This is a guest post by Omair, who combines his love of numbers and tennis into his statistical tennis previews. After some time of absence, Omair has recently contributed to Women’s Tennis Blog with the article “Story inspired by Li Na: How many Australian Open champions in history failed to show up for their title defence” and now he’s back with his statistical analyses predicting upcoming matches. Enjoy his preview of the first set of women’s Australian Open quarterfinals and stay tuned for more!
Tuesday’s schedule at the Australian Open will feature the bottom-half WTA quarterfinals: Maria Sharapova vs. Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep vs. Ekaterina Makarova. Interestingly, as much as three winning streaks will be at stake, since Sharapova, Bouchard and Halep have not lost a match in 2015. Sharapova won Brisbane to open 2015, Halep won Shenzhen to kick start her season, while Bouchard played the Hopman Cup, which is an exhibition event and hence her loss there does not count.
The following is my preview of the quarterfinals based on the performance of the players so far at the 2015 Australian Open.
MARIA SHARAPOVA  vs. EUGENIE BOUCHARD 
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 3-0
- First serve will be crucial for both players. Sharapova has won 72% of her first serves at the tournament, Bouchard 68%. The importance of first serve is aided by the fact that both players like to eat the second serve of their opponents.
- Sharapova has won 57% of points played on her second serve, while Bouchard has been demolishing the second serves of her opponents so far, winning a whopping 72% of points played on her opponents’ second serves. Hence the importance of the first serve percentage.
- Bouchard has won only 49% of points played on her second serve so far, which makes her second serve more vulnerable and she will not be happy with the fact that Sharapova has won 69% of the points played on her opponents’ second serves.
- Interestingly, both players have a positive winner-to-unforced error differential of +1 on average per match so far. If the conditions are windy, it will be tricky for both players, since both like to play big.
- Sharapova has converted 50% of her break point opportunities so far at the tournament, while Bouchard has capitalized on 55% of the chances. Sharapova, however, has been better than Bouchard at saving break points, having saved a whopping 72% of the break points she has faced. Genie, on the other hand, has saved 62%.
- Both players have lost one set so far. Sharapova lost the second set of her second-round match against Alexandra Panova, while Genie lost the second set in her fourth-round win over Irina-Camelia Begu.
There is bound to be a lot of tension in this encounter. At the end it will come down to who steps up and takes charge to dictate play. Both players love to do that and we also know that they both have trouble when facing someone who starts to dictate play (Serena with Sharapova and Kvitova with Bouchard).
The numbers favor Sharapova and my gut also says Sharapova in three sets, but a small voice at the back of my mind keeps saying Genie will be extra motivated to take this match. I guess I will go with the numbers and my gut.
FUN FACT: Bouchard has never lost in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam and is 3-0 so far, with all the wins coming in 2014 — Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Sharapova on the other hand is 18-3 in Grand Slam quarterfinals and all of her three loses came at Roland Garros.
SIMONA HALEP  vs. EKATERINA MAKAROVA 
Head-to-head: Halep leads 1-0
- Similar to Bouchard and Sharapova, Halep will have to increase her first serve percentage. She has been averaging 57% per match so far at the tournament and although she has been winning 76% points behind her first serve, that number is only 48% behind her second serve, which will make her life tough in the quarterfinals, as Makarova has been feasting on the second serves of her opponents, winning 68% of those points.
- Makarova has been holding her second serve better compared to Halep, winning 56% points behind her second serve, and if Makarova can hold it together in this match, she will definitely give Halep a run for her money.
- Halep has a +3 winners-to-unforced errors differential so far at the tournament, while Makarova’s differential has been an average of -2 per match. Makarova will have to step up, keep her errors in check and play aggressively to have a chance against Halep.
- Halep has so far been broken seven times at the tournament, while Makarova has only been broken five times. Halep will have to take her chances to have a good shot at winning. The Romanian has been more effective in break point conversions, winning 53% of break points; Makarova on the other hand has won only 46%.
- Both players are yet to lose a set. Makarova can beat anyone on a given day, so Halep will have to be on the alert.
The numbers are somewhat in Halep’s favor, and my gut says it will be Halep, but my heart keeps saying it has to be Makarova. I, however, will go with the numbers and my gut and pick Halep to win the contest in two close sets.
FUN FACT: Regardless of the result of this match, we will have a first-time Australian Open semifinalist. This is second Australian Open quarterfinal for Halep and third for Makarova.
Who are your picks for the semifinals?
NOTE: The previews are based on numbers, and as I always say, numbers are numbers. The result will depend on how the player performs on that very day and how the opponent is faring. We will have to wait and watch. Let the show begin! (photos: Jimmie48)
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