Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Beijing Day 5: Angelique chasing for finals spot

Schedule of play:


Match focus:

Angelique Kerber vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

With Radwanska surprisingly bundled out, Kerber needs a good showing here to boost her chances of appearing in the year-end championships. She will face former Beijing champion Kuznetsova, but the Russian is suffering from erratic form. I believe the German is extra motivated now that the door to qualifying is wide open, so she will chase down Svetlana's balls relentlessly. Kuznetsova will probably be irritated and go for too much, hitting herself out of the match.

Pick: Kerber in 3 sets

Samantha Stosur vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Another player trying to cement her place in the year-end championships is Caroline Wozniacki. Before the US Open, it was almost an impossible task for the Dane to qualify for the prestigious event. However, an inspired run at US Open, followed by consistent results thereafter makes her an almost lock for the final 8. Against Stosur, Caroline just needs to play her normal consistent game and make Samantha miss.  The Aussie's game is very much built on confidence, so with her recent downward form, it should be an easy win for Wozniacki.

Pick: Wozniacki in 2 sets

Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Maria Sharapova

It should be a foregone conclusion that Sharapova is the huge favourite here. However, Carla Suarez Navarro interestingly won their last encounter in Montreal. If one recalls that match, it was an absolute horror show from the Russian, so I believe Sharapova will be more than happy to exact revenge. With her superior mental strength, it shouldn't be a tough task for Maria to beat the mental midget Carla. That is if her game is at its normal level and not hitting double faults and errors everywhere.

Pick: Sharapova in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Petra Kvitova, Alize Cornet

Monday, 29 September 2014

Beijing day 4: Garcia vs Venus rematch

Schedule of play:


Match focus:

Caroline Garcia vs. Venus Williams

Just last week, Garcia beat Venus in a nail-biter third set tiebreak. The American will be eager to exact revenge on the French youngster. Venus served for the match in Wuhan, but let the match slip with loose errors on crucial points. Caroline did raise her game also, but I still feel her game is too all or nothing. If Garcia can strike a balance between defense and offense, I think she has what it takes to be a top 10 player. Until then, she will always be undone by unnecessary errors on easy put aways.

Pick: Venus in 3 sets

Andrea Petkovic vs. Madison Keys

Petkovic hasn't been playing well recently, but has been toughing out wins despite her dip in form. She will need her legs in this encounter against the erratic but aggressive Keys. The keys to the match will be Petkovic's ability to make Madison hit that one extra ball. If the German can succeed in retrieving enough balls and making Madison play, she has a good chance of making Keys self-implode. Like Garcia, Keys will need to strike a balance between offense and defense before becoming a player to watch.

Pick: Petkovic in 3 sets

Eugenie Bouchard vs. Sabine Lisicki

Eugenie Bouchard just came off her best showing in a Premier event in Wuhan, but will be bothered by her inability to pressure Kvitova in the final. She will face a similar opponent in Lisicki, who serves big and possesses big groundstrokes. Eugenie will breathe a sigh of relief though, as Sabine is much error-prone than Kvitova, but if the German is hitting her spots, she can score an upset anytime. The Canadian is fighting to cement her place in the WTA finals, so I believe she will be very motivated to beat the dangerous German in as little fuss as possible.

Pick: Bouchard in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic
Upset alert: Flavia Pennetta

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Beijing day 3: Overshadowed Jankovic

Schedule of play:


Match focus:

Jelena Jankovic vs. Alize Cornet

With the resurgence of Ivanovic, Jankovic has been overlooked in many of the tournaments. And rightly so, Jelena wasn't able to replicate her success from the first half of the year. The Serbian is trying to defend her finalist points here from last year, and will need to be on song against the fiesty Cornet. Alize will like her chances as Jankovic retired from her match last week against Vandeweghe, coupled with Jankovic's dip in form. Can Jelena snap out of her losing ways? Somehow, I think she enjoys playing in Beijing, and will reverse her slump and squeeze out a win here.

Pick: Jankovic in 3 sets

Belinda Bencic vs. Ana Ivanovic

The other Serbian, Ivanovic has been enjoying a great run in Tokyo. Her title run was without a fuss, but had to retire from her match in Wuhan. I'm sure that was due to exhuastion, and Ana will be well rested here in Beijing. Ana's position in the race to Singapore is at a precarious number 8, so she will be eager to win here. Bencic's game can be overpowered, so Ivanovic should be able to pressure the youngster with her powerful game.

Pick: Ivanovic in 2 sets

Flavia Pennetta vs. Christina McHale

Flavia seems to be focusing more on her doubles in a bid to qualify for the year-end championships in Singapore with Martina Hingis. It's a pity for Pennetta as she had a pretty decent chance of qualifying for the singles campaign as well after her Indian Wells triumph. Inconsistencies did her in, but she should be able to win against McHale. If Pennetta isn't too tired from her doubles outings, the Italian's game on hard courts is pretty neat and graceful to watch.

Pick: Pennetta in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Caroline Garcia, Serena Williams, Peng Shuai
Upset alert: Tsvetana Pironkova, Mona Barthel

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Beijing day 2: Can Halep find her groove back?

Schedule of play:


Match focus:

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs. Simona Halep

It is no secret that Simona Halep has been struggling to find her form ever since her early exit in US Open. The consistent Simona looks vulnerable now, and is just content with keeping the ball in. Not too sure why Halep is playing so conservatively, since it was her smart counterpunching game that brought her to number 2 in the world. Maybe the pressure is too much. She needs to get her gears working against the tricky Strycova. If she's just relying on mistakes from Barbora, I'm afraid she will be looking at another early round exit.

Pick: Halep in 3 sets

Kaia Kanepi vs. Maria Sharapova

Another player struggling with her form, Sharapova has not been the same ever since her Roland Garros triumph. Perhaps she's too zoned in on her clay court tennis that she's not comfortable on her former best surface, hard courts. Maria's vulnerable serve is back to its errant ways, but it still takes a player with good mental strength to beat her. Kaia is well known to crumble under pressure, so I won't be banking on her for this upset. Nevertheless, Kanepi has the game to make this competitive.

Pick: Sharapova in 2 tight sets

Ekaterina Makarova vs. Garbine Muguruza

Makarova is having a remarkably consistent year and may be the dark horse to qualify for the championships in Singapore. She has a tough opener against the hard hitting Muguruza, who had a good showing last week in Wuhan. These 2 players will be bound to hit the fibres out of the tennis ball, and it will be a close one. The Russian had an unexpected loss against Bacsinszky last week, and will be eager to correct that against Muguruza. Besides, the Spaniard withdrew due to gastritis last week, so Makarova should have the edge here.

Pick: Makarova in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Karolina Pliskova
Upset alert: Andrea Petkovic, Samantha Stosur, Roberta Vinci

Saturday, 13 September 2014

2 Week break

Hi all,

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. The 3 tournaments in 3 different time zones made it pretty much impossible to make my picks. Also, I'll be away for the next 2 weeks on a business trip, so I won't be able to update this site as well. I'll try to update for Wuhan when I'm back, if not Beijing. See you then! :)

Sunday, 7 September 2014

US Open final: Serena joins the legends

US Open final:

Serena Williams def. Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-3

It was a nervy start for Serena, but when she settled herself down, she was untouchable. Wozniacki tried to hang in there but she was no match for Serena's power. The world number 1 played with controlled aggression, and attacked on the right balls. None of that ridiculous errors in Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Serena was always in the driver's seat. With this win, Serena ties Navratilova and Evert with 18 slams. Next for her is Helen Wills Moody's 19 slams, and then Steffi Graf's 22. Can she top Steffi? With the way she played today, I would say yes.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

US Open final: Serena's back on top

US Open final:

Serena Williams vs. Caroline Wozniacki

While both were favourites to go through to the finals, Wozniacki had a tougher time against Peng, and an unfortunate ending for the Chinese as she retired with severe heat illness. It was tough to watch Peng collapse on the floor writhing in pain, and good to see Caroline trying to console her injured opponent. Had Peng been healthy, there might be a possibility of a tight 3 setter. Anyway, Caroline is into her 2nd slam final, and faces the huge favourite, Serena Williams. Serena and Caroline are good friends off the court, but Serena will probably be ruthless this time as she's chasing history. A win here will give her her 18th slam, tying her with Navratilova and Evert. Besides that, Serena has already qualified for the year-end championships, which will give her more opportunities to just belt the ball. Wozniacki's defensive game can at most steal a set from Williams, but Serena's controlled aggression and superb serve will clinch her the title.

Pick: Williams in 2 sets

Thursday, 4 September 2014

US Open SF: And then there were four...

Serena Williams vs. Ekaterina Makarova

Serena Williams must be hungry for this title after having experienced 3 early upsets in her slams. A win here will redeem her 'lost year' as she put it herself. Looking at the opposition left, it is hard to write Williams off. Makarova can hit a mean ball, but her movement is not as agile as Serena. Once Serena gets Makarova on the move, she has the advantage. Besides, Williams will be eager to exact revenge on Ekaterina for her doubles loss to Makarova and Vesnina.

Pick: Williams in 2 sets

Peng Shuai vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Peng is on fire this week, there's no doubt about that. The Chinese hasn't dropped a set so far, and will look to be the aggressor against Wozniacki. The problem is Caroline is playing some of her best tennis here. Her dismantling of Errani was spectacular, and only exposed how limitied Sara is as a top player. For her to upset Caroline, Peng will need to serve well like she has done through the fortnight, and not get nervous when the situation gets tight. It is Peng's debut semi-final appearance, so I'm going to give Wozniacki the edge here. An inspired Peng might sneak out a set, but Caroline will win this.

Pick: Wozniacki in 3 sets

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

US Open QF: Can Makarova cause another upset?

Victoria Azarenka vs. Ekaterina Makarova

It's hard not to doubt Azarenka's form when she struggled so much against the lowly ranked Krunic. The old Victoria would have torn the youngster to shreds with her powerful but controlled aggression. Makarova will now have the best chance of causing an upset. The Russian has been playing inspired tennis all week long, even excelling in doubles. If she keeps her brain intact, she has the shots to overthrow Azarenka. Confidence is a funny thing, and Makarova has plenty of them right now.

Pick: Makarova in 2 sets

Serena Williams vs. Flavia Pennetta

Sorry Flavia, but Serena will almost definitely win this match. One glaring weakness in Pennetta's game is her 2nd serve. It's very short and fluffy, and even Dellacqua has exploited it tremendously. Against a player like Serena, you can be assured that she will spare no mercy in punishing those serves. A mismatch across all board, Serena will cruise.

Pick: Williams in 2 sets

Monday, 1 September 2014

US Open QF: Surprise semi-finalist Peng/Bencic

Upset of the previous day:

Ekaterina Makarova def. Eugenie Bouchard 7-6(2) 6-4

And the semi-final streak ends for the Canadian, as she was ousted by the big hitting Makarova. The Russian tried to choke it away, having served for the first set, but Eugenie didn't take her chances and paid for her mistakes. Bouchard also took an unusual medical timeout, which I believe was to disrupt Makarova's momentum. Sadly, it didn't work as Ekaterina punished Eugenie's serve in her last game. This is the 2nd straight year that Makarova has reached the quarter-finals. She has a real good chance of beating Azarenka, given how atrocious her performance was today.

Match focus:

Belinda Bencic vs. Peng Shuai

Nobody would have thought that these 2 players will be vying for a spot in the semi-finals. Peng is the more experienced player, but her mental strength has always been suspect. Belinda has the exuberance of youth, and has nothing to lose, so she will go into this match free-swinging. Nevertheless, I think Shuai has enough power to trouble Bencic. She will need to punish the Swiss's weaker second serve, and venture to the net to end the points. If the Chinese serves well like her previous matches, she is the favourite to win, unless her brain gets in the way.

Pick: Peng in 3 sets

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sara Errani

Caroline's appearance here isn't really a big surprise given how well she performed in the warm-up events. Errani on the other hand, has been losing matches left and right. Her showing here is really out of the blue, which also shows how unpredictable the women's tour is. Caroline is the firm favourite here, but she will have to be the aggressor here. Errani's weak serves are begging to be punished, so Caroline should take the initiative from there. Once the Dane protects her serve well, and pressures Sara's service games, she should be the winner. A very good chance to make another final appearance for Wozniacki.

Pick: Wozniacki in 2 sets