bojana Jovanovski,
Upset alert: Pauline Parmentier