Sunday, 31 August 2014

US Open day 8: Makarova for the surprise

Upset of the previous day:

Belinda Bencic def. Jelena Jankovic 7-6(6) 6-3

The bottom half of the draw has officially collapsed with the higher seeds all dropping out. Sharapova was the highest ranked player to lose, but Jankovic's loss was more shocking. The Serbian has been on fire for the past week, but ran out of ideas against the feisty Bencic. The Swiss had an answer to everything Jelena threw at her, and saved 2 set points in the first set. This is a golden opportunity wasted by Jelena, where she had the chance to advance to the final. Peng, Bencic, Errani and Wozniacki are the 4 players who have the chance to make the finals. What a turn of event.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Flavia Pennetta vs. Casey Dellacqua

While Pennetta isn't playing the best tennis of her life, she was helped by the crazy upsets that happened throughout the tournament. Casey Dellacqua will be making her 4th round debut in US Open, and will no doubt be nervous about the match. Flavia, the seasoned veteran, will just need to keep her calm and let Casey's nerves get the best of her. If the Italian plays her steady game, she will get through without much fuss.

Pick: Pennetta in 2 sets

Serena Williams vs. Kaia Kanepi

Serena was tested by Lepchenko, but played well enough to subdue the tricky lefty. Kanepi's game is not as varied as Lepchenko, so Serena should be more used to Kaia's game. The Estonian has a dangeous game when it's on, but her mental game is fried whenever she faces top players. I don't expect a surprise here. Kaia might gain a lead early, but squander it when Serena raises her level.

Pick: Williams in 2 sets

Aleksandra Krunic vs. Victoria Azarenka

Aleksandra Krunic faces classic ball bashers in her previous matches, but she will be severely tested against Azarenka. The Belarussian can belt the ball, but she does it with a good margin. Victoria's safe but powerful game will definitely be difficult for Krunic to counter, who has been thriving off her opponents' errors. No fairtale ending for the young Serbian this time.

Pick: Azarenka in 2 sets

Ekaterina Makarova vs. Eugenie Bouchard

For 2 matches in a row, Bouchard struggled against her opponents. Makarova has been playing well this summer, and will not let Eugenie off the hook like her previous opponents. The Russian will need to serve well and punish the Canadian's weak 2nd serve for winners. If she keeps an aggressive mindset, Eugenie cannot get out of jail this time.

Pick: Makarova in 3 sets

Saturday, 30 August 2014

US Open day 7: Make or break for Caroline

Upset of the previous day:

Aleksandra Krunic def. Petra Kvitova 6-4 6-4

Following Halep's massive loss yesterday, Kvitova follows her footsteps in losing to another unheralded player. Aleksandra Krunic played the match of her life, running down shots that would have been winners against any other players, and managed to beat the reigning Wimbledon champion. Kvitova was unnerved by Krunic's impossible court coverage, and hit herself out of the tournament. Aleksandra's game is kind of like Wozniacki with a better forehand, so she has the potential to do well given how brainless the other players are. Another shocking loss for Kvitova when her draw has opened up considerably. Looks like her second Wimbledon was kind of fluky as well.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Sara Errani vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Errani was lucky that Venus committed so many errors in her match, and she will be happy she's not facing Halep instead. Mirjana's game is even riskier than Venus, so Sara already had the perfect warm-up. The crowd will be firmly behind the Croatian though, as she's the story of the tournament so far, having struggled with her private life and making a comeback here after 15 years. Nevertheless, Sara will be prepared as she silenced her doubters defiantly against Venus, as the crowd was decidedly on Venus' side. Every fairytale has to end and not every story has a fairytale ending.

Pick: Errani in 2 sets

Maria Sharapova vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Plagued by serving woes and uneven play, Wozniacki has the perfect opportunity to upset the hard hitting Russian here. Lisicki's game was too risky, and the volatile German just couldn't find the court in her nervy 3rd round, but Wozniacki thrives on the big occasions. The Dane's superior court coverage will trouble Maria, and will make her hit that extra ball. Sharapova's game is frankly extremely fragile now, so Caroline just needs to keep getting the ball back with interest and make Sharapova make the error. An upset is very possible here.

Pick: Wozniacki in 3 sets

Belinda Bencic vs. Jelena Jankovic

Barely losing games, Jankovic is quietly advancing to the 2nd week with minimal fuss. One thing to note is that the Serbian has yet to lose serve in her 3 matches. While this is definitely about to change against Bencic, you can see that Jelena is more confident of her serve now, and her game flows with it. Bencic's game is kind of like Jelena, but the former number 1 has a better serve and more experience. With her cruising through her 3 matches, it's hard not to pick Jelena, even though Belinda will definitely put up a better fight.

Pick: Jankovic in 2 sets

Lucie Safarova vs. Peng Shuai

Peng's resurgence is very impressive, but she will meet someone who she has never beaten in 4 tries. Lucie Safarova is enjoying her best year in majors, reaching the latter stages in almost all the slams, and will be the favoured player to reach the last 8. Not too sure why Shuai is winless against Lucie, but Peng will need to mix things up to unnerve the Czech. Approach the net, hit some low slice shots, and make Lucie earn the point. That is precisely not Peng's game, so it's a done deal here.

Pick: Safarova in 2 sets

Friday, 29 August 2014

US Open day 6: Calm after the storm

Upset of the previous day:

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni def. Simona Halep 7-6(6) 6-2

3 players who were expected to win crashed out within minutes of each other, but none of them are as surprising as Halep's exit. Kerber lost to a future star, while Venus' erratic play would have given Errani a chance, but the steady Halep losing this early was just unforeseen. If Halep played her normal game, she would have won quite easily, given how Lucic loves to go for outrageous winners when out of position. However, when leading 5-2 in the first set, Simona just lost her plot and started committing silly errors. Credit to Mirjana as well for still going for her shots. This is an extremely bad loss for the Romanian, even though she has already qualified for Singapore. As for Mirjana, she will be elated at upsetting the world number 2 in the age of 32. Who knows how far she can go.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs. Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie struggled to put away the dangerous Cirstea, but emerged victorious eventually. With so many upsets today, I believe there will be a calm after the storm. Despite having bad form coming into the Open, Bouchard is fighting through her matches here, which I believe is essential not to peak too early. She will have to be wary of the dangerous Strycova, as she can mix it up very well. Still, Eugenie's court speed is pretty good, so she should be able to win this one.

Pick: Bouchard in 2 tight sets

Elena Vesnina vs. Victoria Azarenka

Her first round was a mess, but Azarenka righted her ship with a clinical disposal of McHale. Looks like the old Azarenka is back. Against Vesnina, the Belarussian is firmly the favourite, even though Vesnina is a former top 20 player. The Russian's form is pretty bad coming into the Open, but was helped by her soft draw here. Victoria has had easy victories over Elena before, and I expect the same here.

Pick: Azarenka in 2 sets

Casey Dellacqua vs. Karolina Pliskova

This should be a nervy affair for these 2 players, having not reached the 2nd week of a slam before in their career. With the exit of Ivanovic, this section of the draw is wide open, and I believe Ana's conquerer is ready to emerge. Dellecqua is enjoying her best year on tour after her injury, but Pliskova has a huge serve and flat groundstrokes. Casey will have to disrupt the Czech's rhythm by deploying her lefty serve and make her hit awkward balls. Still, I believe Pliskova is confident after her win over Ivanovic, unless she lets her nonchalant attitude get to her.

Pick: Pliskova in 3 sets

Kaia Kanepi vs. Carla Suarez Navarro

Kaia Kanepi showed real grit, saving 2 match points against Samantha Stosur. Can she do it again against Carla is another question. Carla's game is frankly quite similar to Stosur, with a weaker serve of course. Both players use the backhand slices frequently, but Carla can hit some decent backhand topspin shots. Kaia's long drawn match with Samantha will probably have an effect here, but she should be well-rested after a day's break. As with the Stosur match, this will be a tight affair, and when things get tight, Carla breaks.

Pick: Kanepi in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Serena Williams, Flavia Pennetta, Petra Kvitova
Upset alert: Carla Suarez Navarro, Casey Dellacqua

Thursday, 28 August 2014

US Open day 5: Venus's golden opportunity

Upset of the day:

Karolina Pliskova def. Ana Ivanovic 7-5 6-4

Ana's grand slam woes continues as she crashes out to her earliest defeat in majors this year to Karolina Pliskova. While the Czech is no pushover, as the tour leading player with the most wins, I expected Ivanovic to win this. As usual, the jittery and inconsistent Ana showed up, and Karolina was steady enough to cause the upset. This will cause a huge dent to Ana's chances of qualifying for Singapore. She will have to make it up with a congested fall schedule, which may result in another burnout.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Sara Errani vs. Venus Williams

Playing arguably her best tennis since her auto-immune diagnosis, this is Venus' golden chance to stay in the draw for the second week. Errani has had a horrific US Open swing, and barely made it against journeywoman Rodionova. Venus' power should be able to derail the pesky Italian, as long as she doesn't make silly mistakes. With the US crowd firmly behind her, an upset is likely here.

Pick: Williams in 2 sets

Maria Sharapova vs. Sabine Lisicki

Sharapova played an ultimate atrocious match in her 2nd round, and was only able to squeak through a lowly ranked Dulgheru. If she continues playing that badly, Lisicki will make her pay. The German's serve is already a weapon, but coupled with Maria's unstable serve, the match might be over soon if Sabine finds her range. However, being the tour's biggest fighter, Sabine might falter when nearing the finish line. So be prepared for a topsy turvy match.

Pick: Sharapova in 3 sets

Roberta Vinci vs. Peng Shuai

Confidence is a funny thing. When you just caused the biggest upset of tournament, can you carry the momentum forward to your next match? Peng will have to answer this question as she attempts to replicate the form that destroyed Radwanska. Vinci reached the quarter-finals here last year, but is plagued by bad form throughout the year. If Peng imposes her powerful game, it will be a straightforward victory for the Chinese. The trick for Peng is to concentrate on this match and not look ahead. She tends to overthink, causing her to lose matches and countless title matches.

Pick: Peng in 3 sets

Andrea Petkovic vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Wozniacki had a minor incident with her hair in her 2nd round match, but was straightforward in her dismissal of Sasnovich. She didn't need to get into second gear in fact. But against the dangerous Petkovic, she will have to play her best. While the German hasn't enjoyed the easiest wins so far, she tends to raise her level against quality opponents. It will be a close fight, but I believe Caroline's recent fine form will gain her the victory.

Pick: Wozniacki in 2 tight sets

Sure win bets: Simona Halep, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber
Upset alert: Sara Errani, Roberta Vinci, Lucie Safarova

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

US Open day 4: Shaky Azarenka in doubt

Upset of the previous day:

Peng Shuai def. Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 6-4

 There's something about New York that just doesn't gel well with Agnieszka. Of all of her appearances here, she has never made it past the 4th round, which is shocking given her first real breakthrough was here when she shocked Sharapova. While Peng is a capable player, able to cause real trouble on her day, Radwanska should have used her craft to move Peng around. Just a very weird and abnormal display from the 4th seed. Maybe she just doesn't have what it takes to win a major.

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Christina McHale vs. Victoria Azarenka

Azarenka struggled against a lowly ranked Doi in her first round, and will face a sterner test against American McHale. Christina enjoys homeground advantage, and if there's a chance for an upset, it is now. Victoria has lost her groove on her service, and is leaking double faults on crucial moments. Christina will need to be steady, and let Victoria earn her points. If she can make it tight, Azarenka might break. Still, I think McHale doesn't have the mental fortitude to finish the job.

Pick: Azarenka in 3 sets

Sorana Cirstea vs. Eugenie Bouchard

Just when you classify Sorana Cirstea as a walking bye, she astonishes everyone with a drubbing of Heather Watson. While the Brit is no world beater, Sorana was clinical in her disposal of her opponent. Against Bouchard, Cirstea does stand a chance. The Canadian barely won matches in her lead up to US Open, and might be feeling the pressure. If Sorana gets the lead early, she has a good chance of causing the upset. As always, you'll never know which Cirstea will show up though.

Pick: Bouchard in 3 sets

Marina Erakovic vs. Elena Vesnina

Svetlana really should be punishing herself now for not taking her chance with a wide open draw. Marina fought to the bitter end, and deserves her spot in the 2nd round. Elena Vesnina has not had a good year after her breakthrough last year. This is a good chance to salvage some of her pride as she attempts to reach the 3rd round in a slam for the first time this year. Both players are pretty evenly matched, with their head-to-head tied at 2-2. I believe though that Erakovic has the bigger win, and should be more confident of her chances. Vesnina hasn't had a notable win for quite a while, so she's in danger.

Pick: Erakovic in 3 sets

Samantha Stosur vs. Kaia Kanepi

Kaia seems to be back with her straightforward win over Parmentier, and she stands a good chance against Stosur. The tall Estonian can counter Samantha's kick serve with her powerful strokes. Kaia just needs to have the belief and make Stosur hit that extra ball. Kanepi has made known that she won't be on tour for long due to a chronic heel injury, so I hope she gets her last hurrah here. Kaia has been very unlucky with her injuries, and would have definitely be ranked higher if not for her constant disruptions.

Pick: Kanepi in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Serena Williams, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Ekaterina Makarova, Petra Kvitova
Upset alert: Zarina Diyas, Samantha Stosur, Elena Vesnina, Carla Suarez Navarro

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

US Open day 3: All according to script?

Upset of the previous day:

Catherine Bellis def. Dominika Cibulkova 6-1 4-6 6-4

I know Cibulkova isn't playing well, but to lose to someone ranked outside the top 1000 is just baffling. Bellis took advantage of Dominika's weak serve and made her look like the one who's ranked outside the top 1000. With this, she becomes the youngest player to win a Grand Slam match since Anna Kournikova. As for Cibulkova, she needs to take a break and find herself again.

Match focus:

Daniela Hantuchova vs. Alize Cornet

Daniela is defending quarter-finalist points here, but it's tough to see her reaching that stage. Cornet's scrambling game will make Hantuchova go for too much, and hit herself out of the tournament. Daniela's form has been dire for the past year, so I don't think she can surprise at the twilight years of her career.

Pick: Cornet in 2 sets

Belinda Bencic vs. Kurumi Nara

Promising star Belinda Bencic stands a good chance of upsetting Kurumi Nara, one of the weaker seeds in the draw. However, Kurumi has been improving a lot this year, and Bencic will have to play her best to topple the Japanese. The Swiss still has some maturing to do game-wise, so while I believe she will put up a good fight, the steadier Nara will still emerge victorious.

Pick: Nara in 3 sets

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs. Shahar Peer

One of these ladies will have a chance to appear in a 3rd round of a Grand Slam, which is a very nice surprise for these 2 aging players. It is arguable that the best years of these ladies are over, so the reward in the last 32 will be extra sweet. Mirjana can hit with the best players of the world, but she's just not consistent enough. Peer's game will make Lucic try outrageous shots, so the Israeli stands at an advantage here.

Pick: Peer in 3 sets

Sloane Stephens vs. Johanna Larsson

Sloane Stephens is playing well, but her opponent just destroyed Virginie Razzano with the dreaded double bagel in her first round. Can Larsson carry her good form here? Firstly, she will be daunted by the prospect of playing an American on the huge Arthur Ashe stadium. Besides, Larsson's game will always be limited by her weak backhand. Sloane will take full advantage of that side and cruise to a comfortable victory.

Pick: Stephens in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep
Upset alert: Roberta Vinci, Andrea Petkovic