Phew! What a gory 10 days we have seen since the first ball was struck in Melbourne. Seeds and Champions have been taken out with the ease with which one would go for a stroll on a sunny day. Such destruction and decimation – which has been much more pronounced on the women’s side than on the men’s means that we are assured to have a new Women’s Champion lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup on Saturday.
Eugenie Bouchard vs Na Li
Eugenie Bouchard has been THE fairy tale on the Women’s side. While everyone who has seen Bouchard play, can straightaway see that she is destined to achieve some big results in her career, one would not have expected her to bring that to reality as rapidly as things have happened in the last 10 days. For starters, she was in the Serena quarter. She was definitely given an opening when Ana Ivanovic took out the 17 slam champion and the 19 year old took the opportunity with both hands as she turned the tables on Ivanovic in spectacular fashion in the quarter-finals. At this stage of the tournament and given that none of the 4 semi-finalists have won this Major before, these semi-finals are going to be all about who will handle the occasion better and I am sure we all agree that Genie promises to be up to the occasion and make this opportunity count.
Her task however is to take out the highest ranked Australasian player on the Women’s Circuit right now – Na Li. To say Na Li is a tremendous source of inspiration to kids watching tennis in Asia will be a huge understatement. Ever since Na Li made history with her inspirational win at the French Open in 2010, she has been showered with accolades and her popularity rivals the biggest of stars in our game. Through all this, Li has kept persevering to conquer new tournaments and to add more pages to her own chapter in the book of Tennis History. With such popularity comes ginormous expectations and Li has handled them with the grace and ease of a swan taking to water. With one of the most celebrated coaches in our game, Carlos Rodriguez on her side, she has been knocking at the door of the Slam of the Asia-Pacific and now, the moment has arrived. She nearly did not make it thus far, almost knocked out by Lucie Safarova. Ever since saving that match point, however she has been absolutely dominant.
The pressure is most certainly on Na Li today and we have seen how that makes even the best of them lose their wits in the quarterfinal match where Agnieszka Radwanska took out a sub-par Victoria Azarenka yesterday. However, I believe Na Li will bear this pressure with the same poise and composure with which she has been carrying the expectations of the biggest continent on earth.
Prediction: Na Li to continue her march to the title in 2 sets.
Dominika Cibulkova vs Agnieszka Radwanska
Dominika Cibulkova, has been charting her own Cinderella run at the Australian Open. She has been thoroughly dominant in her run and her biggest scalp was the 2008 Australian Open Women’s Champion – Maria Sharapova. Cibulkova has made this run with some fearless shot-making and a refusal to buckle down under the weight of the occasion. She is easily the hardest hitter remaining in the draw and she will need to continue to be on top of her power hitting to get past a player who is the very best at diffusing power and throws all sorts of curve balls and googlies at the opposition and bamboozles them with her Wizardry. This is Power Tennis vs Smart Tennis at its very best. The raw power of Cibulkova against the smartest player on the WTA tour – Agnieszka Radwanska. Should Cibulkova turn up ready for the occasion, for we all know Radwanska will be more than ready, this will be a thoroughly entertaining match with such superlative contrast that any tennis fan would desire in a match.
As impressive as Cibulkova is playing, I am absolutely in awe of what Radwanska has been doing in a game that seems to have traded a lot of wizardry and artistry over the past decade or so for physicality and power. The way she had Victoria Azarenka screaming in frustration and totally flummoxed on the tennis court was refreshing. Radwanska plays as much chess out there as she does tennis, you can see her plotting each shot with the foresight of a International Grand Master planning his moves in a game of Chess. In this contest of power and tennis smarts, I am leaning towards Agnieszka Radwanska.
Prediction: Radwanska to get through to the final in 3 delightful sets.
Let’s hope this tennis festival continues to delight us friends! Enjoy Tennis, Sports and Life, folks!