Thursday, January 24, 2019

We have reached the finals!

As outrageously as the draw unfolded in Melbourne, in the end, we come down to the final two players, and they are two women who are certainly at home in big finals. Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 2018 U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka will play to determine not only who is the 2019 Australian Open champion, but also who will become number 1 in the world.

The Czech star, for all her achievements, has never held the number 1 ranking. And while she has traditionally done well in the Australian Open warmup tournaments and has always looked like a title contender, she has never won the title. The last time she was in a semifinal in Melbourne was 2012, and she lost that match to Maria Sharapova.

Osaka, who began playing at the Open in 2016, reached the round of 16 last year, and was defeated in that match by Simona Halep,

There will big serving and big hitting in the women's final. Both players play aggressively and like to take charge of the rallies. It's not wishful thinking to believe that this last match of the tournament could be a thriller.

Paths to the final:

round 1--def. Magda Linette
round 2--def. Tamara Zidansek
round 3--def. Hsieh Su-Wei (28)
round of 16--def. Anastasija Sevastova (13)
quarterfinals--def. Elina Svitolina (6)
semifinals--def. Karolina Pkiskova (7)

round 1--Magdalena Rybarikova
round 2--Irina-Camelia Begu
round 3--def. Belinda Bencic
round of 16--def. Amanda Anisimova
quarterfinals--def. Ash Barty (15)
semifinals--def. Danielle Collins

On the one hand, it's notable that Osaka had to knock out four seeded players to get to the final, while Kvitova faced only one. However, Bencic, Anisimova and Collins were all very dangerous players in this draw; Kvitova's draw, in other words, was tougher than it looks on paper.

In doubles, defending champions and 2nd seeds Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic will face the unseeded team of Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai in the final. Of course, the team of Stosur and Shuai is hardly an obscure entity; Stosur is a former doubles world number 1. Stosur and Shuai knocked out the top seeds, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, they took care of the other Czech team, Barbora Strycova and Marketa Vondrousova.

Mladenovic, in addition to winning the 2018 title with Babos, also won the 2016 French Open, with Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman was a finalist at Wimbledon in 2014, and she was a finalist at the U.S. Open in 2016 and 2018.

Stosur, with Lisa Raymond, won the U.S. Open in 2005. In 2006, Raymond and Stosur won the French Open. Stosur was a finalist in Melbourne in 2006, and was a finalist at Wimbledon in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

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