Isner v Cilic:
They have played just once before which was at the Australian Open 2011. Cilic won 9-7 in the 5th set.
More players have said that the new blue clay is very slippery and is taking some getting used to. That seems strange as it’s the same clay that has been coloured blue! ( I believe it starts white ). However as we have seen from the live video lots of players are slipping on this surface. Nadal has said that it favours the big server. Today we have 2 of the biggest servers around but I think this match will come down to who returns best. Once the ball is in play who can keep their feet? I can see Isner resembling Bambi at times.
Isner hasn’t played since losing to Monaco in the final of the US Clay Court Championship. He has developed into an excellent player on the clay with recent wins over Tsonga, Simon and Federer. He’s not the sharpest tool in the box though and may take time to adjust to the new clay.
Cilic is in great form and served well last week ( apart from the final. Don’t know what happened there). He has also had a match on the blue clay where he breezed past Montanes in 2 easy sets. Having played that match I feel he has an edge over Isner as he knows what to expect in match play.
Not having played for 3 weeks means Isner will be well rested but is certainly short of competitive court time.
This is obviously going to be a serve dominated match with perhaps a single break settling each set. No one will be surprised to see a tie break and that is probably Isner’s best chance of taking the opening set assuming both men serve as we expect them to.
With Isner starting at 1.78 this should be a good match to back players on serve. I have to give a slight edge to Cilic as there’s a chance Isner comes out rusty and could easily find himself having to come back from a set down.
Update: Very tight match with both sets going to tie break.
Cilic won 7-6, 7-6.
Azarenka v Ivanovic:
Ivanovic leads the head to heads 2-1 and has won their last 2 matches. However they haven’t played since August 2010.
Azarenka is having an excellent season as number 1 but doesn’t seem quite as impressive and imposing as the year goes on. Her recent loss to Sharapova in the final in Germany and her two matches in Madrid this week will give Ivanovic some hope that she can get a third win over her.
Ivanovic is also having a great season with her losses only coming to top players. Not a good sign!
Azarenka’s starting price of 1.42 reflects the head to heads and also Azarenka’s last few matches. That certainly is no price to be backing her today. If Azarenka has a bad match its usually because she served poorly. Her big returns of serve can trouble even the best players’ serves but if she can’t control her own it can develop into a battle.
Ivanovic is serving fairly well at the moment. No double faults and 7 aces against Petrova. She did double fault 3 times in the first round but also served 5 aces.
Azarenka also served 7 aces in her last match but there were 8 double faults. Five more double faults in round 1 don’t paint a good picture of her serving this week.
I think we are going to see Azarenka broken early as Ivanovic will come out swinging. Her price may touch evens in the first 3 or 4 games and that has to worth a back. Aza is a much better player than she was the last time these two met and I feel she will battle her way through. Ivanovic won’t be rolling over though and 3 sets is a real possibility.
Update: Azarenka was broken in the 4th game. She broke back 3 games later and broke again in Ivanovic’s next service game.
In the second set Ivanovic was broken twice. She pulled one of those breaks back. When Aza served for the match she faced 3 break points but held on to take the win.
Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4.