Friday, 30 September 2016

Petra finding form in China

It's all been happening in China this week with 2 ATP events - Shenzhen and Chengdu - being contested.
However, the major attraction is the Premier 5 WTA Tournament hosted in Wuhan, where all the top twenty ranked players entered the draw except for Serena Williams and Vika Azarenka.  (Vika's pregnancy a fair excuse !)

The women have also had a lower tier event bubbling along in Uzbekistan, giving some players unable to meet the high qualifying standard for Wuhan a chance to maintain competitive fitness.

2 finals from last week threw up interesting results - young gun Alexander Zverev had his biggest win, defeating Stan Wawrinka in the St Petersburg final, breaking the US Open champ's long run of constantly winning finals once in them.
Lucas Pouille delighted his home grown French following by taking out the Metz title with a win over top seed Dominic Thiem.

Wuhan has seen the exit of five of the top eight seeds before the quarter finals, including top seed and reigning US Open Champion Angie Kerber in a fascinating three set struggle against 14th seed Petra Kvitova.
The third round match began with a first set tie break eventually decided in Kerber's favour 12-10.  However the dual Wimbledon title holder fought back hard to win the next two sets 7-5 6-4.
Second seed Garbine Muguruza has continued her problematic run since triumphing at Roland Garros, losing to Jelena Jankovic in the second round, following a first round bye.
Karolina Pliskova (5), Venus Williams (6) and Carla Suarez Navarro (7) all lost third round matches to lower seeded players - Dominika Cibulkova (10), Svetlana Kuznetsova (9) and Johanna Konta (11) respectively.

Simona Halep, fourth seed, is the highest ranked player left at the semi final stage, after her victory over Madison Keys in the one of the quarters, and the loss of third seed Aga Radwanska to Kuznetsova in another.

Halep will play Kvitova in her semi, Petra having disposed of Konta in straight sets.  Kuznetsova's opponent will be Cibulkova who stopped the impressive run of Barbora Strycova in their quarter final, and in doing so preventing the Czech Republic from having two of the semi finalists.

In Shenzhen only one top ten player - Tomas Berdych - and two other top twenty players are in the draw, and the tournament lost one of those straight away.  Second seed David Goffin, who reached the second round after a bye, was dumped by Tunisia's Malek Jaziri in three sets.

Goffin wasn't the only seed to fall in round two.  Sixth seed Benoit Paire lost to Janko Tipsarevic who will play Jaziri in a quarter final, and seventh seeded Italian Fabio Fognini exited thanks to qualifier Mischa Zverev

Berdych (1) , Gasquet (3) and Tomic (4) were seeds that did progress to the quarters, although Bernie did take the full three sets before farewelling Ryan Harrison on his way back to the USA.  Gasquet was far less congenial in his destruction of Australian qualifier Andrew Whittington who left with just one game to add to his collection.

Chengdu has seen one significant departure - second seed Nick Kyrgios defeated by Kevin Anderson in three sets in round two after the first round bye.  Anderson was always going to be a tough proposition and while the loss is not of major proportions, being a set up and only just losing the second set tie break, before dropping away quickly in the decider would be of concern.

One player making his mark on the tournament is tall 20 year old Russian Karen Khachanov, who is ranked 101, and in the quarter finals after knocking out 7th seed Joao Sousa in the opening round and Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the next.  The new assignment is tough - fourth seed Feliciano Lopez - but the way he has been serving he stands an excellent chance of progressing further.

Top seed Thiem and third seed Dimitrov appear the two to beat at this stage - they are drawn to meet in a semi final.

In Tashkent, the semi finalists have been decided, and the names are not the ones usually associated with this stage of WTA tournaments.  

Kateryna Kozlova from the Ukraine, ranked 98, will be playing the Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova, sister of the US Open finalist, and ranked 100.  Pliskova had a good win over fifth seed Kurumi Nara in the second round and is favoured to make the final.

The other semi final sees fourth seed Nao Hibino from Japan up against Denisa Allertova from the Czech Republic.  Hibino is ranked 78 and Allertova 114.
Allertova defeated Kirsten Flipkens, the highest seed (at number 2) left in the tournament, in straight sets in their quarter final.

I predict an all-Czech final.

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