The women's Bank of the West Classic at Stanford this week is loaded with top players and should be quite a battle. Sam Stosur is the top seed followed by Elena Dementieva, coming off an injury, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Marion Bartoli.
My personal favorite player, Maria Sharapova, is making her summer debut this week as well. I always tell myself not to let bias get in the way when making picks, but I have said since the beginning of the year that this is going to be the summer of Maria. I think the summer of Maria begins now. So here are my completely unbiased picks:
Stosur has a somewhat easy section with Yanina Wickmayer as her top competition in the section. I love Wicky and I'd love to see her get through, but Stosur seems to play well this time of year. I like Stosur to beat Wickmayer in three tough sets in the quarterfinals
This might be the toughest section of the entire draw, especially for me. I have several personal favorites that are here including Ashley Harkleroad, Melanie Oudin, and Victoria Azarenka. Oh, and of course Ana Ivanovic (not one of my favorites) is in this section as well.
Bartoli is the favorite on paper, but I do think there will be some upsets in this section. Unfortunately, I think Bartoli will get past Harkleroad (sorry Ash), but I think she will fall in her next match to hard-hitting Alisa Kleybanova (who will beat Ivanovic).
Azarenka played for my Washington Kastles recently, and quite honestly she was terrible, losing twice to Coco Vandeweghe (who?). She not only lost to Coco, but she was trounced both times in big situations, which shows me at this point Azarenka is capable of losing to anybody. I think Oudin will knock her off and play Kleybanova in the quarters. Unfortunately for the cute American, Kleybanova will win in three sets.
The third section is also loaded with talented players. Radwanska played well in the summertime last year, but she's going to have some tough players to get through if she wants to keep that going in Stanford. Shahar Peer, Daniela Hantuchova, and Maria Kirilenko are all in the top part of this section.
I like Peer to get through to face Radwanska, and I think Radwanska's steady game will get her through to the semifinals.
This is another loaded section of the draw. Dementieva could face Dinara Safina in her first match. Sharapova should be waiting in the quarterfinals if she can get past Jie Zheng in her first match. I look for Sharapova to knock off Dementieva in the quarters, but don't be surprised if Dementieva turns the tables in a rematch later this summer.
Stosur vs. Kleybanova
Both of these players had strong summers last year, and I think they will again this year. Stosur is simply the more experienced, better player at this point.
Pick: Stosur in three sets
Radwanska vs. Sharapova
This should be a great matchup, but I think Maria will simply overpower Radwanska.
The key for Maria is her serve, and I expect her to serve well over the next couple months and wreck havoc on the rest of the tour.
Pick: Sharapova in two sets
Stosur vs. Sharapova
I think this will be a hard-fought contest. I think both players are primed to have strong runs in every tournament they play this summer. Maria's experience and determination will win out this week.
Pick: Sharapova in three sets