Australian Open Day 11 Preview: The Semifinals Begin
We had some shocking results in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. Many of us expected Rafael Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov, and Elina Svitolina to be on today’s schedule, but that is not the case. Instead we have a few fresh faces making their Grand Slam semifinal debuts, taking on established names looking to return to a major final. And in the most marquee matchup of the day, the number one player in the world faces the 2016 Australian Open champion.
Simona Halep vs. Angelique Kerber
Here we will see the two best defensive players in the WTA square off, which should result in many entertaining, extended rallies. They have split their eight career head-to-head meetings. Five of those matches took place in 2016, with Kerber taking four of the five. Considering Angelique is back in 2016 form, that could spell trouble for Simona. Kerber took apart Madison Keys’ game yesterday, dropping just three games in a 51-minute victory. Halep though has also upped her level in her last few matches, most notably taking out the dangerous Karolina Pliskova yesterday with the loss of only five games. The world number one is showing no ill effects of the ankle injury she suffered last week. This is a tough one to call, but I give the slight edge to Kerber. She is playing with the same aggression and belief that took her to this title two years ago.
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Elise Mertens
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As reported by Chris McKendry of ESPN, this is the tenth straight Grand Slam event with an unseeded player in the women’s semifinals. It speaks to both the depth of the WTA, as well as the inability of the top-ranked women to consistently advance deep into the second week at the majors. For the 22-year-old Elise Mertens this has been her big breakthrough. She has spoken of getting advice during this tournament from fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters. Mertens is currently on a 10-match win streak. She took the title the week before the Australian Open in Hobart, and is yet to drop a set in this tournament. Elise easily dispatched of fourth seeded Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals, though Svitolina cited a hip injury as the reason for winning just four games in that match. Wozniacki’s form has been up and down during this fortnight, but she has a golden opportunity here to advance to her first major final against a player who had previously never been passed the third round at a major. Caroline won in three sets in their only previous meeting last year on clay in Bastad, and I expect the same result in this one.
Marin Cilic vs. Kyle Edmund
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With a lot of focus on him in the absence of fellow Brits Andy Murray and Dan Evans, 23-year-old Kyle Edmund has responded tremendously. After surviving two five-setters earlier in the tournament, he upset third seeded Grigor Dimitrov in impressive fashion, hitting 46 winners in a four-set victory. Cilic survived a five-setter on Tuesday against Rafael Nadal. While the Croat’s victory was aided by Nadal’s hip injury, Cilic deserves a lot of credit for how he upped his level and hit some big shots just to extend the match to five sets. The only previous meetings between these two was just a few months ago at the Shanghai Masters, which Cilic won in straight sets. Cilic certainly has more big match experience, but we’ve also seen many cases where he has played nervously in such instances. In his first major semifinal, can Edmund play as freely as he did in his first major quarterfinal? Can Cilic play freely knowing he’s fully expected to win? This will likely be a very tight contest, but I expect the more experienced Cilic to prevail.
Order of play
Rod Laver Arena
Elise Mertens BEL v Caroline Wozniacki DEN (Not before 3am UK time)
Simona Halep v Angelique Kerber GER (Not before 5am)
Marin Cilic v Kyle Edmund GBR (Not before 8.30am)