The U.S. Open Series is kicking into high gear this week. So I will attempt to look into the crystal ball at some of next week's tournaments.
The Bank of the West Classic Tennis Tournament at Stanford University has some pretty big names in it. It should be a great tournament. When looking at the draw, the first thing that stands out is a possible Maria Sharapova vs. Serena Williams quarterfinal. This would make for a great final in any tournament and to have it as a quarterfinal just shows how big of an event Stanford has become.
There are also plenty of other big names in the tournament, including defending champion Victoria Azarenka, Marion Bartoli and Sam Stosur.
Now for my predictions.
Azarenka is seeded to play Dominika Cibulkova in the Quarters. However, American Christina McHale is also in this section. I think the seedings will hold up and I look for Azarenka to make it through.
Bartoli and Ana Ivanovic are the seeded players in this section. American Coco Vandeweghe and Canadian Rebecca Marino are also dangerous players in this section. I still like Bartoli and Ivanovic to play in the Quarters. Bartoli has been on a roll the last few months and I don't see that coming to an end in the hard court season.
Who will win in Stanford?
Stosur has not played well this year, but this tournament could be her chance to turn things around. She has Agnieszka Radwanska and Sabine Lisicki potentially standing in her way in this section. Lisicki has the momentum and I like her to upset Stosur in the second round. I also like Lisicki to upset Radwanska, who hasn't had the strongest year herself, in the Quarterfinals.
This is by far the most interesting quarter of the draw with Sharapova and Williams potentially headed for a clash. Williams could have to get past Julia Goerges in the second round. Sharapova could be facing Daniela Hantuchova in the second round. I think Sharapova and Williams will advance to the Quarterfinals setting up the match of the tournament. Williams just lost a set to Martina Hingis a few days ago in World Team Tennis and I don't think she's quite ready to beat Sharapova. I like the Russian in three tight sets.
Azarenka vs. Bartoli
This will be a great match and most likely a three-setter. Azarenka seems to play really well in tournaments like this, it's the majors where she tends to struggle. I think she will grind out another win and make it to the finals for the second year in a row.
Winner: Azarenka in three sets
Lisicki vs. Sharapova
This is a rematch of the Wimbledon semifinals. In that match, Lisicki fell apart after blowing the first set against Sharapova. I think she will do better in this match, but I still like Sharapova to get through.
Winner: Sharapova in two sets
Azarenka vs. Sharapova
This is a rematch of last year's final, which Azarenka won in straight sets. Both players have had strong seasons, which is why they are currently ranked fourth and fifth in the world. This is a tough match to pick, but I think Sharapova has been playing a little better lately. Besides, Sharapova doesn't like losing to the same player over and over and she already lost to Azarenka in the final in Miami earlier this year. That will be enough motivation to get her another title.
Winner: Sharapova in two sets.