Zheng Jie keeps winning in Australia

Zheng Jie

The round of 16 was officially complete on Saturday with two more top ten seeds heading out of the competition.  Zheng Jie made a stunning start to 2012 by winning the title in Auckland and she has maintained her unbeaten start to the season in Melbourne as she knocked out the number 9 seed, Marion Bartoli, 6-3 6-3.  Zheng started to show signs of recapturing the form that took her to two Grand Slam semi-finals at the end of 2011, but I felt her big weakness was the serve, particularly in the 2nd serve.  Zheng had no such problems with it today winning 71% of first serves and 50% of second serves.  Jie’s movement has also been terrific so far this and she allowed Bartoli just 7 winners compared to the 28 she produced.  Zheng will play Sara Errani in the next round, who came back from the loss of a tight first set to ease past a struggling Sorana Cirstea, 6-7 6-0 6-2.

The other seeded upset on day 6 was the defeat of number 7 seed, Vera Zvonareva who was in tears at the end of her 7-6 6-1 loss to Ekaterina Makarova.  Zvonareva showed once more her mental frailties as she held set point in the first set tiebreak, but failed to convert and then subsequently her game collapsed in the second set.  She committed far too many unforced errors throughout this match allowing Makarova to reach the 4th round of the Australian Open for the second consecutive year in a tournament she seems to thrive in.  I discussed in my preview to 2012 that I thought Zvonareva would suffer a significant rankings slide this year and I have seen nothing this year so far to suggest otherwise.  Makarova will have a much tougher test in the 4th round against Serena Williams who eased past a disappointing Greta Arn, 6-1 6-1.  Arn expressed how she was honoured to play Serena, but she gave too much respect to the American in a lifeless encounter.  It must be said that Serena has had a total cakewalk of a draw so far.  Makarova can be a great player on her day, but it would have to be a really amazing day to challenge Serena.
Maria Sharapova

My predictions have been especially poor this week and the dominance of Maria Sharapova is something I did not see coming.  Sharapova has probably been the most impressive of all the women so far as she produced a devastating performance to beat Angelique Kerber, 6-1 6-2.  I fancied Kerber to take out Sharapova in my original predictions, but she was completely outpowered by the Russian who hit 34 winners throughout the 1 hour 27 minute contest.  Sharapova will play Sabine Lisicki in the 4th round, which will be a rematch of the 2011 Wimbledon semi-final.  Once again, I called this one wrong as Lisicki came back from a set and a break down to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2-6 6-4 6-2.  Lisicki looked to be falling to a limp defeat, but showed an incredible amount of fight to turn the match around against the mentally unstable Russian.  Kuznetsova is without doubt, the most frustrating player on the WTA tour in her ability to lose concentration and focus at key moments and turn into a mental wreck!

The final 4th round match from the bottom half of the draw will be between Petra Kvitova and Ana Ivanovic.  Kvitova advanced into the 4th round following the retirement of Maria Kirilenko at 6-0 1-0.  Kvitova still managed to hit 20 winners to just 2 unforced errors in the 38 minutes of play.  Ana Ivanovic faced her biggest test yet but toughed out a 6-3 6-4 victory over the ever improving, Vania King.  By all accounts, Ivanovic’s fist pumping was at a new level today and it is the one thing that I really dislike about her game.  However I don’t think we will see much fist pumping in the next round against the powerful world number 2…

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