Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 U.S. Open Predictions - Women

Above are my poor credentials and even poorer men's picks. Now to the women.

I took a shot at the women's game to close out the above post and for good reason. It sucks. No one has mental strength. No one can hit the ball accurately more often than not. Almost anyone in the draw, save for the qualifiers and/or greenhorns, can make a run in to the second week. How much parity is there? Here's a list of seeded players I have out in round 1: Jarmila Gaidosova (29), Andrea Petkovic (10), Kaia Kanepi (31), Shahar Peer (23), Yanina Wickmayer (20), Shuai Peng (13), Flavia Pennetta (26) and Anabel Medina Garrigues (30.) Eight of thirty two seeds, exactly one quarter of the seeded players out in the first round (and three in the top 20.) We'll see if we come anywhere close to that:

Round of 32: Wozniacki over Benesova, Kuznetsova over Hantuchova, Zheng over Cornet, Li over Date Krumm, Serena over Azarenka, Ivanovic over Mirza, Pavlyuchenkova over Jankovic, Erakovic over Martinez-Sanchez, Safarova over Kvitova, Cirstea over Radwanska, Goerges over Razzano, Sharapova over Oudin, Kirilenko over Bartoli, Stosur over Petrova, Venus over Cibulkova, Robson over Zvonareva

Wozniacki gets the first week ease she needs with Vesnina in round 2 in a match that's appointment television for anyone attracted to women before Benesova in the third. Kuznetsova/Hantuchova's an interesting matchup but I'll go with the one who's won this whole thing before. Chinese countrywomen Zheng and Li Na set up the finals of an Asian battle royal of sorts, with Li taking down Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm who I've got beating Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn in round 2.

What else is there to say for Serena/Azarenka? It makes Steelers/Ravens look like a competitive rivalry. What an awful draw for Victoria. When she inevitably goes out, she should spend a healthy amount of her press conference ripping the directors for seeding Serena 28th. Would it come off as sour grapes? Absolutely, especially considering the Belarusian is considered one of the more immature players on tour and frequently has whiny outbursts on court, but it would be more than a fair gripe. There's just no excuse to seed her that low when she's in this kind of form and the talent pool at the top of the women's game is so thin. I mean, Dominika Cibulkova is the 14th seed. What kind of odds do you think the tiny Slovakian would be getting on a fast hard court in New York City against an American who is the biggest, most powerful force to ever play women's tennis? How is it logical that she's 14th and Serena, winner of both the Bank of the West Classic in LA and the Toronto Masters this summer, is 28th?

I have Mirza upsetting Peer to soften up Ivanovic's road. I couldn't be more happy for Ana that she's climbed back in to the top 20. She's worked so hard to rebuild her career since she wilted in the lights of the paparazzi after her bombastic 2007 French Open victory. She fell completely off the map, getting the yips with her serve on many occasions but now she's putting together one solid tournament after another, save a second round slip to Petrova in Cincinnati. I'm not sure she's totally conquered the demons but she's made significant progress, as evidenced by her being able to take Vera Zvonareva to the wire a couple of weeks ago.

I think Pavlyuchenko and Jankovic's careers are going different directions and that match will showcase it. Erakovic is my random upset pick - she stuns Schiavone in round 2 because I'd fancy my chances against Schiavone on a fast court and I can't remember the last time I picked up a tennis racket. Safarova's like Pavlyuchenkova in that I've liked her for a while and Kvitova's due for an early slam exit. Radwanska is, too and Cirstea's a sleeper who takes out 09 semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer in round 1. Goerges is a cute young Brit I like who beat Jankovic and pushed Serena in Toronto and Razzano takes out Peng. The clock will strike midnight on Oudin this time. Kirilenko shockingly beats Bartoli with some ease, indicating she may be ready to make noise. Stosur handles Petrova and my Serena/Cibulkova point from above goes for Venus as well.

And then my shocker of the tournament. Laura Robson is just 17 but she's being hyped as one of the best British women's tennis players in generations. She's obviously got the talent being on the main tour at this young age and she's been pro for a couple years now. This is a pure shot in the dark but you just never know with Zvonareva and for some weird reason, I think she's in line for a major choke, even by her standards. Some shocking things are going to happen in this draw - parity's the name of the game right now on the WTA. This will be way wrong but what's right probably won't be all that predictable anyways.

Round of 16: Wozniacki over Kuznetsova, Li over Zheng, Serena over Ivanovic, Pavlyuchenkova over Erakovic, Safarova over Cirstea, Sharapova over Goerges, Kirilenko over Stosur, Venus over Robson

Could be a coming of age victory for Caroline if she can pull it off. I think she does, but moreso because Kuznetsova's starting to fade and I think she breaks down in a third set here. Li bests Zheng in the all-Chinese affair. Ivanovic's still far too fragile to take down Serena. Pavluychenkova and Safarova take advantage of broken brackets while Sharapova makes Goerges look overmatched in what could be another easy-on-the-eyes affair. Speaking easy-on-the-eyes, Kirilenko keeps her roll going as she shocks Stosur, who has been poor at slams and streaky overall this year. Venus can name her score against Robson.

Quarterfinals: Li over Wozniacki, Serena over Pavlyuchenkova, Sharapova over Safarova, Kirilenko over Venus

I'd LOVE to take Caroline here...but I can't. She's 0/2 against Li in the second week of hard court slams, although both losses were at the Australian (this year's semis, last year's quarters.) Still, I think Li's got a mental edge on her - which means everything in women's tennis. Serena and Sharapova breeze...but Venus doesn't as Kirilenko continues her fantastic run by giving me my new upset of the tournament. Lots of girls, many of them at least somewhat unexpected, have been having breakthrough runs this deep in slams over the past year or two. Yeah, most of them aren't beating a Williams sister en route but I think Kirilenko's next in line. She'll get hot after she beats Bartoli. Gut (and erotic) feeling.

Semifinals: Serena over Li, Sharapova over Kirilenko

Serena wins in a war as Li is a terrific player punching at her weight. Sharapova wins in a rout as Kirilenko is a streaky one punching above her's.

Final: Sharapova over Serena

...and that's what makes the difference in the final. Sharapova pulls off the mild upset in a classic three setter. I think she really cranks up her form in this tournament aided by a soft draw with no top 15 seed in my projected path for her. Serena, meanwhile, has to deal with Azarenka in round 3, Ivanovic in round 4 and then Li in the semis. She runs out of gas and breaks down enough for Maria to get her second U.S. Open.

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