Posts Tagged ‘Roberta Vinci’

PostHeaderIcon Petra, Genie, Novak, and Old Man Federer: My Wimbledon Final Thoughts

Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon Facebook page)

Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon Facebook page)

Much was made about a possible changing of the guard with all of the talented youngsters making waves on both tours. Though it never really materialized, we got a few glimpses of the future, and it looks pretty terrific. (Hello Genie, Madison, and Nick!) But for now, let’s get back to the matter at hand with my 25 “Final Thoughts” from the lawns of the AELTC.

  1. Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Petra Kvitova – I’ve been waiting since early ’12 for Petra to step up and show the type of dominance that she showed this past fortnight in winning her second Wimbledon title. It was vintage Petra (strong serves, sharp angles, and blistering pace) without the also-vintage walkabouts that have accompanied her play the past couple of years. I’ll only mention her former boyfriend, Radek Stepanek, for the purpose of showing that, since their breakup, she’s regained focus, improved her fitness, and looks to be back on track for a well-deserved shot at the top of the WTA food chain.
  2. Novak Djokovic – Even though I’d picked Novak to win the title in my pre-tournament preview, I had no idea his journey would be so fraught with angst and peril. Usually one of the cleanest players in the game, Novak struggled badly at times in the later rounds. If not for a missed overhead and a few ill-timed double faults from Roger, this could have been one more dispiriting Slam final. To his credit, he hung in there after Roger saved Championship point in the fourth set, and eventually came away with the title in five. And if you couldn’t tell by his tears, this one meant a lot to him. I’m still not sure Boris Becker had that much to do with it, but it makes great grist for the commentator mill.
  3. Genie Bouchard (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

    Genie Bouchard (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

    Genie Bouchard – A semifinalist in Melbourne and Paris, and a finalist in London, Genie Bouchard continued her meteoric rise up the rankings after yet another astounding run at Wimbledon. Her confidence could easily border on arrogance if it weren’t so well backed-up by gutsy and aggressive play. She’s all business on and off the court, looking only for the “W” in her quest to be the best. This attitude makes her a legitimate future No. 1, but also could be problematic. It was troubling to hear Genie say, “I’m not sure I deserved all the love you gave me today” on court after the match. Hopefully her coach, Nick Saviano, can help her be mindful next time that you shouldn’t discount the love of fans that are proud of you no matter the result. Be gracious, keep your head down, and get ready for the next opportunity; because I have no doubt that it WILL come.
  4. Roger Federer – I hate to say that the old guy’s still got it, but the old guy’s still got it! With his back troubles from last year in the rear view mirror, Roger played, more or less, like the Roger of old against an opponent who was slightly better on the day (186 total points for Novak versus 180 points for Roger). Even in defeat, I’d say this was sweet revenge for a guy who everyone was pushing out the door at the end of 2013. When healthy and comfortable with his equipment, Roger can still play like the Roger we remember. A lot still need to go right for him at the Slams in order to have a legit shot at the title, but it feels like a lot less than last year.
  5. Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock – PopSock, as the newly-crowned Wimbledon doubles champions have become known, bested the great Bryan brothers in a hard-fought 5-set battle to win the Gentlemen’s doubles in their first tournament together. Given the rigors of the ATP tour, this probably won’t become a weekly occurrence. But after years of lamenting the lack of younger singles players in doubles, how great was it to witness their shotmaking, energy and enthusiasm? My only hope is that someone on either of their team’s has copyrighted that great name.
  6. Bob and Mike Bryan – In one of the few successful “passing of the torch” moments at this year’s Wimbledon, the Bryans battled hard but often looked their age against a pair of guys who could almost be their sons. The Bryans are one of the greatest doubles teams ever, if not ‘the’ greatest, and have done an immense amount to legitimize doubles at the top of the tennis food chain. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine it’s gonna be easy for them to keep working this hard to overcome Father Time, injuries, family demands, and younger, stronger opponents like PopSock.
  7. Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani – On the heels of a disappointing final loss at the French Open, Vinci and Errani won the Ladies doubles title over Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, giving them a career Grand Slam in doubles. It’s well-deserved, and hopefully makes up for a disappointing singles showing.
  8. Nenad Zimonjic and Sam Stosur – With her miserable record on grass, any title on the green stuff is a good thing for Sam!
  9. Simona Halep – Simona may have lost the Wimbledon semifinal battle of emergent WTA stars in straight sets to Genie Bouchard, but I’m sure there are great things for her on the US Open horizon.
  10. Serena Williams (AP)

    Serena Williams (AP)

    Serena Williams – I had a feeling this would be a tough Wimbledon for Serena, but I don’t think any of us knew just how tough it would be. It started with her loss to Alize Cornet. Two days later, Serena appeared on court for a brief but notable bit of drama on Court 1 with her sister Venus before their first-round doubles. (They ultimately retired down 0-3 in the first set after 4 Serena double faults.) I was critical of Serena at the time because I felt she should have foregone the drama and not played, especially when the tournament doctor says, “If you can’t see the ball then you shouldn’t play.  But I’ve had a hard time listening to all of the ridiculous theories on the incident. One person I know even went so far as to say that he’s convinced she has a pill addiction because of her past medical issues. Come on people: STOP THE NONSENSE!
  11. Venus Williams – Venus played a tough 3-set match against Petra Kvitova that was worthy of a final. It was a pleasure to see from a player we love who’s struggled mightily with fitness in the wake of her Sjogrens diagnosis. On a per match basis, she can still play phenomenal tennis. But that was only a third round match. Her ranking is such that she will likely have to play at least 3 or 4 of these types of matches if she ever hopes to reach a Slam final again.  Though that’s probably never going to happen, we can (and should) still appreciate her best level at those few and far between moments when she’s able to bring it.
  12. Li Na – I just don’t know where to begin with Li Na. There are many who dismiss her disappointing results at the French and Wimbledon by saying that she’s best on the hard courts. To those apologists, I’d like to point out her loss to Serena in Miami and remind them that those results were NOT an aberration.
  13. Maria Sharapova – She may have come up high and dry again at SW19, but that’s okay. She’s got Grigor AND a French Open title to keep her company.
  14. nadal2-wimbledonRafa Nadal – Rafa avoided another Lukas Rosol upset, but still lost in four sets to young Nick Kyrgios of Australia. I’m not necessarily surprised that Rafa was knocked out of the tournament. I am, however, surprised that Rafa lost in the middle rounds, not the early or later rounds. I hope he takes enough time off before the summer hard court season so that he can come back relatively fresh, physically and mentally.
  15. Andy Murray – Andy, please don’t blame your horrific play on Amelie Mauresmo’s coaching, or Ivan Lendl’s spring departure. This dispiriting loss to Grigor Dimitrov was all on you. It’s your duty as an elite player to surround figure out what you need to help propel yourself forward, not back.
  16. Milos Raonic – It’s been impressive to watch Milos work hard with his team to overcome his physical and technical deficits on court. It was also fairly sobering to watch how surgically he was cut down by Roger in a straight-sets semifinal loss. I hope that he was able to enjoy his first solid showing on a surface that’s so well-suited for his big serve game. Okay coach (Ivan) Ljubičić, help him figure out those next steps!
  17. Grigor Dimitrov – For years, Grigor has been burdened with expectations of greatness. From his Federer-esque single-handed backhand game (earning him the nickname “Baby Fed”) to his scampering defense, Dimitrov, along with Raonic, has been touted as one of the next wave of ‘Young Guns’. The big problem for Grigor was that his fitness, and shot selection, was never sufficient enough to withstand the grind of tough matches against the top guys… until now. Off-court conditioning has rendered his all-too-frequent bouts of cramping almost non-existent. On top of that, he’s a more mature player now and has a better handle on shot selection with all of his tools.  Next time (because there will be a next time), I hope the nerves of the moment won’t be quite so cruel to his serving arm (double-faultitis).
  18. Marin Cilic and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova both lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual champions after some very fine play. I’ve always rooted for both but was disheartened to see people respond to positive tweets by bringing up their past drug suspensions. If someone has served their suspension, and fought their way back to a respectable ranking in order to have a chance at Slam success, give them their due. We all make mistakes, and all deserve to be forgiven if put in the work for redemption.
  19. Nick Kyrgios (from his Twitter)

    Nick Kyrgios (from his Twitter)

    Nick Kyrgios – This kid has a ton of talent and the physical stature/attitude to go with it. He came into Wimbledon with 3 Challenger titles under his belt and now a Slam quarterfinal for good measure. Though his mid-match exuberance can come across as brash he’s exciting and LOVES the competitive fight. I wonder if there’s a way that the USTA can lure him away from Australia without starting a war?
  20. Noah Rubin and Stefan Kozlov – Noah and Stefan, the all-American duo that contested the Wimbledon boy’s final, should help dispel rumors that all isn’t completely lost for American tennis…at least for a few more weeks.
  21. I have a few broadcast notes. The first is that the popularity of tennis, and potential ad revenues, will continue to be hurt if the average Joe can’t get adequate match coverage without special cable sports packages. And even if you have a few of those packages, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll see all available matches. Take it from me, a Sonic.Net ISP user and DirecTV viewer: not everyone has access to ESPN3!
  22. My second broadcast note harkens back to this piece on Sloane and Paul Annacone. I don’t want to single them out, however, because the conflicts of interest abounding in the commentary booth are almost too numerous to count at this point. I can accept conflicts of interests, but you’ve got to be more upfront about it to your viewers. Who’s getting paid by who makes all the difference in the world when you’re listening to “expert commentary”.
  23. Raise your hand if you’d like to see if Andy Roddick in the Centre Court commentary booth is better than Andy Roddick on Twitter!
  24. Raise your hand if you’re tired of hearing commentators saying “How bitterly disappointed Player X will be” after missing a shot!
  25. Wimbledon schedulers – Was it really necessary to leave several notable matches on court so late that fireflies started to come out?

That’s all for now. Until next year

PostHeaderIcon Serena Williams’ Tough Road to Number 6 at SW19: My Wimbledon Women’s Preview

Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

As I wrote in my piece on Serena Williams’ Centre Court snub, few players can so effectively use perceived wrongdoings to their advantage as Serena. She generally plays her best tennis when she feels she’s got something to prove. However, this year’s Wimbledon draw is a pretty tough ‘ask’. Can Patrick help her get through it for a sixth Wimbledon crown? We’ll find out soon enough. Here are my thoughts on this year’s draw, and why I see no clear favorites for the title.

(* – Expected R16 matches)

Top Half, Top Quarter

Serena Williams [1] – Eugenie Bouchard [13] *

Wildcards: Cornet (Williams), Petkovic (Bouchard)

Angelique Kerber [9] – Maria Sharapova [5] *

Wildcards: Flipkens (Kerber), Pavlyuchenkova or Riske or Giorgi (Sharapova)

The expected quarterfinal match with Maria isn’t the tough part for Serena. That comes earlier when she has to get by Alize Cornet, the woman who sent her packing in Dubai. After that comes with a potential R16 match against the winner of French Open semifinalists: Genie Bouchard or Andrea Petkovic. Either will be a tough opponent at a stage in the tournament when a No. 1 seed might least expect it.

The bottom section presents its’ own challenges for Kerber and Sharapova. Kerber, finalist at Eastbourne, could be derailed by Kirsten Flipkens, last year’s semifinalist. And Sharapova has a particularly tricky trio to overcome with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Allison Riske, or Camilla Giorgi.

Each woman is capable of an early upset, and Maria will need to bring her “A” game right away. The same holds true of Serena. She’s got to be “bring it”, no matter what court she’s scheduled to play. Can they both do it? I think so, but there’s no guarantee that we won’t end up seeing a Bouchard-Giorgi quarterfinal either.

(UPDATE: I’ll update this quarter with the caveat that IF Serena successfully makes it to the quarters, she’s got a good chance of going all the way.)

Top Half, Bottom Quarter

Simona Halep [3] – Carla Suarez Navarro [15] *

Wildcards: Vinci (Suarez Navarro)

Ana Ivanovic [11] – Jelena Jankovic [7] *

Wildcards: Lisicki (Ivanovic), Townsend or Keys or Shvedova (Jankovic)

The top section of this quarter is likely to end with the expected R16 match between Halep and Suarez Navarro. Roberta Vinci could pose a slight threat to CSN, but I think the Spaniard has too much game to be derailed.

The bottom section of this quarter has much more potential for drama, especially after Madison Keys’ win in Eastbourne for her first WTA title, and first on grass. Add Taylor Townsend and heavy-hitter Yaroslava Shvedova to the mix and Jelena Jankovic is going to have a tough time making it to R16, let alone the quarters.

After vanquishing Jankovic, Keys could do the same to Ivanovic. From there, I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb in predicting a Halep-Keys quarterfinal.

Bottom Half, Top Quarter

Victoria Azarenka [8] – Dominika Cibulkova [10] *

Wildcards: Vandeweghe or Muguruza (Azarenka), Safarova (Cibulkova)

Sara Errani [14] – Agnieszka Radwanska [4] *

Wildcards: Garcia or Pironkova or Makarova (Errani), Kuznetsova (Radwanska)

It’s good to have Vika back in the mix, but she’s going to have virtually no impact at this Wimbledon. So look for the top section of this quarter to be about as wide open as you can get with Cibulkova, Garbine Muguruza, Lucie Safarova, and TopShelf champion Coco Vandeweghe all vying for the top quarterfinal spot.

On the bottom, look for Tsvetana Pironkova or Ekaterina Makarova to knock Errani out of contention. And depending on which Svetlana shows up in London, Kuznetsova has a chance at knocking out Radwanska given her current level of play. Grass isn’t her best surface, but you never know.

In figuring out the quarterfinalists, the top section is a crapshoot. Vika is a non-starter. Vandeweghe’s win at TopShelf doesn’t take away from her past inconsistencies.  Muguruza’s past Wimbledon results don’t bode well. And Cibulkova and Safarova are 50-50 crapshoots. For lack of any other compelling evidence, I’ll (half-heartedly) go with Cibulkova-Radwanska.

Bottom Half, Bottom Quarter

Petra Kvitova [6] – Flavia Pennetta [12] *

Wildcards: V. Williams (Kvitova), Stephens (Pennetta)

Caroline Wozniacki [16] – Na Li [2] *

Wildcards: Stosur (Wozniacki)

I’d love to see Venus Williams have a good run at Wimbledon, but there are too many dependencies for her to go deep. R16, however is doable if the weather isn’t too hot and she can minimize her court time. From there, maybe a quarterfinal match-up against Sloane Stephens. I’d give Petra more of a chance if she weren’t so inconsistent: a sad statement in reference to a former Wimbledon champion.

The bottom section will likely play out as expected with Caroline Wozniacki facing off against Li Na in the other R16 match. To be honest, I don’t expect a ton of great tennis, or even clean tennis. I do, however, expect them both to get the job done. They’ve never played each other on grass, but Li holds a 4-2 H2H lead. So the nod goes to her for the quarters.

I’m wary of more Sloane disappointment, but will go ahead and give her the nod in the top section for a Stephens-Li quarterfinal.

Quarterfinal Picks

Williams – Sharapova, Halep – Keys, Cibulkova – Radwanska, Stephens – Li

Notable First-Round Matches

A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [26] v Alison Riske (USA)

Klara Koukalova (CZE) [31] v Taylor Townsend (USA)

Madison Keys (USA) v Monica Puig (PUR)

Coco Vandeweghe (USA) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [27]

PostHeaderIcon Gurrl Down: Vika Claims The Top Spot On An Inaugural Indian Wells “Shock or Not”

vika-azarenka

Though some might disagree, there haven’t been any draw-shattering upsets/losses these past couple of days at the BNP Paribas Open. But there has been enough action that I’d be remiss if i didn’t highlight a handful of notable losses, as well as the stories behind them. Let’s start with Vika and work our way down the list to Sam, Donald, Jerzy, and Madison.

Lauren Davis defeats Vika Azarenka: Shock or Not? Surprisingly Not

As Kathy Griffin would say, “GURRL DOWN!”
I called this loss when I wrote my preview piece. However, let’s be honest. It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to know that Vika probably wouldn’t get past the first couple of rounds after 1) hearing her say that she’d come play and “Give it a try”, 2) find out that she was still feeling pain in her foot, and 3) she hadn’t played since her loss in Australia. Lauren’s a solid player, but all she had to do was keep the ball in play long enough to get the win.

Vika told the press afterward that, owing to criticisms of her past retirements, she wanted to tough it out and push herself. I’m not sure what she, or anyone, can accomplish when playing on an injury that has been as debilitating as this. Miami isn’t looking too good in her cards right now. Then again, she’d have plenty of time off for those wedding rumors that have been making the rounds.

sam querrey

Andreas Seppi defeats Sam Querrey: Shock or Not? Not

When I interviewed Jim Courier at the PowerShares Champions Shootout, I asked about his ‘takeaway’ on the US squad’s losing Davis Cup effort in San Diego. After the strategic nuts and bolts on Sam’s two huge losses in singles, he ended by saying “You need to move forward.  So that’s what I’ll do from my perspective (as coach), and I’m hoping that’s what Sam’s doing too.”

That’s what Sam seemingly did for a set and a half in his match against Andreas Seppi. All of a sudden, the wheels fell off and he started playing passive tennis. Meanwhile on the other side of the net, Andreas finally settled in and found his groove. By the time Sam lost the second set tiebreak, the match was pretty much lost. Sam is at a real crossroads right now, and I’d hate to see him have a Donald Young-esque slide into confidence oblivion. Speaking of Donald Young…

donald-young

Michael Russell defeats Donald Young: Shock or Not? Not…

Donald Young’s flagging career continues to be both shocking and sad! Earlier in the year, he’d managed to gain momentum on the Challenger circuit, and was slowly building confidence as the results started to come. Then came a dispiriting loss to Kei Nishikori at the Australian Open, and a beating by Andy Murray in Davis Cup. After witnessing such epic losses in matches that could competitive, one has to wonder if Donald is simply too mentally fragile for the pro tour.

Michael Russell is by all measures, the definition of a diminutive journeyman. Yet he approaches his game with a level of professionalism that should be copied by any junior looking to succeed with the big guys. He’s a small guy with limited weapons in his arsenal. But that doesn’t stop him from plugging away, and continually working to be better.

Donald has more natural gifts at his disposal, but no idea how to maximize any of them. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t about the fact that his mom and dad are his coaches. It’s about him and the size of his heart. I’ve heard Donald’s self-deprecating match dialogue while sitting courtside, and it’s hard to hear someone talk to himself in a manner that they would never accept from someone else.

At a certain point, he’s got to ask himself if this is what he really wants to do. If not, he should stop and find what does make him happy. If it is what he wants to do, then EVERYTHING about his approach to the game MUST change.

madison-keys

Alejandro Falla defeats Jerzy Janowicz: Shock or Not? Shock

Falla is a solid veteran who maximizes his game, knows what he’s about, and works incredibly hard on court to put himself into good ball-striking positions. I mean no disrespect to him.  Jerzy, on the other hand, is an extremely talented player who has a knack for making his life harder than it needs to be. His temperament issues are going to be the thing that keeps his enormous amount of talent from becoming great if he or his coach don’t get a handle on it … and soon.

Roberta Vinci defeats Madison Keys: Shock or Not? Not

I’m not shocked, but I’m becoming weary of constantly hearing how this or that up-and-comer is the next great thing only to see them regularly crash and burn in the early rounds. Can we agree to stop talking about players’ Grand Slam potential when they can’t consistently make it deep in smaller tournaments? (Wishful thinking, I know.)

PostHeaderIcon My First-Ever “Australian Open Ten Speed”

Aijaz Rahi/The Associated Press

Frank Dancevic
(Aijaz Rahi/The Associated Press)

I’ve been rather busy with little time to write during these first few days of the Australian Open. So in an effort to get out some coherent thoughts for discussion in the most efficient manner possible, I’ve devised a plan to sit down and crank out discussion points on the top 10 items that have stood out in the previous days. So here’s the first effort cranked out in an hour before today’s play… Let me know what you think. 😉

  1. It’s Too Darn Hot! One of these years, I’d like to attend the Australian Open. But at this rate, I’m not sure I’d leave my hotel room if I did!
  2. Tournament referees will, in most instances, pull players off the court fairly quickly when the lines get wet from rain, yet the tournament organizers in Melbourne feel justified in sending players out to play with temperatures in excess of 105-108 degrees? I hate to say it, but maybe Rafa Nadal was correct when he said at the 2011 US Open: “It’s the same old story… All you think about is money.”
  3. Let’s not water down the meaning of “upset” with respect to this year’s Australian Open first round losses. Sara Errani, Roberta Vinci, and Venus Williams might qualify as upsets on paper, but in reality it’s a stretch. Petra Kvitova and Mikhail Youzhny, however, are legit.
  4. Speaking of Petra Kvitova, when is someone going to be honest and start questioning her fitness as part of the problem for her sporadic results. I realize it’s a touchy subject when one mentions a player’s fitness, or lack thereof, but I wonder how much better she might be if she committed herself to shedding some excess to improve her foot speed and stamina. Petra has tons of talent, yet hasn’t made the connection between improved fitness and improved results. If it worked for multiple generations of players from Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Lindsay Davenport, and even Serena Williams, it could work for her too.
  5. Speaking of Venus Williams, her loss to Ekaterina Makarova was not wholly unexpected (I expected her to lose that match when the draw came out), even with her great results in Auckland. Like Andy Roddick before her, the retirement drumbeat is going to increase as we head further into the 2014 season.
  6. As written about by Jon Wertheim on si.com, Camila Giorgi and her dad, Sergio, appear to be the WTA version of Tatum and Ryan O’Neal from Paper Moon. Maybe with her earnings in Melbourne she might wanna think about paying some of those investors?
  7. Bernard Tomic was hammered in the press by his retirement in his match with Nadal. He was pummeled by the press, and booed by his countrymen. As I tweeted yesterday in the aftermath of the match and his “I Really Was Injured” press conference, I wish people would realize that many of these players are just kids; prone to the same boneheaded behaviors that we did when we were the same age. Just because they are pro athletes doesn’t make them mature any quicker than the rest of us. Let’s start to cut them a little more slack in 2014.
  8. Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter are great fun as a doubles team. But I hope that I don’t have to hear about how good he looks anymore from the ESPN female commentators! On a side note, major ‘props go to Lleyton for battling hard in his first round loss against an inspired Andreas Seppi.
  9. Can we please stop talking about Roger Federer’s new racquet AND the new trend of “super coaches”???
  10. Novak looks great, Serena looks great, and nothing I’ve seen so far makes me believe that they won’t both be lifting the trophies during championship weekend.

PostHeaderIcon The 2014 AO Women’s Draw, or Can Serena Stop Vika’s AO Hat Trick?

Serena Williams (Darrian Traynor)

Serena Williams (Darrian Traynor)

That may sound like an odd question to ask about the greatest player of her generation. But such is the case with respect to Serena Williams and her primary rival, Victoria Azarenka. Serena, the World #1, has won five Australian Open titles; but none since 2010. Vika, on the other hand, has lifted the Aussie Open trophy the past two years; in spite of a perpetual runner-up status to Serena in the Slams. Go figure!

If Serena can make it through without injury, the stage looks set for her to win a sixth Aussie title after a dominating run in Brisbane. The draw looks favorable for Serena. Then again, it also looks favorable for Vika. Let’s take a deeper look and see if there’s anyone who can stop the Serena-Vika juggernaut.

ao14-vika

Victoria Azarenka (Ben Solomon)

Top Half – Top Quarter

Serena Williams – Ana Ivanovic R16

Roberta Vinci/Madison Keys/Kirsten Flipkens – Eugenie Bouchard R16

I was listening to some commentators on the Tennis Channel as they discussed Serena’s draw and heard them say that it actually looks harder than it may seem. I couldn’t disagree more! The only person who should have a shot at derailing Serena, Sam Stosur, has sadly been MIA for some time.

Tsvetana Pironkova did well to win Sydney, but there’s a huge difference between beating Angelique Kerber and “surviving Serena”! Ana Ivanovic? Not enough belief or firepower. And the level of opposition isn’t any better on the other side of the quarter though it would be great to see a “Young Guns” R16 match between Madison Keys and Eugenie Bouchard.

Throwing down the gauntlet, I’ll be shocked if Serena even drops a set on her way to the semifinals.

Top Half – Bottom Quarter

Li Na – Sabine Lisicki R16

Angelique Kerber – Petra Kvitova R16

Though it’s sometimes hard to know what to expect from Li Na on a match-by-match basis, the odds look good for her to make it to the quarterfinals. Coincidentally, the same can be said about Petra Kvitova, the other likely quarterfinalist in this section of the draw. Both women are Grand Slam champions with huge ground games that they can impose on their opponents. Both are also prone to prolonged patches of equally head-scratching tennis.

Luckily for them, their likely challengers in the R16 are Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber; so I expect both to make it through. Venus Williams is in the section of the quarter with Li Na, but I don’t expect her to make an impact… Still, it’s great to see her healthy enough to compete.

In a choice between Li and Kvitova, I’ll give Li Na the nod.

ao14-maria

Maria Sharapova (Fiona Hamilton)

Bottom Half – Top Quarter

Jelena Jankovic – Simona Halep R16

Carla Suarez Navarro/Dominika Cibulkova – Alize Cornet/Maria Sharapova R16

In terms of potential for interesting matches/outcomes, this quarter takes my top honors. Most would expect to see a Jelena Jankovic-Maria Sharapova quarterfinal, but I see at least 3 other players who could do some damage in this quarter.

Jankovic could face some real trouble with Simona Halep, the “Tier 2” Serena of 2013. Sharapova could also have her hands full: first with surprise Hopman Cup champion Alize Cornet, then with either Carla Suarez Navarro or Dominika Cibulkova. Cornet didn’t fare well in Sydney, but an upset is always possible.

All things being equal, I’ll go with Jelena over Simona (1-2 H2H but won only meeting on hard court), and Maria over Carla before besting Jelena to make the semifinals.

Bottom Half – Bottom Quarter

Aga Radwanska – Caroline Wozniacki R16

Sloane Stephens/Yaroslava Shvedova/Svetlana Kuznetsova – Victoria Azarenka R16

As interesting as the “Maria” quarter is for potential match-ups, this quarter doesn’t seem to possess the same level of intrigue. At least on paper, Radwanska’s likely R16 looks to be Caroline Wozniacki. But Wozniacki, the future Mrs. McIlroy, could flame out in her opening match, or just as easily live up to her seeding. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for the latter, but no more than that.

Azarenka’s path to the quarterfinals will need to go through some pretty big hitters in Stephens, Shvedova, Kuznetsova, and Jamie Hampton (3rd round). But none of them have made an impact so far in the 2014 season. In fact, there has been talk that Stephens, last year’s surprise semifinalist, was injured coming into Melbourne and was iffy for her AO start. Odds are it’s Vika through to a quarterfinal meeting against Aga. And we know how that is likely to end. (Hint: Vika)

(UPDATE: Jamie Hampton has withdrawn from the Australian Open due to a hip injury.)

Notable First Round Matches

Casey Dellacqua v Vera Zvonareva (welcome back Vera!)

Ekaterina Makarova v Venus Williams

Bethanie Mattek-Sands v Maria Sharapova

Sloane Stephens v Yaroslava Shvedova

Tournament Picks

As always, take with several grains of salt…

Quarterfinals

Serena Williams v Eugenie Bouchard

Li Na v Petra Kvitova

Jelena Jankovic v Maria Sharapova

Aga Radwanska v Victoria Azarenka

Semifinals

Serena Williams v Li Na

Maria Sharapova v Victoria Azarenka

Final

Serena Williams v Victoria Azarenka

Champion: Serena Williams

PostHeaderIcon Federer Ousted, Carla’s Bagels, and Gutsy Gasquet: A Week Two Shock or Not

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Tommy Robredo (Peter Staples/usopen.org)

Though not quite as crazed as Wimbledon, this US Open has definitely had its’ fair share of shock results. The biggest one, of course, came right after my Sunday rapid-fire Shock or Not. So let’s dive in and get caught up on the latest “shocks” before we get to the final weekend.

Serena Williams defeats Sloane Stephens: Shock or Not? Not

This win supports the claim that Serena’s ankle injury hampered her efforts against Sloane down under. But Sloane did make an excellent argument for being Serena’s heir apparent… at least for the first set.

Mikhail Youzhny defeats Tommy Haas: Shock or Not? Shock

Though the best of five Slam format is harder on his “more experienced” body, I still figured he would get through this match.

Roger Federer loses to Tommy Robredo: Shock or Not? Eye-Popping Shock

Though this has already been written about, there’s no way I could NOT include it. Roger was 10-0 against Robredo, and has lost only 3 sets. But as the saying goes, “Nobody beats <fill in name> <fill in number> times in a row.”

Richard Gasquet defeats Milos Raonic: Shock or Not? Shock

Richard Gasquet, probably the most fragile of the French players, beat hard-serving Milos (39 aces) in five sets after surviving a match point in hot/humid conditions. There’s oh so much to be shocked about with this one…

Milos Raonic loses after holding a match point: Shock or Not? I’d like to say Shock, but…

Milos has disappointed in 2013. I hope this is leading up to the same delayed-but-stellar results from his coach (Ljubicic) that Murray got from his coach (Lendl).

Novak Djokovic loses only 3 games to Marcel Granollers: Shock or Not? Shock

Marcel is no patsy, but he sure played the part against Novak. It was the tennis version of the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals.

Serena Williams loses ZERO games to Carla Suarez Navarro: Shock or Not? Not Shocked, but…

I’d never expect Serena to let up against any opponent, but come on Serena! You gave poor Carla a double bagel on her birthday?! Poor thing probably cried the rest of the night thinking “Feliz pinche cumpleanos!”

Ashe Stadium saw 4 bagel sets between Novak and Serena’s matches: Shock or Not? Shock

Novak over Marcel 6-3 6-0 6-0 followed by Serena over Carla 6-0 6-0. Not a lot of stellar points. I hope the food court lines weren’t too long.

Stan Wawrinka defeats Tomas Berdych: Shock or Not? Shock

Stan’s a fine player, but Tomas was really on the edge of a breakthrough with the elite guys.  This result, however, is certainly a step or two back.

Flavia Pennetta defeats Roberta Vinci: Shock or Not? Not

Before her wrist issues, Flavia was definitely a player to watch. Her victory over Vinci, a 2013 titleholder, is a great win by any standard! And as was noted during the match, the difference between winning the match and losing was $325k. Not bad Flavia, not bad.

Richard Gasquet defeats David Ferrer: Shock or Not? HUGE shock!

Richard outlasted the tour’s Eveready bunny! This tweet says it all:

 

Fingers crossed for “sibling doubles” teams today as the Bryans face the tough pair of Paes/Stepanek in their quest for a calendar year Grand Slam, and the Williams sisters face the top-seeded Italians. The Murray-Wawrinka winner is a coin toss given Stan’s level of play in New York, and Youzhny’s run comes to an end with a ruthless thrashing by Djokovic.

Enjoy!

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