Sunday, 1 May 2016

Safarova seals Prague title

As predicted Lucie Safarova captured the WTA title in Prague, capping off the perfect comeback to form in readiness for the big clay tournaments, beginning with Madrid this week.  The Spanish draw requires Lucie to play Sam Stosur in the second round if both win their first round matches.  Not the brightest prospect for the Queenslander who was only hours ago the loser to Safarova in the Prague final.

At one stage in Sam's career she had a unique record of not losing a match if she won the first set.  This year it has turned around so that perversely on many occasions her matches are doomed if she opens with set one success.  The script was followed with an excellent 6-3 performance in set one of the Prague final seemingly positioning the fourth seed for a likely victory.  Then the collapse, just as we'd witnessed recently in both Fed Cup matches against the USA.  6-1 to Safarova in the second set, the Stosur first serve unreliable to the same extent as it had been the basis for first set dominance.

The deciding set was won 6-4 by Safarova, but it wasn't at all close.  First serve percentages were 70 for Safarova and 42 for Stosur.  Lucie won 78 % of points when serving, Sam just 58 %.  Returning stats were just as stark.  A fine win for Safarova, and despite a disappointing end a good tournament for Stosur as well.

Bad news for another Aussie, Nick Kyrgios, whose Estoril dream became a nightmare at the hands of unseeded Nicolas Almagro.  The wily clay courter with all his experience on the surface eliminated the second seed in their semi final as methodically as he had the seeds in his two previous matches.  Clearly overall rankings mean little when dealing with quality clay court operators.  Almagro has played about two thirds of his career matches on clay and all of his twelve titles have come on the surface.

It will be an all Spanish final in Portugal as eighth seed Pablo Carreno Busta continued his passion for dismissing seeded French players by tossing out third seed Benoit Paire.  Don't discount his chances against Almagro.

Timea Bacsinszky thrashed qualifier Marina Erakovic in the Rabat final to nobody's surprise, and expect more to come from the Swiss player as her career evolves into what I believe will be a consistent top ten appearance.

Alexander Zverev threatened to oust third seed and one of the new generation, Dominic Thiem, after winning the first set, but Thiem displayed more poise and delivered the goods when it mattered, comfortably accounting for the German 6-2 6-3 in the second and third to win a spot in the final.
He will play Phillip Kohlschreiber, so the German crowd will have a home player to cheer on.  The fourth seed easily downed Italy's Fabio Fognini and is playing high calibre tennis, sufficient to pose a real headache for the Austrian who remains the logical favourite.

Istanbul sees Grigor Dimitrov, number two seed, in the final following two tie break wins over Ivo Karlovic.  The shock is not winning the tie breaks, but winning them 7-0 and 7-2 against the huge serving Croatian.  Such one sided finishes to tight sets.

Dimitrov should have few hurdles to clear in a final facing unseeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman, but that is without taking account of Diego fixing up both top seed Tomic and most recently fourth seed Delbonis in a fine semi final performance.
After narrowly losing the opening set in a tie breaker, Schwartzman blew away Delbonis with a great serving display in the final two sets.

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