Category Archives: 2015

Fed Cup Final Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 2 Match Previews & Predictions

Fed Cup Final Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 2 Match Previews & Predictions

 The final day of the Fed Cup final in Prague promises to be an epic. The tie is perfectly poised after Day 1 where Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova picked up victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Karolina Pliskova. The tie is squared at 1 win apiece with the reverse singles rubbers and perhaps a doubles match to come on Day 2 to decide the 2015 Fed Cup champion on Sunday.

Match 3: Petra Kvitova vs Maria Sharapova

The blockbuster match that we have all been waiting for between Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova will kick-start proceedings on Day 2 of the Fed Cup final in Prague. With the tie squared at 1 win apiece, this clash looms as the most important rubber of the tie when the two leaders of each team go head-to-head.

Petra Kvitova continued her stunning Fed Cup record on Saturday, recording a 2-6 6-1 6-1 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening rubber of the tie. Kvitova has now won 21 of her last 23 Fed Cup singles matches. Petra made a wayward start to the match, committing far too many unforced errors to gift the opening set to Pavlyuchenkova. Petra really raised her level in the second and third sets and the Russian couldn’t keep up. Kvitova will enter this clash full of confidence after beating Maria a couple of weeks ago at the semi-final stage of the WTA Finals in Singapore.

 

Maria Sharapova made a winning start to her first ever Fed Cup final campaign on Saturday courtesy of a 6-3 6-4 victory over Karolina Pliskova. The pressure was totally on Maria heading into this match, a loss for Russia would have left them 0-2. Maria responded like a true champion, aggressively dictating the play from start to finish and silencing the Czech crowd in the process. Maria is on a mission this week and will have had her eyes set on a rematch with Kvitova ever since her loss to the Czech at the WTA Finals in Singapore last month.

Maria Sharapova holds a 6-4 head-to-head record over Kvitova, however Petra has won the last 2 meetings between the pair. Both of those victories came in Singapore, a 6-3 7-6 win last month and a 6-3 6-2 win last year.

This promises to be a fierce encounter with so much on the line. Kvitova’s Fed Cup record is impressive, but if anyone can stop her, it is Maria. I fancy a determined Sharapova to get the job done here and place the Russian team in the driver’s seat on Day 2. It’s hard to see Maria losing to Petra 3 times in a row, she simply will not let that happen.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Petra Kvitova in 3 sets

 

Match 4: Karolina Pliskova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The pressure of the Fed Cup final will fall to Karolina Pliskova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova when the two meet in the extremely important fourth rubber, this match could potentially be the decisive rubber, one of these ladies will have the opportunity to end the tie depending on the result of the first match of the day. This is a massive opportunity for two relatively inexperienced players to stand up and make a real impact.

 

It was a shock decision to see Karolina Pliskova be chosen to play Maria Sharapova instead of Lucie Safarova in the opening singles rubber. Karolina was unable to seriously challenge the Russian number 1, suffering a 3-6 4-6 loss. Karolina didn’t serve particularly well and was made to look quite powerless as Sharapova dictated proceedings. It has been a long year for Karolina, the Czech has played more games than anyone else on the WTA tour in the last 12 months. Perhaps Karolina is understandably running out of gas.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova looked like causing a massive boilover in the opening match the tie on Saturday when she stormed past Petra Kvitova to take the opening set. However the Russian’s resistance gradually decreased as Petra Kvitova raised her level, the Czech eventually secured a 2-6 6-1 6-1 victory. Despite the loss, there were some positive signs for Pavlyuchenkova, she will certainly fancy her chances against Pliskova on Sunday.

 

Karolina won the only previous encounter between the pair 6-2 6-4 earlier this year in Dubai. I expect the score to be very different on this occasion. I feel like Pavlyuchenkova is fresher mentally and physically heading into this match and will also deal with the situation much better.

Pliskova has played a lot of tennis this year and has seemed to struggling physically in her last few tournaments, furthermore her record in big matches this year has been very poor. Pavlyuchenkova certainly has much more variety, better movement and her game is generally much more solid. Karolina didn’t serve particularly well on Saturday, and will need to improve quite significantly if she is to get the job done here. Pavlyuchenkova’s form has generally been better in the last couple of months, I think Pavlyuchenkova can win this one.

Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Karolina Pliskova in 3 sets

Fed Cup Final Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 1 Match Previews & Predictions

Fed Cup Final: Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 1 Match Previews & Predictions

The 2015 Fed Cup final promises to be an epic when a Petra Kvitova led Czech Republic takes on a Maria Sharapova led Russia at the 02 Arena in Prague. The Czech Republic have been dominant in recent years, having won the tournament in 3 of the last 4 years. Petra Kvitova has been the spearhead in each campaign, winning 20 of 22 Fed Cup singles matches since 2011. Saturday’s singles matches will be critical to the final outcome, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova will be the strong favourites, an upset in either match will change the outlook of the entire tie. 

 

Match 1: Petra Kvitova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The pressure will be fully on Petra Kvitova when she comes up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first match of the 2015 Fed Cup final on Saturday in Prague. It is extremely important for Kvitova to win this match and get the Czech Republic off to a winning start, a loss here would likely see Russia end day 1 with a 2-0 lead given Maria Sharapova will start a very strong favourite against Karolina Pliskova in the second match of the day.

Both Kvitova and Pavlyuchenkova showed good form in the later stages of the season. Kvitova reached the final at the WTA Finals in Singapore, however she did finish the tournament with 2 wins and 3 losses. Importantly, Kvitova did defeat Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, which will give her confidence heading into the reverse singles rubber against the Russian number 1.

 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s recent indoor form has been great, she will certainly be no pushover. Pavlyuchenkova claimed the title in Linz before reaching the final in Moscow, amassing a 19 match winning streak at indoor events before falling to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final in Moscow. Pavlyuchenkova will enter her match against Kvitova with nothing to lose, she isn't expected to win this match, making her a very dangerous opponent given her ability on this surface. 

Petra Kvitova holds a 6-3 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova, on hard courts Petra’s head-to-head lead over the Russian is just 4-3. Kvitova won the only meeting between the pair in 2015, recording a 6-1 6-4 win over Pavlyuchenkova on route to claiming the title in Madrid.

This is a really tough match to call, Kvitova has to start the clear favourite but I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset. Pavlyuchenkova’s record at indoor events cannot be ignored and she often raises her level in big matches at big events. It has been a really season for Kvitova, plagued by illness, I believe Kvitova is vulnerable this week. This should be a really close match and could very well end in a victory for Russia. 

Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Petra Kvitova in 3 sets

 

Match 2: Karolina Pliskova vs Maria Sharapova

The Czech Republic made a surprise decision to give Karolina Pliskova the nod over Lucie Safarova to play in Saturday’s opening singles rubber. Karolina will face the ultimate test when she comes up against Maria Sharapova who is playing in her first Fed Cup final. Maria will be desperate to add a Fed Cup title to her resume, it is extremely important for Russia that Maria wins both of her singles matches. This will be the very first meeting between Karolina and Maria.

 

Karolina Pliskova and Maria Sharapova also bring good form into the event. Pliskova reached the final in Zhuhai whilst Maria Sharapova reached the semi-final stage at the WTA Finals in Singapore before falling to Petra Kvitova. Both Karolina and Maria showed good form during the group stages at each event where they both went unbeaten.

It will be interesting to see how Karolina matches up against Maria in their very first meeting. Karolina is certainly one of very few players on tour that has the firepower to match Maria from the service line and from the baseline. However Maria’s experience level and record in big matches is far greater and could be a major factor in this match-up.

I suspect a determined Maria Sharapova will be far too good for Karolina Pliskova on this occasion. Maria always raises her level on occasions like this, the hostile Prague crowd should bring out the best Sharapova. It will be tough for Pliskova to keep up with Maria.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Karolina Pliskova in 2 sets

Venus Williams vs Karolina Pliskova, WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai Final Preview

Zhuhai Final: (1) Venus Williams vs (2) Karolina Pliskova 

The inaugural WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai will end with a bang on Sunday when the top 2 seeds and 2 of the biggest hitters on tour collide with a spot in the top 10 on the line. The winner of this match will end the year in the top 10, a massive added incentive for both ladies to win this final. This will be the first career meeting between Venus and Karolina, it promises to be hotly contested, quality final between two players who have played awesome tennis week and seem to be peaking just in time for the final after perfect semi-final performances. 

Venus Williams seems to be peaking at the right time in Zhuhai. The American played inconsistent tennis during the group stage but managed to claim consecutive 3 set victories over Madison Keys and Saisai Zheng, coming from a set down on both occasions. Venus wasn't at her best but used all of her experience to peak at the right time in each match. 

 

The American's best performance of the week came on Saturday where she thumped Roberta Vinci 6-2 6-2 to reach Sunday's final. Venus was clearly on mission, maintaining a level and high intensity for the entire clash. Venus was particularly impressive at the net and served extremely well. It will be important for Venus to produce another high quality serving performance on Sunday against Pliskova, otherwise she will be in trouble. 

Karolina Pliskova also saved her best performance of the week thus far for the semi-final stage, recording a comfortable 6-4 6-1 victory over Elina Svitolina. Pliskova was at her powerful best, the Czech was not broken all match and pounced upon the Ukrainian's weak second serve. Karolina also went unbeaten through the group stage, defeating Jelena Jankovic in 3 sets and Sara Errani in straight sets 

 

With so much on the line, this promises to be an extremely competitive final. I'm going to give the slight edge in this match-up to Karolina Pliskova. Both ladies obviously possess extreme power, both from the service line and the baseline. The biggest difference is probably Karolina's superior serve, the Czech's serve is far more reliable, especially her second serve. For this reason I think it will be easier for Karolina to break serve which is a massive advantage in this particular match-up which will be dominated by serve. 

However, Experience is certainly on the American's side and Pliskova will need to overcome a poor record in finals. The Czech is 1 win and 4 losses in finals this year. Despite that record, I don't think nerves were a factor. 

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Venus Williams in 3 sets 

WTA Elite Trophy, Zhuhai Semi-Final Match Previews & Predictions

Zhuhai Semi-Final Match Previews & Predictions

The introduction of the WTA Elite trophy in Zhuhai was quite controversial with many questioning the timing and player commitment to the tournament. However the event has been pretty successful thus far with good crowds and some quality matches, amongst some disappointing retirements. The tournament promises to end with a bang, we are left with 4 worthy semi-finalists and 3 entertaining hard-fought battles to come. 

Semi-Final #1: (1) Venus Williams vs (4) Roberta Vinci

Saturday's first semi-final in Zhuhai will be a battle between the two veterans in the field. This promises to be a heated battle given the controversial ending to their most recent clash in Wuhan a couple of months ago. Roberta Vinci will  enter this match searching for her first career victory over the American. 

 

Venus Williams won both of her group stage matches, fighting back from a set down on both occasions. Venus started the week with a 3-6 7-6 6-1 victory over Madison Keys. Venus was outplayed for the majority of the opening 2 sets but used all of her experience to send the match to a decider before running away with the match. Venus made a sluggish start to her second match, but recovered well to claim a 4-6 6-1 6-1 win over Saisai Zheng. Venus is now extremely close to securing a spot in the top 10, she will certainly do that is she claims the title in Zhuhai. 

Roberta Vinci started the week with an impressive 6-4 6-4 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova, not dropping serve throughout the whole match. Roberta's second match didn't go so well, suffering a horror 1-6 0-6 loss to a red-hot Anna Schmiedlova. Roberta's spot in the semi-finals was already confirmed before her match with Anna, that could certainly have something to do with the lopsided scoreline. 

 

Venus holds a perfect 4-0 head-to-head record over Roberta and has the added advantage of a day of rest heading into this match. Venus defeated Roberta 5-7 6-2 7-6 in their most recent clash at the semi-final stage in Wuhan. The quick courts  in Zhuhai will certainly help Venus, I suspect the American will continue her dominance over the Italian with a hard-fought win to advance to the final. 

Prediction: Venus Williams to defeat Roberta Vinci in 3 sets

 

Semi-Final #2: (8) Elina Svitolina vs (3) Karolina Pliskova 

Saturday's second semi-final of the day promises to be a cracker when fellow rising stars Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova collide for a place in Sunday's final. Both Elina and Karolina are searching for their biggest career title this week, it would be the perfect way to end career best seasons for both ladies. Both ladies went unbeaten through the group stage and bring good form into Saturday night's match. 

 

Elina Svitolina has been at her fighting best this week in Zhuhai. The Ukrainian started the week with a 7-6 6-3 victory over Andrea Petkovic before defeating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-7 6-1 6-3. Elina's win over Carla was particularly impressive, Elina scrambled well from the baseline, committing to chasing down every ball. Elina will need to raise her level on Saturday if she is to defeat Karolina for the first time. 

Karolina Pliskova has been at her thunderous best this week. Stunning Jelena Jankovic with a 6-4 2-6 6-3 victory before thumping Sara Errani 6-0 6-3 to advance to the semi-finals. The quick courts in Zhuhai really seem to help Karolina, certainly in a match-up against counter-punchers. 

 

Karolina Pliskova holds a perfect 3-0 head-to-head record over Elina, winning their most recent clash 2-6 6-4 6-4 in Wuhan a couple of months ago. Pliskova seems to have the edge over Elina, and I suspect that will once again be the case on Saturday. 

Pliskova has the added advantage of having a day of rest before this match whilst Svitolina played a gruelling match against Carla on Friday evening. The quick surface will also help Pliskova hit through Svitolina. 

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Elina Svitolina in 2 sets 

WTA Elite Trophy, Zhuhai Day 4 Match Previews & Predictions

Zhuhai Day 4 Match Previews & Predictions 

Venus Williams, Karolina Pliskova and Roberta Vinci secured semi-final births on day 3, the final semi-finalist will be confirmed on the final day of group stage action on Friday. Elina Svitolina and Carla Suarez Navarro will battle for the final position, the winner will progress to the final 4. Roberta Vinci advanced to the semi-finals courtesy of Caroline Wozniacki retiring against Kuznetsova and withdrawing from the event, essentially eliminating the Russian from the event. 

Group B: (2) Carla Suarez Navarro vs (8) Elina Svitolina

Friday's most intriguing match sees Carla Suarez Navarro and Elina Svitolina go head-to-head for a spot in the semi-finals. Carla and Elina both pick up victories over Andrea Petkovic, the winner of this match will finish on top of Group B and progress to the semi-final stage. 

 

Carla Suarez Navarro routed a wounded Andrea Petkovic 6-0 6-0 in her opening group stage match in Zhuhai. Petkovic was not competitive, offering little to no resistance. Nevertheless, Carla was seemingly playing at a pretty reasonable level. 

Elina Svitolina started the week with a 7-6 6-3 victory over Andrea Petkovic. The German was certainly much more competitive in this match, offering much more resistance. Svitolina's form during the Asian Swing was poor but she seems to be in a better place this week and will be keen to make an impact in Zhuhai, this is a good opportunity for Elina. 

The head-to-head record between Carla and Elina is split at 1 win apiece, Elina won their most recent clash 4-6 6-4 6-4 in Cincinnati last year. This should be a good match with both ladies desperate to win, I like Elina's chances here. Carla and Elina are both great grinders from the baseline, but Elina is more solid and has a greater ability to attack. 

Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Carla Suarez Navarro in 2 sets 

Group D: (4) Roberta Vinci vs Anna Schmiedlova 

Roberta Vinci and Anna Schmiedlova will go head-to-head for the first time on Friday. Courtesy of Caroline Wozniacki's withdrawal from the event, Anna Schmiedlova has taken her spot as an alternate. 

 

Roberta Vinci started her Zhuhai campaign in style with a commanding 6-4 6-4 victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Vinci was on top from start to finish, the Italian's serve was never broken. 

Schmiedlova is certainly a dangerous opponent and is more than capable of competing with the U.S Open finalist, Schmiedlova has nothing to lose and I think she will cause an upset here. 

Prediction: Anna Schmiedlova to defeat Roberta Vinci in 3 sets 

Group A: (7) Madison Keys vs (12) (WC) Saisai Zheng 

The Final match of the day is a dead rubber. Madison and Saisai both lost their opening group stage matches to Venus Williams meaning the American will finish on top of the group and advance to the semi-finals. 

Madison and Saisai both showed promising signs in their opening group matches despite being defeated. Keys came particularly close to victory, outplaying Venus for the majority of the first 2 sets but ultimately succumbing 6-3 6-7 1-6.  Keys will be hoping to end the best season of he career on a high with a victory over Zheng. 

 

Saisai Zheng pushed Venus Williams much more than expected. Saisai made a terrific start to the match and hung on the claim the first set. However Venus would eventually raise her level to steamroll past the local hopeful 4-6 6-1 6-1. 

This will be the first career meeting between the pair and it should end in a victory for the American, unless she has a really bad day

Prediction: Madison Keys to defeat Saisai Zheng in 2 sets