2011 US Open – Nick’s Picks – Women’s Singles Round 1
Shahar Peer (ISR) vs. Sania Mirza (IND)
Peer hasn’t had a great year, posting a 20-17 record but she did reach the finals in Washington, DC before falling to Nadia Petrova in straight sets. She then lost in the first round at Toronto and the third round in Cincinnati. Her best result at the US Open came back in 2007 when she reached the quarterfinals, but she has yet to repeat that performance since.
Mirza’s career has been up-and-down and sometimes it seems like she is more focused on what she has going on off the court rather than what’s happening on the court. If she stays focused though, she has the potential to be a real player and she could be a huge star in India.
Mirza is 4-1 against Peer, but the two haven’t met since 2009. When Peer first came on the tour, her advantage over many of the women was her fitness and her focus. It seems like she has lost a bit of that over the last few years, but she still is a very dangerous player. She covers the court well, has excellent groundstrokes and is usually in great shape. Against Mirza, she needs to keep the pressure up and force her backwards and if she does that she should win. This is not going to be an easy win for Peer, but I look for her to advance.
Nick’s Pick – Peer in 3 sets
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs. Alison Riske (USA)
Jankovic comes in ranked #12 in the world and she should have plenty of confidence after reaching the finals of Cincinnati. It will be interesting to see how she rebounds after that performance and to see if she can sustain that level of play for two weeks. She was a finalist here just three years ago and she definitely has the talent to reach that point again.
Riske is a 21-year old American who was given a wild card into the tournament. She’s ranked #117 in the world and has a 22-21 record thus far in 2011. This is his first appearance in the main draw of the US Open, and only the fourth Grand Slam main draw appearance overall.
This is the first career meeting between Jankovic and Riske and whenever you have young Americans involved against top players, you know there is going to be some interest. To me, this match is all about Jankovic. A couple of years ago her movement was off the charts, but she doesn’t seem to be covering the court as well as she used to. Her two-handed backhand is still one of the best and when she is able to step in and hit it down the line, she is very difficult to beat. Against Riske, she needs to get down to business right away and not let the crowd get into it. Jankovic is a bit unpredictable because of her emotions, so the longer this match goes the better Riske’s chances are at winning. I look for Jankovic to win, but this will be a fun match.
Nick’s Pick – Jankovic in 2 sets
Heather Watson (GBR) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Watson has been training at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy for many years and she is, without a doubt, one of the best up-and-comers on the tour. She won the Junior US Open a few years ago and that really propelled her into the spotlight, especially in her home country of England. She has all the tools, and as she gets more experience she is only going to become more dangerous.
Sharapova is definitely one of the favorites to win this tournament, especially after winning Cincinnati. She’s had a great year, posting a 39-10 record and reaching the finals of Wimbledon and it is absolutely fantastic that she is back inside the top five and winning again because the tour needs her to be a competitor at every stop!
This is the first career meeting between Watson and Sharapova, but they know each other well as they both train at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Wow, this is going to be a big one! Watson has a very solid game. She serves well, has fantastic groundstrokes and her movement is great. She can sometimes lose focus, but I doubt that will happen in a match of this magnitude. Sharapova is going to try and dictate play and win quick points with a big serve and devatstating forehand. If Watson can play longer points and force Sharapova to cover more court then she has a chance. She doesn’t want to get into a slugging match with Sharapova, so she needs to change the pace a bit and try and keep her off balance. I have to give Sharapova the edge because of her experience and consistency on the big stage, but this one could definitely go three sets.
Nick’s Pick – Sharapova in 3 sets
Sabine Lisicki (GER) vs. Alona Bondarenko (UKR)
Lisicki comes in ranked #23 in the world, which is only two spots lower than her career high of #21. She reached her first career Grand Slam semifinal earlier this year at Wimbledon and she is certainly a threat every time she steps on the court. Like Watson and Sharapova, she grew at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy and I have worked with her for many years. She always has a great attitude on the court and if she can stay healthy, she has an extremely bright future.
Bondarenko has been ranked as high as #19 in the world, but right now she’s #125. She missed the first part of the year and didn’t compete until May due to a wrist/right knee injury. She’s been to the third round here three times in her career, and if she is healthy she is a tricky out.
These two have met once before, back at the 2008 US Open and Bondarenko won that in three sets. Bondarenko is an experienced player who has had excellent results on both the singles and doubles side. She doesn’t have any huge weapons, but she will make you cover the court and she will not roll over. Lisicki likes to go for everything. She hits the tar out of the ball from both wings and her serve is one of the best on tour. She needs to get a high percentage of first serves in to win this match, and she also needs to remain patient. I give her the edge because of Bondarenko’s injury issues and the fact that Lisicki has had an excellent year and loves playing on the hard courts.
Nick’s Pick – Lisicki in 3 sets