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Jie Zheng the Pick vs Maria Kirilenko

Australian Open 2010 features a quarterfinal match that no one saw coming.

Jie Zheng and Maria Kirilenko are both unseeded at this year's Australian Open.  However, one of them has to win their head to head quarterfinals match to move through to the Australian Open semis.

While the odds are fairly tight, Jie Zheng has come in as the favorite:

Jie Zheng: -137 (about 5/7, Stan James)

Maria Kirilenko: +130 (13/10, Boylesports)

With odds that tight let's take a look at these two players, how they have done head to head, and how powerful each player has been in winning their way into the quarters.

Head to Head

Maria Kirilenko has only defeated Jie Zheng once in their 5 head to head matches and that was in the second round of the 2003 US Open.  Other than that it has been all Zheng as she has compiled a 4-1 record against Kirilenko and a 2-1 record on hard courts. 

The slight problem with looking at the head to head series however is that they have not played on hard court since Guangzhou in 2005 as their two most recent matches were both on clay.

However, at 4-1 straight up, it looks like Zheng definitely has Kirilenko's number.

Power Rankings at the 2010 Australian Open

While both players are 4-0 at the Australian Open this year, sometimes insight can be gained by looking at two important stats: the calibre of the defeated competition and the strength of the victory.

First let's look at Maria Kirilenko:

Maria Kirilenko vs Maria Sharapova, points won: 117-118, opponent ranked 14th  on tour.

Maria Kirilenko vs Yvonne Meusburger, points won: 73-49, opponent ranked 114th.

Maria Kirilenko vs Roberta Vinci, points won: 92-84, opponent ranked 63rd on tour.

Maria Kirilenko vs Dinara Safina, points won: 41-35, opponent ranked 2nd on tour (Safina withdrew with injury).

When you glance over these stats, you can see that a fair degree of luck has factored into Kirilenko's advancing to the quarterfinals.  She played well against Maria Sharapova but any time you play a match, lose the majority of the points, and yet still manage to advance, you have to count your blessings.

In the 2nd and 3rd round, Kirilenko was fortunate to play players who were ranked so low as having the 114th best player on tour in the second round is more than you should hope for.  Also having the 63rd ranked player in the 3rd round is a little lucky as well as you normally expect a top 32 player at that point.

In the 4th round Kirilenko faced an injured Safina and the match was on-serve before Safina felt like she needed to retire.

How lucky.

When you look at Zheng's draw you don't really see any luck at all factoring into her quarterfinals appearance.  In fact, somebody should point out that Zheng has persevered into the quarters despite terrible luck.

First Zheng just missed being seeded in this tournament as she bubbled due to her ranking being barely too low at 35th in the world.  Then she drew an opponent ranked 43rd in the world in the first round and had to go 3 sets to win.  In a tournament with 128 players, you could hope for an easier first round match than that.

Zheng then proceeded to eliminate 3 seeded players in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds including 11th ranked Marion Bartoli. 

Here's a look at Zheng's results:

Jie Zheng vs Shuai Peng, points won: 77-68, opponent ranked 43rd.

Jie Zheng vs Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, points won: 97-87, opponent ranked 27th (seeded 24th).

Jie Zheng vs Marion Bartoli, points won: 93-75, opponent ranked 11th on tour.

Jie Zheng vs Alona Bondarenko, points won: 82-75, opponent ranked 30th on tour.

Zheng's quarterfinals appearance isn't fluky like Kirilenko's.  When the 4-1 head to head series is considered, the clear message is that you should be pounding Zheng for the win in the quarters, keeping in mind that Zheng made the semis of Wimbledon in 2008.

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