TOUCHLINEUI:2014 WTA TOUR FINALS PREVIEW (NO. 5-8)

The preview continues today with a look at Pole’s Radwanska, Breakout Star, Eugenie Bouchard and comeback Queens, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki

5

radwanska-won-her-first-title-of-the-year-at-the-rogers-cup-defeating-venus-williams-in-the-final_4r97ek76c7or18wmtdq4mh14g

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Agnieszka Radwanska

Ranking: 6th with 4650 points

Road to Singapore Ranking: 6th with 4441 points

2014 Record: 46-19

Calendar Titles: 1

Grand Slam Results:

Australian Open: Semi Final exit

French Open: 3rd Round exit

Wimbledon: 4th Round exit

US Open: 2nd Round exit

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WTA Tour Final Statistics

The Pole would compete in her fifth WTA Tour Finals in Singapore. She has never won it but made in to the semi final in 2012 where she lost to Serena Williams and crashed out at the round robin stage in (2011 and 2013). She was an alternate at the 2009 World Tour Finals.

2014 Radwanska Season

Competition Surface Tournament Finish Opponent
Sydney Hard Court 2nd Round Bethanie Matiick-Sands(Q) 5-7 2-6
Australian Open Hard Court Semi Final Dominika Cibulkova 1-6 2-6
Doha Hard Court Semi Final Simona Halep 5-7 2-6
Dubai Hard Court 2nd Round Flavia Pennetta (Q) 4-6 1-6
Indian Wells Hard Court Final Flavia Pennetta  2-6 1-6
Miami Hard Court Quarter Final Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-7 3-6
Katowice Hard Court Semi Final Alize Cornet 6-0 2-6 4-6
Stuttgart Clay Quarter Final Maria Sharapova 4=6 3-6
Madrid Clay Semi Final Maria Sharapova 1-6 4-6
Rome Clay Quarter Final Jelena Jankovic 4-6 4-6
French Open Clay 3rd Round Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6 4-6
Eastbourne Grass 1st Round Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 4-6 6-3 6-7
Wimbledon Grass 4th Round Ekaterina Makarova 3-6 0-6
Stanford Hard Court 2nd Round Varvaria Lepchenko 3-6 6-3 4-6
Montreal Hard Court Winner Venus Williams 6-4 6-2
Cincinnati Hard Court Quarter Final Caroline Wozniacki 4-6 6-7
US Open Hard Court 2nd Round Shuai Peng 3-6 4-6
Seoul Hard Court Quarter Final Varvaria Lepchenko 7-6 2-6 2-6
Wuhan Open Hard Court 2nd Round Caroline Garcia 6-3 6-7 6-7
China Open Hard Court 2nd Round Roberta Vinci 3-6 4-6

 

2014 has been a topsy-turvy season for the 25 year old Pole. After a successful 2013, much was expected of the fan-favorite and she actually began brightly by reaching the semi-final of the Australian Open for the first time. She however suffered inconsistency on the hard court swing with her final appearance in Indian Wells the exception.

Agnieszka-Radwanska

 

 

 

 

Her Grand Slam performances were also not impressive as she failed to make to the Quarters of the other three Slams. She however bounced back to win at Montreal; her only title on tour this year. Despite her inconsistencies, her results were enough to secure her place at the World Tour Finals for the fourth year running.

She looks the weakest of the eight and if she is going to improve on her 2012 performance, she will have to improve her serve, second serve and return which have been her weaknesses and would be exploited by the powerful hitters like Williams and Kvitova. She also has a terrible head to head record against most of the other seven players; something she has to improve upon. I do not see winning the Tour Finals but if she gets a decent draw, then equaling her 2012 achievement could be a possibility.

 

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST THE OTHER SEVEN PLAYERS

V Serena 0-8

V Sharapova 2-10

V Halep 4-2

V Kvitova 1-5

V Bouchard 1-0

V Ivanovic 7-3

V Wozniacki 4-6

 

6

bouchard-captured-her-first-wta-title-on-the-red-clay-in-nurnberg-only-dropping-one-set-in-the-final_1fpuc6ua0jjhp19k1mtkpi0c95

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Eugenie Bouchard

Ranking: 7th with 4523 points

Road to Singapore Ranking: 5th with 4523 points

2014 Record: 45-20

Calendar Titles: 1

Grand Slam Results

Australian Open: Semi Final exit

French Open: Semi Final exit

Wimbledon: Final

US Open: 4th Round exit

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WTA Tour Final Statistics: This is the 20 year old first appearance at the Tour Finals and she is the first Canadian since Helen Kelesi in 1989 to make it to the finals.

2014 Bouchard Season

 

                                     Competition                                           Surface                       Tournament Finish                                     Opponent
Sydney Hard Court 1st Round Bethanie Mattek Sands 4-6 3-6
Australian Open Hard Court Semi Final Li Na 2-6 4-6
Doha Hard Court 1st Round Bethanie Mattek Sands 5-7 1-6
Dubai Hard Court Quarter Final Annika Beck 1-6 4-6
Acapulo Hard Court Quarter Final Caroline Garcia 6-3 4-6 1-6
Indian Wells Hard Court 4th Round 4th Round Simona Halep 2-6 6-1 4-6
Miami Hard Court 2nd Round  Elina Svitolina 6-1 1-6 2-6
Charleston Clay Semi Final Andrea Petkovic 6-1 3-6 5-7
Oerias (Estoril) Clay Quarter Final Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6 1-6
Madrid Open Clay 1st Round Agniesxka Radwanska 6-7 2-6
Rome Clay 1st Round  Francesca Schiavone 4-6 2-6
Nurnberg Clay Winner Karolina Piskova 6-2 4-6 6-3
French Open Clay Semi Final Maria Sharapova 6-4 5-7 2-6
S-Hertongenbosch Grass 1st Round Vania King 6-2 3-6 3-6
Wimbledon Grass Final Petra Kvitova 3-6 0-6
Montreal Hard Court 2nd Round Shelby Rogers (Q) 0-6 6-2 0-6
Cincinnati Hard Court 2nd Round Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6 6-3 2-6
New Haven Hard Court 2nd Round Samatha Stosur 2-6 2-6
US Open Hard Court 4th Round Ekaterina Makarova 6-7 4-6
Wuhan Open Hard Court Final Petra Kvitova 3-6 4-6
China Open Hard Court 2nd Round Sabine Lisicki 2-6 4-6
Linz Hard Court 2nd Round Tsvetana Pironkova W/O

What a breakthrough year it has been for the 20 year old Canadian. She really lit the tour with her breathtaking attacking style which most of her rivals have found hard to cope with. Her best performances have been at the Slams where she has literally been brilliant and her big-game mentality belies her age. She reached the semi final of the Australian and French Open and then went a step better when she reached the final of the Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian to reach a Slam Final. She won her first and only WTA Tour title in Nurnberg and a runner-up finish at Wuhan Open. Apart from saving her best for the big tournaments; she also enjoyed success over top ten players (6 victories) and beat a top five player for the first time at the semi final of the Wimbledon (Simona Halep). Like everyone, she suffered post Wimbledon blip but still bounced as Wuhan, where she reached the final only to lose to nemesis, Petra Kvitova.

bouchard-reached-her-third-final-of-the-year-in-wuhan-she-she-fell-to-kvitova-again_84uujfmffka01mdy5y57gy9hv

 

 

 

 

 

She might not start out as top favorite in Singapore but the fact that she is fearless at the big stage means that a couple of the established players could be in for a rude shock. She is also yet taste defeat on an indoor court this year and a good performance at the Tour Finals could see the Canadian break into the top three. What a year!

at-wimbledon-bouchard-became-the-only-wta-player-to-reach-at-least-the-semis-of-2014s-first-three-majors_77nhi7394hylznmfea0wa2wk

 

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST THE OTHER SEVEN PLAYERS

V Serena 0-1

Sharapova 0-3

Halep 1-1

Kvitova 0-3

Radwanska 0-1

Ivanovic 2-0

Wozniacki 1-0

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ana-ivanovic-began-2014-with-a-bang-winning-the-asb-classic-in-auckland-defeating-venus-williams-in-the-final_n26lhpnig0v817civ48pls2i4

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Ana Ivanovic

Ranking: 8th with 4435 points

Road to Singapore Ranking: 7th with 4390 points

Calendar Titles: 4

2014 Record: 56-16

Grand Slam Results:

Australian Open: Quarter Final exit

French Open: 3rd Round exit

Wimbledon: 3rd Round exit

US Open: 2nd Round exit

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WTA Tour Finals Statistics: This is the Serb’s first WTA Tour Finals since 2008 and her third overall. In 2008, she crashed out at the round robin stage after losing her first two games and withdrawing from the third due to a virus. In her first appearance in 2007, she reached the semi final losing to eventual champion, Justine Henin.

2014 IVANOVIC SEASON

COMPETITION SURFACE TOURNAMENT FINISH OPPONENT
Auckland Hard Court Winner Venus Williams 6-2 5-7 6-4
Australian Open Hard  Court Quarter Final Eugenie Bouchard 7-5 5-7 2-6
Doha Hard Court 2nd Round Klara Koukalova 6-4 1-6 3-6
Dubai Hard Court 2nd Round Venus Williams 2-6 1-6
Indian Wells Hard Court 3rd Round Sloane Stephens 6-7 4-6
Miami Hard Court 4th Round Petra Kvitova 6-3 0-6 0-6
Monterrey Hard Court Winner Jovana Jaksic 6-2 6-1
Stuttgart Clay Final Maria Sharapova 6-3 4-6 1-6
Madrid Clay Quarter Final Simona Halep 2-6 2-6
Rome Clay Semi Final Serena Williams 1-6 6-3 1-6
French Open Clay 3rd Round Lucie Safarova 3-6 3-6
Birmingham Grass Winner Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-3 6-2
Wimbledon Grass 3rd Round Sabine Lisicki 4-6 6-3 1-6
Stanford Hard Court Quarter Final Serena Williams 6-2 3-6 5-7
Montreal Hard Court 2nd Round Coco Vandeweghe(Q) 7-6 6-7 4-6
Cincinnati Hard Court Final Serena Williams 4-6 1-6
US Open Hard Court 2nd Round Karolina Pliskova 5-7 4-6
Tokyo Hard Court Winner Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 7-6
Wuhan Open Hard Court 1st Round Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7 6-5 RET
Beijing Hard Court Semi Final Maria Sharapova 0-6 4-6
Linz Hard Court 2nd Round Madison Brengle (Q) W/O

 

2014 has been comeback year for the 26 year old following years of struggle since her breakthrough in 2008. She returned to the top ten for the first time since 2009 and with 56 wins, she has the most wins of any of the top eight ladies which shows how consistent she has been. She has appeared in six finals this year tying with Serena Williams for the lady with the most final appearances and with four titles to her name, she trails only Serena Williams (6) in the title haul.

ivanovic-defeated-sharapova-in-a-three-set-thriller-in-the-western-southern-open-semifinals-before-falling-to-serena-williams-in-the-final_1pm6a5gm8wrpo15twq1l12g37b

 

 

 

 

 

Her improvement and consistency have seen her taking the scalp of a couple of big names like Serena Williams at the Australian Open and Sharapova on clay this season in Rome; it is noteworthy that Sharapova’s only loss on clay this season came from the Serb. She has also defeated more top ten players this season than in the last three years combined. Some impressive feat you might say. She won her first grass court title in Birmingham and her run-in finish to Singapore has been impressive, beating Caroline Wozniacki to win in Tokyo and reaching the semi final in Beijing.

However, for all her success, she faltered at the big stage. Her best performance at a Grand Slam was a Quarter Final finish at the Australian Open and while she won four titles, none was among the nine-highest ranked Premier Tournaments. If she wants to establish herself as a potential Grand Slam contender in 2015, she must deliver at the big stage starting with Tour Finals in Singapore. On a brighter note, four of her fifteen titles have come in indoor courts and that could help as she attempts to banish her big-game phobia.

Should Ana go all the way, she could go as high as number three in the ranking depending on other results.

ivanovic-would-get-revenge-against-sharapova-at-the-internationali-bnl-ditalia-en-route-to-a-semifinal-finish_k8mrtjhcgnd018yatyo09qxga

 

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST THE OTHER SEVEN PLAYERS

V Serena 1-7

V Sharapova 4-9

V Halep 1-2

V Kvitova 4-3

V Radwanska 3-7

V Bouchard 0-2

V Wozniacki 5-2

 

 

8

wozniackis-run-to-the-us-open-final-where-she-fell-to-serena-williams-was-highlighted-by-a-fourth-round-defeat-of-maria-sharapova_vk0vh372zv3g1icrghim5c6lz (1)

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Caroline Wozniacki

Ranking: 9th

Road to Singapore Ranking: 8th

2014 Record: 46 win to 18 losses

Calendar Titles: 1

Grand Slam Results:

Australian Open: 3rd Round exit

French Open: 1st Round exit

Wimbledon: 4th Round exit

US Open: Final

wozniacki-would-do-one-better-the-next-week-at-the-western-southern-open-but-she-fell-to-williams-again-in-the-semifinals-in-three-sets_15avjf4vr88ut1jc7azrjzrvps

 

 

 

 

 

WTA Tour Statistics: This will be the Dane’s fourth appearance at the Tour Finals and her first since 2011. She made her debut in 2009 where she reached the semifinals, got to the final of the 2010 edition where she lost to Kim Clijsters and twelve months later, she crashed out at the round robin stage. Would she be lucky this fourth time.

2014 WOZNIACKI SEASON

Competition Surface Tournament Finish Opponent
Sydney Hard Court 2nd Round Lucie Safarova 4-6 6-7
Australian Open Hard Court 3rd Round Garbine Muguruza 6-4 5-7 3-6
Doha Hard Court 2nd Round Yanina Wickmayer 4-6 5-7
Dubai Hard Court Semi Final Venus Williams 3-6 2-6
Indian Wells Hard Court 4th Round Jelena Jankovic 3-6 1-6
Miami Hard Court Quarter Final Li Na 5-7 5-7
Monterrey Hard Court Semi Final Ana Ivanovic 6-74-6
Madrid Clay 2nd Round Roberta Vinci 3-6 3-6
French Open Clay 1st Round Yanina Wickmayer 6-7 6-4 2-6
Eastbourne Grass Semi Final Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-7 3-6
Wimbledon Grass 4th Round Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 2-6 5-7
Istanbul Hard Court Winner Roberta Vinci 6-1 6-1
Montreal Hard Court Quarter Final Serena Williams 6-4 5-7 5-7
Cincinnati Hard Court Semi Final Serena Williams 6-2 2-6 4-6
New Haven Hard Court 2nd Round Camila Giorgi 4-6 2-6
US Open Hard Court Final Serena Williams 3-6 3-6
Tokyo Hard Court Final Ana Ivanovic 2-6 6-7
Wuhan Hard Court Semi Final Eugenie Bouchard 2-6 2-6

 

It has been a year of two halves for Caroline Wozniacki. The first part of the year saw her drop out of the top ten to the 18th position after a disappointing Australian Open. She would enjoy some hard court success in Dubai and Monterrey but whatever momentum she was gathering came to an abrupt end when in May, her partner and top golfer, Rory McIlroy broke-up with her. The much publicized break-up affected her French Open campaign as she crashed out at the first time of asking; first round. The question on everyone’s lips though, was how she would react.

She came back fighting; a semifinal finish at Eastbourne and a fourth round finish in Wimbledon but she had more in store. In her subsequent events after the All England Club, she failed to reach the Quarter Final of all tournaments she entered. She won at Istanbul immediately after Wimbledon but the highlight of a resurgent second half was her run to the final of the US Open where she unfortunately bumped into her good friend, your guess, Serena Williams. In her first nine tournaments, she picked up just 891 ranking points while in her next ten tournaments; she had picked up 3265 ranking points. Now, that is some resurgence.

wozniacki-began-her-american-hardcourt-campaign-by-reaching-the-quarterfinals-of-the-rogers-cup-she-lost-to-serena-williams-in-a-tight-three-setter_s08v7p9z2al51pq7yhf5ste97

 

 

 

 

 

Her preparations for Singapore have been top notch; finalist in Tokyo and semi finalist in Wuhan. Whether the break-up gave her that push is debatable but what is not debatable is the fact that she’s had the best second half of her year.

She would not start out as  top favorite in Singapore but if she can avoid Williams and Sharapova, then it would not be bad to place your bet on her.

HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST THE OTHER SEVEN PLAYERS

V Serena 1-9

V Sharapova 3-5

V Halep 1-1

V Kvitova 4-4

V Radwanska 6-4

V Bocuhard 0-1

V Ivanovic 2-5

The Alternates

WTA provides for two alternates who would come in should any of the eight ladies pick up an injury or for whatever reason have to withdraw. The following players would be the alternates for the 2014 WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.

First Alternate: Angelique Kerber

Second Alternate: Ekaterina Makarova

Who do you think will win the WTA World Tour Finals?

GROUPS

WHITE GROUP

Serena Williams

Simona Halep

Eugenie Bouchard

Ana Ivanovic

 

RED GROUP

Maria Sharapova

Petra Kvitova

Agnieszka Radwanska

Caroline Wozniacki

 

TOUCHLINEUI: 2014 WTA WORLD TOUR FINALS PREVIEW (NO. 1-4)

The annual end-of-season tournament featuring the top eight female tennis players on the Women’s Tour kicks off in Singapore tomorrow with the pre-tournament festivities. The tournament will kick off on the 20th of October. The eight ladies that will make up the star-studded lineup are Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Eugenie Bouchard, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova and SerenaWilliams.

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Are we going to have a new Queen of Female Tennis or would previous winners in Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova ensure we have a familiar face?

Take a look as we preview the eight players that will showcase their talents in what will be a brilliant tournament.

 

1

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NAME-SERENA WILLIAMS

WTA RANKING- 1st with 8645 points

Road to Singapore Ranking: 1st with 7146 points

2014 Record- (48 wins-7 losses)

Calendar Titles- 6

GRAND SLAM RESULTS:

Australian Open – 4th Round exit

French Open – 2nd Round exit

Wimbledon – 3rd Round exit

US OPEN – Winner

WTA Tour Finals Statistics

This is her ninth appearance and she has been victorious on four of her previous eight occasions (2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013

Qualified for the championship on the 5th of September and was first to do so.

serena-williams-kicked-off-her-2014-season-in-style-by-not-dropping-a-set-en-route-to-the-brisbane-international-title_1wqd6mhecmqxn1xv9892qk7nbh

 

 

 

 

 

Serena Williams 2014 SEASON

COMPETITION SURFACE TOURNAMENT    FINISH                                                                         OPPONENT
Brisbane International Hard court Winner Victoria Azarenka 6-4 7-5
Australian Open Hard Court Fourth Round Ana Ivanovic  6-4 3-6 3-6
Dubai Tennis Championship Hard Court Semi Final Alize Cornet 4-6 4-4
Miami Masters Hard Court Winner Li Na 7-5 6-1
Family Circle Cup Clay (Green) Second Round Jana Cepelova 4-6 4-6
Madrid Open Clay Quarter Finals Withdrew before match against Petra Kvitova
Italian Open Clay Winner Sara Errani 6-3 6-0
French Open Clay Second Round Garbrine Muguruza 2-6 2-6
Wimbledon Grass Third Round Alize Cornet 6-1 3-6 4-6
Stanford Classic Hard Court Winner Angelique Kerber 7-6(7-1) 6-3
Canadian Open Hard Court Semi Final Venus Williams 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 3-6
Cincinnati Masters Hard Court Winner Ana Ivanovic 6-4 6-1
US Open Hard Court Winner Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-3
Wuhan Open Hard Court Second Round Alize Cornet 6-5 RET
China Open Hard Court Quarter Final Withdrew before match against Samatha Stosur

 

Following her total domination of the 2013 Calendar season, 2014 was going to be a year of defending ranking points and titles. She might not have been successful in doing that as her performances in Australia, France and Wimbledon and title count have shown but she has still been too good for everyone who will be part of this tour. She is 3-0 against Caroline Wozniacki which includes a straight set win at Flushing Meadows; 2-0 against number two, Maria Sharapova and 3-1 against Ana Ivanovic with the Serb’s solitary win coming at the Australian Open.

 

 

williams-defended-her-internazionali-bnl-ditalia-title-to-join-six-other-players-as-the-only-ones-with-at-least-60-wta-titles-in-the-open-era_1hq11mcnbhd2k10iqqruerag8b

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from this dominant record, she has got a tremendous record against most of her opponents. She has won her last fifteen matches against Maria Sharapova with most of those results lopsided. She also has the physical advantage as she can drain her opponents and make them play that extra ball. If you call her the female version of Rafael Nadal, you would not be far from the truth. Her huge serves would also be a big asset here as she seeks her fifth World Tour Finals Title. She currently has the highest number of aces on the female tour (395), the highest percentage of second serve points won (51.0). She has won 81.7% of her service games and the American has saved 63.2% of the break points she has faced.

williams-wta-leading-fifth-title-of-the-season-in-cincinnati-also-helped-her-clinch-first-place-in-the-emirates-airline-us-open-series_huy5otij0m9x19pt2o4hku8i6

 

 

 

 

 

There is a lot at stake for the 33 year old going into the championship at Singapore. The number 1 ranking is still up for grabs as Sharapova’s win in Beijing means the jostle for the ladies Numero Uno will be decided in Asia. She has the tournament experience as  this will be her 9th appearance at the World Tour Finals and on her previous eight occasions, she was victorious four times (2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013). Only two players have won more titles at the finals; Steffi Graf (five) and Martina Navratilova (eight). With six titles to her name this year, the American will go in search of her seventh title and if she manages to do that, it will be the fourth time in her illustrious career that she has won seven or more titles in a season; 2002(eight), 2012 (seven) and 2013 (eleven).

However for all her impressive records and stats against her opponents, if there is one person that can stop Serena Williams, it has to be Serena Williams. She has the ability to self-destruct and choke when it matters most. Her solitary Grand Slam win in New York came after her failure to reach the quarter-finals of the first three which is some incredible feat. Also, she has been battling a knee injury which made her miss her quarter final match against Stosur in Beijing. If it rears its ugly head again at the Tour Finals, her title hopes, WTA number one rank and WTA Player of the Year hopes could come to a premature end.

williams-became-one-of-just-four-players-in-the-open-era-with-at-least-seven-titles-at-one-event-by-capturing-miami-yet-again_1stkfijcvwua21b8g25ymwidmb

 

 

 

 

 

Barring any injury worries and assuming she does not press the self destruct button; Serena Williams should start out as favorite in Singapore. Victory in Singapore will also see Williams become the third player to win the WTA Finals three consecutive times. The others are Seles (1990-1992) and Navratilova (1983-1986).

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST THE OTHER SEVEN PLAYERS

V Sharapova 16-2

V Halep 3-0

V Kvitova 5-0

V Bouchard 1-0

V Radwanska 8-0

V Ivanovic 7-1

V Wozniacki 9-1

 

2

sharapova-beat-world-no2-li-na-world-no3-agnieszka-radwanska-and-world-no4-simona-halep-en-route-to-the-madrid-title_8qymaqmdb2k81nmaivju1lrrw

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Maria Sharapova

Ranking: 2nd with 6680 points

Road to Singapore Ranking: 2nd with 6680 points

2014 Record: 48-11

Calendar Titles: 4

Grand Slam Results

Australian Open- 4th Round exit

French Open- Winner

Wimbledon-4th Round exit

US Open: 4th Round exit

singapore-will-be-the-fifth-wta-finals-appearance-in-six-years-for-radwanska-her-best-result-is-a-semifinal-run-in-2012_he976iyyqmpa1q3b7co0gwbq0

 

 

 

 

 

WTA Tour Final Statistics: She will be competing at the WTA Finals for a seventh time. She has won it once which was her debut in 2004 beating Serena Williams along the way. The Russian has finished runner-up on two other occasions in 2007 and 2012

Qualified for the Tour Finals on the 9th of September and was second to do so.

MARIA SHARAPOVA 2014 SEASON

COMPETITION SURFACE TOURNAMENT FINISH OPPONENT
 Brisbane International Hard Court Semi Final Serena Williams 2-6 6-7 (7-9)
Australian Open Hard Court 4th Round Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 4-4 1-6
Open GDF Suez Hard Court Semi Final Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 3-6 6-4
BNP Paribas Open Hard Court 3rd Round Camila Giorgi (Q) 3-6 6-4 5-7
Sony  Open Tennis Hard Court Semi Final Serena Williams 4-6 3-6
Porsche Tennis Grand Prix Clay Winner Ana Ivanovic 3-6 6-4 6-1
Mutua Madrid Open Clay Winner Simona Halep 1-6 6-2 6-3
Internazionali BNL d’Italia Clay 3rd Round Ana Ivanovic 1-6 4-6
French Open Clay Winner Simona Halep 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4
Wimbledon Grass 4th Round 6-7 6-4 4-6
Rogers Cup Hard Court 3rd Round Carla Suarez Navarro 2-6 6-4 2-6
Western and Southern Open Hard Court Semi Final Ana Ivanovic 2-6 7-5 5-7
US Open Hard Court 4th Round Caroline Wozniacki 4-6 6-2 2-6
Wuhan Open Hard Court 3rd Round Timea Bacsnszky 6-7 (3-7) 5-7
China Open Hard Court  Winner Petra Kvitova 6-4 2-6 6-3

It has not been a vintage all round Sharapova year but it has certainly been a clay season for the Russian Lady. Three of her 2014 titles have been on the red surface; Stuttgart, Madrid and French Open, underlying her dominance on the red surface. Her 17-1 record on clay further strengthens her claim to being the best clay courter of her generation. That is surprising when you consider the fact that clay used to be her least favorite surface. Unfortunately, away from clay, she has been far from dominant. However her win at the China Open suggest she still has one or two things to say on the hard court surface. Her shoulder issues have no doubt contributed to her decline on the faster surfaces as her swing and serve have been badly affected.

sharapova-posed-in-front-of-the-eiffel-tower-after-concluding-her-clay-court-season-19-1_umcddycv6ldo1h1n16x2yuw2v

 

 

 

 

 

She would compete in her seventh tour final and she is one of the three players in Singapore to have hoisted the trophy (Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams the others). If she is to have a go at the title, then she will have to do something she has not done in ten years; beat Serena Williams. The Russian has lost her last fifteen encounters against the 33 year old. She is seeded second which means she will most likely meet the American in the semifinal at the very least.

sharapovas-fourth-wta-title-of-the-season-in-beijing-gave-her-the-most-titles-she-has-won-in-a-season-since-2006_1to4k12efnsfe10udqkf51ofs5

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from trying to gain some pound of flesh against her nemesis, there is something else up for grabs and that is the number one ranking. Maria Sharapova currently trails Serena Williams by 1965 points, but as defending champion, Williams will defend 1500 points unlike the Russian who has no point to defend as she missed last year’s edition thanks to injury.

Her style of game is ideally suited to indoor courts where wind would not be a factor and she has a pretty good record on indoor surfaces; in 12 indoor finals and the World No. 2 has picked up nine titles.

If she can overcome the psychological block against Serena Williams, be more consistent and hopefully avoid niggling injuries, then we could have another familiar name win the finals. Should she triumph, it will be Sharapova’s fifth title of the season. She has only achieved that feat twice in 2004 and 2006.

sharapovas-north-american-hardcourt-swing-was-highlighted-by-a-semifinal-outing-in-cincinnati_8akzhgudgdtg1w89o7km56o4u

 

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST THE OTHER SEVEN

V Serena 2-16

V Halep 5-0

V Kvitova 6-2

V Radwanska 10-2

V Bouchard 3-0

V Ivanovic 9-4

V Wozniacki 5-3

3

haleps-dream-week-in-doha-included-top-10-wins-over-sara-errani-agnieszka-radwanska-and-angelique-kerber_12bckr18tdz41eds53a6earvq

 

 

 

 

 

NAME:    Simona Halep

Ranking: 3rd with 6246 points

Road to Singapore Ranking: 4th with 5403 points

2014 Record: 43-14

Calendar Titles: 2

Grand Slam Results

Australian Open- Quarter Final exit

French Open- Final

Wimbledon- Semi Final exit

US Open- 3rd Round exit

halep-was-a-fan-favorite-in-her-native-bucharest-and-she-did-her-supporters-proud-by-collecting-her-eighth-wta-title-there_1egnxtdtcs95f1e1atj6x7krp2

 

 

 

 

 

WTA Tour Final Statistics

The 23 year old Romanian would be participating in her first WTA Tour Finals. She became the third player to qualify for the championship on the 15th of September.

2014 Simona Halep Season

COMPETITION SURFACE TOURNAMENT FINISH OPPONENT
Sydney Hard Court 1st Round Madison Keys 1-6 4-6
Australian Open Hard Court Quarter Final Dominika Cibulkova 3-6 0-6
Paris Hard Court 1st Round Kristina Mladenovic 6-7 4-6
Doha Hard Court Winner Angelique Kerber 6-2 6-3
Dubai Hard Court 1st Round Alize Cornet 6-1 1-1 RET
Indian Wells Hard Court Semi Final Agnieszka Radwanska 3-6 4-6
Stuttgart Clay 2nd Round Svetlona Kuznetsova 5-7 6-7
Mutua Madrid Open Clay Final Maria Sharapova 6-1 2-6 3-6
Rome Clay 3rd Round Carla Suarez Navarro W/O
French Open Clay Final Maria Sharapova 4-6 7-6 4-6
S- Hertvgenbosch Grass 2nd Round Annika Beck 5-7 3-2 RET
Wimbledon Grass Semi Final Eugenie Bouchard 6-7 2-6
Bucharest Clay Winner Roberta Vinci 6-1 6-3
Cincinnati Hard Court Quarter Final Maria Sharapova 6-3 4-6 4-6
New Haven Hard Court 2nd Round Magdalena Rybarikova 2-6 6-4 3-6
US Open Hard Court 3rd Round Mirjana Lucic-Baroni(Q) 6-7 2-6
Wuhan Open Hard Court 2nd Round Garbine Muguruza 6-2 2-6 3-6
China Open Hard Court Quarter Final Ana Ivanovic W/O

 

It has been a year of consolidation for the 23 year old. After a breakthrough 2013 where she established herself as a top ten player, 2014 has been about improving on it and it has been impressive the way she has gone about it. Yes the stats read 2 tour titles but she reached her first Grand Slam Quarter Final at the Australian Open, won the Qatar Open, reached the final of the Madrid Open losing in three sets to Maria Sharapova. After a minor blip, she bounced back to reach her first slam final of her career at the Roland Garros. Unfortunately for Halep, she once again ran into Maria Sharapova who edged her in three tight and tough sets. She became the first player since Martina Hingis in 1997 to reach a maiden Grand Slam Final without dropping a set before the reverse to Sharapova.

She is an aggressive baseliner and her favorite shot is the serve and that should serve her well in conditions that will not be windy. She has also shown that she can be consistent so you her expect to have a good run in the tournament.

However despite her consistency, she has won the just one big title and she could go missing where it matters. The fact that this is her maiden appearance at the Tour Finals could also be a limiting factor. Also, her preparations for Singapore have not been up to scratch as she suffered a hip injury which forced her to withdraw prior to her Quarter Final clash with Ana Ivanovic. Playing against the world’s best seven players would a massive test on her fitness, and hip of course.

halep-had-a-deep-run-at-the-bnp-paribas-open-reaching-the-semifinals_l3r629x3gb2t188s7eae0amlv

 

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST THE TOP SEVEN

Halep 0 V Serena 3

Halep 0 V Sharapova 5

Halep 2 V Kvitova 0

Halep 2 V Radwanska 4

Halep 1 V Bouchard 1

Halep 2 V Ivanovic 1

Halep 1 V Wozniacki 1

 

4

kvitova-won-her-second-grand-slam-and-second-wimbledon-title-dropping-only-one-set-along-the-way_hf8itweize0313q9b8ufsnd2p

 

 

 

 

 

Name: PETRA KVITOVA

Ranking: 4th with 6126 points

Road to Singapore Ranking: 3rd with 5597 points

2014 Record: 40-14

Calendar Titles: 3

Grand Slam Results

Australian Open- 1st Round exit

French Open: 3rd Round exit

Wimbledon: Winner

US Open: 3rd Round exit

petra-kvitova-kicked-off-her-2014-campaign-by-reaching-the-semifinals-at-the-apia-international-sydney_s27b9t0d5nal1r8e8b2sib715

 

 

 

 

 

WTA Tour Finals Statistics:

This will be her third appearance at the Tour Finals. In her previous two occasions, she made it past the round robin stage, winning it at her first attempt in 2011(beat Azarenka in three sets) and losing in the 2013 semifinal to Li Na. She missed the 2012 championship due to injury.

2014 KVITOVA SEASON

COMPETITION SURFACE TOURNAMENT FINISH OPPONENT
Sydney Hard Court Semi Final Tsvetana Pironkova 4-6 3-6
Australian Open Hard Court 1st Round Kukiska Kum Khum 2-6 6-1 4-6
Doha Hard Court Quarter Final Jelena Jankovic 1-6 3-6
Dubai Hard Court 2nd Round  Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 4-6 6-7
Indian Wells Hard Court 4th Round Dominika Cibulkova 3-6 2-6
Miami Hard Court Quarter Final Maria Sharapova 5-7 1-6
Stuttgart Clay 2nd Round Alisa Kleybanova 2-6 6-7
Madrid Clay Semi Final Simona Halep 7-6 3-6 2-6
Rome Clay 2nd Round Shuai Zhag 6-7 7-5 3-6
French Open Clay 3rd Round Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-6 6-1 7-9
Eastbourne Grass Quarter Final Heather Watson W/O
Wimbledon Grass Winner Eugenie Bouchard 6-36-0
Montreal Hard Court 3rd Round Ekaterina Makarova 4-6 6-1 2-6
Cincinnati Hard Court 2nd Round Elana Svitolina 2-6 6-7
New Haven Hard Court Winner Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4 6-2
US Open Hard Court 3rd Round Aleksandra Krunic 4-6 4-6
Wuhan Open Hard Court Winner Eugenie Bouchard 6-3 6-4
China Open Hard Court Final Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-2 3-6

 

After an underwhelming 2013, this year has been a much more productive year for the 24 year old. The highlight of her year was her triumph in Wimbledon where she dismantled Bouchard 6-3 6-0 in 55 minutes to win her 2nd All England Club Crown in 4 years. Her serves and groundstrokes are the biggest assets of the left hander. Pundits have tipped her as the next “power woman” after Williams leaves the scene.

kvitovas-clay-court-season-was-highlighted-by-a-semifinal-showing-at-the-mutua-madrid-open_v6lf3i3jxod21o240wj9ien1b

 

 

 

 

 

However, unlike the American, she is not consistent and has been accused of saving her best for Wimbledon. The fact she failed to reach the Quarters Final of any of the other slams further strengthens the claim of critics of her being a grass-courter. Her wins at Wuhan and New Haven would suggest that she could be competitive on hard court.

I believe she will start out in Singapore as the third favorite (behind Serena and Sharapova) but if she is to really wrestle and win Tour Finals for a second time, she will have to show greater consistency in her game.

kvitova-broke-back-into-the-top-5-with-her-triumph-at-the-all-england-club-her-5-7-7-62-7-5-win-over-venus-williams-in-the-third-round-was-one-of-the-best-matches-of-the-year_my5l6082r7jg18mezg2ic2n5a

 

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST THE TOP SEVEN

V Serena 0-5

V Sharapova 2-6

V Halep 0-2

V Radwanska 5-1

V Bouchard 3-0

V Ivanovic 3-4

V Wozniacki 4-4

Watch out for the preview on Radwanska, Bouchard, Ivanovic and Wozniacki tomorrow!

Photo Credit- http://www.wtatennis.com

TOUCHLINEUI: SUDAN V NIGERIA DOUBLEHEADER: WIN OR BURST!

This was supposed to be a mismatch but the Super Eagles failure to get out of the blocks in their opening two AFCON qualifier fixtures has made this one against Sudan a FINAL.

PIC.-15.-NIGERIA-DR-CONGO-2015-AFCON-QUALIFYING-MATCH-IN-CALABAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nigeria currently sits third on the log with a solitary point from a possible six which means they will need to do what they failed to do in their games against Congo and South Africa which is win the doubleheader. Anything less than the maximum six points in their back to back clash against the Falcons of Jediane, and the 2013 AFCON winners could as well kiss their hopes of defending their title in Morocco goodbye and Coach Stephen Keshi could lose his head and his job.

stephen-keshi_1tnk80e7d4gic1ev9hccfk7tvz

 

 

 

 

If Keshi’s men are to triumph in both clashes, they will need to defeat the North Africans who, unlike Nigeria, are yet to get off to any kind of start. Sudan lost heavily at home in opening series; 3-0 to the Bafana Bafana of South Africa and lost away to group leaders, Congo 2-0. That should make Nigeria favorites going into their match against Sudan but if their recent performances are anything to go by, Nigerians could be in for a long 180 minutes.

super-eagle

 

 

 

 

 

Would the Eagles banish the demons to win for the first time since June or would Sudan come up with a victory of theirs and land a heavy blow on Keshi’s side chances of qualifying? Would the recent move to a synthetic pitch play affect the Super Eagles? Does Keshi’s future as Eagles Coach hinge on this back to back tie?  Time would certainly tell but this preview would give a peep into what to possibly expect in Khartoum and possibly Abuja.

DATE: 11th October, 2014

TIME: 18:00 (Nigerian time) 20:00 (Sudan time)

Referee: Janny Sikazwe (Zambia)

LAST FIVE MATCHES

SUDAN

The North Africans have won just one of their last five matches and that was a 2-1 over 2012 AFCON winners, Zambia on the 10th of December, 2013. They have lost their last four matches. This poor run of form would certainly not inspire confidence within the ranks of the Sudanese side and Nigerians would hope that the poor run of form would continue till next week Wednesday.

south-africa-vs-sudan_ve1tk7wm4yd211fhesaf45714

 

 

 

 

10/9/14 Congo 2 V Sudan 0

05/9/14 Sudan 0 V South Africa 3

31/08/14 Zambia 3 V Sudan 1

12/12/13 Kenya 2 V Sudan 0

10/12/13 Zambia 1 V Sudan 2

 

NIGERIA

While soccer-loving Nigerians would hope for a poor performance from the North Africans, they will however be worried by their darling team’s poor showing of late which has seen them  win just one of their last five matches, victory coming against Bosnia at the 2014  FIFA World Cup. Fans have recently been treated to lacklustre performances.

Football - 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers - South Africa v Nigeria - Cape Town Stadium

 

 

 

 

Keshi’s insistence on selecting players who are not starters at their clubs and ignoring those who are in good form at their club sides have not helped matters. Off the pitch, the recent leadership tussle at the Glass House and Keshi’s contract renewal saga(still unresolved) have also been contributing factors to the three time AFCON winners’ poor performances in recent months.

They should however still start out as favorites on Saturday and Wednesday but if there is one thing most Nigerians would most expect, it would be that the recent slump in form is arrested.

10/09/14 South Africa 0 V Nigeria 0

6/09/14 Nigeria 2 V Congo 3

30/06/14 France 2 V Nigeria 0

25/06/14 Nigeria 2 V Argentina 3

21/06/14 Nigeria 1 V Bosnia and Herzegovina 0

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD

These two teams have previously met eleven times with the Super Eagles emerging victorious on six of those occasions, the spoils were shared four times and Sudan emerged victorious in the other fixture.

28/11/1963 Sudan 4 V Nigeria 0

12/09/1969 Nigeria 2 V Sudan 2

3/10/1969 Sudan 3 V Nigeria 3

13/04/1973 Sudan 1 V Nigeria 1

27/04/1973 Nigeria 2 V Sudan 1

04/03/1976 Nigeria 1 V Sudan 0

16/08/1992 Sudan 0 V Nigeria 0

23/04/1993 Nigeria 4 V Sudan 0

27/01/2001 Nigeria 3 V Sudan 0

01/07/2001 Sudan 0 V Nigeria 4

09/01/2008 Nigeria 2 V Sudan 0

It is however interesting to note that prior to the first match of the qualifiers, the Red Devils of Congo had defeated the Super Eagles just once in a competitive fixture. That stat proved to be of no relevance as the Congolese came down to humble Nigeria in her backyard three goals to two. It remains to be seen if the Sudanese take a cue from this and channel it towards a positive performance on Saturday and Wednesday.

TEAM NEWS

NIGERIA

Nigeria will be without Stoke City winger, Victor Moses and World Cup Star, Michael Babatunde who are injured for the Khartoum clash. They will be badly missed as they offer flair and pace. Moses who was dropped from the last squad has begun the season in fine form providing three assists in the English side last three matches. Michael Babatunde would miss the weekend’s game but faces a race to be fit for the game on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

On a positive note, Super Eagles will welcome back first choice goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to the fold after he missed out the first two matches of the series.

Sudan has no injury worries as Coach Mazda has stuck with the same squad that lost both games in Omdurman and Pointe Noire.

SQUAD LIST

Nigeria

Goalkeepers:

Vincent Enyeama (Lille OSC, France); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United)

Defenders:

Elderson Echiejile (Monaco FC, France); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor FC, Turkey); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, England)

Midfielders:

John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Nosa Igiebor (Maccabi Haifa FC, Israel); Omatsone Aluko (Hull City, England); Hope Akpan (Reading FC, England); Raheem Lawal (Eskisehirspor FC, Turkey); Anyora Ugonna (Haugesund FC, Norway): Emem Udouk (Dolphins FC, Nigeria)

Forwards:

Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce FC, Turkey); Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Osaguona Ighodaro (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); Victor Moses (Stoke City, England); Aaron Samuel (Guangzhou R & F, China); Emmanuel Sunday (SV Scholz Grodig, Austria);

Sudan

Goalkeepers:

Moez Mahjoub (Al Hilal), A. Al Dayea (Ahly Shandy), Akram Hadi Saleem (Ahli Khartoum)

Defenders:

Amir Kamal, M. Abdallah, A. Gaafar, Khamis (Al Merriekh) Salah Nimr (Khartoum) Faris Abdullah, Jalal (Al Ahly Shandy, Al Rayah Ali (Ahli Khartoum) Tahir El Hadj (Rabta Kosti)

Midfielders:

Nazar Hamid, Muhand, Besha, Shigail (Al Hilal) Ramadan Agab (Al Merriekh) Mojahid Faroug, Amr (Ahly Shandy) Badr Aldin (Khartoum)

Forwards:

Mudahir Kareka, Bakri Madena, Salah Jizoli (Al Hilal) Hossam Naseldin (Rabta Kosti) Mohsen Hassan (Ahly Shandy)

 

The following factors will determine which country will emerge victorious in the double header clash this weekend and next week.

  • PRESSURE

With Nigeria on one point and her Sudanese counterparts yet to kick off their campaign, both teams will be under pressure, albeit, for different reasons.

1410422044_0a33e

 

 

 

 

 

The Nigerian National Team will look at this fixture as a chance to get their faltering campaign back on track. As defending champions coupled with the expectations of soccer-loving Nigerians, Keshi’s men will have to somehow get the six points in order to be in a decent position by the time they will travel to Congo and welcome South Africa next month.

The way they handle the pressure will determine whether they will become the third AFCON winners in a row to fail to defend the title (Zambia and Egypt the other two) or whether the Green and White flag will fly high in Morocco. With Keshi calling ‘rookies’ to the team, it remains to be seen whether the pressure gets to them but with players like Enyeama, Onazi and Mikel who is long overdue a good performance still in the fray, they will be the ones who will need to step up the plate and seize the initiative especially in the away game.

In Khartoum, they will most likely face hostile reception from the locals but if they can get their noses in front early in the game, it will not only make the inexperienced Sudanese side nervous but would also send chill of fear amongst the expectant Jediane fans. An early goal would also settle the nerves of the Nigerian National Team Players. The Super Eagles must also not fall into whatever antics the country from the Nile throws at them.  Unnecessary early bookings for the boys in green and white should be avoided as it could lead to a nervy and an overly cautious showing from Keshi’s men.

2436690_FULL-LND

 

 

 

 

For the Sudanese side, unlike the Nigerian National Team, they really have nothing to lose. The Falcons of Jediane may be on zero points, but bookies are not expecting their fortunes to change against the 2013 AFCON winners. This could make them approach the tie with a relaxed mind as if they lose, they would not have defied the odds. Such a relaxed coupled with a nervy one from the Super Eagles could lead to the unexpected and relaunch their 2015 AFCON Qualifying campaign.

In Nigeria, it will be important the Super Eagles banish their last home defeat against Congo and not let that get into their heads while for the fans, regardless of what happens in Khartoum, the most important thing is that they get behind the team. For Sudan, they can take inspiration from Congo’s performance in Calabar and produce a similar performance to that of the Red Devils.

Whoever deals with the pressure better could just about win the psychological battle.

  • TACTICS

Stephen Keshi has been a fan of the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formation and despite articles and pundits calling for a change, it is highly unlikely that the Big Boss would tinker with his already tested formation. On the down side, Keshi has however been accused of not having the tactical nous to make the big calls or substitutions or alterations in tactics.

 

 

 

 

Against a Sudanese side that will most likely start aggressive, he will have to ensure that he sets up his team in way to survive the early onslaught and hit on the counter. I do not however suggest Keshi adopts a 17th century approach as that would be counter-productive but balancing between the defence and attack would be important to whatever chances the Super Eagles would have. Should they however have to chase the game, going gung-ho would not be a bad idea. Striker, Emmanuel Emenike has failed to score in nine international matches and it remains to be seen whether the Big Boss will stick with the Turkish based forward. Keshi should start with a 4-3-3 formation which would provide firepower with pace against a Sudanese defence that conceded three in her last home fixture against South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

For the Sudanese side; expose Nigeria’s defence which is her Achilles heel; stay compact and tight as the Super Eagles do not have that midfielder that can unlock defences and exploit the flanks. Mazda should start with two attackers in a 4-4-2 formation where they will depend on their front two men Mudathir Kareka and Bakri Abdulgadir to get the goals for them and kick start their campaign. Sudan is the home side and it is important they take the game to their opponents.

  • PLAYING SURFACE

Sudan Football Association on Tuesday moved Saturday’s African Cup of Nations Qualifiers from Al-Merrikh Stadium in Omdurman (natural pitch) to the Khartoum Stadium in Khartoum (an artificial pitch). This late change could have an effect on both team’s showing especially Nigeria who is famed for her short passing style and would need time to acclimatize.

Whether this affects them or not will depend on their level of adaptation and also their ability to switch successfully from a short style of to a more direct style.

PREDICTION

With a lot at stake going into this game, I expect a physical and well contested game with both teams throwing everything at each other in order to stay in touch with leaders, Congo and South Africa.

On paper, Nigeria should have too much for their Sudanese counterparts but same was said of their previous two games. Should they turn up with another poor performance, Sudan will no doubt capitalize.

All said and done, I expect a Nigeria victory; 2-1 in Khartoum and 3-0 in Abuja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOUCHLINEUI:FIVE UNDERPERFORMING TEAMS IN EUROPE

What causes a team to underperform? Analysts always give reasons; this excuse-giving game excludes not the coaches and even the players themselves. No matter the quality and quantity of time spent in examining the possible causes of underperformance, the simple but bitter fact remains that teams will always underperform. In this piece, Touchlineui takes a look at 5 big European football clubs that are performing below expectations at the moment. In this uneviable list are Liverpool FC, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint Germain, Atletic Bilbao and. The criteria for being included in this list are not far-fetched, they include: a comparative analysis of last season’s performance, quality of personnel, squad depth, transfer fees spent, e.t.c. First up- Liverpool.

LIVERPOOL FC (ENGLAND)

Many similarities have been drawn between the Spurs team that lost Bale and the Reds team that lost Suarez, we promise not to bore you with those. However, it is a fact that the sale of Suarez has cost the team. The Reds attack has lost its lethal and ruthless presence and more so with the subsequent injury to Sturridge (the other half of the fearsome SAS). The new recruits have failed to blend in with Balotelli and Lambert topping the list of the ‘uncomformables’. Balotelli, the supposed focal point of the team’s attack against Basel, never got a touch of the ball in the penalty box; a feat that Suarez can never achieve. The fact that no striker has netted in the team’s last 3 games (Everton, Basel and West Brom) says it all.

Balotelli against Basel

 

 

 

 

 

At the other end of the pitch, the story remains the same. Liverpool’s old dogged demons still oppress. The Reds now have a knack for conceding set-pieces, a dangerous habit no doubt. Considering the fact that this defence cost the team last season, it was safe to assume that amends would have been made by now. Obviously, Manquillo, Moreno and Lovren have failed.

Lovren

 

 

 

 

 

The team currently lies 9th on the E.P.L standings after matchday 7; 10 points adrift top placed Chelsea. At this same point last season, the team was placed 2nd, level on points and goal difference with top-placed Arsenal. As at last season, the team had 11 goals and had conceded 5 goals while this season, the team has got 10 goals in its favour and 10 goals against it. The stats say it all.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND (GERMANY)

No doubt losing Lewandowski was a big blow but that is not enough reason for their poor performances in the league. The team has been outstanding in the Champions League though, maintaining a 100 percent record and defeating Arsenal in the process. It is pertinent to note that if the team was able to defeat Arsenal without Lewandowski, then majority of the domestic clubs should not be a problem. One might blame their woeful results on injuries to key players but that is not enough excuse to be 10 points adrift the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 matches played so far in the Bundesliga and Dortmund lies in 13th position with a mere 7 points and a goal difference of -3 while table-toppers Munich are on 17 points. It would take a miracle and some great bad luck on Munich for Dortmund to challenge for the title this season. This time last season, Dortmund, the team was on 19 points having won 6 and drawing 1 with a goal difference of 16 goals to be at the table summit. Now this is some real backsliding!

 

 

 

 

On a good note however, the team already has a trophy to its name.

PARIS SAINT GERMAIN (FRANCE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boys from the park of princes have not exactly had princely fortunes this season. The draw against Monaco was their fourth on a row. A draw against Ajax in the Champions league was poor but they have more than made up for it by defeating the Catalans. A table position of 3rd may not be bad but considering the manner in which points are dropped and the calibre of this team, it is certainly not good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 9 matches, 6 draws and 3 wins, Ibra and co lie 7 points behind league leaders Marseille. This time last season though, the team was 2nd on level points with leaders Monaco. There is still hope for a title challenge though.

MONACO (FRANCE)

Worse off than their French counterparts. Monaco could not keep hold of some of their key players like Falcao and James Rodriguez. The result- 11 points off the pace.

joao-moutinho

 

 

 

 

 

They lie 13th with just 3 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses with a goal difference of -3! Whereas at this same point last season, the team was flying high atop the table with a goal difference of 9. For a second there, thought this was Dortmund!

ATHLETIC BILBAO (SPAIN)

Performed so well last season, finishing 4th– the club’s highest ever placed finish since the ‘80s. But the added Champions League fixtures may just be this team’s undoing. The added fixtures require a certain squad depth which the team cannot boast of. In addition, the club’s Basque-only policy that limits the amount of players it can reasonably target to those born or those who had footballing education in the Basque region may be a disadvantage in this regard.

Aymeric-Laporte-Athletic-Bilbao-300x187

 

 

 

 

 

Now check out this scenario- a team that just qualified for the Champions League loses 1 of its best players, Herrera, for 30million euros and the replacement and reinforcements come in the shape of a million euro forward, Borja Viguera. The fact that no new players came in may help maintain the team’s balance and rhythm but on the downside, there is little competition for places and little or no depth in a congested fixture list. The team’s whole frailties were exposed by a ruthless Real Madrid side as it lost by a whooping 5 goal margin.

 

 

 

 

 

This time last season, the team was 5th with 12 points with 10 goals scored and conceded, staying 9 points off the pace. This term though, the team lies 15 points off the pace with just 4 points, 4 goals scored and 11 conceded. Add this to the team’s woeful performance in the Champions league and you would see reason why Athletic club is the greatest under performer on this list!

It is our sincere hope that with time, these teams will find a way out of the murky waters of this list. Do you feel these teams do not deserve to be here, who would be in your own list of underperformers so far! Kindly drop your comment.