Tuesday 1 July 2014

Petra Kvitova vs Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

Wimbledon brings the best out of some players and it is safe to say that Petra Kvitova is one of those players. She has been to the quarter-finals or better in each of her last 4 outings and she played one of the best matches of the tournament in sending the 5 time Wimbledon Champion Venus Williams home in the third round.

Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova are the only former Wimbledon champions left in the draw and both are in opposite halves of the draw.

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is having the tournament of her life. She sent Australian Open champion and world no.2 Li Na home in the third round, then saw off former world no.1 Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round to make it to her first grand slam quarter-final. Grass is a surface that rewards Strycovas game and she should be confident and up for the challenge that Kvitova will be presenting.

The pair have played four times, with Kvitova winning thrice and Strycova getting the better of Kvitova once. All their prior matches have been on hard courts. Their last encounter was in Indian Wells in 2012 won by Kvitova in straight sets.

With Serena Williams and Li Na already home, this might be Kvitova's best chance to win another slam, however we have seen this before and we have seen Kvitova falter before just like Radwanska. Kvitova talked about her loss at the hands of Flipkens in last year's quarter-finals and how it hurt her, so expect her to be pumped to make it to the end of the tournament.

Strycova is into her first grand slam quarter-final and nerves are sure to play their part on the big stage. The pair play their match on Centre Court. Kvitova should be able to handle the match and walk off Centre Court smiling with a win unless she is having a terribly off day.

Winner : Petra Kvitova

Lucie Safarova vs Ekaterina Makarova (Wimbledon QF Preview)

Lucie Safarova and Ekaterina Makarova both are having their best Wimbledon results and have equalled their best Grand Slam outings. There will be a lot on the line for both players, a career first Slam semi-final and a chance to surpass their career best singles rankings. Currently they are separated by just one spot in the rankings with Safarova sitting at no.23 and Makarova at 22. Their career best singles rankings have been near each other as well, with Safarova peaking at no.17 and Makraova going up-to no.19.

Makarova's best Wimbledon result had been a 3rd round showing last year, while Safarova progressed to the same stage in 2007.

The pair has played twice before and have split their meetings with Sfarova coming out on top in straight sets in Moscow in 2009 on hard courts while Makarova avenged that defeat in Madrid last year in straight sets.

Grass suits the game of both players and both were ruthless in their fourth round matches. Safarova was the first to advance as she put a master-class performance to end the Wimbledon dreams of Tereza Smitkova. Sfarova won 91% points behind her first serve and 62% behind her second serve to win 6-2 6-0. Safarova went 19-4 for winners - unforced errors.

Makarova had a greater task on hand in former WImbledon finalist Radwanska but she was up for it as she put in 78% of her first serves and won 87% of those points. Makarova hit 24 winners to just 6 unforced errors in her 6-3 6-0 win over Radwanska.

Nerves will be a factor in this match. Makarova is a more experienced player at this stage, she has been to the quarter-finals of grand slams thrice and has also been a winner and a runners up in doubles at Grand Slams (Roland Garros and Australian Open respectively). Safarova on the other hand has never been beyond the quarter-finals either in singles or doubles. This is just her second grand slam quarter-final.

It should be a good match with both players games well suited for grass. The serve and the nerve will be the deciding factor, the player who better manages both will come out on top. Makarova might have an emotional let down after her win over Radwanska, but given her performance (excluding the first round) she should be favoured to make it to her first grand slam semi-final. My gut feeling is Safarova will tough it out but my head says Makarova will handle the Czech and march to her first grand slam semi-final.

Winner : Makarova

Friday 6 June 2014

Roland Garros Final 2014 Preview (Sharapova vs Halep)

Maria Sharapova along with Serena Williams had been the favourite when walking into the Roland Garros. Serena Williams had lost all but one match on clay this year to Jana Ceplova, while Sharapova's only loss on clay this year came at the hands of Ana Ivanovic, 2008 Roland Garros Champion.

Garbine Muguruza, made Sharapova the favourite for the title when she took Williams to woodshed in the second round, handing the younger Williams her worst ever defeat at a Grand Slam.

Sharapova complied with her being favourite by marching into the final of Roland Garros and in the process becoming the first player to reach the final of Roland Garros three straight years since Justine Henin's run of 2004-2007.

Awaiting Sharapova in the final will be Simona Halep, the 2008 junior Roland Garros champion. Guess, who was the last player to win the junior and the professional Roland Garros title? Yes, it was Justine Henin.

Halep's only clay loses this year have been to Svetlana Kuznetsova (Halep avenged that by beating Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals), and Maria Sharapova. 

Simona Halep has not lost a set in her route to the final, while Sharpaova has lost 3 sets in her last 3 matches. The highest ranked player Halep beat on her way to the final was Sloane Stephens, while the highest ranked player Sharapova beat was the rising Candanian Eugenie Bouchard. No player has faced a top 10 player so far, thanks to the upsets.

This is a fitting finale in that both players have had a good clay season. The match pits the quick movement of Halep against the grit and determination of Sharapova. Sharapova is a huge fighter. In retrospect, not having a tough match will only hurt Halep, while rallying from a set down in her last 3 matches is only going to benefit Sharapova.

Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova won their first grand slams in their finest grand slam finals at the expense of Sharapova. Sara Errani failed to follow the suite in 2012 Roland Garros final. Will Halep join Azarenka and Kvitova or will Sharapova finally repeat at a grand slam, only time will tell us.

For now, Halep will have to come out on fire and stay on fire till the end and try to get it done in straight sets. Halep is out for revenge while Sharapova is out to prove her doubters wrong. Who will triumph in the end, Sharapova seems more likely to have an edge. Remember, Halep came out flat in her first Grand Slam quarter-final against Cibulkova at the Australian Open this year.

This promises to be a great match and whoever wins the match will no doubt be the deserving Grand Slam champion. My mind says Sharapova, but I think Halep too is in for it.

Pick: Sharapova in three sets.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Andy Murray set to marry Kim Sears after Wimbledon (Not Yet)

Andy Murray, reigning Wimbledon champion, revealed on a recent twitter Q&A session that he will be marrying his long time girl friend Kim Sears after Wimbledon.

Murray tweeted that he was bored and started a Q&A session on twitter, when he responded to a tweet about his marriage.

The British media reported it immediately and by the end of the session, Murray had to tell everyone that it was a joke and he is not yet planning a marriage.

So here you go!!!!!

Sharapova impressive in Open GDF Suez 2014 opener

Maria Sharapova made an impressive start to her Open GDF Suez campaign. Sharapova had a bye in the first round as the top seed of the tournament and played Daniela Hantuchova in the second round today.

Hantuchova had won her first round against Marina Erakovic, who had to retire trailing 3-6 0-3.

Sharapova came out firing, while Hantuchova came out mis-firing. It was interesting to see that Hantuchova won just 3 points on her first serve and none of the points played on her second serve. Sharapova who has had problems with her serve, fired 6 aces and saved all 3 break points she faced as she handed Hantuchova a bagel in the first set.

Sharapova kept the momentum going on serve in the second set as she fired 4 aces, totalling 10 for the match and saved 4 break points. Sharapova broke Hantuchova to win the match. It is interesting to note that Hantuchova failed to win a single point on her second serve in the entire match.

Sharapova will face the winner of Yvonne Meusburger vs Kirsten Flipkens.

Australian Open 2014 - Worth your time

The Australian Open 2014 is finally over. O Yes, It has been more than two days since the last match was played, or should I say, as it did not play out?

I have not been very consistent with posting on my blog. When posts start coming, they start coming, and when they stop, I just get too lazy and stop posting at all.

Back to the topic, Australian Open saw two first time finalists and two first time Australian Open champions ( in the case of Stanislas Wawrinka, the first time Grand Slam Champion). The tournament was full of surprises, upsets, dramas, controversies, quality play, retirements and what not. You will find everything you can ask for.

What were some of the best reads around the web. Here you go:

Stanislas Wawrinka's defeated Rafael Nadal to win not only his first major title. In doing so, Wawrinka got his very first win over Rafael Nadal in the most important match of his tennis life.

Li Na is one of the few players who know how to make life difficult for her opponents and at times for herself as well. How Li won the Australian Open final to earn her first Australian Open title in her third final appearance.

Lukasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt win the Australian Open doubles title.

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci defended their Australian Open title rallying from a 2-5 third set deficit to beat Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

BBC Sports looks at how Stanislas Wawrinka improved and never gave up to win his maiden slam.

Dhirti Pande feature article on Breakthrough player of Australian Open 2014, Eugenie Bouchard.

Benn Pronin has a case for Stanislas Wawrinka rising to the world no.1 in 2014.

Venus Williams lost in the first round of Australian Open at the hands of Ekaterina Makarova. (Makarova defeated Serena Williams in the 4th round of Australian Open 2012)

GIF says it all. Re-live Li Na's and Stanislas Wawinka's wins in the Australian Open finals.

Five things we learned at the Australian Open 2014

Top 10 occurrences at the Australian Open this year, what are your thoughts on the list?

Stanislas Wawrinka tops the list of ATP race to London.

Roger Federer makes it to the Australian Open for the 11th straight time, but history repeats itself as Federer fails to climb the Rafa wall. Nadal not only sent the Swiss Mastero home, he also prevented a first time all Swiss Grand Slam final.

Agnieszka Radwanska left everyone asking for more in a brave, artistic dismantling of the two time defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals. It was a short-lived joy for Radwanska, as she was sent packing home the very next day by Diminutive Cibulkova.

These were some of the good reads I went through during the Australian Open. Got any interesting read to share?

Thursday 16 January 2014

Li Na beats Safarova, Makarova awaits - Australian Open

Li Na and Lucie Safarova played to earn a spot in the fourth round of Australian Open. Li Na, Chinese No.1 and former Roland Garros champion, had not lost to Lucie Safarova since 2005, however, things looked trimmed early on. Safarova raced through the first set in just 27 minutes and did not face a break point winning the set 6-1. She was aided by 18 unforced errors from Li Na.

Li Na is an absolute treat to watch when she is on, however, it is as painful as it gets, to watch Li Na when she is off, and it was one of those off days.

Safarova seemed headed for a straight sets victory, and given Li's history of weak mental fortitude, it was just a matter of time. However, since joining forces with Carlos Rodriguez, there has been an immense improvement in terms of the mental strength.

Safarova, like Li Na, plays a high risk game and the second set was evident of that fact as she shanked 22 unforced errors to go down in a tight second set. Safarova served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, but as we know Li brings out her best with her back to the wall, she broke to bring the set back to serve. Safarova was not done yet, she earned her first and only match point with Li serving to force a tie-break. Safarova hit a backhand which went long, and it at that moment that Safarova had lost the match. Li ended up winning  the second set 7-6(2).

As the third set approached, Li had calmed down and cleaned her game as she hit just 6 unforced errors against 14 by Safarova and converted 2 of the 3 break point chances she created, winning the set 6-3. The final score being 1-6 7-6(2) 6-3 in Li's favour.

Australian Open is Li Na's favourite grand slam and she has made the semi-finals or better here in 3 of the last 4 years, and if she is to repeat the feat, she will definitely have to improve her performance. One thing that stood out today was champion's mentality in Li's win, she showed that she too can win when not playing her best, and that is what it is all about, winning and moving on.

Awaiting Li, for a spot in the quarter-finals will be Ekaterina Makarova. Makarova has made the quarter-finals here the last two years and has wins over Serena Williams and Venus Williams in the Australian Open.

Makraova defeated Niculescu 6-4 6-4 to move into the 4th round of Australian Open for the third straight year. Niculescu converted all 4 of the break points she created, however, Makarova went two steps ahead converting on 6 of the 9 opportunities. It was not a pretty match either, with Makarova overcoming 35 unforced errors to book a date with Li Na. Niculescu was also undone by the 34 errors she made against only 9 winners.

It will be interesting to see Makraova fighting against Li Na for a quarter-final spot. Li has won all 4 of the pair's encounters, however 3 of those 4 have gone to 3 sets. The last time they played was in the quarter-finals of U.S Open where Li won in 3 sets.

Li should be favoured to win the match, but Makarova has a history of upsets. Who do you think will win the contest?