3 Reasons Why Na Li Can Win The US Open

Despite being a grand slam winner (French Open 2011), China’s Na Li has never really been thought of as a threat to winning another since  then. At the age of 30, you’d be inclined to agree with many that she has reached her peak already. Winning the title in Roland Garros saw Li jump to a career high ranking of No.4 but since then she has failed to get past the fourth round in five attempts in a slam including a first round exit here. After her exploits in the US Open Series, she has become many people’s dark horse so I am going to look at five reasons why she could win her second slam here.

New Coach

Before Madrid in 2011, Li hired a new coach in Michael Mortensen in the hope it would curb her run of bad form. She made back-to-back semi finals in Madrid and Rome in the lead up to the French Open. She told Reuters this when asked about the coaching change – “I don’t care what other people think. My confidence was low and I felt I had to change my coach, After Melbourne I didn’t do well and if you don’t do well you don’t have confidence.”

It seems to make sense that Mortensen gave her the confidence and focus back in her game that had gone sorely missing in the previous months. Li has now hired Justine Henin’s former coach Carlos Rodriguez to hopefully repeat the trick. It seems to have been fairly successful so far, making the final in Montreal and going one better and taking the title in Cincinnati.

Current Form

Using form since the Olympics, only Petra Kvitova could have a claim to being in better form than Na Li. Li made back to back finals in Montreal and Cincinnati, defeating four Top 10 players in the process (Errani, Radwanska x2, Kerber). Most impressive were the victories over Radwanska where she completely tore apart one of WTA’s top 3 players twice, dropping just five games across the two matches. She also recovered from a 1-6 1-3 deficit against Kerber, and although the German was visibly tiring as the match went on, it was impressive to see the way Li did not let up when she saw her opponent was struggling.

For someone that is a huge confidence player, this is a big thing for Li and if she can take this form into the tournament then there is no reason why we shouldn’t be seeing her in the semi finals. She was also a winner in the lead up tournament to the Australian Open in 2011 which she was a finalist. Her early exits in the US Open in 2010 and 2011 were preceded by runs no better than the third round in both Cincinnati and Canada suggesting that it works both ways.

The Draw

I think this could be argued both ways, but the fact that Serena is not in Li’s half of the draw can only be a good thing and see her more likely to make the final. Potential quarter final opponent Victoria Azarenka showcased excellent hard court form at the start of the year but the lack of preparation due to injury can’t be ideal for the Belarussian. The same could well apply to Kim Clijsters who, despite being unbeaten here in her last three appearances, surely will be a bit rusty having not played since the Olympics. In her last two tournaments, Clijsters was knocked out in straight sets by two top 10 players in Sharapova and Kerber, picking up just nine games (2 vs Kerber, 7 vs Sharapova) in the process.

Samantha Stosur could be the key though, the defending champion is 6-0 vs Li but the added pressure will not be a good thing and in this form Li has a better chance than ever to make it 6-1 in favour of the Australian. Other top seeds in the half include Safarova, Sharapova and Kvitova, none of which have winning records against Li, Safarova has a losing one while Sharapova and Kvitova are tied. The ‘dark horse’ tag may also ease some of the pressure when you have numerous other former champions in your section, even if some aren’t in as great form.

 

 

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WTA Dallas Preview

WTA International 

Draw

In one of two tournaments before the US Open on the WTA Tour, 2011 semi finalist Angelique Kerber is scheduled to headline the second Texas Tennis Open as top seed. It kicked off Kerber’s amazing rise which has culminated in her making the top 10 recently. Neither of last year’s finalists Sabine Lisicki or Aravane Rezai will appear here, Lisicki due to injury and Rezai due to ranking. Former World No.1 Jelena Jankovic and Roberta Vinci are amongst the other big names set to appear here.

Favourite – Having just made the final in Cincinnati Angelique Kerber should be a certainty to take this tournament, fitness permitting. With now over 50 wins on the tour this year, resting up for a week would be most advisable before next week’s US Open. Kerber very rarely drops matches to lesser opponents and it is this consistency that has saw her move up the rankings so quick in the past year. Since this tournament last year, Kerber has made the semi finals of six hard court tournaments with the most notable being her US Open run where she was finally defeated by eventually winner Samantha Stosur.

Outsider – Yaroslava Shvedova has begun to show the form that saw her make the top twenty a few years back and looked set for a meeting with Serena Williams in Cincinnati last week before health issues put paid to that, forcing her to retire against Urszula Radwanska. If fit, she can definitely go far here and begins with a winnable match against an out of form and low on confidence Jelena Jankovic. With fourth round appearances at her last two slams, it would not be a surprise  to see her follow this tournament with another run in New York.

One To Watch – Qualifier Eugenie Bouchard earned an impressive win over Melinda Czink to make the main draw here. The young Canadian has continued to impress since taking the Girls Singles and Doubles at Wimbledon this year. She has victories over Karin Knapp, Olga Govortsova and most recently Shahar Pe’er in main draw matches this year and pushed Na Li very close in a tight two set defeat where her potential was there for all to see. She also took the Challenger title in Granby last month defeating Stephanie Dubois in the final.

Finals Prediction – Angelique Kerber defeats 

Olympics Tennis Roundup

This weekend saw the conclusion of the Olympics tennis tournaments and it was a good weekend for the United States – who took three of the gold medals up for grabs – while Great Britain and Belarus took the other two. Argentina and Switzerland also picked up their first and second medals respectively of the Games.

Singles

Andy Murray took gold for Great Britain with an astonishing performance over Roger Federer. Murray saved all 9 break opportunities in an incredibly dominant performance while breaking Federer five times in a straight sets victory. In the first and second set Murray took 9 games in a row from 2-2 to 6-2 5-0 as Federer just could not deal with the Brit’s play. Murray could not seal the bagel in the end but served out for the breadstick after saving a break point. After breaking for 3-2 in the third set, Murray did not let up on serve and finished off in style serving an ace to take the match 6-2 6-1 6-4 to earn his first Gold Medal and his first best of five sets victory over Roger Federer.

Juan Martin Del Potro recovered from Friday’s gruelling encounter to take the Bronze Medal defeating Novak Djokovic. After failing to make any headway on the Djokovic serve for most of the first set, Del Potro broke at 5-5 to serve for the set. Djokovic hit back in the next service game bringing up multiple break points but Del Potro stood strong to save them and eventually take the set 7-5. An early break in the second for the Argentinian was never reclaimed by Djokovic who only had one break point in the set. Del Potro went down 15-30 serving for the match but as with most occasions where his service games looked in danger, Del Potro brought out the big serves to close out the match for a 7-5 6-4 victory and earn his first Olympic medal.

Olympic Mens Singles Medalists

Source: Getty Images/Paul Gilham

Serena Williams continued her complete dominance of the Women’s circuit with a thrashing of Maria Sharapova in the Women’s Singles final 6-0 6-1 in only 63 minutes. Serena quickly rushed into a 5-0 lead but it looked like Sharapova would avoid the bagel when she took a 40-0 lead in game six. Unfortunately, she was pegged back to deuce and eventually broken to drop the first set without winning a game. It looked like there was a chance of a double bagel as Serena quickly rushed into a 3-0 lead in the second to make it nine games in a row. However, Sharapova eventually held for 3-1 and even had chances to get back on serve in the second but could not take advantage of her only two break points in the match. After holding for 4-1, Williams broke once more and served it out to complete the humiliation of the World’s No.3 player. Victoria Azarenka took the Bronze with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, Azarenka had taken 3-0 leads in both sets before being pegged back on both occasions to 3-3 only to push on and win the last 3 games of both sets without reply.

Source: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

Doubles

Serena Williams and Venus Williams became the first four-times Olympic gold medalists in Tennis as they dominated the Women’s Doubles once more, dropping just two service games in the whole tournament on their way to a third Gold in the doubles tournament. They defeated the Czech pairing of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4 6-4 saving all four break points faced in the match and breaking the Czechs in one game in each set to seal the victory. The Bronze Medal was taken by Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova who came from a set down to beat the top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. The victory will be especially sweet for Kirilenko who failed to take a medal in the Singles after making the semi final. The Russians took both their break point opportunities in the final set to pull away and seal a 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan joined Serena Williams in completing a career golden slam after defeating the French pair of Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in the Men’s Doubles final. The brothers were not broken once on their way to a 6-4 7-6 victory. In an incredibly serve-dominant second set, they took 27 of 29 points on the serve giving Llodra and Tsonga no chance at all. The French doubled their medal haul in the doubles as Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau took Bronze with a 7-6 6-2 victory over the Spanish team of David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. Ferrer and Lopez failed to make any inroads into the French serve and dropped their serve twice in the second set in their defeat.

Andy Murray failed to join Serena Williams in becoming a double gold medalist this year as he and Laura Robson were defeated in the Mixed Doubles final. After in an impressive first set, Murray and Robson could not hold off the pairing of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka who were too strong in the end. Robson’s double faults in the final set tiebreak did not help as the Belarussian’s sealed the victory with a huge serve from Max Mirnyi on their third match point to win 2-6 6-3 10-8. After defeat in the Bronze Medal match in Women’s Doubles, Lisa Raymond was more fortunate as she and Mike Bryan overcame the German pair of Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas. Serve was fairly dominant in this as the pair traded sets with just one break the difference in both. The Germans had no chance in the final set tiebreaker though, losing the first seven points before Raymond and Bryan took their third championship point for a 6-3 4-6 10-4 victory.

Weekly Roundup: ATP Winners

ATP Kitzbuhel

Robin Haase became the seventh player (most recently Albert Costa 98/99) to defend the Kitzbuhel title with his defeat of Philipp Kohlschreiber in three sets. The first set was a tight one, with serve dominating and the Dutchman saving numerous break points. However, in the tiebreaker he could not hold off Kohlschreiber who took it 7-2. After that Haase took control in the second and third sets and was only broke once throughout the whole match on his way to a (2)6-7 6-3 6-2 victory. It appears that Kohlschreiber was carrying an injury of sorts during the week as after the final he announced his withdrawal from the Olympics.

Meanwhile in the doubles there was some Austrian success as No.1 seeds Julian Knowle and Czech teammate Frantisek Cermak picked up the Doubles title in an extremely close encounter. They defeated the No.2 pairing of Dustin Brown and Paul Hanley in three sets winning 7-6(4) 3-6 12-10

 

Source: Bet-at-home Kitzbuhel Facebook

 

ATP Los Angeles

Sam Querrey joined an impressive list of three-times winners at the Los Angeles Open, that includes Arthur Ashe and Fred Perry, with a comprehensive defeat over the Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis 6-0 6-2. Querrey was unstoppable as he took eight games in a row with Berankis failing to get even to deuce until game 9 where he failed to take break points on the Querrey serve. It capped an excellent week for Querrey who has served brilliantly throughout, hitting 32 aces in four matches and only getting broken once all week (against Rajeev Ram SF).

Unseeded Belgians Ruben Bemelmans and Xavier Malisse took their first doubles title as a pairing with an impressive victory over the No.3 seeds Ken Skupski and Jamie Delgado. Both teams were dominant on serve and breaks were minimal as the match went into the final set deciding tiebreak. Bemelmans and Malisse earned the mini-break early and did not relinquish it as they took the match 7-6(5) 4-6 10-7.

 

Source: AFP/Getty Images/Frederic J Brown

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