Archive | June, 2010

Wimbledon Day 5 Preview (The Men)

25 Jun

If today wasn’t a day for the record books, then I don’t know what will be.   Perhaps the most dramatic and long sporting game/match ended today with John Isner beating Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set way out on Court 18 at the All-England Club.  This match was truly remarkable in so many ways and will never be forgotten by anyone who had the privlidge of watching it transpire Tuesday, Wednesday, and today.  Meanwhile, while this match was going on, other matches actually went on! Nadal won his match over Robin Haase of Holland in a relatively short five setter, just over 2 hours, to move onto the third round.  Andy Murray impressed the Queen with his straight set win over Jarkko Nieminen on Centre Court.  Tomorrow may bring the most tantalizing matches of the tournament so far based on previous results and the players’ credentials.

(21) Gael Monfils (FRA) vs. (15) Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)

Finally Australian tennis has something to cheer about again.  Within the past month, Sam Stosur made the French Open finals and Hewitt beat Federer in the Halle final just a couple of weeks ago.  Now, he finds himself up against on of the most athletic men in the game, Gael Monfils.  But, what he has in physical strength is taken away in his mental capacities, which are severely lacking as evidenced by his second round exit in the French Open after being two sets to none up again Fabio Fognini.  The hard-working Australian will look to make quick work of the Frenchman, in order to gear up for the “business end” of the tournament, but he may be tested by Monfils on Centre Court.  But, if Hewitt can hold his own against the hard hitting Frenchman, then I see him moving onto the fourth round, one step closer to another quarterfinal with Andy Roddick.

Pick: Hewitt in 4

Can Hewitt relive former glory at Wimbledon, the home of his last Grand Slam?

(1) Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Arnaud Clement (FRA)

The veteran Frenchman has been succesful on the grass courts before by getting to the quarterfinals here at Wimbledon in 2008.  After Federer’s mighty struggles in the opening rounds this year, one has to wonder how will he fare against someone who actually has credentials on grass.  On paper, this match looks like a cakewalk, but so did his previous matches, so unless Federer is near 100%, then I think that we will be in for another wildly entertaining match.  But the again, Federer could bring his A-game and be done within 2 hours, so really who knows?

Pick: Federer in 4

Will we see more distressed looks from Federer like this one in his 3rd round match?

(29) Phillip Kohlschreiber (GER) vs. (5) Andy Roddick (USA)

These two men have a match of note in their Grand Slam history: the 2008 Australian Open 3rd round.  In this match, Kohlschreiber beat Roddick in one of the worst losses I have seen Roddick involved in for a long time.   But the 2010 Roddick is defiantly more fit, more confident, and an overall better player than the 2008 Roddick, so I have a feeling that he won’t let this one get out of hand.  On another note, these are the only two men to take a set off of Federer at the Championships last year.

Pick: Roddick in 3, maybe 4

O

Will he find himself in another Wimbledon final?

Other matches to watch:

(3) Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. (28) Albert Montanes (ESP): If this match was being played on clay, then this would be much tighter and much closer, but on the fast lawns of Wimbledon, Djokovic will take advantage of the Spaniard from the ground and end this one pretty quickly. Pick: Djokovic in 3

(22) Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs. (16) Jurgen Melzer (AUT): The surprise semifinalist at Roland Garros, Melzer, against the man who beat Rafael Nadal on the grass at Queen’s Club several weeks ago.  This match will be in Lopez’s hands, as he has much more grass court experience than his Austrian opponent.  Expect Melzer to fight back though and make this match an interesting one.  Pick: Lopez in 5

Thiemo de Bakker (NED) vs. (23) John Isner (USA): Wow.  Just a day after his epic win over Mahut, John Isner has to come back first on Court 5 to play his second round match against a man who had to play a 16-14 fifth set in the first round against Santiago Giraldo.  Even though exhaustion might be setting in for the American, he showed that he is extreamly fit even for a big man and will be tested, but not as tested as he was against Mahut in the first round (no one has ever been that tested before). Pick: Isner in 3

For your enjoyment...

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Wimbledon Preview Day 5 (The Ladies)

25 Jun

Another day at Wimbledon and another day without too many surprises on the women’s side with the exception of 2-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, which isn’t all that suprising considering the season she’s had and her poor results on grass in the past.  But, non the less, she is out and so are other seeded players like the 23rd seed Zheng Jie and 18th seed Aravane Rezai.  On another note, Serena and Sharapova inched on step closer to their possible epic fourth round encounter on Monday.  Both Maria and Serena look to be in excellent form and if they do meet on Monday, it will prove to be a compelling and highly intriguing match from the start.  But before any of that transpires, we must focus on tomorrow and some women’s matches of note that will take place.  First up on the preview is the first match on Centre Court, Henin and Petrova.

(17) Justine Henin (BEL) vs. (12) Nadia Petrova (RUS)

This match will mark the first time the Justine Henin has stepped foot on Centre Court since her suprising loss in the 2007 semis to an inspired Marion Bartoli.  Henin has never overly impressed at Wimbledon and hasn’t had the best year in 2010, while Petrova is having a stellar year, at least in the Grand Slams.  She soundly defeated Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open and dispatched Venus Williams at Roland Garros.  Despite the Russian’s erratic play at times, Justine has been just as erratic this year losing matches to players like Gisela Dulko, Sam Stosur, and Aravane Rezai, who are great players, but not to the level of Serena, Venus, and Kim Clijsters.  When the draw came out last Friday I predicted this match to be won by the Russian and a week later my prediction has not changed.

Pick: Petrova in 3

Will Nadia Petrova topple the '01 and '06 Wimbledon finalist?

(22) Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) vs. (2) Venus Williams (USA)

The two have played twice in their careers, once here at Wimbledon in 2008 with Venus prevailing in straight sets and another time on the red clay of Madrid with Kleybanova pulling off the upset in a tight three-setter.  Kleybanova won her first tour title earlier in the year and has beaten top players before.  Slowly but surely she is gaining confidence at every tournament she plays but is she ready to topple the 5-time champion?  Probably not, but if she doesn’t let her head get in the way she might be able to hit her hard groundstrokes and make Venus’ life uneasy for a set or so.  Also, not lately but in the past, Venus has had a reputation for having mental lapses in her matches that don’t usually affect the outcome, but make the match more of a long-term battle.   But for the match as a whole, it is Venus with the game and experience to take her to the fourth round.

Pick: Venus in 2, possibly 3 if she looses her concentration at any moment

How far will Venus go in this year's tournament?

(8) Kim Clijsters (BEL) vs. (27) Maria Kirilenko (RUS)

The glamorous Russian, Maria Kirilenko, has had two good Grand Slams coming into Roland Garros (QF’s at the Australian Open, lost to Zheng Jie, eventual semi-finalist and 4th round at Roland Garros, lost to Francesca Schiavone, eventual champion).  Although she hits a fairly flat ball, Kirilenko requires more time to hit her shots, which grass doesn’t give her, and might not be able to get clean hits on her shots with the heavy shots by Clijsters.  They are both baseliners, with Clijsters the far more dominant, and both have similar games.  If Clijsters is off in this match, like she was in Australia or Indian Wells, then Kirilenko will have a chance to win the match, but other than that she will make Kim hit a lot of balls, which will allow Kim to get into a rhythm.  And once she is in the zone, its hard to rattle her, that’s what makes her so good.

Pick: Clijsters in 2 tight sets

Will Clijsters go onto the fourth round?

*As I was putting this entry together, I realized that Petrova has defeated the two other featured match winners in her previous two Grand Slams.

Other matches to keep an eye on

(15) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) vs. (21) Vera Zvonareva (RUS): The “other” Belgium is also in action tomorrow against the always tough Russian Zvonareva.  I expect this match to be crazy with many ups and downs. In the end though, Zvonareva will prevail.  Pick: Zvonareva in 3

(28) Alona Bondarenko (UKR) vs. (4) Jelena Jankovic (SRB): For the 3rd consecutive slam these two women meet in the third round with their record at 1-1 in Grand Slam play this year with Bondarenko edging out Jankovic in Australia before Jankovic defeated Bondarenko in Paris.  Their series this year will go to 2-1 Jankovic this year. Pick: Jankovic in 3

Wimbledon Day 4 Preview (The Ladies)

24 Jun

The women had a relatively drama-free day today as the favorites made it through to the third round (ie. Venus, Jankovic, Clijsters, Henin, etc.)  Tomorrow Serena will lead the top half of the women’s draw into the third round and hope for a drama free day also.  But, the first bit of drama has already transpired at the All-England Club with Serena being scheduled for Court 2 instead of Centre Court where the Queen will be residing.  In her place on Centre will be the top seed in the women’s draw not named Williams.  Other names headlining action on Day 4 will be Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Victoria Azarenka, Aravane Rezai, and Dominika Cibulkova.  While there are no major marquee matches on the ladies’ side tomorrow, these matches will set the stage for the later rounds of the tournament.  The first match previewed on my blog today will be Serena Williams and Anna Chakvetadze.

(1) Serena Williams (USA) vs. Anna Chakvetadze (RUS)

A few years ago, this match would have been worthy of a quarter or even semifinal match at a Slam, but how the times have changed.  Since 2007, when Chakvetadze made her assault on the top 5,  she has endured much on and off the court and has seen her ranking slip from a career-high of No. 5 to No. 111 on the rankings last week.  Some attribute this to her game lacking a major weapon, others say it’s her head, but I think the main factor in her decline was a robbery that she and her family were involved in at the end of 2007.  While she is still young, one has to wonder if her game will ever return to its best.  On the other hand, Serena has propelled herself out of the bottom portion of the top 100 to number one in the world since 2007.   She is her very best a Grand Slams and maybe her best ever at Wimbledon so while Chakvetadze has the credentials and the game (some have compared her to Martina Hingis) to make this an interesting match, it will probably go in favor of the American.

Pick: Serena in 2

How will Serena perform against a former top 5 player in the form of Anna Chakvetadze?

(3) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs. Kai-Chen Chang (TPE)

Although she is the 3rd seed in this event, she isn’t even seen as a contender for this title for several reasons.  First of all, her game has been harshly criticized by the media for lack of a major weapon and some still see her as a “pusher”.  But after watching her 1st round win over Garbin, I can say that she is more than a pusher and has the game to go deep in this tournament despite her dark horse status.  Another reason why many say she won’t get that far at Wimbledon is because of the incredibly talented women who are the favorites for this title: Serena, Venus, Sharapova, Clijsters, and Henin.  Her opponent is relatively unknown and Caroline should get through this match comfortably and be prepared to face much firmer opposition in the later rounds of Wimbledon.

Pick: Wozniacki in 2

Will Caroline's defensive style suit her well at Wimbledon?

Ioana Raluca Olaru (ROU) vs. (16) Maria Sharapova (RUS)

The 2004 champion is at it again.  She’s winning matches on the grass at breakneck speed and finally has a consistent serve to back up her impeccable groundstrokes which have helped her win so many titles.  Olaru, a lesser-known player than Sharapova, will hope to capitalize on Maria’s mediocre movement and hope to catch her on an off day.  But, if Maria is playing the way she has played of late, then Olaru will find herself on and off the court fairly quickly as she is no match for an in form Sharapova.  On another note, I would like to mention that Maria has looked so determined and focused in her last two tournaments (Roland Garros and Birmingham) and so far at the Championships.  Her love for tennis has found her back at the place where the dream began and maybe she can add another chapter to that dream this year.

Pick: Sharapova in 2

Can Maria Sharapova set up a fourth round clash with Serena Williams?

Other matches to watch:

Klara Zakapalova (CZE) vs. (18) Aravane Rezai (FRA): The hard-hitting Frenchwoman has had her best results on clay, but there’s no reason she shouldn’t succeed on grass. 

Pick: Rezai in 2

Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) vs. (14) Victoria Azarenka (BLR): The young Serb played in the Fed Cup earlier in the year and beat Rybarikova of Slovakia.  But Azarenka will be too experienced for the young Serbian player who looks to have a bright future. 

Pick: Azarenka in 2

Enjoy Day 4 and comment on the blog!

Wimbledon Preview of Day 4 (The Men)

24 Jun

Before I even begin to preview the most compelling matches of tomorrow, I must give kudos to both John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, or as the British fans call him, Nico.  I must say that while I did briefly preview this match yesterday on the blog, I had no idea that it was going to even be a close 5th set.  Obviously, I was mistaken and what transpired out on Court 18 was truly remarkable and we will never see something of this magnitude ever again.   But with that, this match is not over and it could go another 20 games before we finally close the door on this “epic” first round match.  I am a big fan of John Isner and his game, but I must say that in the decider he was clearly the more tired of the two and his game looked to be more shaky than the Frenchman’s.  And with that, I will preview the remainder of this match as the first of three featured men’s matches on the blog for tomorrow.

Nicolas Mahut (FRA) vs. (23) John Isner (USA)

As I said above, it was Mahut with the better play in the fifth set today and I expect that he will be able to keep up his high level of play in the match tomorrow, that is if he isn’t suffering too much physically.   The good news for him is that his opponent is just as tired and play just as long today so while both guys will be exhausted, they will have the same circumstances facing them tomorrow afternoon.  As a club player myself, I will be the first one to tell you that if your going to be sore, it usually isn’t right after the match, but when you wake up in the morning so we will hope that these two guys can get out of bed in the morning and continue, and hopefully finish this match that will not soon be forgotten.  With that, I think that Isner will try to serve bombs from the get go and hope that Mahut’s returns aren’t going in because if they are, then the end might come sooner than we may think.  On the other hand, Mahut must keep serving big and placing his shots well because if he doesn’t break the Isner serve and falls behind on his own, then the match is virtually on Isner’s racquet.

Pick: Isner at 64-62 in the fifth, but really, who knows?

How long will it go?

Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs. (4) Andy Murray (GBR)

First match up on Centre Court and the players will have the honor and privilege of playing for Queen Elizabeth II.  Nieminen, who is an accomplished opponent, should not be underestimated by the Scotsman, who might face some pressure whenever he looks up at the Royal Box.  Speaking of pressure, how will Andy Murray hold up tomorrow on Centre Court.  It’s a topic that I haven’t heard much about, but certainly does require attention.  I know that the Brits have been more interested in the World Cup of late, but now that England has moved onto the knockout stage, will their attention once again shift to Wimbledon.  While I do feel that Murray will feel the pressure of his Finish opponent and of the Queen’s presence, it shouldn’t be enough to derail his plans of making the next round.  But, Murray should be aware of Nieminen, who could push him around the court and make life pretty uneasy for Murray, but the most that should trouble Murray would be a lost set, particularly early in the match (first or second set?)

Pick: Murray in four

How will the Queen's presence affect the last British man standing?

Robin Haase (NED) vs. (2) Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Haase, the man who took out James Blake quite convincingly in the first round, has a big serve and will look to use that against Rafa.  But Nadal, who has one of the best return games in tennis, will capitalize on the Haase serve and on his own to make this a one-sided affair.  The only thing that could affect the Spaniard is if Haase comes into this match firing on all cylinders and playing with no pressure at all, which is a possiblilty, but not a strong one.

Pick: Nadal in 3

Is Rafael Nadal headed to the finals once again?

Other men’s matches to watch:

Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs. Michael Russell (USA): Interesting match up between the giant killer Fognini and a lesser-known American man who will give it his all in this match.  But I don’t think that the veteran American will have what it takes to beat the man from Italy.

Pick: Fognini in 4

(6) Robin Soderling (SWE) vs. Marcel Granollers (ESP): Playing the man who beat him in Australia, Soderling will look to overpower the clay courter out of Spain with his heavy serve and devastating groundstrokes.

Pick: Soderling in 3


Enjoy Day 4!


Wimbledon Day 3 Preview (The Ladies)

23 Jun

The ladies’ side of the tournament hasn’t been as suspensful or dramatic as the men’s side yet, which is thouroughly suprising considering the plethora of upsets at the French Open.  But, nevertheless, the very two women who came through in Paris, Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone, are both out by the end of Day two.  Suprising? Yes and no.  They were due for a humbling loss sooner than later, but in the first round? The American hard court season will be very important for the both of them. (see Kamakshi Tandon’s excellent story about the downfall of champions on the women’s side. http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/wimbledon10/columns/story?columnist=kamakshi_tandon&id=5314582).  Now I will preview three of the most compelling matches on the women’s side for tomorrow.

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs. (2) Venus Williams (USA)

What makes this match so interesting is what happened last week in Eastbourne.  Makarova, a qualifier at the seaside Wimbledon tune-up went on to win the title in convincing fashion.  Along the way she beat Petrova, Kuznetsova, and Azarenka.  Now she faces a bit of unfortunate luck in the form of five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams.  Venus, who turned thirty just a few days ago, looks young, fit, and dominate as ever on the hallowed lawns in England.  Can Makarova stop Venus’ march toward the finals, probably not, but can she take a set  off of her, possibly, if the Russian brings her A-game and Venus has a slow start.  But, if that fails to happen, then it will be the American who advances to the third round.

Pick: Venus in 2, unless Makarova plays exceptionally well, then Venus in 3.

Will Venus' dominance of the grass courts continue in 2010?

(8) Kim Clijsters (BEL) vs. Karolina Sperm (CRO)

Remember several years ago on the old Court 2 when Karolina Sperm and Venus Williams battled it out in what eventually came to a misscored tiebreak?  Tomorrow on the new court two Clijsters will hope her fate isn’t as Venus’ was in 2004.  After her first round win, Clijsters looked happy to be back in at the All-England Club and it didn’t hurt that she played some remarkable tennis to get into the second round.  As much as the tall Croat tries to make Kim work, I just don’t see an upset on the cards and think that it is a safe bet to move Clijsters on through to the third round.

Pick: Clijsters in 2

How far will Clijsters go in the draw this year?

Alexsandra Wozniak (CAN) vs. (4) Jelena Jankovic (SRB)

This by no means is a walk in the park for Jankovic.  Wozniak, who has had descent results on grass, hits a flat, clean ball and when she is playing at her best, she can be hard to beat. (ie. Stanford in 2008).  But Jelena, who has had her worst results on the grass, seems to be in good form at the moment and shouldn’t have that much of a problem with the Canadian.  But, should Jankovic get down on herself, then I feel that Wozniak will step up and deliver some of her best tennis.  In the end though, it should be the Serb who goes through to round 3.

Pick: Jankovic in 3

Other matches to keep an eye on:

Jarmilla Groth (AUS) vs. (33) Melanie Oudin (USA)- Oudin, who made it to the fourth round last year, has the confidence and the game to play well here at Wimbledon.  On the other hand, Groth made the fourth round of the French Open a few weeks ago and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Pick: Oudin in 3, tough sets

(17) Justine Henin (BEL) vs. Kristina Barrois (GER)- Good matchup for Henin, Justine beat her last week in Rosmalen.  Everyone’s big question about Henin is how will her new, aggressive game hold up? Key to the match: the Henin serve. Pick: Henin in 2 sets

The conclusion of Hantuchova and King: King had Hantuchova on the ropes at 4-1 in the second set before Daniela came back to win the set in a tiebreak.  It would be nice to see the young American through to the second round, but if Daniela plays like she did at the end of the second, then we are headed to a potential third round match between Hantuchova and Sharapova. Won’t want to miss that one.

Enjoy!

Wimbledon Day 3 Preview (The Men)

23 Jun

The first two days of Wimbledon have brought much excitement to fans from both near and far the All-England Club.  Tomorrow should be no different with Venus and Federer highlighting action.  Even after Federer’s atrocious first rounder, he still sits atop the draw and should never be written off.  In that case, I will discuss his second round match-up with the Serbian qualifier Ilia Bozoljac.

(1) Roger Federer (SUI) vs. (Q) Ilia Bozoljac (SRB)

I will admit, I have never seen Bozoljac play, so I cannot assume anything from him, but I can take into account Federer’s first round match with Falla.  For me, after saving the three break points at 4-all in the 3rd set, Federer became Federer again and while I still doubt he will win in two weeks time, I have a strong feeling that he will pull through tomorrow and beat the Serbian qualifier, but not without a fight.  But, without a doubt, Federer will prevail and move onto the 3rd round where he could meet grass-court specialist Feliciano Lopez of Spain.

Pick: Federer in 3

You think the number one ranking isn't on his mind this fortnight? We'll just have to see...

(3) Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. (Q) Taylor Dent (USA)

I can’t help but get excited about this match-up.  An established serve and volleyer against a seemingly struggling baseline master.  This match could go one of two ways: first, Djokovic could take momentum from his come from behind win against Rochus that took place under the Wimbledon lights and firmly outclass Dent, or Dent could rise to the occasion and catch a tired Djokovic on a surface that hasn’t been his favorite throughout the years.  Whatever transpires on Centre Court tomorrow afternoon will be exciting and is definatly a must see second rounder.

Pick: Djokovic in 5 tough sets

Does he have the energy to take out an inspired American?

Michael Llodra (FRA) vs. (5) Andy Roddick (USA)

This has the makings to be a very interesting match with two men who are very comfortable on the grass courts.  Both men have grass court titles on their resumes: Llodra (2004, 2005-s-Hertogenbosch, 2010- Eastbourne) Roddick (2003, 2004, 2005, 2007- Queen’s Club). Both men have experience on their sides in terms of coaching as Roddick is coached by the legendary Larry Stefanki and Llodra is being coached by 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. (Yes, Amelie will be at Wimbledon tomorrow).  If Roddick serves to the best of his capabilities then it should go his way, but if he lets Llodra into net too often things could get dicey for last year’s finalist.

Pick: Roddick in 4, maybe 5 sets

Roddick is looking to advance to the 3rd round of Wimbledon once again.

Other men to watch:

Evgeny Korolev (KAZ) vs. (15) Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)- former men’s champion in action.  Don’t forget he beat Federer a few weeks ago in Halle. Pick: Hewit in 4.

Conclusion of Isner- Mahut: In think that the big man, as Brad Gilbert would put it, has the edge in the final set and will come good, as Mary Carillo would say, in the final set.


Birmingham Semifinal Preview

11 Jun

In the first of three blog entries today, I will preview the ladies’ semifinals at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham.  The small grass court event is on of the most intimate on the WTA tour and a favorite stop for the players, except when it’s raining, which has indeed happened more times than not this week.  Yesterday Maria Sharapova, the 2nd seed, played in two matches in one day due to the rain  and won them both, against Mattek-Sands of the USA and Kudryavtseva of Russia.  Her match against qualifier Alison Riske and the other semifinal, which includes Rezai of France and Li of China has also been previewed.

Maria Sharapova hitting a forehand at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham.

Alison Riske (USA) vs. (2) Maria Sharapova (RUS)

Everyone knows who Maria Sharapova is and it certainly isn’t a surprise to see her in the semis at Birmingham, as she has won this event twice (2004 and 2005) and was runner-up to Jelena Jankovic in 2007.  But, her opponent tomorrow is a 19 year-old American qualifier who before this week had never won a main draw match in a WTA tour event.  In an on-court interview after her three set win over (3) Yanina Wickmayer, she said her quarterfinal showing last week in Nottingham, an ITF event, helped her in her matches this week in Birmingham.  Riske’s match tomorrow should be much harder than all of her previous matches in her career, but if she is able to catch Maria on a bad day and play some spectacular tennis, an upset could be on the cards, but with the way Sharapova has served this week, I think it’s safe to say that Maria will march into the final.

Prediction: Sharapova in 2

Road to the Semis

Sharapova

1st round- bye

2nd round- def. Mattek-Sands 6-0, 6-3

3rd round-def. Kudryavtseva 6-3, 6-1

Quarterfinals-def. Karatantcheva 6-2, 6-4

Riske

Qualifying 1st round- def. Savchuk 6-4, 7-5

Qualifying final round- def. Tomljanovic 6-4, 6-7, 6-4

1st round- def. Zahlavova 7-6, 4-6, 6-0

2nd round- def. (9) Wozniak 6-2, 6-4

3rd round- def. Chakvetadze 4-6, 7-5, 6-1

Quarterfinals- def. (3) Wickmayer 6-7, 6-4, 6-3

(1) Li Na (CHN) vs. (4) Aravane Rezai (FRA)

This semifinal matchup features the breakout star of the Australian Open, Li Na of China and the breakout star of the European clay court season, most notably by winning the title in Madrid, Aravane Rezai.  Both players’ games suit grass nicely, with Li able to hit countershots off of Rezai’s explosive power.  If we base this match off of recent results, then Rezai is the clear-cut winner, but Li reached the final here at the AEGON Classic last year by beating Maria Sharapova, so she will defiantly have the confidence at this particular venue.  So with that said, this match will come down to which player can be more aggressive off of the serve and groundstrokes and coming to net wouldn’t hurt either.

Prediction: Rezai in 3

Road to the Semis

Li

1st round- bye

2nd round- def. Keothavong 6-2, 6-4

3rd round- def. Kerber 4-6, 6-3, 7-5

Quarterfinals- def. Kanepi 6-4, 6-2

Rezai

1st round- bye

2nd round- def. Rodionova 6-3, 6-4

3rd round- def. Lucic 7-5, 6-3

Quarterfinals- def. Errani 7-6, 7-5

Li Na hits a forehand at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham

Don’t forget to check back in later for semifinal previews of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, where Roger Federer is hoping to win the 12th grass court event of his career and of the AEGON Championships at Queen’s Club where upsets have been the theme of the week.