Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Australian Open: Finalizing the Semis

There's a chance for the top three women and the Defending Champion to make it to the Women's Semis, and for all four of the top men to get there as well. Can't ask for a whole lot more than that unless you have a penchant for upsets. 

The Women
Well as expected, the Maria Sharapova-Sabine Lisicki (14) Round-of-16 match was one that Sharapova gutted out in three, now Sharapova goes up against unseeded countrywoman, Ekaterina Makarova. I was dead wrong about Serena’s match with Makarova, predicting a relatively easy Serena win, and I hate to do it to Maria too, but…yeah, Sharapova ought to win this one. Maria might be feeling the emotional effects of her last win, but I can’t believe she won’t be able to pull it together enough to reach the semis.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki had the misfortunate of meeting Defending Champion Kim Clijsters (11) in the quarters. Clijsters looked every bit the champion, pushing Wozniacki around the court, and delivering a barrage of winners. Midway through the second set, it was obvious that Clijsters would have to develop another injury for Wozniacki to have a shot. That didn’t happen, but Clijsters appeared to tighten up, letting Wozniacki back in it. Caroline couldn’t capitalize though and Kim finished her off with some stellar play at the end.

Petra Kvitova (2) is still on course to pick up her second Grand Slam, downing Ana Ivanovic (21) 6-2, 7-6 in the Round of 16. She now gets unseeded and unknown Italian, Sara Errani. Despite her seeding and her wins thus far, I’m not sold on Kvitova’s form. She still looks a bit off to me, but she ought to advance against a player who’s had one win against a top 20 player in the past year. I’m looking for a Kvitova-Sharapova semi.

Despite dropping the first set against Aggie Radwanska (8), losing the tiebreak at love, Victoria looks ready to really contend for her first Grand Slam title. She fell short against Kvitova in the Wimbledon Final last year, and the two could very well meet again in the Aussie Final. Azarenka will truly have to earn her way into that match….

The Men
Six of the top ten men’s seeds are still alive and battling for the year’s first Slam. Despite losing his first set of the event to Lleyton Hewitt in the Round of 16, Novak Djokovic (1) looks as though he is still the man to beat. He has David Ferrer (5) next, and Ferrer is just a better version of Hewitt. The two have close to an even record, with Djokovic slightly ahead 6-5. Given Ferrer’s tenacity, Djokovic will have to stay focused to move through to the semis.

Rafael Nadal (2) played well throughout, but it was Berdych’s (7) failure to capitalize in the first set that set the tone. Rafa served at 5-6, 0-40 and Berdych had second serve returns to look at on the first two set points. He played a great point at 15-40, but Rafa showed why he is who he is, making some incredible defensive gets before hitting a running forehand winner to save the second break point.

I thought the match was over right then, despite his reaching another set point after Rafa had gotten it back to deuce. But Berdych persevered and got a break on a line call that gave him yet another set point. He capitalized on that one, and it was game on! But one set against Rafa is just one set, and after claiming the second set breaker, Berdych didn’t have the legs or heart to sustain. The bottom line is Rafa appears to be in vintage form, and that means trouble for anyone he faces…except maybe da Djoker?

Roger Federer (3) is still Roger Federer, except perhaps when he plays Nadal, and, recently, Djokovic. There’s no question in my mind that Roger has the physical goods to beat anyone on the planet when he’s playing his best. I’m just not so sure about the mental dimension of his game when facing the top two. He handled Del Potro with ease, so he’ll at least be fresh against Rafa in the semis. Could be another classic on the way, and I just don’t want to see Roger crying after this one.

What can we expect from Andy Murray (4)? I honestly don’t know. The guy is as talented as anyone in the field, but sometimes he plays as though he doesn’t know that. The only time he played Kei Nishikori (24) he beat him in two sets, serving up a bagel in the second. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t beat him again, reserving a date with Djokovic in the semis. When the two squared off in the final last year, Djokovic rolled him in straight sets. Perhaps Murray will use that as inspiration to at least make a match of it this time around.

In any event, we are down to the nitty gritty in the first Grand Slam of the year and the next few days will be as good as it gets in the tennis world. Two of the four top seeds are in the semis on the men’s side and there’s a chance for three of the four top women to reach the semis as well. Have fun watching! Game, set, match…T A

No comments:

Post a Comment