Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 6/4/12

Well, it’s been a crazy first four rounds for the women, with upsets everywhere and shocking results becoming the norm. There were six unseeded players in the Round of 16 here, compared to just one in the men’s draw This just highlights what I always like to say: Tennis matches are basically impossible to predict. You can say what the odds are. You can give an educated guess. You can tell what will happen if both players are at the best, worst, or somewhere in between. But tennis is such a mental game that predicting actual results is a foolish endeavor. Now, some people are better at it than others. And I put predictions in here because it’s fun to see how well I can guess how the players will play. But I always consider analyzing the matchup a more important preparation for watching a match than an actual guess as to who will win.

Dominika Cibulkova vs Samantha Stosur

Cibulkova did very, very well in getting to this point. She is the 15 seed here and was favored in her first three matches, but she was very impressive in absolutely dominating her early competition. She lost a combined 8 games in her first three matches, some of them against decent opponents. That left her confident and fresh before her match against World #1 Victoria Azarenka. Cibulkova actually had outplayed Azarenka in several of their previous matches, but had choked them away. Not so here, where Dominika took the first set and then held on in a tiebreak to win the second.

Sam Stosur is the only Grand Slam champion left in the top half of this draw. Of course, she won that on the hard court at the US Open and has never had such great success on clay. Stosur, like Cilbulkova, has been relatively untroubled reaching this round. In fact, neither of these two women have lost a set yet. Stosur is generally the better player, the more consistent of the two, and has more big-match experience (Cibulkova has never been past the QF of a Slam before), but Cibulkova really just dominated a player who plays a very similar power game to Stosur’s. Also, Stosur’s movement on clay is a bit suspect. Add to that the fact that Cibulkova seems to really have gotten over her nerves here, and I smell another upset coming.
Prediction: Cibulkova in 2

Angelique Kerber vs Sara Errani

This match was supposed to be Radwanska against Bartoli, right? Well, in this crazy French Open it was not to be. Bartoli fell early and Radwanska was slaughtered by Kuznetsova, who promptly followed up that amazing win by losing to Errani in straight sets. Errani has really had a breakthrough this year, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and winning three titles (all of them on clay). She has struggled in the bigger, non-Slam tournaments this year, but she has shown some great form and has been very tough to beat when she plays well.

Like Errani, this is only Kerber’s second time past the third round of a Slam (she had a great run to the US Open semifinals last year). She won her first two career titles this year in Paris and Copenhagen. She is a bit of an enigma as when she plays well, she can be very tough to beat but can’t really seem to find her top form much. In fact, she has had stretches where she was just plain terrible. This match will probably come down to whichever of the two is less cowed by the occasion. Also, I can’t see either player coming back from losing the first set in a match where confidence will be such a key.
Prediction: Errani in 2

Maria Sharapova vs Kaia Kenpi

Sharapova always seems to go deep in Slams yet somehow can’t get over the hump and win one in recent years. Here she is again with a draw that has opened up for her beautifully. The three-time Slam champion has been embarrassed in two recent Slam finals by players who just hit the ball so much bigger than her. Luckily for her, Petra Kvitova is the only player remaining in the draw who can do that (maybe Samantha Stosur too). Also, being on clay should help her defense. Clay is not quite her best surface, but she is still quite good on it and things are lining up for her to finally complete her elusive career Grand Slam.

Kanepi is also a power player, but has nowhere near the firepower of an Azarenka or a Kvitova. Kanepi did very well in the third round to beat a slightly-off Caroline Wozniacki and had a somewhat easier time with Arantxa Rus in the fourth. Kanepi has had some success in her career, as this is her fourth Slam quarterfinal. Sharapova has not looked dominant by any means here and has really struggled with the conditions at times, but she is the better player in this match and should come through, assuming she can find any sense of rhythm on her serve.
Prediction: Sharapova in 3

Yaroslava Shvedova vs Petra Kvitova

I’ll be completely honest here. I have no idea how Shvedova got this far. She has reached the quarterfinals here once before, but she really is not a top player. She has reached a career-high #29 after that Roland Garros quarterfinal run in 2010, but fell back in 2011 and really hasn’t spent much time inside the top 50 even. She has shown flashes of great play in the past, but has rarely sustained it for a whole match, let alone an entire tournament. She came through qualifying with relative ease and really didn’t face a tough player until her fourth-round match against defending champion Li Na. She didn’t bow to the pressure at all and won the last 10 games, fighting off a deuce in every single one of those. This has been a great run for her and while this high level is not common at all for her, she might even be able to go farther if she can keep it up.

Kvitova’s game doesn’t translate so well to clay but she has had a relatively easy draw on her way here and hasn’t yet met anyone who can really trouble her. Shvedova is solid, but I don’t think she really has the game or the defensive skills to play with Kvitova as long as Petra’s shots are on. It’s been a great run for Shvedova here, but I don’t think she has what it takes to go farther.
Prediction: Kvitova in 2

For my men’s quarterfinal preview, please click here.


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