Clijsters, Azarenka In Battle Of Former Champs
by Sandra Harwitt|
By the time we get to Wednesday at the Sony Ericsson Open we’re down to the nitty-gritty of this major international tournament. On the schedule will be two men’s and two women’s quarter-finals. Here’s a look at all four of the exciting singles matches on tap for today.
Kim Clijsters (Belgium) v Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) – Here’s two women who know how to conquer the Sony Ericsson Open. Clijsters is the defending champion, winning the 2010 tournament in fine style with a win over Venus Williams. She also won the title in 2005 where she beat out Maria Sharapova for the hardware. The No. 2 ranked Clijsters is the reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion and somehow manages to combine playing incredible tennis with motherhood. Since giving up retirement and returning to tennis in the summer of 2009 she’s won three Grand Slam titles – 2009 and ’10 U.S. Open and 2011 Australian Open, and she also scored her third career WTA Championships year-end title at Doha last November. Pretty impressive. Azarenka is into her third quarter-final of the season having also reached that round at Sydney and Indian Wells. At Indian Wells she retired in the quarters to eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki with a left hip injury, but she’s looking pretty fit here. Clijsters holds a 4-1 career edge over the No. 8 ranked Azarenka, most recently winning their meeting in the Sydney quarter-finals in January. Clijsters survived five match points before getting the job done against Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round, but there won’t be a repeat performance today. Clijsters checks into the semi-finals while Azarenka heads for the next airplane ride out of Miami.
Vera Zvonareva (Russia) v Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) – The great thing about Vera Zvonareva these days is she’s keeping her composure when things are not going that well on court. The No. 3 ranked Zvonareva used to lose it when things would go bad. She was known as the girl who could sing “Cry Me A River” for constantly dissolving into tears. Zvonareva came into her own last season when she reached the final at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Only three months into this year she won her 11th career title at Doha, and also was a semi-finalist at the Australian Open and Pattaya City. Radwanska is currently ranked No. 14 and is 11-4 in matches for the season. This is her third quarter-final showing for the year: she also went to the final eight at the Australian Open and Dubai. Zvonareva has a 1-0 record against Radwanska, and when their match today is over it will be Zvonareva who zooms into the semi-finals.
David Ferrer (Spain) v Mardy Fish (United States) – This is a big match – really big match – for Mardy Fish. He walks off court a winner and he will be able to tell his future grandkids that once when granddad was young he was the top American ranked tennis player in the world. That’s pretty heady stuff, and Fish is trying to deflect the attention by accurately noting that good friend Andy Roddick, who he would surpass as the top American, has achieved way more than he has in their respective careers. Of course, before Fish can claim that distinction he’ll have to deal with Ferrer, who is certainly no pushover. In fact, the No. 6 ranked Ferrer is the favorite in this encounter against the No. 15 Fish. Ferrer already has two titles claimed for the year at Auckland and Acapulco and was a semifinalist at the Australian Open. Fish could run into a similar situation that he did against Juan Martin del Potro in the last round – the crowd was predominantly behind the Argentine. Anyone not knowing the facts might be surprised that the crowd was not backing him as Fish is not only an American playing in America, but he grew up a Floridian. They are currently 3-3 in their match head-to-head, so you can expect this to be a closely contested encounter. The one concern for Mardy is he was starting to cramp at the end of the match against del Potro. If Fish is feeling fine, he’ll find his way into the semi-finals and to head of the American class.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) v Kevin Anderson (South Africa) – Okay, this is the easy one so no point in delaying the prediction. Djokovic is 21-0 this year, and 23-0 if you count his two matches from when Serbia won the 2010 Davis Cup title in December. Anderson is playing excellent tennis, winning at Johannesburg, semi-finals at Brisbane, quarter-finals at Delray Beach. Anderson actually won their only previous encounter, which took place right here in the second round at the 2008 Sony Ericsson Open. As Djokovic said: “A chance at revenge.” Anderson’s good year doesn’t equal Djokovic’s perfect record. The reigning Australian Open champion does his magic again.
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