The Hunter … Hunted

The Spin Team

In late 2015 to early 2016 Angelique Kerber was the hunter.  Fitness, speed, stealth, forehand, mentality.  Kerber became the complete package and in January 2016 she put that package together to do what only a handful of women have ever done, she took down Serena Williams in a  Grand Slam final in 3 very tough hard fought sets. While some would say that that win was a fluke, Kerber not only backed up that win, but she snagged another Grand Slam title in the same year when she came from a break down in the third set against current No. 1 Karolina Pliskova at the US Open.

She further cemented her legacy when she made the final of the WTA Year End Championships by playing consistent intelligent tennis.  While she did not win that event (lost to Dominika Cibulkova), Kerber showed everyone that she not just Wozniacki 2.0 but that she was a force to be reckoned with.

We are now almost at the end of the season and in what can only be called a forgettable year for Kerber, she was ousted in the first round of the US Open by an in  your face rising star Naomi Osaka of Japan.  Hitting huge serves, piercing down the line forehands, backhands that kissed the lines, Osaka was fearless against the defending champion.  The final score was 3 and 1 but it was not even that close.

What next for Kerber?  There have been no news reports that I have seen where she may be carrying an injury and it remains to be seen whether she will once again make a coaching change as she did before again hiring her current coaching team.

As for Osaka, this win was a statement win.  She mentioned during her on court interview the disappointment that she endured last year when she was up 5-1 against Madison Keys and lost that match.  Her sense of self is what has made me very respectful towards this young woman and I can only hope that her team, which looks like a solid one (despite my feelings for David Taylor) is experienced and used to managing player’s expectations, especially after huge wins.

Day 2 Preview

Most of the matches featured on Day 2 have been rescheduled thanks to rain.  Jelena Ostapenko, after losing the second set to Lara Arraburena bounced back to take it 6-1 in the third when her match resumed under the dome on Arthur Ashe stadium.  Someone needs to tell Ostapenko about managing her time on court during these big events.

Madison Keys had a bit of a struggle during her match against the very dangerous Elise Mertens.  While she was able to take the match in straight sets, she struggled mightily on serve and did not seem to be that match fit.

In what I can only term an upset, Lesia Tsurenko went out meekly to what must have been a very resurgent Wickmayer in straight sets.  Karolina Pliskova won in straight sets over Magda Linette and Strycova, Cirstea all won their matches easily.

Day 3 Preview 

Round 2 of the bottom half of the women’s draw will play today, as well as the remaining top half will complete Round 1 of play today.  Matches are below and Spin’s Picks are in bold.

Caroline Wozniacki (5) vs Ekaterina Makarova
Carla Suárez Navarro vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (29)
Maria Sakkari vs Arina Rodionova
Oceane Dodin vs Venus Williams (9) (tough one to call as Dodin is on a roll these days)

Petra Kvitova (23) vs Alize Cornet
Ekaterina Alexandrova vs Caroline Garcia (18)
Magdalena Rybarikova (31) vs Kristyna Pliskova
Ying-Ying Duan vs Garbine Muguruza (3)

Aleksandra Krunic vs Ajla Tomljanovic
Saisai Zheng vs Julia Goerges (30)
Ashleigh Barty vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Sloane Stephens vs Dominika Cibulkova (11)

Anastasija Sevastova (16) vs Kateryna Kozlova
Donna Vekic vs Shuai Peng (22)
Sofia Kenin vs Sachia Vickery
Timea Babos vs Maria Sharapova

Matches to Watch

Can Sloane Stephens continue her winning ways today.  If she plays like she has been doing all summer long, I am of the view that she takes out Cibulkova, who has been struggling.

Sevastova has lots of points to defend after her very good run at this event last year, and while she has not been winning matches as sharply as she usually does, she has been winning.

Babos struggled in her first round match, but she is a big match player and her second round opponent is also a big match player.  I think this one can either be a straight set drubbing by Sharapova or a long drawn out slug fest taken by Babos

Can Wozniacki continue her winning ways and can Makarova, who seems to have regained some amount of confidence in her game make this a match to remember?

 

SPIN’S AO DAY 4 PICKS

It is already Day 4 and time for Spin’s Picks.  I don’t know about anyone else, but the top half of the draw seems to have more matches that I would love to see, moreso than the bottom half.  Early days yet though so anything can happen. 


Day 4’s matches features some questions that are high on everyone’s list, namely:-

  1. how is Serena Williams’ ankle; 
  2. is Petra Kvitova really on her way back; 
  3. is Laura Robson the real deal; 
  4. is Svetlana Kuznetsova really working her way back to the top of women’s tennis; 
  5. has Caroline Wozniacki sufficiently recovered from that early round scare in the first round; and 
  6. is Yanina Wickmayer finally beginning to show us what she is really made of?
Below are Spin’s picks for Day 4. 

PLAYER A
PLAYER B
SPIN’S PICKS
RESULTS
Victoria Azarenka
Eleni Daniilidou
Azarenka – while the top seed had some trouble with Nicolescu in her opening match, she should sail through this one with no problems
Luksika Kumkhum
Jamie Hampton
Hampton – the feisty young American should have some trouble but should get through in 3 
Varvara Lepchenko
Elena Vesnina
This is a pick em but I am going out on a limb and picking Vesnina for the win. That title in Hobart seems to be working wonders on her psyche
Akgul Amanmuradova
Roberta Vinci
I would pick the big serving Akgul but Vinci will expose her movement with her slice backhand –  Vinci
Caroline Wozniacki
Donna Vekic
A battle of young guns.  Vekic is young and hungry. Wozniacki is young and tired.  This could be long with Wozniacki winning or short with Vekic winning.  I am going with Wozniacki
Daria Gavrilova
Lesia Tsurenko
Tsurenko has played a lot of tennis this season.  Taking out a seed in her last round, look for her to have a let down here – Gavrilova
Su-Wei Hsieh
Svetlana Kuznetsova
This depends on which Sveta shows up.  If she decides to play behind the baseline, she will lose.  Hsieh can run all day.  Sveta should use her arsenal of shots to win this – Kuznetsova
Yulia Putintseva
Carla Suarez Navarro
Another battle of the tiny tots.  The world got to see Putintseva in her last match against McHale. Look for the steady Navarro to outlast the Russian – Navarro
Serena Williams
Garbine Muguruza
How is the ankle doing?  That is the question the tennis world is waiting on when Serena takes the court for her second round match. Serena in straights
Ayumi Morita
Annika Beck
I have not see either of these women play since the tournament started but I am going with Beck, if only because of her big win in the previous round.
Yanina Wickmayer
Jana Cepelova
Wickmayer to continue her 2013 run of form against the youngster
Shuai Peng
Maria Kirilenko
This one will be a long drawn out affair.  If Peng serves well, she should take it, but I am going with Kirilenko
Kimiko Date-Krumm
Shahar Peer
Peer had to battle hard just to get here while Krumm sent Petrova packing with a bagel.  Look for Krumm to discombolate Peer here.
Bojana Jovanovski
Lucie Safarova
Depends on which Lucie shows up.  Bojana can be steady as well as erratic.  I am going with Jovanovski
Sloane Stephens
Kristina Mladenovic
Battle of the young guns.  Stephens dispatched her last opponent with 2 breadsticks.  Look for her to continue her great run of form here.
Laura Robson
Petra Kvitova
This is the match of the day.  Is 2011 Petra back or will Robson get another top 10 scalp at a Major.  I am going with Petra because of her experience, plus she has to get it right at some point