Stosur, Petkovic headline in brilliant Brisbane

Sam Stosur

The engines are revving for 2012 as the first draw of the season was finally released on Friday night for the Premier event in Brisbane. The draw looks very uneven with four big names all found in the top half of the draw.  Sam Stosur is the number one seed and has a relatively straightforward draw to the quarter-finals.  Stosur opens her 2012 campaign against Anastasiya Yakimova and would play either Iveta Benesova or Lucie Safarova in the second round.  I predict that Stosur will ease into the quarter-finals where she is likely to face her first major challenge.  

Stosur is projected to meet Kim Clijsters in the quarter-finals who is set to play her first tournament since retiring in Montreal.  Clijsters will play the Romanian, Simona Halep in round 1.  If she wins her opener, she could play Ana Ivanovic in a storming second round encounter.  I have never doubted Kim’s game, but I started to question her motivation and her fitness in 2011.  If her body holds up, I think her superior head-to-head record over Ivanovic will be a telling factor.
In the second quarter, Serena Williams is projected to meet Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals.  Serena will play Chanelle Scheepers in the first round and will feel confident of progressing through the first two rounds without few problems.  Cibulkova, on the other hand will have to overcome the challenge of her compatriot, Daniela Hantuchova in a tasty first round encounter.  Hantuchova has won all three of their previous encounters, but i’m going in favour of Cibulkova (who won her first title at the end of 2011 in Moscow) to prevail in a tight three set match.
The bottom half is considerably weaker than the top half. The number 6 seed, Jelena Jankovic will play Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round.  This is a tricky opener for the Serb, but I think she will pull this one through in 3 sets.  Both players prefer a slower court, but I think Jankovic is more versatile than Suarez Navarro.  Jankovic has a good draw, but i’m not convinced that she will take full advantage of it if she displays the form that she showed in 2011.  
Francesca Schiavone is also in this section and she opens her tournament against the rising, Ksenia Pervak.  Pervak has switched her nationality from Russia to Kazakhstan – obviously this is all to do with the money as Kazakhstan have taken Yaroslava Shvedova and Galina Voskoboeva under their wing in previous years.  Personally, I disagree strongly with this and think you should feel pride in playing for your home country.  Pervak looks to be a dangerous opponent for Schiavone on paper, but after watching her play at the end of 2011, I think Schiavone will have few problems in dismantling her rather lacklustre game… Yes, you may have noticed I don’t have much time for Pervak!!!
In the bottom section of the draw, Andrea Petkovic will fancy her chances of reaching the Brisbane final for the second year in a row.  In fact, she made the semi-finals in 2010 so she obviously likes the fast-paced courts in Brisbane.  Petkovic will play Shahar Peer in the first round.  Peer was on the cusps of entering the top 10 back in April 2011, however her game and confidence has dipped since then.  Petkovic is naturally a slow starter so I fancy her to lose the first set before storming through in three.  
Petkovic is projected to meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals.  Pav should stroll past her first round opponent, the clay court specialist, Polona Hercog.  However she potentially faces a much tougher match in the second round against Kaia Kanepi, who has a good record over the Russian.  However I think Pavlyuchenkova and Petkovic will face off in the quarter-finals.  I predict big things for Pavlyuchenkova this year, but I don’t think she will progress any further in this tournament.  I do not expect her year to properly take off until we hit the clay court season.
My tip for the final
S Williams def. Petkovic… I feel like i’m going for the obvious with Serena, but sometimes you just have too! I think she will start 2012 in fighting form and bludgeon her way through the draw.  Petkovic has a very good draw and I think she will continue to build after an excellent 2011 so she seems a safe bet to reach the final.
Watch out for…
Galina Voskoboeva is my dark horse in Brisbane to make the semi-finals.  She had an excellent 2011 starting the year ranked at number 621 in the world and ending it just outside the top 50. I fancy her to beat a qualifier in the first round, before edging past Francesca Schiavone in the second round who she came close to defeating in a tight first round match at the US Open last year.  She has a powerful game; however she also has a rather powerful temper too so she will need to keep this under control!
Worthy of a punt
I wasn’t brave enough to plump for Suarez Navarro to beat Jankovic, but if you are, she is the best bet in first round matches.  7/2 (with Stan James) looks to be good odds for someone who has caused her fair share of upsets in the past and against a player who was lacking in mental strength to finish off opponents in 2011.

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