I am seriously struggling to keep up with all this tennis! Next week will be a slightly calmer one as final preparations for the Australian Open get underway. Here are my previews for Sydney and Hobart…
The womens Sydney draw reminds me of the Eastbourne draw as it is missing the big players, but still has a lot of quality first round matches. Agnieszka Radwanska is at the top of the draw with a bye into round two where she will play Eugenie Bouchard or a qualifier. Radwanska won all her matches at the Hopman Cup although the persistent shoulder injury she has been hampered with over previous years seems to be affecting her serve already in 2014. She played a lot of tennis in the first week and I don’t think she will Sydney. Radwanska is projected to meet Simona Halep in the quarter-finals. The Romanian number 7 seed, who won six titles last year, faces Madison Keys in the first round.
The second quarter could see a Brisbane rematch between Jelena Jankovic and Angelique Kerber. JJ opens up against Ekaterina Makarova, who will play her first tournament of the year, meanwhile Kerber takes on last year’s Sydney finalist, Dominika Cibulkova. Kerber has never beaten Cibulkova in four matches so this will be a huge first rounder for her to try and break her duck. Sloane Stephens and Sara Errani are the seeds in the third section, which is definitley the weakest. Errani faces BFF, Roberta Vinci in the first round, meanwhile Stephens will play Svetlana Kuznetsova. Both are tough matches and could easily go against the seeds; however for this tournament, I am sticking pretty safe and backing a lot of the seeds to prevail.
The final quarter features Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki, who are both playing their first WTA tournaments of the year. Kvitova has a bye in round two but could face a Hopman Cup rematch with the star of the show, Alize Cornet in the second round. Wozniacki plays a qualifier first up before a second round match with either Lucie Safarova or Francesca Schiavone assuming.
1st Round Predictions: Tomljanovic to beat Hantuchova in 3 sets, Halep to beat Keys in 3 sets, Jankovic to beat Makarova in 2 sets, Kerber to beat Cibulkova in 3 sets, Stephens to beat Kuznetsova in 3 lopsided sets, Errani to beat Vinci in 2 sets and Safarova to beat Schiavone in 2 sets
Final Prediction: Kvitova d. Kerber
If you thought Auckland was a difficult International event to predict then you haven’t seen Hobart yet! Sam Stosur headlines the draw and remains a complete conundrum in Australia. I actually think that Stosur will do reasonably well this week. She lost all three of her singles matches at the Hopman Cup; however through patches and particularly in her match with Agnieszka Radwanska, she played some great tennis. Stosur’s first round opponent will be a qualifier and her projected quarter-final opponent is Bojana Jovanovski.
The fourth quarter, which features the number two seed, Kirsten Flipkens is stacked. The Auckland finalist, Venus Williams, Shenzhen finalist, Peng Shuai and Laura Robson are all within this section. Robson has a very winnable first match against Yanina Wickmayer, who has really gone off the boil of late. Venus opens up against Flavia Pennetta, who was forced to withdraw from the Hopman Cup with a worrying wrist injury. I could quite easily say both Pennetta and Venus withdraw. I see absolutely no point in Venus playing this week having got five matches under her belt in Auckland.
The second quarter features Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Klara Zakopalova as the two highest seeds. Pavlyuchenkova would probably have been my tip to win, but I am unsure how she will have recovered from a leg injury she picked up in Brisbane. Pavlyuchenkova has a tough first match against the ever-improving, Alison Riske. The third quarter features the last two champions from Hobart, who fought out last year’s final, Elena Vesnina and Mona Barthel. Vesnina is playing her first tournament of the year and faces Monica Puig. I think the young Puerto Rican has been slightly overrated although her tenacity can never be questioned. Vesnina is bound to be rusty and I could see Puig bagging the upset win. Barthel has been worryingly distant of late; she has flourished down under in the last two years, but suffered a straight sets loss to Yvonne Meusburger last week in Auckland. I would be surprised if she can beat Elina Svitolina in her first match.
1st Round Predictions: Beck to beat Jovanovski in 3 sets, Pavlyuchenkova to beat Riske in 2 tight sets, Zakopalova to beat Meusburger in 3 sets, Svitolina to beat Barthel in 2 tight sets, Niculescu to beat Rybarikova in 2 sets, Puig to beat Vesnina in 2 tight sets, Robson to beat Wickmayer in 2 sets and Flipkens to beat Erakovic in 3 sets