WTA Champs Istanbul, Day 4 Preview: Azarenka-Li, Kerber-Kvitova & Jankovic-Errani

Serena Williams has been in impeccable form throughout this tournament, which has certainly taken a shine off the excitement factor for me because it is all looking a bit too straightforward for the world number one.  Tomorrow we will find out the three players joining Serena in the semi-finals.

1. Victoria Azarenka v Li Na (White Group)
Li Na has scored two good wins at this year’s WTA Champs, but she could still miss out on a semi-final place if things do not go her way on Friday.  Li dug out an impressive win in the tournament’s first three setter against Jelena Jankovic, 6-3 2-6 6-3.  She now takes on Victoria Azarenka, who has looked out-of-sorts this week and admitted to struggling for motivation at the end of this long season.  She was beaten by JJ on Wednesday, but knows she can still qualify with a straight sets win over Li.  Azarenka and Li haven’t met since that dramatic Australian Open finale where Li took the opening set, but a series of unfortunate falls jolted her and Azarenka came back to take her second Grand Slam title.  I have always felt that Li should have won that match and I think this time we will see the Chinese player complete a clean sweep of wins in the group stage and confirm her spot in the semi-finals.

Highlights from this year’s Aussie Open final

Prediction – Li to beat Azarenka in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)
2. Angelique Kerber v Petra Kvitova (Red Group)
Where the white group is messy and complicated in who qualifies, the red group is simple.  Whoever wins the second match between Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber will reach the semi-finals.  I thought Kvitova played a very good match against Serena and was hitting the ball beautifully from the back of the court.  However she struggled to get a read on Serena’s serve, which was a big difference and saw the world number one progress with a 6-2 6-3 victory.  Kerber had a very impressive win over Agnieszka Radwanska as she took the match to the Pole in aggressive fashion hitting 31 winners and coming away with a 6-2 6-2 victory.  I really do enjoy Kerber-Kvitova matches and although 3 of their last 4 matches have been rather lopsided they have featured peaks of superb tennis.  They last played in the Tokyo final where Kvitova prevailed in 3 sets.  There is so much up for grabs, which makes this a fascinating prospect, but I’m team Petra all the way…

Highlights from the Kvitova-Kerber Tokyo final
Prediction – Kvitova to beat Kerber in 3 sets
3. Jelena Jankovic v Sara Errani (White Group)
The final round robin match will see Jelena Jankovic try and sneak into the semi-finals with a final match against Sara Errani, who was eliminated by virtue of JJ taking a set off Li.  Jankovic has been the surprise package at this tournament so far and despite losing to Li in 3 tight sets, she scored her biggest win of her year to date against Victoria Azarenka in her first match.  Errani has nothing to play for in the singles, but I could quite easily see her giving Jankovic a torrid time tomorrow.  In the head-to-head, Jankovic has a 1-0 lead with a three set win at Indian Wells in 2010 in an epic match that finished just 12 minutes shy of the 3 hour mark.  I expect Jankovic will eventually pull through, but it will be a nervy and drawn out affair.

Prediction – Jankovic to beat Errani in 2 very tight sets

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Dmitry Tursunov to beat Jeremy Chardy in 3 sets
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Ivan Dodig to beat Vasek Pospisil in 2 tight sets

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