The first of the women’s singles quarter-finals in the 2014 Australian Open begin on Tuesday in a half of the draw rendered wide open by the shock loss of Serena Williams to Ana Ivanovic.
It was one winning bet from my two ladies singles wagers on Monday, with Vika Azarenka easing past Sloane Stephens in two, while Garbi Muguruza hit the wall that is Aga Radwanska and probably her own physical one as well after lots of matches.
The first of the quarter-finals begins at 00.05 UK time on Tuesday and features a couple of seasoned campaigners.
Na Li 1.24 v Flavia Pennetta 3.90
These two players are just one day apart in age with the Italian the older by 24 hours, and on their best form they are quite closely matched, with Li having the more big match Grand Slam experience.
Pennetta however seems to save herself for the majors and is coming off the back of a semi-final run in New York in her last Slam, where it took Azarenka to oust the 31-year-old from the tournament.
The US Open has been a successful event for Pennetta and shows her quality on hard courts, as does her 2-1 head-to-head record over Li, but they haven’t met for four years now, years which have been Li’s best on the tour.
You never really know what you’re going to get from the Chinese player, who was very poor in what really should have been a loss to Lucie Safarova in round three, but typically she came out and destroyed Ekaterina Makarova in round four.
One can never be confident backing her at a price like 1.24, as she can have a nightmare at any given time when she can’t find the court, or she can cruise at a very high level and win one and two.
Flavia has a 1-3 record in major quarter finals, winning her last one at the US Open, while Li has a 5-4 record winning four of her last five.
Now that Serena is out of her half, Pennetta will likely see this tournament as a last chance to grab a spot in a major final, and given her injury problems it would be great to see her achieve it.
She has been playing at a high enough level to cause Li major problems if the latter’s radar is on the blink again, and the handicap looks worthy of consideration here.
Ana Ivanovic 1.38 v Eugenie Bouchard 2.95
A newspaper or magazine editor’s dream of a match featuring two of the game’s more photogenic players takes place on Rod Laver Arena at around 01.05 UK time, and it will be fascinating to see how Ivanovic backs up that famous win over Serena.
It was a less than fully fit Williams, and Ana was under no pressure as a huge underdog, but now she’s a 1.38 shot to make her first Grand Slam semi-final since she won the French Open back in 2008, so will the pressure get to the emotional Serb?
I would certainly say that Bouchard has the better temperament of the two, with the laid back 19-year-old Canadian coming into her first Grand Slam quarter-final with the confidence of youth.
As far as the matchup is concerned I would be of the view that Ana hits her ground strokes with more power than Genie – certainly at the moment with Ivanovic crushing her forehand – but Bouchard has a more controlled game that’s less likely to suffer from peaks and troughs in level.
They’ve met once before, which was on the grass of Wimbledon last season, with Bouchard winning in two, but Ana has never been at home on the grass and she wasn’t in this kind of form last season.
Indeed, she hasn’t shown anything much on the Slam stage since 2008, with 17 majors passing her by until she made the quarters in New York in 2012.
Her serve has always been a big problem with arguably one of the worst ball tosses on either tour, and she’ll be hoping that doesn’t come back to haunt her again on Tuesday.
This looks far from straightforward for Ivanovic, who rarely wins a big match without causing her fans all sorts of stress even when she’s on top, but I suspect that her experience will just give the edge here in a 2-1 win.
Back Pennetta +4.5 games to beat Li at 1.95
Back Ivanovic to beat Bouchard 2-1 at 4.0