Monday, January 25, 2010

Women's Quarters Quick PIcks: Quarter Of Death To Be Decided Today


The Quarter of Death has been just that for the likes of Kim Clijsters, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Yanina Wickmayer, Flavia Pennetta, Elena Dementieva, and many many more.

But only one woman can survive. It's either Justine 'winning-Grand-Slam-matches–is-just-like-riding-a-bike' Henin or Nadia 'remember-me-I-used-to-be-in-the-top-10' Petrova in the semifinals.

I'm sure you all had that one predicted.
Henin-Petrova, 11:00, Rod Laver Arena

While it isn't the Clijsters-Henin dream match that many had hoped for, Henin-Petrova has some allure of its own. Over the first 4 Rounds Nadia Petrova has played some of the most decisive tennis of her career - in this her 8th career Grand-Slam quarterfinal Petrova has seemed charmed at times but - more importantly - dominant at others. No matter what adjectives you pick to describe the 27-year-old- Russian, there is a noun that can more aptly describe her tournament thus far - she has been a juggernaut.

Meanwhile Henin has been nothing less than spectacular in her own right. She had a rough spell against Alisa Kleybanova in the 3rd round, but it was to be expected, given that she was met with much resistance from Elena Dementieva in the 2nd round. In the end, Henin has passed all tests with flying colors, and while doing so she has introduced an element to the women's game that we haven't seen in quite some time - net play.

She has even played some serve-and–volley on crucial points, and the results of her forays to the net have been good: She's won at least 16 net points in all of her four matches, including 35 of 43 v. Dementieva.

Petrova has done it with her powerful ground strokes and a surprisingly efficient return game. The Russian has won 35 of 45 points against her opponents 2nd serve in the last two matches, and she has looked remarkably fit and inspired while doing so.

Henin has won 10 of 12 (including her fourth consecutive over Petrova win in Brisbane earlier this month) against the Russian over the course of her career - and that could be of great use to her psychologically.

Pick: Henin in 2

Zheng- Kirilenko, 2nd Match, Rod Laver Arena

When Maria Kirilenko and Jie Zheng do battle today, it will be the 1st Grand-Slam quarter final for the 23-year-old Kirilenko. Will the fact that she's had more swimsuit modeling appearances than Grand-Slam quarterfinals hurt Kirilenko? She has nothing to lose and that could be more to her advantage than to her detriment.

Across from her on Rod Laver will be the only Chinese woman to ever reach a Grand-Slam semifinal, Jie Zheng. The former Wimbledon semifinalist (2008) is also one half of the first Chinese duo to ever simultaneously reach the quarters of a Slam, along with Li Na. Apparently China plans to add top female tennis players to its list of viable export alternatives.

While it's a sensational achievement, Zheng has the better shot to advance advance Kirilenko than Na does against Venus on paper. Zheng, ranked 35 and unseeded in the draw, has to like the fact that she has won her last 3 matches against the 58th-ranked Russian, including 4 out 5 all-time.

But as Kirilenko proved in upsetting Maria Sharapova, she's not someone to be taken lightly.

Pick: Zheng in 3

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