Quick-Change Artists

Tuesday, August 07, 2012 /by

VAOne day you’re playing for an Olympic medal on London grass. Two days later you’re across the ocean doing a pre-tournament press conference for a big hard-court event in Montreal. Such is the (lucky) life of a few of the top women players this week. But where the men’s draw in Toronto has been significantly depleted, virtually all of the women who signed up for their version of the Rogers Cup are present and accounted for, including singles silver medalist Maria Sharapova, mixed-doubles gold medalist Victoria Azarenka, doubles bronze medalist Nadia Petrova, and fourth-place mixed finisher Sabine Lisicki. The women are getting on with it. I guess, these days, if you know Serena Williams isn’t going to be in a tournament, you play it.

Here’s a look at the draw; some of the top players won’t get started until Thursday. As with the men, how the Olympian achievers will respond is anybody’s guess. The new order at the top of the WTA will be tested this week.

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First Quarter
Azarenka was asked today how she planned to adjust to the new courts and the new time zone so quickly. She said that, as of that moment, she had no idea. She had just walked off a plane and was still getting her head straight. Vika will have to straighten herself out right away, because she faces a loaded section. She opens with one of the tour’s hotter players in Tamira Paszek, who followed up her recent Wimbledon run with an easy win over Julia Goerges on Tuesday. After that, she might get Lisicki. And after that, Petra Kvitova, who has beaten Azarenka in their last four meetings. Not exactly a reward for two medals for Belarus, but maybe the good feelings from London will keep Vika going. And at Wimbledon and the Games, she lost only to Serena.

Also here: Bartoli

Question mark: Kvitova. She struggles with the air and humidity in North America, and it looked pretty humid in Montreal today. We'll see if she can finally make something happen over here.

Semifinalist: Azarenka

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Second Quarter
How will Maria Sharapova respond after the Olympics? She was poleaxed in the final by Serena, but she won’t have to see her nemesis across the net in Montreal. Maria likes hard courts, she likes the grind, and she likes this time of year, but she didn’t bounce back well after her most recent successful tournament run, at Roland Garros. Her first opponent might be Christina McHale. If Maria is on, she should win easily, but she can’t afford an off day or an adjustment day against the steady American. 

On the other side of this section is Caroline Wozniacki, who also suffered a beating at Serena’s hands in London. But she’s had a little more time off since then, she also likes hard courts, and she showed more aggression in her earlier rounds at the Games. But Caro could have a tough opener in Petrova.

Also here: Cilbulkova, who has played Wozniacki tough over the last two seasons; Jankovic; and Varvara Lepchenko, who opens against Pavlyuchenkova.

Semifinalist: Wozniacki

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Third Quarter
Sam Stosur is the top seed in this section, but it’s the second seed, Angelique Kerber, who has been by far the better player over the last six weeks. The German reached the semis at Wimbledon and the quarters at the Games, while Stosur went out in the first round of each. No one will be happier to leave the grass behind than Sam. She reached the final of this tournament, in Toronto, last year.

Kerber opens against Makarova and, if she wins that, will see either Ana Ivanovic or Roberta Vinci. Stosur, in theory, doesn’t have any major obstacles in her way. She starts with Simona Halep, and then would play the winner of Safarova and Karatantcheva, who double-bageled Sorana Cirstea on Tuesday.

Interesting qualifier who has already lost: Michelle Larcher de Brito

Semifinalist: Kerber

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Fourth Quarter
One player who should be rested and ready is Aga Radwanska. She went out early in all three events at the Olympics, including in the first round of the singles. Last year she made the semis at this tournament, and her draw this time should help get her back on track. Errani, Li Na, and Pennetta are the other three seeds in the quarter, though Aga could face a decent test in her first match, against Mona Barthel.

Question mark: Li Na. Has this first-round Olympics loser hit the second-half skids again?

Semifinalist: Radwanska

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Semifinals: Azarenka d. Wozniacki; Kerber d. Radwanska

Final: Azarenka d. Kerber

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