by the Spin
Firstly, let me wish everyone a Happy New Year. It has been some time since I last wrote about tennis, but life has gotten in the way of my tennis blogging. I do hope, however, that I will not be sidetracked in my enjoyment of tennis, including writing about it. This year my promise is to put out content content that is not only complimentary of the WTA, but uplifts the sport that I love so much.
2018 has started much as 2017 ended, with a little controversy. As many of you may now know, Serena Williams, after suffering through what can only be described as a traumatic delivery, has taken the decision not to compete at this year’s Australian Open. For fans of Serena the disclosure of her traumatic delivery (via caeseran section) and the accompanying health scare should make us all take a step back and breathe while we clamour for Serena’s return to the Tour.
With Serena’s absence, the organisers of this year’s Australian Open needed a WTA face for the draw and they went for what they undoubtedly perceived was the next biggest thing in women’s tennis and that was Maria Sharapova. Sharapova, never one to fail to insinuate herself into any conversation, no matter how controversial and no matter how it brings the sport she claims she loves into disrepute, jumped at the opportunity to walk with the Daphne Akhurst trophy as the representative of the women’s draw. The organisers, hoping to spin things to their benefit, indicated that they were celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Sharapova’s last win.
Much has said by others already, but I suspect that anyone who knew about Sharapova’s doping violation, knew that it occurred the last time she played at the Australian Open and did not come away thinking that wow, is this the sport that talks about how rigorous its anti doping efforts are, really celebrating someone who got banned for using a banned substance at their event?
I can never tell whether tennis actually takes itself seriously when it says and does stuff and I can’t imagine that Roger Federer, a player who epitomises all that is good in tennis, felt anything but abhorrence of having to stand there beside someone who he has condemned for using a banned substance. Again, the optics were not a great look for the sport. If last year’s finalist (Venus Williams), the champion of the previous year (Angelique Kerber) or any of the other semifinalists from last year’s event were unavailable, they could have gone with the junior girl’s champion from last year, or better yet, how about the women’s wheelchair champion.
Anyway, the draws have been made and you can feel free to review the women’s draw by reading Jon Wertheim’s Seed Report.
Early Round Winners
Tennis never rests and we already have some early winners heading into 2018. In Shenzhen, World No.1 Simona Halep got her side of the scoreboard moving by taking the Shenzhen trophy over Siniakova. Elina Svitolina won in Brisbane and Julia Georges beat Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in Auckland. At the time of writing Hobart and Sydney are in the semi final stages and who knows what will happen. (Update despite the rain delays, especially in Hobart, Elise Mertens defeated buzarnescu in three tough sets and Angelique Kerber lifted her first trophy since winning the US Open in 2016. She defeated Ashleigh Barty in straight sets.
Early Round Favourites for the Australian Open
I will not be doing a draw analysis for the Australian Open but I can tell you that my eyes are on the following players to make some noise at this year’s event.
Camila Giorgi (seems to have a new coach in her corner and playing with confidence. She is currently in the semifinal of Sydney after taking out Radwanska quite easily). Has usually done very well in Australia.
Jelano Ostapenko (big hitter and French Open champ who took out Serena in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Loves the big stage and will be interesting to see how she fares now that she is a target)
Elina Svitolina (my pick to do very well here)
Siniakova (took out her idol Sharapova in Shenzhen. Her serve has never looked better than it did in that match, serving up 10 aces and defending her second serves)
Caroline Wozniacki (the in form player at the moment but can she run the table to the final and lift the trophy? Doubtful)
Garbine Muguruza (has there ever been a top player who no one has picked moreso than Garbine. One can never tell if she is healthy or just having a bad day on court)
Early Round Upsets
Venus Williams (if she wants to remain in the top 10 she is going to have to manage her matches from first ball. Her first round match could not be any harder as she faces an in form and match tough player in Belinda Bencic)
Sloane Stephens (what a disappointment she has been)
Kristina Mladenovic (is this an official slump)
Madison Keys (just not sure she is 100% healthy to compete)
First Round Matches to Watch
Bouchard v. Dodin
Sabalenka v. Barty
Cirstea v. Diyas
Cepede-Royg v. Pliskova (Ka)
Pliskova (Kr) v. Radwanksa (tough one for Aga)
Mladenovic v. Bogdan (tough one for the slumping Frenchie)
Putintseva v. Watson (Watson has been having a good run of form but if you are doing Suicide Pool do not pick this match)
Keys v. Wang (tough match for Keys who has not had much match play since losing in the US Open final)
Bencic v. Williams
Georges v. Kenin (tough one for both ladies)
Stephens v. Zhang (tough match for the slumping US Open champion)
Ostapenko v. Schiavone (potential match of the day)
Babos v. Vandeweghe
Views from the Fans
I asked some people to give me their final four and the eventual winner. The responses were interesting:-
Semis (Ka Pliskova v. Kerber and Svitolina v. Wozniacki
Final (Svitlolina v. Kerber)
Winner – Svitolina
Semis (Venus, Keys, Pliskova Ka, Wozniacki)
Final – Venus v. Keys
Master Ace (@TWMasterAce)
Semis: Pliskova Ka v. Kerber and Svitolina v. Vandeweghe (bold pick)
Final – Kerber v. Svitolina
Champion – Kerber
Day 1 play starts at 7:00 EST and for those of you who live in the Caribbean and Latin America you can watch matches via ESPNPlay. Check your local provider.
Day 1 OOP with the Spin’s Picks are set out below
Rod Laver Arena
Ostapenko v. Schiavone
Williams (V) v. Bencic
Gavrilova v. Falconi
Margaret Court Arena
Stephens v. Zhang
Stosur v. Puig
Buzarnescu v. Wozniacki
Kenin v. Georges
Babos v. Vandeweghe
Townsend v. Rybarikova
Cibulkova v. Kanepi
Fourlis v. Rogowska
Jorovic v. Svitolina
Flipkens v. Riske
Fett v. Eguchi
Begu v. Makarova
Peng v. Qualifier
Pavlyuchenkova v. Kozlova
Duan v. Duque-Marino
Allertova v. Parmentier
Krunic v. Kontaveit
Golubic v. Viktorija
Brady v. Linette
Schmiedlova v. Kasatkina
Niculescu v. Barthel
Kumkhum v. Larsson
Cornet v. Wang
Bertens v. Bellis
Sakkari v. Siniakova
Suarez-Navarro v. Frech
Van Uytvanck v. Martic
Kuzmova v. Mertens
Gibbs v. Tomova