Following the tennis season can be rather manic. As the Miami final finished, the draws for Charleston and Monterrey were already in progress. Tennis seems to move so quickly that discussing anything from Miami already feels irrelevant. This seems like a marvellous time to plug my review of the womens tournament in Miami, which you can read here. Charleston is one of my favourite tournaments on the tour and it always attracts a high quality line-up. 2014 is no different. Note that the top eight players all have byes into the second round. Let’s take a look at the draw…
FIRST QUARTER: S.Williams (1) v S.Cirstea (8)
In 2013, Serena Williams did the Miami-Charleston double and you wouldn’t put it past her to repeat that feat in 2014. The world number one has a smart looking draw, which will open with a second round encounter against either Jana Cepelova or Melanie Oudin. The seeds in Serena’s section are Sorana Cirstea, Daniela Hantuchova and Elena Vesnina, and all three have had wobbly starts to 2014 with Hantuchova and Vesnina both being sidelined by injuries. Cirstea showed plenty of promise in reaching the final of Toronto last year, but she has really stuttered in her attempts to back that up. After losing both her opening matches in Indian Wells and Miami, the draw in Charleston offers opportunities for Cirstea to get involved in this draw. Her first encounter of the week will be against Patricia Mayr-Achleitner or Teliana Pereira and she could meet Hantuchova in the third round.
1st Round Predictions: Cepelova d. Oudin in 2 sets, Lepchenko d. Cetkovska in 3 sets and Vesnina d. Schmiedlova in 3 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: S.Williams v Cirstea
SECOND QUARTER: S.Errani (3) v S.Stephens (5)
America’s brightest talents are the headline acts in the second quarter along with the number three seed, Sara Errani. 2014 hasn’t been an especially good year for Errani so far. After back-to-back third round losses in Indian Wells and Miami, she will fall out of the top ten come Monday. Where Errani was scrapping out wins in matches against the big hitters last year, in 2014 she has been coming up second best. Errani could meet Madison Keys in the third round. Keys has demonstrated that she can be vulnerable against players that mix it up. The top American teen will have to get past Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the first round. Also keep an eye out for an intriguing first round match between Peng Shuai and Caroline Garcia, both very capable players.
Sloane Stephens rounds out the second quarter and it is impossible to predict how she will play this week. She made quarters in Indian Wells, which included a win over Ana Ivanovic in her best performance of the year so far. However she then got breadsticked and bagelled by Caroline Wozniacki in a limp and lifeless display in Miami. Everyone has off days, but Sloane seems to have a lot of them. She could meet Elina Svitolina in the second round, which would be a tough start to the week. Svitolina reached the 4th round in Miami and has been compiling some solid results on the tour. Svitolina did lose to Sloane in Melbourne, 6-4 7-5, but she definitely has the potential to get through if cannot-be-bothered Sloane turns up. Charleston also marks the return of Maria Kirilenko to the tour, who will play a qualifier in her first match of 2014.
1st Round Predictions: Peng d. Garcia in 3 tight sets, Keys d. Lucic-Baroni in 2 sets and Erakovic d. Petrova in 3 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: Keys v Stephens
THIRD QUARTER: S.Stosur (7) v S.Lisicki (4)
Previous champions in Charleston, Sam Stosur and Sabine Lisicki are the top seeds in the third quarter. Stosur has made a stuttering start to the year. She lost to eventual champion, Flavia Pennetta in Indian Wells, but losses to Cepelova, Beck and Vandeweghe in Doha, Dubai and Miami respectively were uncharacteristic. Stosur has a reasonably testing draw, which features a number of erratic, yet dangerous players. In the second round, Stosur could meet Yaroslava Shvedova, who looked to be playing much better tennis during the Indian Wells-Miami double.
Stosur is projected to meet Lucie Safarova in the third round. Safarova has begun the year well and has been beating players she is expected to beat, which is an encouraging sign because that hasn’t always been the case with Lucie. She has pushed many of the top players to three sets this year (Li in Melbourne, Kvitova in Doha, Halep in IW and Sharapova in Miami), but is still just coming up short in converting those wins. She faces a potential second rounder with Julia Goerges or Virginie Razzano. Both are really tricky customers; however if she can get past them, I think she could build some momentum and be the finalist from the bottom half.
Lisicki is the highest seed in the third quarter and could meet fellow German, Andrea Petkovic in the third round. This would be a really fascinating match-up because the pair have never played before on the WTA tour. Lisicki hasn’t won back-to-back singles matches in 2014, which is mostly down to niggly injuries and illnesses that have prevented her from gaining any momentum. She had to pull out of her third round match in Miami, but was able to recover to make the final of the doubles event with coach, Martina Hingis. Indian Wells and Miami can be tedious tournaments for players who are on the cusps of being seeded. Petkovic had some tough draws and recorded just one win during March. First up in Charleston is a qualifier followed by the winner of what is likely to be a 5 hour, all-Spanish slugfest between Anabel Medina Garrigues and Lourdes Dominguez Lino. A third round appearance would be a very respectable result for Petko, but if Lisicki gets derailed again by illness and / or injury, there could be a neat opportunity to make at least the last eight.
1st Round Predictions: Goerges d. Razzano in 3 sets, Safarova d. Larsson in 2 sets and Dominguez-Lino d. Medina Garrigues in 3 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: Safarova v Lisicki
FOURTH QUARTER: E.Bouchard (6) v J.Jankovic (2)
Excluding Serena, the fourth and final quarter features arguably three of the biggest WTA names in the draw. Jelena Jankovic is the number two seed and will be defending finalist points from 2013. Her season has been consistent so far with 2 quarter-finals and 2 semi-finals to her name. Her first match of the week will be against Lauren Davis or Dinah Pfizenmaier. Potentially looming is Stefanie Voegele, who had a great run here last year making the semi-finals and pushing Jankovic to three sets in their 2013 semi-final match. After an excellent start to the year, Voegele has won just one match in her last five tournaments. She plays Ajla Tomljanovic in the first round which is tough, but winnable.
Venus Williams and Eugenie Bouchard were the other two big names I was alluding too and they could meet in the third round. It’s hard to get over the fact that Bouchard was a qualifier heading into this tournament last year, but is the number six seed this year! Her first match will be against a qualifier or Christina McHale. The finalist in Acapulco, McHale would be a tough match-up for Bouchard. Venus reached the last 16 in Miami where she fell to the in-form Dominika Cibulkova in an excellent 4th round match. She will take on Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round of Charleston. A Venus-Genie third rounder would be a lot of fun if their three set clash from Tokyo last year was anything to go by.
1st Round Predictions: Riske d. Scheepers in 2 sets, V.Williams d. Zahlavova Strycova in 2 tight sets, Zhang d. Hsieh in 2 sets and Voegele d. Tomljanovic in 3 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: V.Williams v Jankovic
Who will win? Moo’s Analysis
It’s really hard to look past Serena since she managed to shake off the rust with some scratchy, but vital wins in Miami. In the final against Li, she showed her highest level of 2014 so far. The rest of the draw remains completely up for grabs. Venus and Jelena could meet in a blockbuster quarter-final. I do like Jankovic’s consistency this year, but she always seems to throw in a bad match along the way. I’m going slightly left-field this week and going for Safarova to reach the final. It is worth noting that Safarova reached quarter-finals of Charleston in 2013 and was the finalist in 2012.
Moo’s Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Safarova