Monday, January 25, 2010

Australian Open 2010: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

by Mad Professah

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the Australian Open this year.

Serena Williams USA (1) vs. Victoria Azarenka BLR (7). Serena is playing like a woman on a mission. Her performance against 13 seed Samantha Stosur in the round before was, in a word, scary. Pam Shriver called it the best serving she had seen by a female player, ever. Although at the start of the tournament I did not predict Serena to win this title, mostly because she has only defended a title once in ten attempts and I was also entranced by the odd-year symmetry of her wins down under, after seeing what she did to the Aussie's No. 1 player, I think the rest of the field should be afraid, very afraid. Interestingly, one of the few players who is not afraid of playing Serena is the feisty No. 7 seed from Belarus, who almost derailed Serena here last year, leading by a set and a break before she was overwhelmed by the heat and retired ignominiously. Azarenka did get her revenge by dispatching a clearly injured Serena in straight sets to win the "fifth major" in Miami later that year so I am confident that Serena will take this match very seriously. Azarenka finished off her last match by inflicting a bagel on Vera Zvonareva in the third set, a not uncommon occurrence. What is an uncommon occurrence in this tournament is Serena in trouble on her serve. She is the only player, male or female, who has not had her service broken, and eliminated the three breakpoints she faced yesterday with three aces. An incredible performance indeed. The only question for Serena is whether she is peaking too early, or whether she is going to continue to play at this high-level for the rest of the tournament. If the latter is indeed, true, then Serena Williams be the 2010 Australian Open women singles champion, regardless of what happens in the rest of the draw. PREDICTION: Serena in 3 sets.

Na Li CHN (16) vs Venus Williams USA (6). I really like the play of the veteran Chinese player (so much so I named my dog after her!) and except for the hiccup against Francesca Schiavone in the previous round, Venus has been playing pretty good, if not overwhelmingly aggressive, tennis. With her natural power and athletic ability that is enough to get the older Williams sister through most matches by simply overwhelming most opponents and the relatively diminutive Li Na will most likely be no exception. PREDICTION: Venus in 2 sets.

Elena Dementieva RUS (5) Justine Henin BEL vs. Kim Clijsters BEL (15). Nadia Petrova RUS (19). I really expected to see Elena Dementieva and/or Kim Clijsters in this quarter of the draw, but it looks like the hard-hitting and extremely talented Petrova may have finally quieted the doubting voices in her head and is simply letting her tennis do the speaking for her. She has the game to beat just about anyone when she is playing her best and is one of the prototypical "big babes." Henin is playing in her first major tournament in two years, and is trying to repeat (or overshadow) her Belgian compatriot Clijsters who was able to win a grand slam within a few weeks of her return to the tour from retirement. Henin has looked to be about 80-90% as effective as she was before she left, and I have no doubt that she will be a threat to win any major she enters this year, and a lock in Paris. However, her wins have become increasingly labored with every successive round. This match is the hardest of the four to predict the result (and most likely will be the hardest to watch, as well). PREDICTION: Petrova in 2 sets or Henin in 3.

Jelena Jankovic SRB (8) Jie Zheng CHN vs. Maria Sharapova RUS (14) Maria Kirilenko RUS. The surprise quarterfinalists! I definitely expected a different Maria from Russia to be occupying this quarterfinal berth, but good job for "the Other Maria" to finally break out of the shadow of her best friend on the tour and not only eliminate Sharapova in the first round but continue all the way to the final eight. The second Chinese player in the quarterfinal represents the first time two Chinese players have made it this far simultaneously in a major tournament, with Zheng also having played in the 2008 Wimbledon ladies semifinal. I believe this match will be determined by who wants it more, not by the tennis of the two players. In that case, I prefer to go with the person who has not been here before. Either way, I have serious doubts the person from this quarter will be making it to the final. PREDICTION: Kirilenko in 3 sets.


lilac said...

Hi Craig,

Na Li is 5'8" tall -- not quit diminutive. She's a "big" girl in person. She just looks diminutive, because the WTA is the land of the giants.
Venus is my pick to win it all.

Craig said...

Lilac, this is MadProssah's work, not mine.

Craig said...

Mad, maybe you forgot, but Serena crushed Azarenka at Wimbledon last year in the same round.

Azarenka has no serve. She's toast.