Tenaciously Tennis

Australian Open 2011 Predictions: WTA Tour

Note: Please see my most recent predictions for the WTA tour’s 2011 Australian Open here.

Serena Williams is out of her second consecutive major, and that means only one thing: the draw opens up substantially. Who can rise to the occasion with the favorite out of the mix? Will it be Kim Clijsters, who comes fresh off wins at the US Open and the year-ending championships, and has done well so far in 2011? There’s also Caroline Wozniaki trying to prove her number one ranking by her maiden Grand Slam title. Last year’s finalist Justine Henin must be mentioned, while Venus Williams plays after a knee injury kept her off tour. The Australian Open this year is bound for some surprises. Here’s a breakdown of the brackets.

Caroline Wozniacki’s Section:

The top seed should make it to the fourth round with Wozniacki’s toughest competition being Dominika Cibulkova. The 29th-seed recently scored a straight sets win over the Dane in Sydney. In the bottom of that portion of the draw, Yanina Wickmayer could very well defeat Marion Bartoli with confidence inspired by her finals showing in Auckland. Bartoli, however, does enjoy a 2-0 head-to-head record over Wickmayer.

In the bottom half, last year’s finalist Henin looms as the 15th-seed with Svetlana Kuznetsova as a potential third round match. The reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone also looks promising to advance. Henin, however, has won seven of eight matches against the Italian.

Ones-to-Watch: Australian Jarmila Groth recently won the Hobart tournament and may pose trouble for Wickmayer in the first round. The two met only once in 2009 with Wickmayer pulling through in three sets. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Wimbledon semifinalist, who has been struggling since the result, also appear in Wozniacki’s bracket.

Bottom Line: Wozniacki has some tough tests, but I believe she’ll advance to the quarterfinals over Wickmayer. Henin shouldn’t have a problem against Schiavone.

Venus Williams’ Section:

Here’s home to the fourth-seed, Venus, who faces a couple tests before the fourth round. In the third round, Andrea Petkovic could push her. The two have never met, and Petkovic looks confident with a recent string of wins in Brisbane. In the fourth round, however, Venus potentially meets Maria Sharapova. The head-to-head makes the Russian’s  possible success slim as Venus leads 5-3 in their head-to-head. She’s also won the last three matches in straight sets.

It’ll be a toss-up between 2010 semifinalist Na Li and the ever spirited Victoria Azarenka in their probable fourth round match.

Ones-to-Watch: The other seeded players, Kaia Kanepi (no. 20), Aravane Rezai (no. 17) and Daniela Hantuchova (no. 28) also appear here.

Bottom Line: Venus will likely defeat Sharapova, while Li can take out Azarenka in a battle.

Kim Clijsters’ Section:

Possibly the most open part of the draw belongs to Clijsters, where she’ll no doubt benefit. Competition comes in the form of Nadia Petrova and Ana Ivanovic. Clijsters, however, should get through to the quarterfinals unless Ivanovic can out-perform her in the fourth round. It’ll be an interesting match between Clijsters and Dinara Safina in the first round.

With a struggling Jelena Jankovic as the seventh-seed (she’s lost eight of her last matches, including six straight) at the top, the section looks perfect for an up-and-comer to make a move. Agnieszka Radwanska (no. 12), although she’s battling some injury, might do well. Jankovic can also squeak through the bracket as she has before. One never knows with the former world number one.

Ones-to-Watch: Personal favorite Patty Schnyder could meet Ivanovic in the second round. Greta Arn, the surprise winner of Auckland, also appears in this section, facing the 26th-seed, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, in the first round.

Bottom Line: Jankovic looks like a big question mark, while Clijsters should sail through to the second week.

Vera Zvonareva’s Section:

One of the strongest sections of the 2011 Australian Open on the WTA tour, this bracket is home to the second-seeded Zvonareva and home-favorite Sam Stosur (no. 5). These two names stand above the rest, although there are some, such as Petra Kvitova (no. 25), Shahar Peer (no. 10), and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (no. 16), who serve as fierce competition.

In a potential fourth round match, Kvitova, who won Brisbane — but lost in a walkover at Sydney — would face Stosur. The Australian hasn’t been quite up to form as she lost to Kuznetsova in Sydney’s second round.  Israel’s Peer would probably face the victor. Zvonareva lost to Flavia Pennetta — also of this bracket — early in Sydney. Zvonareva should, however, shake off the loss to make a run to the quarterfinals.

Ones-to-Watch: American Melanie Oudin might make a move in her section of the draw, where she’d face Zvonareva in a potential third round match. There’s also Maria Kirilenko (no. 22) and Anna Chakvetadze.

Bottom Line: It looks like Zvonareva and Stosur get through to the quarterfinals, but not without some strong tests from a number of good competition.

In the Quarterfinals: With the above predictions, the quarterfinals will showcase Wozniacki against Henin; Venus against Li; (potentially) Jankovic against Clijsters; and Stosur versus Zvonareva.

In the Semifinals: Watch for Henin to face Venus and Clijsters against Zvonareva in the final four.


Surprise Finalist Arn Wins in Auckland

Posted in Greta Arn,Julia Goerges,Maria Sharapova,Yanina Wickmayer by Ben on January 8, 2011

Greta Arn defeated Yanina Wickmayer in the ASB Classic final, capping off one of the best weeks in her professional career. The 31-year old Hungarian won 6-3, 6-3. She beat Maria Sharapova and Julia Goerges en route to her first WTA tour final since taking the 2007 Estoril tournament. Arn described her victory as a “dream come true.”

An interesting detail, Pete Bodo mentions in a recent TennisWorld blog post that beating Sharapova “was Arn’s first win over a Top 20 player in her entire career, in which she’s had 16 such opportunities.” That’s a pretty big achievement for a player who turned pro back in 1997.

Currently 88th in the world, Arn’s sure to see a boost in her ranking when the revised list comes out. It’s a fantastic start to the new year for a player whose coach, Vittorio Magnelli, declined to travel to New Zealand unless “I buy a Concorde.”

With the Australian Open starting soon, Arn will be one to watch at the major tournament that never fails to surprise. Who knows? Maybe Magnelli might just make the trip this time.

For more on her win, see below.

Arn Advances, Meets Wickmayer in Final

Posted in Greta Arn,Julia Goerges,Maria Sharapova,Yanina Wickmayer by Ben on January 7, 2011

The 31-year old Greta Arn advanced to her second career final on the WTA tour after beating the fourth-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany. Arn, who stunned the top seed Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, won 7-6 (3), 6-3.

To get to the final against Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, the tournament’s second seed, Arn preyed on Goerges’ unforced errors on the forehand side. She also used strong shot selection as her opponent suffered from impatience.

Having won four titles on the ITF circuit, Arn’s only WTA title came at the 2007 Estoril tournament. Her best showing at a major was during the 2010 Wimbledon. There, Arn made the third round as a qualifier.

Although Wickmayer will no doubt be a tough opponent — she’s a tremendous player ranked just outside the top 20 — Arn has proven that she has the shot selection and the ability to beat some of the world’s best this week.

For a clip of Arn’s post-match interview after beating Sharapova, see below.

Sharapova Outplayed by Arn in Auckland

Posted in Greta Arn,Maria Sharapova by Ben on January 6, 2011

Maria Sharapova lost in the ASB Classic quarterfinals to Greta Arn after making too many unforced errors. Sharapova’s shaky serve and mistimed forehand gave  the veteran Hungarian the upset 6-2, 7-5.

With a career-high ranking of 81, which she attained in 2002, and a current ranking of 88, the win was one of (if not) Arn’s biggest since turning professional in 1997. About the win, Arn was quoted, “I’m like a little girl whose dream has come true.”

Sharapova met the loss with a realistic approach. “I would have loved to play a few more here and be the winner. But that’s the way it goes. You look forward to the next one. That’s the good thing about tennis,” she said.

That’s a good view for Sharapova to take, although she’ll need to find her form within the next week if she wants a chance at winning another major. That, apparently, is just what she’s aiming for. She recently told reporters that “if I’m able to win a Grand Slam after my injury it’d be my greatest achievement in my career.”

We’ll see how that ambition holds up against her already shaky play in 2o11.

For a clip of Arn’s big win, watch below.

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