Nick’s Picks- Women’s Australian Open 1st round
Victoria Azarenka Vs. Monica Niculescu
Monica has very solid groundstokes and when you are tuned in to her groundies she hits you with a slice forehand. Movement is no problem, her serve is not good and it’s not bad, just in the middle. She drives her opponents crazy with change of pace shots from both sides.
Victoria is a hitter from both sides and takes advantage of defensive returns by coming into the net. She has improved her defensive game. She is a giant when playing the big points. She has excellent movement, stands close to the baseline and gives opponents very little time to prepare. She is not a quiet player and her grunts will wake up those who are nodding off. When she is in trouble she hits deep down the center. Victoria is exciting to watch and a credit to the WTA.
Victoria has too much fire power, but she must not have any more work done on her toenails.
Petra Kvitova Vs. Francesca Schiavone
What has happened to the Italian Stallion? She was on fire for a few years and is now going through some tough times. Her game is built on her personality, she is not a big girl and because of this she must not only keep the ball in play but she must go for it by hitting drop shots and coming in more. Her grunts are also softer. She hits her forehand with a huge loop swing and heavy spin. Her one handed is darn good and she loves to volley.
Petra’s groundies are darn good and very steady. She is a much better counter puncher. She has a good serve but to win the big one she must improve her wide slice and take advantage of being a lefty. When she gets on a roll she can go down and out with a series of too many errors. She has a heavy build and her movement is questionable.
Schiavone must get into the head of Kvitova and play with the emotion she had in 2010-2011. This match is up to her to win or lose. Kvitova cannot make those unforced errors.
Nick’s Pick- Advantage to Kvitova but an upset might take place.
Li Na Vs. Sesil Karatantcheva
Li is a difficult player to beat because she makes you play so many balls. She stands close to the baseline and hits her forehand and two handed backhand very deep with not a lot of spin. She has an average, consistent serve. Moves extremely well and is not hesitant to come in and strike a simple block volley.
Sesil was at IMG Academy for a few years and truly was a player that I felt had a very bright future ahead of her. She is from Romania and stands about 5’7”. She moves extremely well and is very exciting to watch. Her movement is darn good.
Li Na is not the best opponent for Sesil to play because she keeps the ball in play. Sesil must go for big winners and attack Li Na’s 2nd serve
Nick’s Pick- Sorry Sesil, this match goes to Li Na
Jelena Jankovic Vs. Johanna Larsson
Jelena spent much of her teenage years at the Academy. 2 of her opponents here at the time were Maria Sharapova and Tatiana Golovin. It was like a stage show. Jelena was really on a roll for so many years but she has had a downturn for the last 2 years, including changing coaches several times. She is a super athlete with great movement. Her groundies are darn good; especially her two handed backhand down the line.
When the match is close, her serve begins to falter with her toss going in every direction. When this happens she will look to her coaching box and give them all sorts of emotions. I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours with her, as have my coaches including Chip Brooks. Jelena’s mother is a super nice lady but when she sits in the box it is a disturbance to everyone, she gets so nervous!
Johanna prefers to hit very steady and deep groundies with not too much spin. Her movement is right in the middle, even though she can run down balls; she does not have quick feet and explosive recovery steps. Her serve is not good and is not bad, but it will be a factor in a tight match.
If Jelena stays calm and controls play, I give a big edge to her in this one. Will Jelena get her 1st serve in?