Tuesday, September 04, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

EDUARDO MUNOZ/Reuters

BY RON BUCKMIRE

Last year I predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. Below is my preview of the 2012 US Open women's quarterfinals.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) vs  Samantha Stosur AUS (7) The World #1 has been brutally efficient in reaching her first career quarterfinal in New York, dropping an impressive total of ten games to reach this stage. She will face the 2011 US Open defending champion whom she has never lost to despite playing 6 hard court matches against, including a final this year in Doha. Stosur has the game to match up well against anyone on the WTA tour but she sometimes does not have the mental strength to match her physical strength. After all, this is someone who has been on the tour for 13 years and has a mere 3 career singles titles, one of which is a major, despite playing in 14 finals. However, when she is playing without pressure, like in a match where almost no-one expects her to win, Stosur can often play her best tennis and this can make her very difficult to beat. Also, since Azarenka has only faced token opposition to this point in the tournament I suspect she may be surprised at the difference lowered expectations can make to her opponent and may find herself in too deep a hole to dig out of. Of course, tat 6-0 career head-to-head does make it more likely that it will become 7-0 instead, but nevertheless I'll go with the Australian who has played some of her best tennis in New York, unlike the Belarussian who never has. Mad Professah's Pick: Stosur.

Maria Sharapova RUS (3) vs Marion Bartoli FRA (11). Surprisingly, these are two players where the career head-to-head is also skewed heavily in one direction, with the Russian 4-time major champion having never lost to the unorthodox French player in four career meetings. Sharapova has been playing excellent tennis this summer, winning her 4th major title in Paris in June, despite being demolished by Serena Williams in the Gold Medal match at the Olympics in July and dealing with the dissolution of her engagement to hockey player Sasha Vujicic. That being said, Bartoli does have a very intense fighting spirit, as her comeback win against Petra Kvitova in the previous round is testament to. Theoretically, she also has the game to defeat Sharapova, but really everything Marion can do, Maria can do as well, and perhaps just a little bit better. Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova.

Ana Ivanovic SRB (12) vs  Serena Williams USA (4). Serena has won 20 of her last 21 matches, with her sole loss coming at the hands of Angelique Kerber in Cincinnati. Her opponent in the Round of 16 failed to win a single game while Serena was pummeling the ball with deadly and frightening power and accuracy. Ivanovic is in her first major quarterfinal since her disastrous slide down the rankings following her sole Grand Slam title at the 2008 French Open. It's good to see Ivanovic back in the mix again; she has a beautiful forehand and moves quite well but after falling so low can she ever really have the confidence to go toe-to-toe with another major champion deep in the decisive set? I think not. That being said, it is more likely that Ivanovic will prevent Serena from reaching her second consecutive major final of the year and second consecutive US Open final than either of the Italians in this part of the draw. After all, Serena has never lost to the Serbian, despite playing her 3 times, including last year in the Round of 16 here in New York. The only question is which Serena will play on Saturday evening, will it be the 2012 Wimbledon finalist (who defeated Agnieska Radwanska with brilliant serving and mental toughness) or will it be the 2011 US Open finalist (who won the fewest number of games she had ever won--5--in a still-puzzling defeat to Stosur). We'll know soon. Mad Professah's pick: Serena.

Angelique Kerber GER (6) Sara Errani ITA (10) vs  Agnieszka Radwanska POL (2) Roberta Vinci ITA (20) This is one of the most surprising major quarterfinals in recent memory. Errani is having the best year of her career, having reached her first major final in Paris just 10 weeks ago, broken into the Top 10 and won a half-dozen doubles titles this year with her best friend and countrywoman, Roberta Vinci, whom she will be playing to reach her second ever major semifinal (and whom she owns a slight 3-2 career  record against). This should be an almost unwatchable match, which often happens when the stakes are so high and the competitors are so close. Vinci actually leads 2-1 on hard courts and I suspect would desperately like to become the 3rd Italian woman to make a big splash at a major, following in the footsteps of Errani and Francesca Schiavone. In the end it doesn't really matter who wins this match, because in all likelihood they will be losing their semifinal match to Serena. But this is sports, and nothing is impossible. Mad Professah's pick: Errani.

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