Author : Sudeshna Banerjee
The first day of the 2013 WTA Championships saw it all – Victoria Azarenka’s willpower, Serena William’s ruthlessness and Petra Kvitova’s confidence. And for Sara Errani, Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska, the road ahead became even tougher. Will they be able to bounce back? A look at Wednesday’s delectable line-up at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul will give us an idea.
(4)Li Na v (6)Sara Errani (Head-to-head: Li leads 5-0)
It’s a difficult situation for Sara Errani. The slightly built Italian No. 1 whose game thrives on heavy topspin and an array of dropshots and lobs put up a gallant display initially against Victoria Azarenka on Tuesday and put her on the ropes. Thrice she failed to clinch the first set and in the end her fire was doused by the resilient Belarusian. Her misery was compounded by a right calf injury and it would only be determined on Wednesday if she at all would be able to take the court.
If she does, her opponent will be too menacing in the form of Li Na to whom she has lost all her five matches, four of which were straight set defeats. If further assessment of Errani’s calf injury deems her unfit to take the court, Caroline Wozniacki, as the first alternate would step in. The Dane would definitely pose a greater challenger for the Chinese No. 1. Even though she has a losing record against 2011 French Open champion, it is to be noted that she does have a victory over Li in indoor hardcourts. With a title at Luxembourg, Wozniacki should be raring to go. Her crosscourt backhand does much of the damage and recently she has ramped up the forehand and has shown intention of being aggressive. That might help her take a set off the 31-year-old.
But the World No. 5 has far more lucid strokes and fluid movement and when her jittery nerves don’t come in the way, she can be a treat to watch. What’s more – she has repeatedly mentioned how much Carlos Rodriguez has helped to calm her down and improve her volleys. On Wednesday, Li would surely want to give a testament of that!
Prediction: Li Na wins in straight sets (if she faces Sara Errani)
Li Na wins in three sets (if she faces Caroline Wozniacki).
(2)Victoria Azarenka v (7)Jelena Jankovic (Head-to-head: Azarenka leads 5-3)
It was not exactly the way Victoria Azarenka would have liked to start off the proceedings at Istanbul. She looked rusty, was slow off the blocks, struggled with her serve and mistimed her returns. She looked in grave danger of losing a set to a player she had dominated the last five times. But as we have seen numerous times with Azarenka, she slowly tidied up her game, started hitting with more precision with occasional dropshots disrupting the rhythm of her opponent. She committed just two unforced errors for the entire part of the second set which helped her break the three-match losing streak she had since her US Open semi-final win.
Azarenka likes to be a front-runner and the victory would give her oodles of confidence for she would be facing a rival who can pose a bigger challenge. Jelena Jankovic has great defense, anticipation and can mix it up slices and lobs when required.
It is admirable to see the way Jelena Jankovic worked her way back into the top 10 again after sliding out of the top 30. She even admitted that the slide robbed her of her love for the game. A title at Bogota, two finals versus Serena and a handful of semi-finals and the ever-affable Serbian was back in the top 10 and in her 5th Championships! The 28-year-old already knows how to rattle Victoria Azarenka given their last meeting – this year in the Cincinnati semi-finals – went the distance and had 23 service breaks! Azarenka needs to be on her guard and not repeat the errors she committed against Errani and definitely needs to serve well.
Prediction: Azarenka wins in three sets.
(1)Serena Williams v (3)Agnieszka Radwanska (Head-to-head: Serena leads 7-0)
It was said that Agnieszka Radwanska was in tears post her loss to Petra Kvitova on Tuesday night. Given she had beaten the Czech lefty at this very stage last year at the same venue, she knew the importance of a victory over her and was understandably quite vexed with the consequences of the defeat. Perhaps a victory in her first match would have kept her floating and in contention for the semi-finals but it will surely be an arduous task now given her next opponent is the seemingly indomitable Serena Williams.
The reminder of their last few matches should also be enough to frustrate the Pole as she had succeeded to take only one set out of their seven meetings so far and that too came in the Wimbledon final last year. Serena, meanwhile, in her first round-robin match, played absolutely sublime tennis and her opponent Angelique Kerber even confessed Serena hardly gave her a chance to breathe!
That’s how suffocating Serena makes her opponents on the court. Serena is moving beautifully, serving tremendously well like she always does and isn’t even hesitant to approach the net to put away the shots when needed. Devastating she is and if Radwanska was looking for a medicine after her loss on Tuesday then facing Serena unfortunately isn’t the best medicine after a defeat. The Pole though has the ability to mix up and absorb the power of the big-hitters but Serena’s consistent deep returns pins her to the baseline and it is indeed a difficult proposition.
Prediction: Serena wins in straight sets.