Saturday, 16 January 2016

Aus Open predictions - Women's singles

If you thought it any way difficult picking results in the men's draw, then the ladies is a lottery.  Apart from Serena, whose succes still depends on her rather than whoever is at the other side of the net.

Interest in women's tennis should be at a high because compared with the same old story in the men's finals at grand slam level last year, we had new blood featuring in the female finales.  Yes in Melbourne it began with another Serena lesson for Sharapova but then at the French it was Lucie Safarova and at Wimbledon Garbine Muguruza who enjoyed losses to SW in debut GS finals.

And to close the grand slam drama two Italians fought out the US Open final, Roberta Vinci destroying Serena's Calendar Grand Slam dream, and Flavia Pennetta winning her first major.

So what can we expect in Melbourne this year ? We should pick through the draw and hazard a guess.  That's as scientific as I can be given the less than uniform entrance that many of the usual suspects have made to the 2016 Aus Open.

Serena Williams is top seed and must be favourite despite her lack of match practice since September.
If we can believe her knee problems are not a factor she should be able to negotiate a way through a tough first round before eventually reaching a likely fourth round clash with close friend and seemingly perennial GS opponent Caroline Wozniacki. 

Sharapova unluckily through injury has dropped her ranking and is seeded five, and with the random placement of seeds finds herself in a potential quarter final against Williams, whom she hasn't beaten since kindergarten.

However, I believe that Sharapova won't pass the fourth round because Svetlana Kuznetsova will be there to stop her.  Although seeded 23 Sveta is in the form that won her two majors, having just won the Sydney tournament, including the scalp of Simona Halep in the semis.

So Serena, after battling Kuznetsova would probably need to account for a confident Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis.  Radwanska won the season ending WTA finals and began 2016 with a win in China, and will need to be over an ill timed injury because she has a horror draw.

Because Genie Bouchard lost a stack of points last year she is unseeded, and she is drawn to play Aga in the second round, on the back of a final about to be played in Hobart.  A possible fourth round clash for Radwanska is with Sloane Stephens, the 24th seed who just won in Auckland, Wozniacki one of her victims.  Nothing is easy in the top half of the draw, but I do believe that Aga has the game to meet the challenges.

Petra Kvitova has been ill and her road to a possible quarter final with Radwanska is compromised a little because of that.  Fortunately her draw appears soft and she should have recovered after winning her relatively easy early matches.  If she is switched on, Kvitova could do almost anything as we have seen in her Wimbledon wins, but she hasn't produced consistently enough to convince me it will be here this year.

The bottom half of the draw certainly looks less likely to raise concerns for the top seeds at first glance.

However second seed Simona Halep is scheduled for a showdown with Venus Williams in the quarter finals should they win their earlier matches.  Venus, apart from her Auckland hiccup, has played some of her best tennis to finish 2015 and begin this year, so presents a major hurdle for Halep who desperately wants to win a first GS title.

And for me (and the bookies) the 14th seed is the one to watch out for.  Vika Azarenka has won this title twice, and has taken Serena to three sets at Flushing Meadows in 2 US Open finals.  She is back to full fitness and is playing out of her skin, having completed another victory, this time in Brisbane, tearing Angilique Kerber apart in the final.

The fourth round match up is likely to be Azarenka v third seed Garbine Muguruza and may well be the clash of the tournament at that point.  Muguruza is a star of the future and Vika is already there - the games are different with Vika needing to absorb the power of the Spanish player and use her clever placement and quickness in response.
I believe that Azarenka may have the necessaries this time round but 2016 can still be huge for Garbine.

After much umming and arring my crystal ball tells me that:

Serena Williams will meet and defeat Agnieszka Radwanska in one semi
Vika Azarenka will account for Simona Halep in the other semi

In a major upset I am foolish enough to select Azarenka to win this year's Aus Ooen.  I just wish she wouldn't scream unnecessarily. (same for Maria)

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