Moo’s Tennis Blog Update – Looking back on 2017 and looking ahead to Australia

Normally at this time of year I would be preparing the blog for the new season. Things are a little different this year because my brother and I are heading to Australia for the summer of tennis. We have been preparing this holiday for the past year and I cannot believe it’s almost here! 

We are beginning our journey to Perth on New Year’s Day where we will start our tennis extravaganza at the Hopman Cup. We have bought a day and a night session including Switzerland vs. USA on the Thursday night. While most people will be there for Roger Federer, i’ll probably be more excited to watch Belinda Bencic! After a few days in Perth, we fly onto Sydney where we plan to explore the city and have one day at the Sydney International. Then the trip will take a detour from tennis as we are flying up to the Whitsunday Islands. Finally, we will finish our once-in-a-lifetime trip in Melbourne with four days at the Australian Open. It’s always been a dream of mine to visit the AO and I think this will be the highlight of the trip to complete my Career Slam!

I’ve been reflecting a lot during this off-season and wanted to share some of my feelings about the past year and the blog in general. Moo’s Tennis Blog has been a big part of my life since I started writing regularly in 2012 and I am so grateful for the opportunities. Without doubt my proudest achievement has been getting media accreditation for Eastbourne for the past two years – stressful, scary but ultimately rewarding!

2017 was definitely the most challenging year and maintaining the blog has become increasingly difficult against my full-time day job and general life. This sport is so full-on and i’ve stupidly tried to cover everything in the past which is not sustainable. I think that writing the blog non-stop for so many years has finally caught up with me and may explain why my motivation waned during 2017. The WTA’s lack of a streaming platform for seven months certainly didn’t help!

Having built the blog up from nothing to having a small dedicated band of followers, I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep it going. Sometimes too much. There were moments in 2017 where it was really getting to me and it did take away from the enjoyment of writing, the reason why I started in the first place. Eastbourne and Wimbledon were memorable, but I was shattered when I went back to work! By the end of the season, it was the first time where i’ve been excited for the off-season.

I am way past the glory days of 2014 when I was writing about women’s AND men’s tennis. I have absolutely no idea how I did it. Perhaps i’m getting old! I’ve never made any money from the site and that was never my intention when I started  out, but there was a time when I became a bit too obsessed on the stats and visitor numbers, and simply getting previews out there to maintain numbers.

I’ve always enjoyed making predictions and they’ve been my biggest draw. However, it became more of a chore to me in 2017 to keep the predictions pages updated and I didn’t enjoy it as much, even when my predictions were sometimes respectable! Add to that, the unpredictability of women’s tennis – making predictions has become somewhat futile. My focus has slowly shifted away from previews/predictions to writing the Set Points posts in 2017. I wanted to try something different and I feel these types of posts, while not as popular, have more longevity on the site compared to previews that are useless once a match has finished.

I have really enjoyed the off-season and taking more time to relax and focus on my other hobby of baking. Normally I spend much of the off-season planning for the new tennis season but I haven’t done so this year. The only thing I have done is change the header of the site which desperately needed an upgrade! I’ve also stepped away from Twitter. I used to check it constantly and I don’t think it was good for me. I’ve made a real effort to cut back and not be so reliant on it. The amount of negativity upsets me so I think stepping back was the right move.

Not writing daily posts for the Australian summer of tennis is going to be weird. I think it comes at the right time and will give me an opportunity to ponder where I want to take the blog.  I don’t know the next time, if ever again, when i’m going to have a whole month off work so i’m really trying to enjoy and savour this moment. I’m intending to blog about my experiences, both tennis and non-tennis, when I get back from Australia. These types of posts are my favourite to write and I plan to do something similar to what I did for New York and the US Open HERE.

This is also a good time to shout out for guest posts if any of you are visiting tournaments in 2018. I’m honoured to have worked with many of you to share a total of 17 awesome posts over the past two years – see the full list HERE. I hope these previous guest posts, and my upcoming posts from Australia, will give you the inspiration and motivation to want to contribute to Moo’s Tennis Blog for the upcoming year. For anyone interested, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You can keep up with my travels in Australia on various social media platforms – i’ll put up more Aus stuff on Instagram and only tennis stuff on Twitter.

Twitter: James Peeling / @Moo_Tennis https://twitter.com/Moo_Tennis

Facebook: Moo’s Tennis Blog – https://www.facebook.com/MooTennis

Instagram: James Peeling / mootennis – https://www.instagram.com/mootennis

If any of you are attending the Hopman Cup, Sydney or the Australian Open then do please get in touch! It would be great to say hello :-).

This was a longg post but I really wanted to explain, for those that care, how I am feeling and the plans for the future. If you’ve got any comments about the coverage here then please do get in touch at MooTennisBlog@gmail.com or on social media. While I am generally planning to cut back on blogging in 2018 for my own sanity, I am not planning on hanging up my blogging boots just yet. I am so grateful for all the support over the years and all the comments, and while I may not be as active as before, I hope that you will stick with me. There may be the odd post in January but otherwise, i’ll hopefully be back to writing at the end of January.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!

James 😘😘😘

127 thoughts on “Moo’s Tennis Blog Update – Looking back on 2017 and looking ahead to Australia

  1. First of all i wish you a safe trip and i know it will be a memorable one. Like you i had a very busy year at work, so even if i visited your blog regularly didn’t find time to comment much. Beside work, my fave Azarenka had a tough year and because of that i didn’t watched tournaments regularly liked i used to. I wish you a Happy New Year and i hope you will write this blog many years from now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, lestat and Happy New Year to you too. Thanks for coming back even when you are busy ;-). Been a tough time for Azarenka, really hope to see her back playing regularly soon.

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  2. I think anyone can understand this, James! You have been very brave to keep this up for so long… I find myself struggling as well at times even by just writing for Lucie’s website (and I can’t imagine what it would be if I had to cover other players’ season!). As you say, sometimes you take the fun out of it, and that’s not good! Also taking a break off it from time to time is healthy I think. Dont’ forget to live! I haven’t watched much tennis since september since Lucie ended her seaon early and honestly it felt good. Watching matches that are not in your timezone or writing about them is exhausting! Enjoy your trip (going to Australia is already impressive but getting a chance to attend the 4 slams is awesome really!) and make the most of it!

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    • Thanks for the comment, Morgane. You do a great job with Lucie’s site and I can relate to you with struggling to keep up. I agree taking breaks is good and not forgetting to live! I’ve now accepted that I can’t cover everything or write so much like I used to, which is a turning point for me. I’ll try and get some pics of Lucie in Sydney and/or AO! :-). Happy New Year, Morgane!

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  3. Hi James! Totally understand your point of view here. Nevertheless, Just so happy for you to see how far MTB has come since my first read here in Madrid 2014 (stumbled upon it by chance as I was looking for tournament previews). I have always made it a must to read your blog frequently, every new post is just a pleasure, and to roll back the years on the older ones, an equal pleasure too!! 🙂 No matter what happens in the future, just a piece of advice: to follow your heart! 🙂

    Hope you enjoyed Christmas and holidays amd all the best in the future!! Wishing you safe travels for your upcoming mega extravaganza, you are now this close to achieving Career Slam, next will be Tokyo 2020 😉 Cheers, James!!

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    • Thanks for all your positivity and support, Silas. Your comments always lift me! On my list for Aus is to watch Petra so i’m hoping to share some pictures with you all! Wishing you all the best, Silas and a very Happy New Year! 🙂

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  4. Pretty envious of your Australian trip. Have a great time. I hope you also find some cake-inspiration there. Not that you particularly need any, as your creations often look good to me, from the photos.

    You’ve done an amazing job on this blog over the years. I don’t read too many blogs, but have always endeavored to read yours, but only came across it about a year or so ago, I think. It’s understandable what you say about the pressure of keeping it up. That shows great pride and high standard in your blogging.

    Keep us posted on your plans for this blog.

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  5. Enjoy your Australian trip James, it sounds great. As for the blogging; when it ceases to be fun, that’s surely the time to stand back and either ease up or stop. There were times this last year when I honestly wondered how you found the time and energy to produce what you did on here – especially just before a slam when you would do in depth previews for all eight groups.

    For me the fun of the predictions was that especially towards the end we all knew it was a guessing game anyway but we weighed in with our own guesses below yours and shared in the embarrassment :). Even the experts get it wrong – I remember last year when Aga Radwanska had just beaten Roberta (Vinci) at Doha and we were told she was now a heavy favourite to win the title; instead she won just two games in the next match (against Carla, who did win the title). And who would have bet on Jelena Ostapenko beating Simona Halep in the final at Roland Garros this year?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for all the support, Graham. And you’re right, I think it’s time to step back a bit and stop trying to cover everything. Agree about the predictions, I like it when we’re all not judging each other and just having fun with trying to figure how the matches are going to go. I was trying to do predictions for every match, every day on my predictions pages and that was just too much by the end.

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  6. After reading your latest post, I feel ashamed that I have never commented on anything you’ve written. I’m a lurker of some years’ standing and I enjoy your site more than any other I know of — the reason being, I think, that (Eastbourne accreditation notwithstanding) you have the enthusiasm of a fan and manage to convey it so well. In particular, you have a wonderful eye for the quirky details that more “professional” sites overlook. So yes, take time off to recharge your batteries! and come back refreshed. I wish you and your brother a very happy trip to Australia and I look forward to reading about your experiences there.
    Sebastian

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I didn’t watch WTA matches for more than ten years after cutting the cable TV cord due to escalating prices. With the advent of high speed internet I began watching WTA again. I went to WTA.com for information and found the site to be dismal. Who knows how many full time employers WTA has, and they produce next to nothing. Looking around I found MOO Tennis, which had a large amount of high quality information. It seems almost impossible to me that one person, with a full time job, could produce so much high quality material. I always thought that the WTA should have incorporated Moo Tennis into its site.
    It appears that The Moo was burning both ends of the candle at once, so I can totally understand the desire to cut back. I am sure all the readers wish The Moo the best.

    Note 1: The disappointment in The Moo reducing the MTB content was dwarfed by the news that the Fabulous Fanny Stollar lost in the first round of qualifying in Brisbane.

    Note 2: After watching KooKoo Van in the Elite tournament and the Hopman Cup, I believe that she could be in the top 5 at years end.

    Note 3: For me, the first round match in Shenzhen between Pova and Doc Buz, will be the match of the day.

    Best wishes to The Moo, and watch out for the sun, the sharks, and Old Saltie, while down under.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww thanks, Ziggy! Your comments always make me smile. Not the first person to say that about CoCo and can understand it. I’m still unsure about her consistency and when she loses the plot. Sharapova vs. Buzarnescu, aka Pova and Doc Buz (!), indeed one to watch, i’m also looking forward to Niculescu vs. Sabalenka from Shenzhen which could be an absolute treat. I’m just watching Osaka vs. Bencic from the Hopman Cup – BB savings bundles of break points!

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  8. The match between Ana Kunjuh and Kiki Bertens just finished with Kunjuh winning 6-1,6-2. Konjuh totally overpowered Kiki who is ranked #31. The big news,it appears that Konjuh’s elbow surgery was completely successful.

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  9. New Years greetings! Have funs, lots of it in the sun in Melbourne. Hopefully it recharges your little tennis soul along the way. Anyway, there is truth in reassessing your priorities when something seems to be moving from purely a labour of love to a little bit of a hustle. Always been a pleasure reading the blog. Regardless of your future decisions, nothing but best wishes 🙂 James. I’m positive you will be able to ‘bake’ up 😛 something yummy which you’ll be comfortable with in no time. Surely, should be an added bonus if your fave tennis players also perform accordingly this year, keeping the fingers crossed for that!

    Best wishes to readers, tennis fans and cheers to 2018!

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    • Thanks, let’s play and for all the comments and support over the years. It is much appreciated! That’s a good point about my faves – Lucie and Timea both injured at end of 2017 so hoping to see them back soon. Just made it to Abu Dhabi so one more flight to Australia!

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  10. Tomorrow’s match that looks good on paper-

    Svitolena vs Konjuh with both girls playing at the top of their game. Konjuh looked very powerful in her first match following elbow surgery, and Svit played her usual high quality tennis in her first match.

    I’m going with for the upset, Konjuh in two.

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    • I was right-on in predicting the match would be two set long, but had a slight technical error in having Konjuh win the match. Too many errors from Konjuh against the very solid Svitolina who won 6-3,6-1.

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  11. Sasnovich ( Blr, 23y/o,R #88, Brisbane Qualifier) After losing the first set 1-6, she beat Mladenovic (R #11). After losing the first set 1-6, she beat Kontaveit (R #34). She next faces Cornet in her sixth match in Brisbane…….but Sasnovich may have a leg injury.

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  12. Totally understand everything you said James, and my only comment would be that honestly there is no pressure at all for you because the reason most of us come here weekly is because we enjoy talking tennis with you and other like minds. This is the only one that I’ve kept coming back to, and it wouldnt bother or offend me if you cut back on the output of content. If the blogs eating up too much of your time then you should definitely re-evaluate and find a balance that makes you happy.

    Enjoy Australia- don’t forget to factor up in that sun!

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    • Cheers, Andrew. Appreciate all your comments and always enjoy discussing tennis with you. I always tried to do much and the pressure is all in my head. I’m definitely going to cut back in 2018 but I am feeling content for the future and definitely would like to keep going. I’m really touched by all the recent comments. And thanks, 39C when we arrived so a bit of a shock to the system!

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      • I’m not a fan of the heat but it wasn’t too bad in Perth. Sydney on the other hand… we managed to visit when they had record high temperatures of >40C 😂

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  13. Sabalenka vs Halep— A huge contrast in styles. The 6’0 Sabalinka’s total power game vs the 5’5 Halep’s best defensive game in the WTA. The Sab’s power game produces a large number of UFEs, which is Halep’s only hope. In her last match Halep was over powered by the 6′-0 Ying Ying Duan in the 1st set 6-3. Duan suffered a upper thigh injury and lost the match due to reduced mobility.
    If Sabalenka’s power is on this could be a big upset.

    Ka Pliskova vs Bellis— Ka Plis’s serve, return of serve, and ground strokes completely over powered Bellis. Match stats show Ka Plis winning almost twice the points as Bellis—58 to 32.

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    • Pliskova was on FIRE! Kanepi and Svitolina will be much tougher tests for her, but I could totally see her defending the title.

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    • I was surprised how Halep was able to dominate Sabalenka in all phases of the game. Sab game was reduced to UFEs and FEs, with Halep wining 60 points to Sabs 34 points.
      With Sharapova and Halep in the semis, the possibility of a huge packed house rematch of the USO exists, although Pova could have trouble with Siniakova.

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  14. Looking at some of the names in the Sydney qualifying tournament

    Bellis, Kontaveit, Giorgi, Makarova, CSN, Puig, Lauren Davis

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      • Yes, CSN’s made a poor start to her season (two first round defeats so far). I like her and her game so I hope things get better for her soon.

        Also, I know she’s not the most popular player on here but I don’t want Mlads to lose any more matches right now. I feel bad for her now it’s got up to 13.

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    • Could be an interesting one, but I’m not sure many expected Serena to win the Aus Open so soon after giving birth. It can take quite a while for a woman’s core to regain strength after pregnancy, and that’s always been where much of Serena’s power has come from.

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  15. How about Julia Goerges?! 13 match win streak now including two premier events and the wta Elite. She’ll be top ten in a month or two if she keeps this up… I personally really fancy her chances against Wozniacki.

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    • Agreed Andrew. I must admit I’m still getting used to hearing commentators describe Julia as “the German No 1” – but it’s in a good way – I’m happy for her because I’ve long believed she underachieved in the game compared to what she’s capable of. It looks now like that’s over.

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      • Yeah me too. After Vinci made top ten, Goerges was my best player to have never made top ten. And it looks like I’ll have to choose a new one soon.

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    • I honestly wasn’t sure whether Goerges was going to continue on from her form in Zhuhai but happy to see her start so well. Personally, i’d really like to see her make a first Slam QF at the AO.

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  16. Svitolina vs Sasnovich—Just starting now. Similar games, but IMO Svit is better at that game. Great Cinderella story with Sasnovich moving thru qualies to the final. I thought Sas would lose to Sevastova with the same reasoning as today’s game. With 8 games in 8 days plus injuries to both thighs, I would think Sas would be at her physical and mental limits.

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  17. Svitolina defs Ka Pliskova— I thought the difference was Svit’s better movement, which gave Svit a defensive edge.

    The Moo’s EOY prediction of Svitolina as no.1 is looking better and better, but I’m still in the sweet Simona ballpark for EOY numero uno.

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  18. From what I’ve seen in the news today about the current, almost unprecedented heatwave in the Sydney area I think they should consider either calling the tournament off or getting the matches played at night.

    Kiki’s just withdrawn and I think she was sensible. I think players are risking their health by playing on such conditions, but also, how many spectators are going to sit through a match in temperatures of 45 degrees plus?.

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  19. Looks like it’s cooled down in Sydney now, though the forecast says it’s going to heat up again later in the week. James, did you see any good matches today?

    Two potentially engrossing matches in prospect in the next round Sydney; Domi Cibulkova vs. Angie Kerber, and Aga Radwanska vs. CiCi Bellis. Both Domi and Angie have made a good start to the season, and Aga gained revenge on her defeat in the 2017 Sydney final by knocking out Jo Konta (who I think was unlucky to draw her so early in the competition).

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    • Hi Graham, enjoyed the first set of Barty-Cepede Royg. Love watching Ash construct points. I also saw the first set of Safarova-Kerber which I thought was great. Some of the rallies were super. I’ve left Sydney now for the Whitsunday Islands although did get to see some of it on TV earlier. Very impressed with Kerber so far this year, one to watch for me at the AO. The channel 7 coverage on Australian TV is fantastic!

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  20. My two favorites in the AO qualifying tournament are Patty Schnyder and Bernarda Pera, and, of course, they play each other in the 1st round.


    I couldn’t believe how controlled Giorgi played against Kvitova, not her normal wild and crazy self. Giorgi had 10 less UFEs than Kvitova! Petra wasn’t playing her best, but this was still a huge win for Giorgi.

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    • I was surprised to see Vinci in qualies and having to play Blinkova R1 who I rate and think could have a breakthrough year.

      Saw some of Giorgi-Kvitova, the commentators noted how Giorgi was making very few double faults, wasn’t sure if it was just a good day or perhaps a new tactic actually having a second serve?!

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    • One of my favorites in the Qualies, Bernarda Pera, lost in the final round, but then got into the finals as a LL.
      Pera then beat Blinkova (Moo’s favorite) in the first round. She then beat Konta in the 2nd round.
      Unbelievable!!!

      Last year, Pera beat Kris Plis in the ITF finals at Olomouc, Czeh on clay. I thought she was a clay court specialist.

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  21. I don’t know how often it happens that two players in a match share a birthday, but it’s just happened again, in Round 16 at Hobart; Donna Vekic (born on the 28th June 1996) played and beat Marketa Vondrousova (28th June 1999).

    For two players to play each other on their mutual birthday, as Timea Bacs and Jelena Ostapenko did at the French Open last year, must surely be highly unusual though.

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  22. Giorgi—everyone may have to take Giorgi as a serious contender.
    6 straight matches without losing a set
    Wins over Stephens, Kvitova, Radwansk
    Apparent new coach, with a new strategy

    Now if Camila can get a restraining order to keep her nutcase farther out of Aussieland, she could make a big stink in the AO

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      • Yes, a great win for Camila; 33 winners in 2 sets, and against Aga! Should be a feast of a match if she can play like this against Angie (who’s also looking formidable right now).

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    • I thought Kerber was washed up after last year, but The Moo said she could make a comeback. After 9 straight wins in the Hopman Cup and Sydney, it looks like The Moo was right once again. Hopefully Kerber has some energy left for the AO.

      Going way out on the limb once again, I’m picking #2 seed Wozniacki for the AO win.

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      • Wozniacki, I’m not fully convinced. The Australian heat, seven matches, fast court, power hitters, not sure she makes it to the end. If she does, it would’ve been a long time coming. The emotions will be massive!

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      • I really like the look of Julia Georges, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina or Caroline Wozniacki to win based on form right now, but the first few weeks often aren’t helpful in predicting the winner of the Australian Open. Serena won last year after tanking in Auckland. Kerber won the year before after being thumped by Azarenka in Brisbane. Serena won the year before after espresso gate at the Hopman cup…

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      • If I recall correctly there used to be the ‘situation’ where the winner of one of the earlier tournaments, was it Brisbane? has not go on to win the Aussie Open. Don’t know if that pattern has changed yet.

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    • I think Kerber can make the finals if she keeps the same focus as she has shown so far. But, I feel the winner will come from the bottom half of the draw. A first time, top ten winner.

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  23. Tough opening match for Heather Watson who meets Poots in the first round (should be a fun match to watch though).

    On the evidence of her performance in Sydney I’ll stick my neck out and say the tournament is Angie’s to lose. I think she’s looking formidable right now.

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    • Agreed on the Aus Open being Angie’s to lose. The form she showed in 2016 seems to have reappeared, and is on a fantastic streak after going 4 – 0 in her single’s matches at the Hopman cup , and lifting the Sydney title for the first time. Here’s hoping that Sharapova can reach the third round to play Angie – that should be a thrilling match!

      Also think Goerges is in with a great chance to reach the final. An all German FInal is well on the cards!

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      • Kerbers run in 2016 wasn’t expected by any means though. She managed to go totally under the radar and even in matches where she was favourite, her opponents were challenging enough to keep her focused. If she gets to the quarters this year then ALL eyes will be on her to win. Has she come far enough from last year to play aggressively with that kind of pressure?

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  24. I’m picking Sevastova over Sharapova, as Pova did not look sharp in her first match.

    Neither Pova, Kvitova or Radwanska looked sharp in their first match. Kvitova looked either sick or injured, while The Rad just looked slow footed in the first two sets but she did improve in the third.

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    • CSN vs Babos—–The bookies have the match as even, but I believe Babos should win easily. A big basher on a fast court against a short aging defensive player, and CSN is one of my favorites.

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      • My favorite won my prediction lost, so I’m 50/50. Totally wrong about the big basher knocking the little old defender off the court.

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      • If it’s any consolation, I’m in the same boat. I wanted Carla to win but didn’t think she had much of a chance against Timea.

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    • Wrong again
      I thought the consistency of Sevastova would win over Sharapova inconsistent game, but in the first set Pova had a better W/UFE ratio than Sev. Pova also took advantage of Sev’s second serve hitting a number of winners.

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      • Yes, Maria was surprisingly awake to what she needed to do to get past Sevastova. The tournament hasn’t really captured my attention so far, but some of the third round matches seems intriguing. Angelique should be a stiffer challenge. Could be the match of the first week.
        Osaka gets Barty next. Barty has survived two hitters so far. Hopefully Lucie and Pliskova play great as well. Cheering for Ostapenko to edge Kontaveit. This is going to be a hitting fest. I think the weather only starts getting cool on Saturday night. Precarious situations for Aga and Wozniacki.

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  25. A nice hug at the net today between Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk; clearly a lot of respect between the two of them.

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/more/la-sp-australian-open-20180118-story,amp.html

    Woz is playing well at the moment; if she keeps it up I’d say she was a shoo-in for the semis, if not more. Good to see Carla reach the fourth round too; I wasn’t expecting her to beat Kaia (Kanepi) as she tends to struggle against big hitters, but she did.

    I’m glad to see that Novak Djokovic has raised the question of heat stress for players, saying that in his view players on court now are operating at the extreme limits of what is physically possible. Alize said she was close to fainting much of the time she was on court.

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  26. In her post match interviews, Woz seems to view her escape from being 1-5 down in that third set match as some kind of providence. It has given her a mental boost of sorts. Can’t be bad, good to see her playing with belief again. Fortunately her half is full of reasonable players, we’ll see where this takes her.

    As much as I thoroughly enjoyed that third set marathon from Halep, I’m always wary of the fatigue levels such adventures impose on the player. The top half is a tough section with in form players. Hope she recovers tout de suite, the likes of Kerber are playing beautiful, mentally strong tennis and long may that continue.

    @Graham, had to smirk at Alize’s interview, she’s either close to some high emotional drama or some weird issue. Just too temperamental. However, I think there is a rule for temps on court. I believe it is around 40 degrees celsius give or take humidity factors. Those prone to asthmatic/breathing problems need to watch the humidity factor especially with care cause it can creep up on you.
    Novak I think is not fully match fit after his layoff although he is winning his matches convincingly. Shame the Aussie open can’t be moved to a different month or season due to logistical reasons.It’s been pretty toasty this year.

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    • Novak has actually been really impressive IMO. His weakest match this week was against Monfils and even then he was resoundly solid. He’s hitting his backhand as well as I have ever seen him, his forehand has good shape, the abbreviated serve isn’t as reliable as his serve was in 2015 but it’s not as vulnerable as I expected. He also seems to actively be looking to be aggressive, he’s been coming into the net quite a lot and really mixing play.
      I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t win the title actually.

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      • Oh, quite true of Novak, Andrew. Neither would I be surprised if he makes the final and wins. Not being fully match fit is relative to his own high standards shown over the past years. Given his own talent, I would take a not ‘fully match fit’ Novak anytime over probably 80 percent of the guys on tour in a slam. Especially in Australia, where he has had so much success and he speaks fondly of the tournament. Mentally, it puts him in a good place. Indeed, I thought the period of rest coming in might give him an extra lift much like Federer coming in last year. I do want to see how he applies himself to the other slam tournaments this year, hoping he stays fit.

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    • Let’s play, I agree about the desirability of moving the tournament but the sponsors want it to coincide with Australia Day (January 26; I’ve just looked it up) and as is often the case, money talks.

      There were some great pictures of Simona from her match, which must surely be an early contender for Match of the Year;

      I hope she recovers in time for her match against Naomi Osaka, but frankly I’m not optimistic; she said she was “almost dead” in her on court interview afterwards. The crowd clearly loved the match though, on the evidence of their cheers at her statement that she hoped she’d played “a good tennis.”.

      Tough loss for Lauren but she’s underlined my point about the amount of depth in the women’s tour these days, when a No. 76 player can give the No. 1 player a run for her money and then some. I’d like to see a match between her and Domi Cibulkova, two players under 5′ 4″; it’d be fun to see Domi play someone even shorter than her, and they’ve got very similar games.

      Lauren had some nice things to say about Simona after the match too, saying that she saw her as a role model for how to compete on the tour as a smaller player.

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      • Glad to see I was wrong! Well done Simona, into the QFs now (her fitness and stamina must be incredible). BTW, more comparisons with male players; Simona Halep == Michael Chang (who now coaches Kei Nishikori)?

        Like

      • I would have gone for Osaka in today’s match. That is some effort from Halep considering the ankle and the marathon match vs. Davis. I’m glad as Halep has had some rough times at the AO for the past few years.

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  27. Well I don’t want to jinx Svitolina or underestimate Mertens, but I think Elina is set to make her first Slam semi final based on her level of play. She legitimately plays like a female Djokovic which is of course ideal for these courts!

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    • Very impressed with Svitolina in the second set today and raining down the aces! She seems to have improved the serve over the off-season? I had Mertens to the SFs in my draw and I think she’s going to have a huge year. I wonder if fatigue may be an issue though in this match and particularly vs. Svitolina’s game style. I read Svitolina had an injury concern before the tournament but it hasn’t been obvious in her last two rounds if that is still an issue.

      Like

      • I believe it was an illness, not an injury that Svitolina was suffering with. It certainly hasn’t showed really. That first serve has definitely had some major work on it and her second serve seems a bit less vulnerable too.

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      • Ahh I see, I hadn’t noticed anything specific although I felt something wasn’t quite right watching her match vs. Siniakova. I did notice the serve though, couldn’t quite believe it when she opened the match vs. Siniakova with three aces in the first game. Definitely looks improved.

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    • If there is any niggling problem, she’s done well playing through it and hasn’t brought it up. She did well to dispatch Allertova quickly. As @Vithun likes to point out, she could make even the final without playing a seeded player..lol. I think this is just her fortune, she can only play whatever player the draw presents seeded or unseeded. Mertens is playing some good tennis too and she has nothing to lose. Not to jinx her too, but I fancy her chances here more than I did at the US open where the number 1 ranking was in the offing as well..

      Like

    • Hadn’t thought of Elina as a female Djokovic Andrew, but you could be right. I’ve long thought that Angie Kerber is like a female Andy Murray, with her powerful thickset legs and ability to run and run, and of course one of Aga Radwanska’s nicknames is “the female Federer.”.

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      • I really noticed the similarities last year. The way she hits her backhand is almost a mirror of how Djokovic hits his and she seems to have the exact same mindset when returning serve. She doesn’t go for winners on every point, she’s happy enough putting it back so deep that the server can’t really do anything with it. Throw in the slight unease at the net and the often excellent but sometimes shaky forehand and voila…

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      • I agree with the comparison. I’ve always felt Svitolina is much like Djokovic in terms of mental resilience and she reacts well to setbacks in matches.

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      • The courts seem to be playing much faster this year which definitely bodes well for some of the bigger hitters like Keys and Pliskova, but also for Halep and Svitolina, who love a fast hard court because they can hit through it or simply rely on their opponents pace.

        Gutted for Novak today. I bet he’s wishing now that he’d followed Serena and held off his return. It doesn’t look good for him the amount of injuries he’s carrying right now!

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      • In a way, I think Elina stands a better chance against the outright hitters in the tournament like Keys and Pliskova. You tend to know what you are getting from the start. Those who play a similar style to her can be a handful. Just like Kerber had Maria sussed from the first set, but she struggled earlier on to read Su-Wei’s game and Halep breezing by Osaka’s power game. Glad Simona came through, but it doesn’t get any easier.

        My concerns with Novak have come to light. Still hoping he does not miss any of the upcoming Slams. Not to take anything away from Chung, he is a breath of fresh air. A solid looking player, mentally focused.

        Ha…Question of the day – which male player exemplifies Svetlana Kuznetsova’s style.

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      • Agreed, it looks like Novak was really suffering from the end of the first set on and as you say it looks like he came back too soon.

        He was good enough to pay tribute to his opponent though (Chung), who clearly played a great match and sounds like a decent quiet guy.

        Hope he (Chung) beats that American now, whom I don’t like the sound of at all.

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      • Sveta basically styles her play around Rafa but obviously isn’t a leftie.
        I don’t see Kei Nishikori in the slightest. Kei plays like a Murray/Djokovic hybrid. His height is just unfortunate for him though.

        Chung calling Novak his idol takes me back to Muguruza beating Serena in 2014.

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  28. Tbh Svitolina getting more and more agreessive is really good to watch. Somehow she and Muguruza changed tactics (Muguruza’s grinding is so tiring… 😦 ).

    But today was nothing new: In important matches or moments Svitolina changes back to pushing. She doesn’t have the Champion mentality yet. But maybe she will develop that like e.g. Kerber.

    Like

  29. Oh Svitolina- what a wasted opportunity! Nothing against Mertens, who played one of the best matches I’ve seen from her, but this was Elina’s to lose and she choked big time!

    Like

    • Really like Mertens so happy to see her through, but was kind of hoping Svitolina would finally get over the Slam QF hurdle.

      So Mertens vs. Wozniacki, that’s the SF I had on Draw Challenge ha! Woz the fave for sure but I would definitely give Mertens a shot in that match.

      Like

      • I’d like to see Mertens win over Wozniacki as I think it’d be more of a deal for her. I think I’m leaning on the winner of Halep/Pliskova as winner, though I guess I’m warming to Kerber winning again should she make the final.
        I still find it difficult watching Keys matches. It was hilarious seeing people on Twitter calling Pliskova one dimensional when you have players like Madison Keys who may be one of the most basic ball bashers ever…

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      • It’s Karolina’s personality, tall, slightly lanky and the seemingly emotionless play. Keys crushes the ball, Lisicki crushes the ball, but you know they’re all giggles and smiles.lol… In the sense of play, it doesn’t mean much. But Karolina could do something sometimes, a little dance, cheer at the crowd, even smash the racquet just for fun. But, she’s basically the same win or lose. At least the others even look unhappy when they are down, she just looks like Karolina.

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      • That might make more sense if Federer weren’t so popular. He barely smiles if he wins a Slam let alone a match, he constantly looks like he’s got a bitter smell under his nose…

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      • Pliskova does not have the overall package. She is boring so most fans are not impressed. It’s hard to identify with her. When she loses you could think that she does not care anyway…

        I’m fine with that but I’m not surprised that she does not have as much fans as Halep or Muguruza.

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      • Andrew raises an interesting point here; how much does a player’s personality really matter? A lot of people (and I’m one of them) enjoy Federer’s tennis, but don’t expect too much from him from a personality point of view (though I have seen him be quite genial).

        Going back a bit further, Pete Sampras didn’t show much emotion on court but still seemed quite popular, and further back still, Bjorn Borg must have been one of the most inscrutable people to ever play the game professionally; he showed pretty much no emotion on court whatsoever. And was he taken to task for it? Far from it, he was pretty much adored and had legions of fans.

        Have to admit that one reason I like Lisicki so much is that she’s the polar opposite of that; everything shows in Sabine’s face. I don’t believe she could be impassive if she tried (and I wouldn’t want her to). Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

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      • Let’s play; I like Madison too, not just because she “giggles and smiles” as you say but because of her charity work for Fearlessly Girl, a very worthy cause in my book;

        http://www.fearlesslygirl.com/

        It seems to be doing her good too; she’s come out of her shell a lot more since she signed up with them.

        I can’t add to anything everyone else has said about Elina’s hip injury; she was visibly hampered in the second set, from what I saw of it, and wasn’t moving as well as usual (not that I want to take anything away from Elise, who played a great match).

        Like

    • Mertens is playing really good tennis and she is thinking whiles at it. I just loved the way she was trying to cover the net. Her consistent presence got to Elina. Next time, Elina should go for the Sydney International, Brisbane International(apologies to the wonderful people of Brisbane) winners are not winning the Australian Open.

      Both players, Elise and Caroline are putting it all out on Court. Elise is the underdog, I think Caroline will have to deal with the most pressure. Mertens came back from 0-5 down against Gravilova, and Caroline from 1-5 down against Jana Fett. We’ll see whose aura is strongest 🙂 .

      Like

    • Just watched Svitolina’s press conference – while giving all the credit to Mertens, she said she had been struggling with a hip injury. She was clearly upset about it and seemed to be fighting back tears.

      Like

      • That’s true James, I think she mentally wanted to fight back but her body wouldn’t let her, it was putting her in check. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was in tears, bucket loads, in the locker room. I kept thinking through that second set that if it gets away from her, this was going to hurt really bad. To be honest, the bottom half was ‘doable’ unlike the previous slams and I’m sure she knew that. Mertens was definitely at a higher gear, whiles not being just one of the power hitters, and Elina came up short. Who knows had she been injury free, Mertens may still have gotten it, maybe in three. Hope she realises there is more to come, only 23 years old.

        Like

  30. One set all at the moment in the Halep – Kerber semifinal. This is turning out to be a great match as I thought it would be.

    I think Angie at her best (which she is now) is a little bit too good for Simona at hers, so I’m picking Angie to win although I’d like to see a Halep-Wozniacki final.

    Like

      • Hats off to both Simona and Angie for a thrilling match. After Halep missed those MPs I was convinced she was done. Seriously top effort to win that, good for you, Simona!

        I was hoping for this final – first slam and #1 on the line for both, huge match! Can’t wait for Saturday.

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      • Halep, I think has aleady defended her no1 ranking by beating Kerber, though she will have to do it again in the final. It’s a bit surreal how this new matchup of the #1 vs #2 looks like devoid of the power hitters.
        Head is for Simona , heart for Caroline.

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      • Oh I thought I read somewhere that #1 was on the line. Pretty amazing with the draw that the top seeds have made it to the final! I’m actually the opposite with you, let’s play – head says Caroline, heart says Simona!

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      • “I’m actually the opposite with you, let’s play – head says Caroline, heart says Simona!”

        Me too James, although there’s no doubt in my mind that Caroline would deserve the title if she did win – she’s worked very hard to improve her game over the last couple of years after she came back from injury.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, you were right James, I meant that had Halep lost to Kerber, the advantage would have gone to Caroline who had made the final already. It would truly have been double reason for Woz to win. Both making the finals evened the advantage.

        But…….. I just finished watching the final. Couldn’t watch it live and the third set messed me up. Commiserations to Halep, but I always felt the winner was coming from the bottom half. The top half had inform grinders and power players, the were going to wear each other out. Caroline better not suddenly
        fall back to her old ways. It seems things are on the up for her now after the YEC.
        I hope the Australian Open Crown makes up for the years of waiting.

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  31. Angie… 😦
    She gave it all today; unfortunately, fatigue showed up. No wonder after so many matches already…

    Halep really made life difficult for herself. She could/should have won in 2 today.
    But congrats for the win; she stayed tough which really surprised me!

    Like

    • Despite the loss, I feel really positive for Angie going forward for the rest of the year. She played so much tennis this month. And same feeling with Halep, big win in the end and a tad surprised. I left for work at 5-5 third set and I was convinced Kerber was winning. I’d love to know the last person (maybe it’s obvious and i’m not thinking clearly!) to make a final having saved match points in multiple matches.

      Like

  32. I really hope Marin Cilic redeems himself from last year’s Wimbledon final this weekend. Can’t say he’s played his absolute best, but he’s been solid on all counts.

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  33. I picked The Woz to win the AO and she made it all the way to the finals. After looking at the way Halep has played beating 4 big hitters and 2 defenders and with a good rest, I give the edge in this match to Halep. I thought Halep would be knocked out of the AO by one of the big hitters before the final, but with her great tenacity she forced her way into the finals.
    The Bookies have Halep as a slight favorite.
    ( Picking Woz to win the AO and Halep to win the finals, I have all bases covered ).

    Like

    • Agreed, the match was a great advert for women’s tennis. Both players played to the limit of their capabilities and the final score was very close, something like 110 points to Caroline, 108 to Simona; as I’ve seen several people saying, it was a shame one of them had to lose. I think in the end Caroline, who’d played fewer long matches than Simona in the tournament, just had a bit more left in the tank.

      I hope Simona’s day does come, and soon; she deserves it.

      Like

      • She does the clay season well, Madrid Open through to Roland Garros. A very good rest period allowing her injuries to heal could go a long way. She should focus on that and not worry about the ranking now. She can/should be able to win the french.
        Wimbledon is a lot harder, and most of the baseline players come to life then. Serena is the Oddity, may be back fully as well and she would like to make a statement with the grass.
        How the USopen seems to be a toss up these days I don’t know. Kerber maybe, or even Caro could try a double.

        Off to catchup on ATP final!

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  34. My Slam list is growing shorter. I can strike out a few now, but Aga and Domi have me concerned!
    Simona Halep
    Karolina Pliskova
    Sloane Stephens
    Elina Svitolina
    Aga Radwanska
    Caroline Wozniacki
    Jo Konta
    Angelique Kerber
    Domi Cibulkova *

    Like

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