Monday, July 1, 2013

Wimbledon 2013 Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Sabine Lisicki (23) vs. Kaia Kanepi

In a tournament filled with its fair share of drama and big upsets, Sabine Lisicki's win over Serena Williams is surely the most unexpected result of the fortnight. I mentioned during my preview of their fourth round encounter, Lisicki might be the only player who might extend Serena to a tie-break at most. What transpired was a performance of relentless hitting aided by some brilliant scurrying and chasing down of difficult balls by the talented German.

Serena managed to win the second set after elevating her level of play, but the sheer unpredictability of Lisicki's approach meant Serena was never truly comfortable, even at 3-0 up in the final set. Remarkably, Lisicki even out-served Serena, hitting ten aces to Serena's seven.

Kaia Kanepi
Kaia Kanepi (Photo credit: Yersinia)
Sabine Lisicki
Sabine Lisicki (Photo credit: Carine06)
After the euphoria of the victory, Lisicki remarked that the tournament wasn't over, and rightly so. Her next opponent is the last unseeded player remaining in the draw, Kaia Kanepi. The Estonian has reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon for the second time on the back of some impressive results.

Lisicki need only talk to her compatriot Angelique Kerber about the perils of not being switched on throughout the duration of a match against Kanepi. After staring defeat in the face in the second round against Kerber, Kanepi rallied to complete an upset. Impressively, she displayed the same appetite for a fight when she broke British hearts by beating Laura Robson in the fourth round. Robson was serving for the first set, but Kanepi broke and then came back from 3-0 down in the tie-break to win the set. In a tight second set, she didn't give Robson a sniff, and won the match calmly.

I think Lisicki has more game and variety than Kanepi. However, Kanepi is certainly not going to gift any easy points with errors, and if Lisicki loses her patience, expect Kanepi to be ruthless. The defining question in this encounter could simply be if Lisicki can regain her focus and motivation the day after the monumental upset of Serena.

Agnieszka Radwanska (4) vs. Li Na (4)

Normally a quarterfinal match-up between the fourth and sixth seeds at a grand slam would generate a lot of buzz. However, the two protagonists in this match are extremely comfortable flying under the radar and making it to the later stages of a tournament.

Radwanska came through an entertaining three set encounter filled with deft touches and smart plays against Tsvetana Pironkova in the round of sixteen. With her back against the wall, last year's runner up dug deep in trademark fashion, and in the end had too much finesse for her plucky opponent.

Radwanska will need all her finesse and possibly more against Li Na. The ease with which Li thoroughly demolished Roberta Vinci caught me by surprise. The forehand was almost flawless, and the serve had extra zip as well. While she didn't have the best first week, Li is one of two remaining grand slam champions left in the women's draw. She knows how to step it up in the second week of a major, and the fact that she spent less than an hour on court, while Radwanska spent almost three, might also be a significant factor in tilting the match in her balance.

Sloane Stephens (17) vs. Marion Bartoli (15)

As the 2013 tennis season began, few would have expected that the last remaining American tennis player at two different grand slams would be Sloane Stephens. That is exactly how it has turned out to be, as the youngster has followed up her excellent performance at the Australian Open with a deep run at Wimbledon.
Sloane Stephens
Sloane Stephens (Photo credit: Carine06)

While Stephens has an excellent game with the ability to hit winners from all areas of the court, I have been impressed with her resilience, and also her decision making in tight situations. An ability to shrug off a 6-0 set and still win a match is not an attribute many would associate with a twenty year-old. That's what Stephens did in the third round, and then followed it up by staying calm while Monica Puig was hitting winners galore for a set and a half in the round of 16. Stephens accurately gauged that Puig wouldn't be able to maintain that level, and once she broke to win the second set, she ran away with victory in the third.

Whether Stephens can allow Marion Bartoli to take a set and still win the match is another matter altogether. Bartoli has yet to lose a set this Wimbledon, and has dominated her opponents with her powerful groundstrokes. She has managed to find the lines with remarkable consistency at SW19 this year, and when needed has used her wicked slices and drop shots to draw errors.

Stephens has the ability to retrieve balls with her speed, and if she makes Bartoli hit more shots to win points, there is a chance the former Wimbledon finalist can unravel. This match is too close to call, and I am sticking my neck out for Bartoli on the basis of her experience of the conditions. However, if it does go to a deciding third set, one can't count out Stephens' calmness under pressure.

Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Kirsten Flipkens (20)


Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova (Photo credit: Daniel Coomber)
The 2011 Wimbledon champion finally put on a performance worthy of her stature in beating Carla Suarez Navarro. Initially, Kvitova rallied with persistence and concentration, focusing on winning points while minimizing unforced errors. Once the first set was in the bag, Kvitova unleashed a barrage of excellent winners off both wings, reminding many of why she won the tournament two years ago.

Meanwhile Flipkens continued her serene progress at Wimbledon with a methodical straight sets victory over Flavia Pennetta. Flipkens has an unflustered style, allying consistency from the baseline, with a remarkable ability to scramble and retrieve balls from seemingly lost points.

Flipkens is the kind of player that can get into Kvitova's head on a bad day, as witnessed earlier this year when the two met in Miami. Flipkens faced an unbelievable 33 break points on her serve, yet won the match 6-0, 4-6, 6-1! Once again Kvitova will generate plenty of opportunities with her power, and this time she will probably take advantage of them. Grass is Kvitova's favourite surface, and she must sense a chance to repeat her greatest triumph with the elimination of Serena.
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