Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Australian Open: Women Semifinalists

It's somehow appropriate that my last tennis post on this blog was entitled "Tennis is Over, Now What?" back in early September right after the US Open since I haven't talked about tennis at all since then, not even my usual year-end review. Which is odd really since 2012 was probably the most fascinating tennis year in recent years with the Olympics being held at Wimbledon, the top 4 men dominating in the slams, Serena making a comeback, and a couple of high-profile retirements (Clijsters and Roddick). My love for the sport hasn't waned really, but perhaps my need to post about it on this blog is coming to an end. I'm still not sure though which is why even though I haven't at all talked about the Australian Open which is winding down in a few days, I'm going to start now by talking about the women's tournament and the four semifinalists.

Everyone knew that an American was going to make the final four, but those people were betting that it would be Serena Williams to be not only the sole American standing, but the woman to beat. It wasn't such a wild idea considering what she had accomplished last year and a win here would've meant re-capturing that #1 ranking. Instead, she fell to American teenager Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals who to her credit stay focused on her game as Serena became hampered with an injury in the middle of the match. Stephens was seeded 29th, but will be safely entrenched in the top 20 after the tournament. She could move up as high as #11 if she were to win, but she would have to get through defending champion and world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka has been in cruise control all tournament with the exception of a third-round brawl against Jamie Hampton, another young American. Most recently, Azarenka took out 2-time slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova who came into the tournament unseeded due to missing play for most of the year in 2012 due to a knee injury. Kuznetsova exceeded expectations to reach the final 8 and beating 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki.

The woman of the tournament, however, is second seed Maria Sharapova who has lost only 9 games through 5 matches including doling out an impressive two double-bagel matches to begin the tournament. She also took out 7-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in brutal fashion with many thinking it was going to be a much closer match-up. Her semifinal foe will be none other than Na Li playing her "hometown" slam. While hardly consistent, Li seems to really bring her A-game during the slams, especially the first two of the year. Her straight set victories over 18th seed Julia Goerges and especially 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska spoke volume. The latter is unfortunately still looking for her first major breakthrough. As far as predictions go, I'm banking on a 1 vs. 2 battle between Azarenka and Sharapova though I'm rooting for one or both of the underdogs to surprise.

And finally, I can't talk about the woman's tournament this year without mentioning 100th-ranked Kimiko Date-Krumm who defied her age yet again by reaching the third round of both the singles and the doubles draw taking out 12th seed Nadia Petrova in the first round and outlasting the 2nd seed doubles team of Hlavacka-Hradecka with partner Arantxa Parra Santonja in the 2nd round of doubles.

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