Monday, January 24, 2011

Australian Open Report: Days 7 & 8

The top contenders are still alive down in Melbourne. Despite an early scare of a possible virus, Rafael Nadal claims he is 100% after his resounding win against 15th seed Marin Cilic in straight sets. Roger Federer faltered a bit, but he eked out a win against Tommy Robredo to reach his 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals. Perpetual also-rans Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have shown fierce form throughout the tournament and continued their bid to interrupt the Federer-Nadal monopoly of major tournaments.

Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer were also amongst the 6 of the top eight players to move on to the quarterfinals. Many people thought it was possible to get all of the eight seeds in the quarterfinals, but 4th seed Robin Soderling unexpectedly went down in five sets to newcomer Alexandr Dolgopolov while Stan Wawrinka took down 8th seed Andy Roddick. All eight quarterfinalists are European.

Quarterfinal Preview
Rafael Nadal vs. David Nalbandian David Ferrer
Andy Murray vs. Robin Soderling Alexandr Dolgopolov
Novak Djokovic vs. Fernando Verdasco Tomas Berdych
Roger Federer vs. Gael Monfils Stan Wawrinka

I got exactly half right regarding my predictions. The same four--Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray--are on top of their forms day in and day out and should be favored in their QF match-ups. Interesting to note that both Nadal and Federer are up against the second ranked player of their country. I'm still predicting a Nadal-Federer final, but I'm not as sure as I was a few days ago based on form I've seen so far.

As expected, the women's tournament is wide open, chaotic, and frankly more fun to talk about. The top three seeds--Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva, and Kim Clijsters--are holding remained strong through four matches. Na Li, undefeated so far this year, is also showing great form. There won't be a repeat of last year's result of having two Chinese players in the semifinals as Shuai Peng went down valiantly to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Maria Sharapova continued her dubious streak of pre-quarterfinal Grand Slam losses by going down to Andrea Petkovic. Petra Kvitova took out Flavia Pennetta. Of course the biggest story this round was the epic match between Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Italian was able to win after saving six match points in 4 hours and 44 minutes, the longest women's Grand Slam match in the Open Era.

Quarterfinal Preview
Justine Henin Caroline Wozniacki vs. Yanina Wickmayer Francesca Schiavone
Na Li vs. Venus Williams Andrea Petkovic
Kim Clijsters d. Agnieszka Radwanska
Vera Zvonareva vs. Sam Stosur Petra Kvitova

Like the men, I only got half right. I'm proud that I picked Li and Radwanska early on, but don't blame me for picking Henin-Wickmayer over Wozniacki-Schiavone since based on form and history, I thought for sure that would happen. Suffice to say, this is Clijster's slam to lose. She's the only multiple Grand Slam winner and has one of the best records on hardcourts in the women's game. At the moment, I'm going to predict a Clijsters-Li final, though Wozniacki has proven me wrong multiple times already this tournament.

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