Australian Open Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Michael Ann McKinlayContributor IIIJanuary 20, 2014

Australian Open Women's Quarterfinals Preview

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    Though the lower temperatures may fool you, things are heating up again at the Australian Open as the women are down to the final eight.

    With Serena Williams stunned by a resurgent Ana Ivanovic, the draw has opened up at the top, while Victoria Azarenka tries to go for three straight titles and regain the top spot.

    Let’s look at the four quarterfinal matches on the women’s side.  

Ana Ivanovic vs. Eugenie Bouchard

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    Head-to-Head: 1-0, Bouchard

    Ivanovic turned back the clock in her round of 16 match against Serena Williams, showing her aggressive returns and forehands, really last seen during her 2008 season. Though Serena was nursing an injured back, Ivanovic was solid from the first point and has a great opportunity to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since winning the 2008 French Open.

    She faces the young, breakout Canadian star, Eugenie Bouchard, who has reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal after beating Aussie Casey Dellacqua. Bouchard does have the upper hand in their second meeting, beating Ivanovic in straight sets at last year’s Wimbledon on Centre Court. So Ivanovic can’t rely on Bouchard's nerves when it comes to playing on big stages.

    Though it’s been a while, Ivanovic does have more experience in these latter stages of Grand Slams and could be a factor in the match.  

     

    Bottom line

    If Ivanovic continues the same high level of tennis she produced last week, she’ll be booking herself a semifinal spot.

    Prediction: Ivanovic in two 

Li Na vs. Flavia Pennetta

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    Head-to-Head: 2-2

    Li, after defeating younger players in the early rounds, was quick to point out that her opponent is one day older and that she is looking forward to the challenge, per the Associated Press (h/t TVNZ).

    Li’s best Grand Slam results, besides winning the 2011 French Open, has been at the Australian Open, reaching two finals and a semifinal. The faster court surface suits her game of heavy-hitting serves and groundstrokes.

    Pennetta is coming off an upset, defeating the No. 9 seed Angelique Kerber. Pennetta, like Li, is playing some of her best tennis late in her career, having reached the U.S. Open semifinals last year and now backing it up with her first quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open. Pennetta’s game is suited for the hard court and can challenge Li on the forehand side.

    Not much can be taken from their head-to-head since the last time these two met was in 2010, before Li’s career resurgence. But that 2010 meeting was in Sydney, with Pennetta winning in two sets.

     

    Bottom line

    Li will have the crowd support, thanks to her charming and humorous on- and off-court interviews and, backed by her strong hard-court game, should push herself into another Australian Open semifinal appearance.

    Prediction: Li in two 

Simona Halep vs. Dominika Cibulkova

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    Head-to-Head: 2-1, Cibulkova

    Both players were the underdogs in their fourth-round encounters and prevailed in three sets. Halep dismantled Jelena Jankovic in the final set, not allowing one game to the former world No. 1, while Cibulkova outplayed Maria Sharapova with aggressive shots from both wings of the court.

    These two have met once on hard court, with Cibulkova winning in two tight sets in Indian Wells, Calif.  However, this match is a toss-up, due to similar styles of play.

    When it comes to experience, it’s another story. Cibulkova has been at this stage before, reaching the 2009 French Open semifinals, while Halep has just reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal and is coming off a breakthrough 2013 season.

     

    Bottom line

    Cibulkova knows she needs to capitalize on her Sharapova win and will use her aggressive game to reach her first Australian Open semifinal. 

    Prediction: Cibulkova in three  

     

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Victoria Azarenka

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    Head-to-Head: 13-3, Azarenka

    Though she’s into her third straight Australian Open quarterfinal appearance and fourth overall, Azarenka has not been playing her best tennis. And now, with Sharapova and Serena out, the likelihood of her lifting her third Australian Open trophy is very high.

    Although shaky at times during her match against Sloane Stephens, Azarenka’s powerful groundstrokes helped her overcome the American. Azarenka now faces a Top 10 opponent whom she hasn’t lost to since 2011. Azarenka couldn’t have asked for a better draw. 

    As for Radwanska, her Australian Open campaign hasn’t been as easy as Azarenka’s. She struggled against Russia's Yulia Putintseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the early rounds before defeating the young Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza.

    The good news for Radwanska? Azarenaka hasn’t been playing 100 percent, especially with her serves, of which Radwanska can easily take advantage with her great return of serve. If Radwanska were going to pull off an upset, this would be the time.

     

    Bottom line

    It all depends on which Azarenka shows up to the match: either the 2014 self or the two-time defending champion. This late in the tournament, Azarenka knows she needs to step up her game and will continue her dominating streak against Radwanska. 

    Prediction: Azarenka in three