This seems to be the grand slam of upsets, particularly on the women’s side the so-called title contenders been losing early at an alarming rate. As most tennis fans will know, today took this trend to new heights; top seed, Caroline Wozniacki and defending finalist, Sam Stosur are out of the Paris tournament after losing to non top 10 players, Daniela Hantuchova and Gisela Dulko respectively. These losses and the several other seeds that have already lost has led to this genuinely being the most open grand slam I have ever followed. Since the draw has opened up in a manner which I (and most others I’m sure) failed to predict, I figured a re-analysis of the women’s draw is in order.
Quarter Final 1: Sam Stosur vs Caro Wozniacki
This quarter will go according to the seedings. While Svetlana Kuznetsova is the most likely player to prevent this quarter final from happening, I reckon the odds are in favour of Wozniacki reaching the semi’s by virtue of beating Stosur in the quarter’s.
Clearly my earlier prediction for the first quarter will not be realized. Switching on the TV to find Caroline Wozniacki a set down initially surprised me quite a bit; once I thought about it for 30 seconds I realized that the signs that Wozniacki was cracking under the extreme pressure she is under had already begun to show the previous round, by her resorting to minor gamesmanship to throw her opponent off. In addition Daniela Hantuchova is consistently a tough competitor and has plenty of experience whereas Wozniacki is trying to prove to everyone that she is capable of a grand slam win. As soon as the match started she was behind score wise; she came across as unsure, and utterly incapable of turning the match around. Knowing that she would have to face a barrage of question about the validity of her number 1 ranking the minute she came off court, couldn’t have helped either.
Stosur lost today due to a slightly lacklustre performance, contrasted by an exceptionally high energy display by her opponent, Gisela Dulko. Dulko held up a banner after the match dedicating her win to her twin nephews/nieces; (genders?) clearly she was out here to win today. Stosur just wasn’t. While I didn’t make mention of her in my previous article, I expected Julia Georges to do better than she has, particularly considering her form in the clay swing in the lead up to the French. Svetlana Kuznetsova is now a good bet to reach the semi-final, she ought to beat both Daniela Hantuchova and Marion Bartoli, who I think will progress over Gisela Dulko in the fourth round.
Quarter Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli
Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic
In this quarter, an interesting 3rd round encounter between Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova looms. A few years ago, Petrova was my favourite to win the French Open. While she doesn’t have the form or consistency, her clay court pedigree is still notable. I don’t think either of them will make the quarter final though. Pavlyuchenkova is capable of beating both, and overdue on a good run at a major. I don’t think anyone in Jankovic’s 1/8 will bother her too much.
In this bracket of the draw my quarter final prediction still has a hope of surviving. Both Pavlyuchenkova and Jankovic have made quiet but convincing progress through the draw, in order to make it to the quarters they will have to go through a very capable clay court players in Francesca Schiavone and Vera Zvonareva. I stick with my assessment that Pavlyuchenkova (copy-and-paste) is overdue on a good run at a major, and expect her to overcome number three seed Zvonareva. Schiavone versus Jankovic is bound to be a slugfest of note between two players brilliantly suited to clay. Do note that I was completely off about Petrova putting in a successful run – she bowed out in the first round to Anastasia Rodionova.
Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic
Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Ana Ivanovic
Kwitova has quite a difficult section of the draw to get through. The little Chinese Zheng Jie in the 2nd, Dominika Cibulkova in the 3rd and either Na Li or Sorana Cirstea in the 4th, it won’t be easy. I think she has the self belief to do it however. In the other section, the smart money would be on Victoria Azarenka getting through. Maybe I am just too much of an Ana Ivanovic fan, or maybe I’m right when I say Ivanovic will beat Azarenka, via her superior experience and Azarenka’s inconsistency, but my money is on Ivanovic making it through this part of the draw.
This 3rd round matches on this side of the draw (Quarter Final 3 and 4) have not yet been played, and considering the upsets of today’s 3rd round matches I think I am taking quite a risk by attempting to predict how it will play out but nevertheless… A major error in judgement was made by me, assuming that Ivanovic would come even close to reliving her French Open glory of the past. I still think Kwitova will make it through to the quarters, but I think Azarenka, who has been in spectacular form will progress to the semis from this part of the bracket. I am particularly curious about this section of the draw, I think it might just contain the eventual winner.
Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka
Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Kim Clijsters
Simply no one in this quarter can challenge these two veterans for skill or experience.
So apparently they can be challenged, Sharapova despite her upset scare in the previous round ought to progress to the quarter finals. With Clijsters out Sharapova’s opponent is likely to be the creator of the Petkorazzi dance, Andrea Petkovic. Before the quarter final I look forward to the likely clash between Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova in the 4th round. In the same round it seems likely that Petkovic will come up against the well liked Maria Kirilenko. Both these matches ought to be won by the players I indicated, but not before their lower ranked opponents provide them with a substantial and likely good to watch challenge.
Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic
So to recap my new-and-improved quarter final predictions are – Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic.
Semi Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Jelena Jankovic
Predicting this half has been incredibly difficult. I think the players are on a very even keel, and although this makes it difficult to predict, it does mean that the matches will be tightly competed which is likely to lead to a few excellent matches. As already mentioned I think Kuznetsova should proceed to the semi over the less experienced Bartoli. She has won her matches in the tournament thus far quite convincingly, in she were to continue in that vein, she has the opportunity to progress easily through the much weakened draw. Jankovic too has been in good form and can capitalise on being in an easy section. On their form during the clay court season, I would have to pick Jankovic as the finalist from this half of the draw.
Semi Final 2: Victoria Azarenka vs Maria Sharapova
Azarenka has been the only top ranked player to be in even semi decent form thus far at Roland Garros. In the previous round, she annihilated her French opponent, Pauline Parmentier. As such, she ought to come through an encounter with yet another young gun, Petra Kwitova. In the semi final she she should come up against by now tour veteran, Sharapova. With her experience and absolute steely mentality she should make the semi finals. It would take one heck of a performance by Azarenka to beat Sharapova in the semi final, this has all the potential to be the best match of the women’s draw in 2011. Women’s tennis desperately needs Azarenka to win the tournament, to prevent the WTA rankings from losing the last bit of credibility which remains after Wozniacki’s loss today. However the experience and motivation of Sharapova will in all likelihood be the winner.
Final: Jelena Jankovic vs Maria Sharapova
Sharapova’s superior shot making ability and yet again her experience and self belief ought to give her the edge over Jankovic. Watch for the “cow on ice” to complete her career grand slam at the end of the fortnight.
Again, please comment with your own picks, and share on twitter, facebook or stumbleupon if you like the blog entry. Vote for your winner in the poll below. Note that I’ve only included the top 5 ranked players remaining in the draw.