Australian Open QF previews and picks: Williams vs. Sharapova, Kerber vs. Azarenka


Serena Williams (vs. Genie Bouchard)

A blockbuster Australian Open quarterfinal will pit Serena Williams against Maria Sharapova on Tuesday. On the other side of the draw, Angelique Kerber will face Victoria Azarenka for the second time this month.

(1) Serena Williams vs. (5) Maria Sharapova

Williams and Sharapova will be facing each other for the 21st time in their careers when they battle for a place in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Tuesday. Although they have squared off so many times, don’t call it a rivalry. Williams leads the head-to-head series 18-2 and she is on a 17-match winning streak at Sharapova’s expense. The Russian has not defeated her heavily-favored opponent since 2004. Williams has also taken 14 sets in succession.

The world No. 1 struggled with a knee issue at the Hopman Cup earlier this month, but as usual she is in peak condition at a Grand Slam. After four rounds, Williams has not dropped a set and six sets in a row have been no closer than 6-2. Like the top seed, Sharapova also benefited from a favorable draw through three rounds. She did, however, surrender one set to Lauren Davis in the process. The competition got a lot tougher in the fourth round, but Sharapova fought past Belinda Bencic 7-5, 7-5. Nothing suggests this will be any different from almost all of their other encounters.

Pick: Williams in 2

(7) Angelique Kerber vs. (14) Victoria Azarenka

Don’t be fooled by the No. 14 next to Azarenka’s name. Her ranking has been deflated by injury in recent seasons and she is just now working her way back up to where she does not have to face top players in the first week of majors. Through four rounds, Azarenka is looking like she is no worse than the second title favorite behind Williams. The Belarusian is 9-0 this season with a title in Brisbane and four blowouts in Melbourne. No opponent this fortnight has made a set more competitive than 6-4 and the other seven have been 6-2 or worse.

Azarenka is 6-0 lifetime against Kerber after hammering her 6-3, 6-1 in the Brisbane final. The German is also 2-12 in total sets against her nemesis. She will get another shot on Wednesday following defeats of Masaki Doi, Alexandra Dulgheru, Madison Brengle, and Annika Beck. Kerber dropped one set to Doi and even faced match points, but she has been in cruise control ever since. This will be Azarenka’s toughest test so far, but it is still hard to see Kerber taking a set.

Pick: Azarenka in 2

37 Comments on Australian Open QF previews and picks: Williams vs. Sharapova, Kerber vs. Azarenka

  1. I think it’s going to be business as usual with Serena winning in 2 sets. I would like to think that Maria might win a set, but I just do not see it happening.

    Vika in 2 sets,

  2. Agniezska Radwanska v Carla Suarez-Navarro is the first match on Rod Laver, yay. I’ll be awake, yesss… Aga in 3. Go Aga!

    The only time I like watching Maria is when Serena clobbers her – I know that sounds bad but it’s the truth, sorry. So I have to see it. Serena in 2, come on!

    Vika over Kerber in 2 (that match is tomorrow, btw)

    Also tomorrow is the most interesting QF match, imo:
    Zhang v Konta
    Konta in 3.
    Both women are tough as nails fighters but Zhang had heavy taping, not as heavy as Madison Keys’ however, on her right thigh, and didn’t finish off the ailing Keys as she could have; not much thought into where her shots were going. Also, Zhang came through qualifying and took out tough opponents, Halep, Cornet, and Lepchenko. Just think Konta has more left in the tank. Konta in 3.

    • Oh, Nny. I fear it will be quite terrible for an Aga fan like me. If she serves as bad and hangs behind the baseline like she did today, Aga is toast – bagel and a breadstick is what I see. At one point 2nd set in the QF I was cheering for Carla Suarez-Navarro just thinking about the beatdown tomorrow.

      • rc,

        So you don’t think Aga is playing well? Meaning that she just looked good because her opponent was bad?

        This is the problem when you don’t follow the women’s game on a regular basis.

        • No and yes, Nny.
          Aga needs to come in more and be aggressive. She was just barely doing enough to win. Not that she was intentionally just pushing the ball back in play but she did to seem to adjust her level downward to Carla’s in the 2nd set. Carla was awful – very low energy for her. CSN is a solid WTA #10 – but won’t be for long, playing that way. Both Konta and Zhang are playing better than Aga and Carla in that match. Konta is on her way to top ten if she keeps up this AO level.

          To steal one of Hawkie’s expressions, poor Aga will be but an “amuse bouche” for Serena if she plays like that, particularly the painfully slow serve. Did you see Serena’s ROS? Aga was having trouble holding serve in the 2nd set v CSN.

          Serena over Aga in TWO EASY or too easy!

          • rc,

            ESPN showed the H2H with Serena and Aga and it’s 8-0 advantage serena! I did not know that.

            You know your women’s tennis. At least Aga got to the semis.

  3. just seen an article where johana konta credits the changes in her game to working with a mind coach since october 2014. she said that this enabled her to play well when it really mattered.
    i do wish that a certain person would try and take on board that these people do actually help.

    • amy (AT 2:54 PM),
      If I may ask, how do YOU know whether “a certain person” has tried or not?
      For example.
      RAFAEL NADAL: “Well, first thing is I think that’s a personal thing. So normally I don’t like to talk about personal things…”
      [Post-QF-match press conference, Shanghai Masters 2015]

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