Nick's Picks will be breaking down the Sony Ericsson Open everyday! Follow along for predictions, picks, and insight into the tournament on the blog and on TennisWeek.com.
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
Azarenka blasted Sam Stosur off the court, beating the Australian 6-1, 6-0. There may be no one on the WTA Tour that is playing better than Azarenka right now, and if she can keep this up throughout 2009 she will surely find herself in the top five!
Kuznetsova continued her steady play with a good three-set victory over the talented youngster, Caroline Wozniacki. Coming into the tournament she hadn't been playing her best tennis with consecutive losses at Dubai and Indian Wells, but when she is hitting the ball well she is tough to beat.
Kuznetsova is 3-0 against Azarenka, and beat her last year in Miami in three sets. Kuznetsova moves laterally as well as anyone else and makes you hit one or two extra balls. Her serve is solid, when she comes to the net her volleys are sound, and her groundstrokes are excellent. Azarenka must be patient against Kuznetsova because the Russian is going to retrieve more balls than many players are accustomed to. Azarenka has a monster game and for a big girl she moves very well. If Azarenka can stay focused and not get frustrated by Kuznetsova's relentless attack then I give her the edge because of how she has been playing recently. If Kuznetsova is able to disrupt Azarenka's rhythm then she could win. I'm going to go with Azarenka, but it's going to be close!
Nick's Pick - Azarenka in 3 sets
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Venus Williams (USA)
Neither of the Williams' sisters played their best tennis on Wednesday, but both managed to advance to the semis with victories. Serena struggled mightily against Na Li, while Venus looked good early, then was errant with her groundstrokes, and finally found her game again. It's amazing to me that each time the girls are in trouble they are able to find another gear to take their games too. It just shows you how great they really are!
Venus is 10-9 against her little sister and beat her in Dubai already this year 7-6 in the third se t (Venus is also 2-1 against Serena in Miami). This is an incredibly difficult match to call because it is hard to predict which version of each Williams' sister we will see! Both girls cover the court incredibly well, both have tremendous serves, and both have big groundies. Venus is probably a bit more comfy coming forward and putting pressure on her opponents because of her long wingspan. At the same time, Serena hits the ball as hard (or harder) than anyone from the baseline and when she is on there is no one better. I have worked with both girls over the years and I just can't pick one over the other!! What do you think is going to happen???
Nick's Pick - Too close to call!