Saturday 7 April 2012

Charleston 2012 - Semi-Finals Preview (The Family Circle Cup 2012)

Charleston kicked off with a stellar field. The most notable was the presence of the Williamses, reigning U.S Open Champion, Stosur, top 10 players, Bartoli and Zvonareva and former no.1, Jankovic. But only 4 players remain standing still, 3 of whom have made it to their first semi-final of the year, the only player having reached a SF or better this year is Stosur (Doha R-up). All 4 players remaining in the draw have yet to win a title this year, so we will have a first time winner of 2012 at Charleston. Let us have a quick look at the semi-final encounters.

1- Safarova (9) vs Hercog (14)

This is Hercog's first Semi-final at a premier level tournament, and en-route she got her first victory over a top 10 player, defeating Marion Bartoli in the 3rd round. Safarova made it to her first semi-final of the season and she too defeated a top 10 player, Vera Zvonareva, to make it to the semi-finals. Let us have a look at the summary of each player's performance this year:

Description  Safarova     Hercog     
Match Record this year     11-8    9-12
Overall H2H        1      1
Clay Courts H2H        0      1

In the pair's only previous encounter on clay, Hercog came out on top, defeating Safarova handily in the second round of Roland Garros 2010, 61 62. Both players are through to their first semi-finals of the season and both will be looking to make it to the final. Safarova can hit big and deep and can defeat anyone on a given day. Given the current form of both players in this tournament, it must be an interesting match to watch. I doubt, Hercog will have enough in her tank to stop Safarova.

2- Stosur (2) vs Serena (5)
In what must be a mouth watering clash, U.S Open Champion, Stosur, faces 13 time grand slam champion, Serena Williams. This will be a re-match of the last year's U.S Open, where Stosur famously upset Serena to win her maiden Slam (though Serena got her revenge in the pair's meeting in the 4th round at Miami this year, defeating Stosur in straight sets), or is it will be more appropriate to say that it will be a re-match of their QF clash at 2010's Roland Garros, where Stosur saved a match point to defeat Serena (due to surface similarity, since Charleston and Roland Garros are played on red dirt). 

Description  Stosur     Serena      
Match Record this year     14-7   13-2
Overall H2H        3      5
Clay Courts H2H        1      0

Both Stosur and Serena are former Charleston champions, 2010 and 2008 respectively, which means that we will have at least one former champion in the final to fight for the trophy. Both players will come into the match with revenge on their minds. Serena will be trying to avenge Venus's loss at the hands of Stosur, while Stosur will be trying to avenge her straight set loss at the hands of Serena in the 4th round of Miami this year.

Stosur is aiming to become only the 8th player in tennis history to defeat both Williams sisters at the same tournament, having defeated Venus in the QF. Clijsters is the only player to have beaten the Willimses twice at the same tournament (2002 Tour Championships and 2009 U.S Open). Whoever, emerges out of this match will be the default favourite to win the title. Serena will be highly motivated to win this en-counter. But if Stosur can bring her A game, it will be a tough call.

Who are you rooting for? Stay tuned. Enjoy the battle on the red dirt and keep us posted about your views.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Miami 2012 - Afterthoughts

At the start of Miami, there was talk about Azarenka's unbeaten run, there was talk about the return of Williams sisters, there was talk about the return of Clijsters, there was talk about the return of Kleybaynova, however, there was no talk about the impressive performance of Radwanska so far this year. Coming into Miami, she had lost 4 times so far this year and all losses had come at the hands of unstoppable Azarenka. Before Indian Wells and Miami I was wondering whether Radwanska is for real, since she has never played that long that consistently, and she did prove that she is for real, by winning Miami, the biggest title of her career so far. Radwanska did that in style, beating a string of big hitters in Venus Williams in QF, Bartoli in SF and Sharapova in the championship match.

Let us rank players as per their performance in Miami.

Radwanska - 1
Radwanska no doubt gets off with the top honours for winning the title.

Sharapova, Venus Williams and Kaleybanova - 2
Sharapova gets the second rank for being the runner - up of-course, while Venus Williams and Kleybanova get the second ranks for making a come back from diseases. Venus overcame the auto-immune disorder to beat the likes of Kvitova and Ivanovic to make it to the quarters where she lost to eventual champion Radwanska. Kalebaynova overcame Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and beat Larsson in the first round before falling to Kirilenko in the second round 6-7(3) 3-6. Hats off to elder Williams and Kaleybanova.

Bartoli, Wozniaki, Muguruza Blanco - 3
Bartoli gets the 3rd spot for her perfect performance against Azarenka in the QFs to put a full stop to the winning streak of world no. 1. Bartoli was one of the last players to beat Azarenka (in the group matches in World Tour Finals), and she became the first player this year to beat the current no.1 Azarenka. Although Bartoli lost in the SF to eventual champion Radwanska, she did a great job. Wozniaki finally got a win over Serena Williams but it came after she lost her coveted no.1 ranking. Serena had said after that match, '' Everyone I play always plays match of the year". All the credit to Wozniaki for her victory but she could not get the most of it since she lost in the SF to Sharapova. Muguruza Blanco was a wild card entrant into the main draw and she got the most of it, she made it  to the 4th round where she lsot to the eventual champion Radwanska, and en-route she defeated one current top player, Zvonareva, and a former top 10 player, Pennetta.

Serena Williams, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka - Consolation Prizes
Serena Williams was good till her QF clash against Wozniaki but once into the QF she lost her foot-work which made her pay, as she lost in straight sets. However, the lack of foot-work was due to the lack of matches under her belt, but a decent run for her considering this was her first tournament since Australian Open 2012. Li Na put up some solid display in reaching the quarter-finals but once there, she too lost her plot and went out meekly to Sharapova, but it is good to see her winning some matches as against the same period last year. Victoria Azarenka was lucky to get out of her fourth round match against Cibulkova, but she ran out of her luck against Bartoli in the QF match, but still it was a good tournament for the no.1 with a QF showing.

Clijsters, Zvonareva and Kvitova - Forgetful Performances.
Clijsters lost to Wickmayer in the third round, while Zvonareva and Kvitova lost their opneners against Muguruza Blanco and Venus Williams respectively. Clijsters is to sit outside for another 5 weeks because of a hip injury, while Zvonareva's slump and Kvitova's lack of love for American courts continue.

Now with the clay court season beginning, which player is most likely to make the most of the clay swing? Which of the top 15 players do you see making it most of the clay court season? 
-Will it be Azarenka, Kvitova or Sharapova???? 
-Or will this be the time of Radwanska, Stosur,Woniaki and Li Na??? 
-Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams and Serena Williams might have their say as well. 

Let us keep our hopes up for some intriguing matches and on-court rivalries and battles. Who is your call? Stay tuned.

Editor's Note: Sorry for no previews of Miami, I had been busy with my brother's wedding and then I was down with bad throat, flu and fever.