Saturday, 16 August 2014

Hard to pick Hard court form

As we near the US Open, we should forget what happened on the grass at Wimbledon as a form guide.  Certainly the ladies who played the final in London have left their best tennis behind there.  

Since Petra Kvitova scared everyone with her dominating effort in capturing a second Wimbledon crown, she has won just one match.  She proceeded then to lose to Makarova in the third round in Montreal and then bow out to Svitolina after a first round bye in Cincinnati.  Not the sort of match practice a player would be seeking prior to the years final major.  Connecticut, where she won in 2012 and was a finalist last year, is the last opportunity to gain confidence for Flushing Meadows.
Not that we should expect amazing things from Petra at the US Open, given that her record is only 10 match wins and 6 losses from her previous attempts - she lost in the opening round the year she first won Wimbledon, which is not a precedent to follow.

Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard has fared even worse since her break through Grand Slam final, losing to a qualifier in her first match at her home nation event in Montreal, before being defeated in Cincinnati, again in her first hit out.  

But enough of the poor form - who has been firing on the hard courts and giving us something serious to think about in a week or so?

Well there is always Serena, despite her indifferent form (by her supreme standards) this year, especially in the Grand Slam events.  On hard courts in the American summer she usually thrives, and since her grass court failure she is 10 from 11 matches, including the Stanford tournament win and a semi final to be played in Cincinnati this weekend.  In between Serena made the Montreal semis where her older sister turned back the clock to register a rare victory over the world number one.

A few other players have certainly given Serena some tough contests of late, one being good friend Caroline Wozniacki, who is in some of her best form for years.  Although ranked outside the top ten currently, her 11 wins from 12 starts since Wimbledon, with a win over Vinci in the Istanbul final, a three set loss to Serena in the Montreal quarters, and a return date with the younger Williams in the Cincinnati semis, sees her as one of the players to watch in the last part of 2014.  Her fourth round result at Wimbledon last month was her best performance at a Grand Slam event for over a year so she is on the right path with her tennis.
Caro is a former US Open finalist, and I'd expect her to be featuring come the second week this year.

Of the remaining former winners of the US Open still playing, Samantha Stosur is well below her level of 2011, whereas Sveta Kuznetsova is enjoying a mini revival ten years on from her maiden triumph at Grand Slam level, winning the Washington DC event and making the third round before losing to in form Ana Ivanovic in Cincinnati.  Seeded around twenty, Sveta will be troublesome for the higher seeds in this years US Open.

2006 winner Maria Sharapova was upset by Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round at Montreal, but is back in the frame with a semi final to come against Ivanovic in Cincinnati, on the back of yet another come from behind win, this one against world number two Simona Halep.

Halep herself is a strong contender for the US Open title, with the number two seeding, the Bucharest title and excellent Cincinnati form.  Ana Ivanovic also must be considered, given her quarter final result at Stanford, losing to eventual winner, Serena Williams, and of course her current Cincinnati showing.

Finally, Venus Williams has returned to the top twenty thanks to her wonderful Montreal runner up finish.  With her health issues and best tennis surely behind her it shows a tremendous commitment and willpower to play to the level she is, including defeating her sister for the first time in years.  Sentimental favourite at Flushing Meadows without a doubt.

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