Monday, 2 February 2009

ATP Johannesburg, Vina Del Mar and Zagreb

Well back to normality. This week there will be three tournaments in the ATP with the WTA focusing on the Fed Cup. Very very few of the top players have assembled in Johannesburg; only Tsonga and Ferrer are in the Top 20 whilst the other players are all ranked below the Top 50. Besides those two and possibly Marcos Baghdatis I don't see anyone else taking the trophy. It is slightly better in Vina Del Mar, Chile but only because of the flurry of Argentinians and Spanish players. Gonzalez and Robredo are the two top seeds with a few unpredictables here and there, hopefully with this type of draw Juan Monaco can cause a shock. Though lacking in Top 20 players Zagreb is probably going to be the most hotly contested this week. Igor Andreev headlines the seeds whilst many trciky opponents are also in line, Marin Cilic, Mario Ancic, Paul Henri Mathieu, Simone Bolelli, Ivo Karlovic, Jurgen Melzer to name a few! Sorry didn't mention Andreas Seppi; the only seed I didn't mention! There are also a few unseeded perils like Ernests Gulbis, Victor Hanescu and Victor Troicki. If you're still wanting more then Mikhail Youzhny, Ivan Ljubicic, Guillermo Canas and Arnaud Clement should keep you going also. All in all the PBZ Zagreb indoors should be a hot event - though lacking in the Top players it has many up and coming stars playing for the title - it should be fun!

Whilst I'm here I just wanted to say how interesting the rankings for womens tennis are. If you look at it the Top female players are basically seperated into two bands; the Top 4 and the Top 8. It's interesting how their are such large gaps and then a cluster of players who have similar ranking points. Anyway is it good that Maria Sharapova is ranked 17, yeah she has been out for a while but I think all of us know if she was in form she would be a No.1 contender - waiting for her comeback so there will be 4 or 5 No.1 hopefuls. Also Jie Zheng is in the Top 20! YEAH! But Nicole Vaidisova is at 72 eek! Please return to form Nicole! Anyway anybody happy that Great Britain finally have two women in the Top 100!!!!! Melanie South and Anne Keothavong! But Anne and Melanie sure play a lot of tournaments don't they; each with 32 tournaments - I think the most out of any of the Top 100.

Oops nearly forgot about the fed cup;
Russia Vs. China - I'm sorry China but Dementieva and Kuznetsova seems to be too tough a task even for you to handle - Just think if the Russian Top 4 made a team!
France Vs. Italy - this will be an interesting one. Italy has beaten France in their last two encounters, both of the teams have a great Fed Cup portfolio and the players seem to be quite well matched in doubles or singles. The singles will be tight; it really depends on the form and most likely what Amelie Mauresmo could produce whilst the doubles may lean towards Italy because they have Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone - however I don't know the draws.
USA Vs. Argentina sounds good on paper but when you go and look at the teams you kind of think "Why are they in the World Group!" Anyway it looks like USA has a slight edge on this one.
Czech Republic Vs. Spain leaves me in two views, first of which is Spain has a great record at the Fed Cup and secondly is without Nicole Vaidisova the Czech team are slightly on the back side. However Lucie Safarova could pull off a shock in her best form and Iveta Benesova has been playing well recently, on top of that Kveta Peschke should hold the doubles well whilst Petra Kvitova is a young starlet waiting to be born. Even though the Spanish team look decidedly weaker without Anabel Medina Garrigues you still have to watch out for the feisty Spanish team who seem to perform in the fed cup year on year; of course Carla Suarez Navarro and Nuria Llagostera Vives are threats also.
I really can't give you 4 teams who will progress but I think the USA and Russia should have their matches in the bag.

World Group II
Slovak Republic Vs. Belgium - I don't fancy the chances of Belgium to be honest, besides Yanina Wickmayer's good run at fed cups I think Cibulkova and even a weaker Hantuchova should be enough to topple the Belgian contingent. I've never really believed that Belgium could cause a threat without their two former greats; Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters.
Switzerland Vs. Germany - I personally am on the German side. Recently Patty Schnyder's age seems to have caught up with her whilst Timea Bacsinszky is still way too inexperienced to lead a World Group II team, on the other hand Sabine Lisicki and Anna Lena Groenefeld should be a formidable duo in World Group II especially with Tatjana Malek on their side also.
Serbia Vs. Japan - It looks like Serbia really wants this with all their best players on the team. Even with Ivanovic being much weaker than before I think she's enough to at least win 1 of her matches. Ai Sugiyama will have to pull off a magnificent trick to pull her girls through.
Ukraine Vs Israel - I personally think Ukraine has the edge here simply because most of their players are on their best form whilst most of the Israeli players are at their worst.

I do have a better prediction of World Group II - I think it would be Slovak Republic, Germany, Serbia and Ukraine in the next round.

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