by Karen 

We are at the business end of the year’s first Grand Slam and these are the 8 women left in the field.  

Serena Williams 

Serena has had a relatively easy time of it up to this point.  She has been playing calm, focused tennis.  She has not been hitting as many aces as she usually does, working more on placement rather than on power.  This could be due to many reasons (none of which I care to speculate about).  Suffice it to say that the media’s portrayal of Serena Williams as a serve bot does little to analyse her complete all around game.  Her opponent in the quarter-final is none other than 

Maria Sharapova

52 aces through 4 rounds.  21 in her match against Bencic.  Could this be the year that Sharapova finally says, “no one beats me 18 times in a row”.  I don’t know.  I always think that the next match could be Sharapova’s to win.  I always think that despite the head to head, Sharapova has had her chances.  It would be the definition of ironic if the streak that started at the Australian Open in 2005 should end 11 years later at the Australian Open.  As the kids say, we will see. 

Aga Radwanksa

Except for her match against Anna-Lena Friedsam, Aga has been flying under the radar.  Yet to lose a match this season, Radwanska seems to have carried over her 2015 YEC win into 2016.  Already a title winner, Radwanska has been cruising through the draw in as low key a manner as reasonably possible.  Her opponent 

Carla Suarez-Navarro

I never expected CSN to get this far.  Even though she has reached this round, she has not got here (in my opinion) because of her stellar play). She has been rock solid on the baseline when it mattered most and she has allowed her opponents to implode.  Will she be able to do the same thing against Radwanska. The head to head is 2-1 in favour of Radwanska.  In addition, CSN got treatment on her right knee during her match against Gavrilova.  This should be either a straight forward affair for Radwanska or CSN will pull a rabbit out of a hat. 

The bottom half of the draw contains some spectacular surprises, especially with the ousting of the Nos. 2 (Halep) and 3 (Muguruza) seeds.  

Angelique Kerber (6)

Kerber has not looked as if she will raise this trophy but she has been putting in a very good impression of someone who can.  Saving match points in her first round match against Doi, Kerber has been less than clinical in her subsequent matches.  Will she have what it takes to take down the resurging 

Victoria Azarenka

How great is it to see Azarenka back in the mix at a Grand Slam.  A 2 time winner of this event, Azarenka has been cruising through her side of the draw, dropping bagels and breadsticks like she has opened an Italian bakery.  She is 6-0 against Kerber with their most recent meeting being a straight set drubbing in the Brisbane final a few weeks ago.   Unless Kerber brings something new to the table this will be 7 and 0.

Shuai Zhang

On the verge of hanging up her racquet, Zhang has made it to the final 8 of the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific.  How fantastic is this story?  Having to come through qualifying, drawing the No. 2 seed and playing what is without a doubt a tough part of the draw, Zhang has earned her spot in this final 8.  It is unfortunate that her match against Keys was overshadowed somewhat by Keys’ injury, but take nothing away from this young woman, she earned her spot at this event. She will take another player who was not expected to be here 

Sidenote:  Sam Stosur was seeing sitting in Zhang’s box in her match against Keys.  It is said that she was ball girl for Stosur during her practice sessions.  This is how tennis works. 

Joanna Konta

It is not often the case that a player beats Venus Williams and the Spin Team does not place them on the permanent shite list.  Konta is one of those players.  

Last year while watching Eastbourne (a tune up for Wimbledon), Konta came to the awareness of many tennis fans.  Previously, she was just a name who got wild cards into Wimbledon.  At Eastbourne she came through qualifying and made it all to the quarter finals before losing to eventual champion, Belinda Bencic. Since that start, Konta has made massive improvements not only to her ranking, but to her game.  Now, here she is in the final eight of the year’s first Grand Slam.  

Random Thoughts

While there will be many questions regarding the timing of this decision, I think it is the best thing that Petra could have done.  I believe when you have had a coach for so many years, and especially when you have had that coach since childhood, that coach may not think of you as an adult and I have always felt that the relationship between Petra and her coach was more about David being like a father to her, rather than an employee.  

I am hopeful that this talented ball striker who can’t seem to either get or stay healthy will make the right decision when it comes to her career.  That being said, if I was going to suggest a coach for Petra I would ask her to not speak with the following persons: Thomas Hogstedt and Martina Navratilova.  If I was going to suggest a coach, someone who can get her fit and stay healthy it would be her Fed Cup coach.  

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