Nadia Petrova (RUS) vs. Justine Henin (BEL)
Petrova has played extremely well in the last two rounds, beating Kim Clijsters and Svetlana Kuznetsova in back-to-back rounds. This is her second appearance in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and she is looking to reach the semis for the first time in her career. In fact, Petrova has only been to the semis of a Grand Slam twice before, and those were both at the French Open (2003 and 2005).
Henin’s comeback has gone perfectly to script thus far, and she is definitely one of the favorites to win this tournament. She showed a little vulnerability in the fourth round when she slipped by Yanina Wickmayer in three sets. I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for her to lose some sets in the early rounds, because she hasn’t played a lot of tennis recently and she could use the match play.
Henin is 12-2 against Petrova and just beat her earlier this year 7-5, 7-5 in Brisbane. Despite that lopsided record, I really feel that Petrova has an excellent chance to win this match. She has already beaten two contenders and really has it going on. She is serving well, her groundstrokes are extremely solid and she has the mental approach to win. The longer this match goes, the more it favors Petrova. If Henin is able to get off to a fast start and use her versatility and movement to keep Petrova off balance than she will win. This match could go either way.
Nick’s Pick – Henin in 2, Petrova in 3
Maria Kirilenko (RUS) vs. Jie Zheng (CHN)
It seems like every year we have a women’s quarterfinal that features two players you didn’t expect to be here. Kirilenko beat Sharapova in the first round, but really hasn’t been tested since. She was up 5-4 in the first set against second-seeded Dinara Safina in the fourth round, but Safina was forced to retire from the match with a back injury. Now, Kirilenko finds herself one win away from the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career.
Zheng made a great run to the semis of Wimbledon back in 2008, but this is her best result at a Grand Slam since. She beat Marion Bartoli in the third round and then Alona Bondarenko in the fourth round to get here. She is an excellent doubles player and she did win the doubles title at the 2006 Aussie Open, so she has had success in Melbourne.
Zheng is 4-1 against Kirilenko and beat her once last year in Madrid. The weakest point of Zheng’s game has been her serve, but she seems to have worked on that during the off-season and she is serving better. Her movement is fantastic, she is comfortable at the net, and she is an extremely fierce competitor. I think with Zheng’s footwork and her groundstrokes, she has the edge in this match. Kirilenko has the talent to win this match for sure, but Zheng has been here before and I see her advancing.
Nick’s Pick – Zheng in 3 sets