Thursday, 5 May 2016

Halep new favourite in Madrid

Here was I, ready to describe the wonderful quarter final played between the two top remaining seeds in Madrid, Vika Azarenka and Petra Kvitova, and neither of them made it beyond the third round.

Petra was upset by Aussie Dasha Gavrilova, and in just two sets.  Not for the first time this year had Dasha turned Petra's hopes into tatters.  She did likewise at the Aus Open during her best run of success this year.  The 39th ranked player will be hoping Madrid kick starts a rich vein of form leading into Roland Garros and Wimbledon. 

Vika just handed a walkover to a shocked but delighted 19 year old American qualifier, Louisa Chirico, ranked 130 in the world.  Louisa's claim to a little fame was her win over top ten player Lucie Safarova in Charleston in April.  However at that point Lucie couldn't manage a win over her pet dog,  let alone a tour tennis player.
Vika's withdrawal was due to a back injury which she must have caught from Federer.   Hopefully she has made the wise call early enough to prevent another long stint off the court, because Vika at present is the best player on tour and fully deserves a shot at reclaiming the number one ranking to statistically confirm her position.

Now that the top half of the women's draw is free of any seeds, we are guaranteed at least one unseeded finalist, and it could well come from a probable semi final between Dominika Cibulkova and Dasha Gavrilova.  After all, Cibulkova kicked out the top seed first up, and will start favourite in her quarter final against Sorana Cirstea.  Gavrilova just beat the defending champion and faces a qualifier who made the quarter final without hitting a tennis ball. 

Simona Halep looms as the best bet for a finals berth from the other half of the draw, following her convincing win over Timea Bacsinszky in the third round.  As often happens, the matches with the most potential to be memorable, such as this one, can turn into fizzers.  Halep's 6-2 6-3 thrashing of the Swiss 10th seed was disappointing for almost everyone, but 6th Simona was rather happy with things.

Carla Suarez Navarro would have been the second of the two remaining seeds in the draw, but after taking the opening set against Sam Stosur, she lost her way and the Australian won through to the quarter finals 4-6 6-2 6-3.  Halep is the sole seed left in the final 8 and the only realistic threat to her making the final are Stosur and maybe the unpredictably dangerous Madison Keys. (At writing just starting her third round match)

The men's draw was fairly safe from drama with one major exception and that was the big serving entertaining clash between fourth seed Stan Wawrinka and the excitement machine Nick Kyrgios.  The young Aussie last year in this event knocked over another Swiss player - you may have heard of him in dispatches; goes by the name Federer.  However, occasional big name upsets have this year been replaced by consistency and ranking rises to the point where Kyrgios is being written about for on court feats instead of immature actions. 

The two certainly served up a storm.  In the opening set Stan gave Nick nothing - no break point opportunities whatsoever.  Nick relied on his serve to save the four break points that Stan managed to scrape together and a tie break had to separate things.  The breaker threatened to go forever before the unseeded Australian put a halt to proceedings, 9 points to 7, and the set was his 7-6.

Riding the wave of momentum Kyrgios gave the crowd one of his serving exhibitions in set two, which was slightly unfair to Stan as his deliveries were still high quality.  Neither had break points to save, so another tie break was required, but with stats like Nick's not even the tie break was going to give Stan a chance.

81 % of first serves in play.  24 points won from his 25 first serves in play.  5 points won from the 6 second serves required.
Nick won 6 points off Stan's serve for the set, enough of those in the tie break to take it 7 points to 2 and win a quality match 7-6 (7) 7-6 (2).
Nicks third round opponent was looking as though it would be Gael Monfils after the 13th seed was a set to the good, but unseeded Pablo Cuevas used his clay expertise to win the second set and force a decider.  A third set tie break went the way of the Argentine, and ranked 27 he will be more than a handful for Nick.

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