by The Spin Team

The Australian Open Draw is out and as usual there is the weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth.  My fave got a crappy draw.  The tournament is playing favourites with so and so, etc. Etc. Etc.

This year the Spin Team has a new member in Stephanie Neppl (you can read more of what Steph has to say about women’s tennis on her blog o or you can follow her on Twitter at: ) one of the most dedicated and strongest advocates for women’s tennis that I know.  Steph will be contributing to the Spin Team and for her first post she will be giving us her draw breakdown.  The Spin Team also welcomes back Patrick (@TWMasterAce), perhaps one of the few men out there in tennis land who is also completely dedicated to women’s tennis and he will also be providing his analysis of the year’s first Grand Slam.

As usual, me your friendly neighbourhood blogger will be giving my draw analysis and will be back each day to give the team’s daily picks, what to watch and where and perhaps even give a post match wrap up of the previous day’s events.

The Australian and French Open have become 2 of my favourite Slams for the reason that they start on a Sunday and so I can sit back and enjoy serious tennis watching from the comfort of my living room and without the hassle of having to get up and go to work.  Another reason I love the Australian Open is that you go to bed and there is tennis on.  You wake up and there is still tennis on.  Its like watching tennis 24/7.

This year, as a result of my constant barrage of emails (that is my story and I am sticking to it), ESPN has now made available to those of us in the Caribbean and Latin American markets, ESPNPlay, an online version of ESPN3 and WatchESPN, which is available to persons in the US and the African Sub-continent.  This is a great addition for someone like me who watches a lot of tennis as I no longer have to depend on Tennis Channel or ESPN2 to watch tennis as ESPNPlay will allow me to stream from every televised court at this year’s Australian Open.  As a result, look forward to more match reports from the Spin.

Steph’s Picks 

Breaking down the Aussie Open draw

We’re back! I’m so excited to see how this year’s WTA season rolls on. Last year, Serena and Venus were the stories, and I for one am thrilled they are on different halves of the 2016 Australian Open. It certainly helps that Venus is the #8 seed!

So…the draw. 

Top quarter: 
Serena (1) gets Giorgi, who Venus needed three sets to get past here a year ago.  Serena got a lot of young talent in her section including Ostapenko, Konjuh and Kasatkina, who just beat Venus in Auckland last week. I think Serena will meet either Errani (17) or Wozniacki (16) in the fourth round and even though neither Serena nor Maria have played a WTA match in 2016, I think they will meet in the quarters. Bencic (12) is in Maria’s section but I am not sure I trust her just yet in a big slam match.

Quarterfinal: Serena (1) vs Maria (5)

Second quarter:
Aga Radwanska (4) is coming off a WTA Finals tourney and a Shenzhen win this year. I still have trouble predicting how she will do, and the same goes with the other top seed here, Petra Kvitova (6). Petra’s still battling mono and she’s been ill this year with a stomach thing. Sloane Stephens (24) is coming off a win in Auckland and Suarez Navarro (10) hasn’t been too fab in singles for awhile. Vinci (13) has had some good wins in 2016 and seems to be on a high yet from her US Open run. Bouchard, Cibulkova and Gavrilova are also floating here as is Puig who is having a great run in Sydney. Tough section to call! 

Quarterfinal: Radwanska (4) vs. Cibulkova (unseeded)

Third quarter:
Garbine’s section – that feels odd to say! But the Spaniard (3) has some tough players in her section including possible fourth round opponent, and two-time AO winner, Vika (14). Garbine also could face the tricky Lucic-Baroni, Caroline Garcia or Mona Barthel in the first few rounds. Meanwhile, Angelique Kerber (7) made a lot of noise last year but had an abysmal year at the slams. I like her draw and think she has a great shot to make it far. I can’t say the same about the other high seed in Kerber’s section, Timea Bacsinszky (11), who has had two bad losses to start the year. And what to think of Svitolina (18) who took Serena to three sets in 2015? 

Predictions:  Angelique Kerber (7) vs Victoria Azarenka (14)

Fourth quarter:
Simona Halep (2) has been battling an achilles injury for ages but I think she’s been handed a pretty friendly draw up to the possible quarters. She could get Ivanovic or Keys in the fourth round and I think she’ll get through especially given Ana’s slip in form, and what to make of Keys who made the semis last year? The other top seed here is the legend herself, Venus Williams. Venus starts with Johanna Konta who made a big run up the rankings last year. She could face Sabine Lisicki (30) in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round. 

Quarterfinal: Simona Halep (2) vs Venus Williams (8)

Serena d Radwanska
Venus d Vika

Final: Serena d. Venus

Who will use the SABR and against which player:
Halep will do this versus Cornet in the second round and Alize will yell.

Seeded Players to lose 1st Round:
I could see Keys going out to Diyas with her lack of match play and injuries. II think Schmiedlova will have her hands full with Kasatkina. Lisicki could also be knocked out by Cetkovska, who beat Wozniacki at the US Open last fall.

Surprise Run:

In the past few years we’ve had Sloane Stephens, Genie Bouchard and Madison Keys make big runs to the semifinals. So which youngster is going to make a run this year? I think someone may surprise us from the Aga/Petra quarter. Daria Gavrilova, a new Australian, could make her way through that section and I think she may give the Aussies something to really cheer for on the women’s side. 

First round match to watch:

Caroline Wozniacki vs Yulia Putintseva. I mean, it’s Poots. 

Spin’s Picks

Serena Williams Quarter

On the basis of accomplishments, this is not a bad draw for Serena. However in terms of potential minefields and distractions, it could have its potential downfalls.  After the horror show that was the US Open, look for Serena to try to regain her confidence against an Italian.  I think for right now any Italian will do and who better than Giorgi.  On a personal note, I actually like when Serena gets tricky draws as it keeps her mind much more focused on the job at hand.   Look for her to deliver in her opening round match.   This quarter is littered with talent, but fortunately for Serena talent without the results to back it up.  

Serena Williams

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Simona Halep Quarter

How fortituious is it that at a time when Simona is struggling with an injury, she should have a pretty good draw which could see her defending her quarter final points from last year.  There is really no one in this quarter who should trouble the No. 2 seed. Venus Williams is in that section of the draw but apart from Venus, most of the players in this section are either slumping (Keys) or not on form (Lisicki/Makarova).  The player who might sneak through this section is Karolina Pliskova.  However, I don’t think that will happen.  

Who will get there?

Simona Halep 
Venus Williams

Aga Radwanska Quarter (yes its a thing)

Since winning the YEC, Radwanska has not lost a match.  She backed up her YEC title by winning the title in Shenzhen and she seems more confident than ever.  However, the same thing that has plagued Radwanska before will continue to plague her and that is her inability to hit through bigger hitters on Tour. That will not change at this Slam.  Her draw is fairly easy and she could come through for a possible meeting with Serena in the semifinals.  However, before she does that, she has some potential tricky opponents.  

Who will get there?
Aga Radwanska 
Sloane Stephens 

Garbine Muguruza Quarter

The final quarter belongs to the No. 4 seed, Spain’s Muguruza.  This section of the draw has been the hardest to call for me.  At first blush it would be easy to insert Muguruza and Kerber as the section’s quarterfinalists, but then you look and see someone like Azarenka, a 2 time champion of this event and you think, maybe something different will happen.  

Who will get there?

Garbine Muguruza/Victoria Azarenka

Angelique Kerber

Which top seed will exit early and potential opponent

Elina Svitolina to lose to Victoria Duval

Caroline Garcia losing to Strycova

First round matches to watch?

Wozniacki v. Poots
Van Uvytanck v. Azarenka (upset special)
Who will use the SABR and against which top player?
Giorgi or Ostapenko against Serena Williams

Who will have a surprise run?
Carla Suarez-Navarro

Please note that this post will be updated with TWMasterAce’s picks later today 

@TWMasterAce picks.  Master Ace has never been big on words and so he has summarised what he thinks are the Week 1 matches to see.  

Potential week 1 matchups to see:

Serena Williams vs Camila Giorgi – 1st round

Victoria Duval vs Elina Svitolina – 1st round

Venus Williams vs Johanna Konta – 1st round

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Eugenie Bouchard – 2nd round

Alize Cornet vs Simona Halep – 2nd round

Victoria Azarenka vs Samantha Crawford – 2nd round

Dominika Cibulkova vs Petra Kvitova – 3rd round


QF 1 : Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova

QF 2 : Agnieszka Radwanska vs Dominika Cibulkova

QF 3 : Angelique Kerber vs Victoria Azarenka

QF 4 : Venus Williams vs Simona Halep

SF 1 : Serena Williams vs Agnieszka Radwanska

SF 2 : Victoria Azarenka vs Simona Halep

F : Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka

W: Victoria Azarenka

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