By Matthew Marolf
The ladies’ semi-finals are headlined by the 23-time Major champion, who is 10-1 in this round of The Championships, with her only loss coming in her first semi-final 19 years ago. Joining her is last year’s French Open champion, playing for her fifth Slam final.
And then there are two first-time Major semi-finalists. One is a 33-year-old veteran who has been contemplating retiring from the sport. The other is one of the WTA’s finest players of the last few seasons, who is still fighting to transfer her tour success to the Majors.
Serena Williams (11) vs. Barbora Strycova
10 days ago when this fortnight began, Serena’s chances of winning this tournament seemed slimmer than usual. She had been injured for almost all of 2019, with her movement looking severely compromised six weeks ago in Paris. And her draw appeared extremely challenging, with many Major champion in her section. But they all went home before reaching Serena in the draw, allowing Williams the chance to arrive at the final without facing a top 16 seed. And Serena’s movement has improved, just as her confidence has grown with each passing round. In her twelfth Wimbledon semi-final, she faces an unlikely, unseeded opponent.
As dangerous as Strycova can be on the grass, she’s 0-3 against Serena, having never taken a set. If Serena is on her A-game, this should be smooth sailing. But if the GOAT is feeling the pressure of the occasion, Strycova could complicate matters. Barbora should play rather freely knowing she’s a severe underdog. And we’ve seen Serena struggle against opponents with a lot of variety in situations like this before – Roberta Vinci immediately comes to mind. I think this will be a rather tight contest, though Serena remains the favourite.
Simona Halep (7) vs. Elina Svitolina (8)
This should be good. These two share quite a history, with Svitolina holding a 4-3 edge in their head-to-head. They’ve never before played on grass, with this surface historically being the weakest for each. Their only meeting at a Major was quite dramatic, and downright traumatic for Svitolina. At the 2017 French Open, Elina was up a set and 5-1 in the quarterfinals, when the nerves of being one game from her first Slam semi-final kicked in. Halep fought all the way back to victory, saving a match point in the second set tiebreak. That squandered opportunity resulted in a lot of scar tissue for Elina, who would require three more Major quarterfinals to breakthrough to the final four for the first time.
Their most recent matchup was earlier this year in the Doha semi-finals, which Halep took 6-4 in the third. There’s no reason to believe this won’t be another captivating, extended affair. They both strike the ball well, make few errors, and are quick around the court. There’s really not much between them considering their similar styles, so this will likely come down to who better manages their emotions, and is better prepared for the moment. In her first Grand Slam semi-final, I expect Svitolina will feel relieved having finally reached this stage, which will embolden her play in this match. And as sharp as Halep has been at this tournament, perhaps she’s due for a bit of a let-down. I’m giving the edge to Svitolina to pull off the ever-slight upset in three sets.
Other notable matches on Day 10:
In the gentlemen’s doubles semi-finals, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (2), who have won three titles since April, vs. Halle champions Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus (3).
In the other semi-final, Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (11), the team that eliminated the Bryan Brothers as well as top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, vs. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek, who also beat two top 10 seeds in this tournament.
Naomi Osaka Ends Title Drought With Pan Pacific Open Win
The 21-year-old has captured her fourth WTA title in the city where she was born.
Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka has returned back to the winner’s circle after easing to the Pan Pacific Open title on Sunday with a straight sets win.
The two-time grand slam champion disposed of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3, in just 70 minutes. Claiming her first title of any sort since winning the Australian Open in January. Osaka was dominant behind her serve throughout the final. Winning all 20 of her first service points and dropping just six points behind her second. The top seed hit 22 winners to 12 unforced errors and broke Pavlyuchenkova three times.
“It is really special for me to win here (in Osaka). This is the city where I was born. I think that gave me a lot of power to play constantly match after match.” Said the new champion.
Prior to this week, the 21-year-old hadn’t progressed beyond the quarter-final stage of a tournament since April. She managed to end that trend on Saturday after being forced to play two matches due to poor weather affecting the tournament schedule. Recording wins over Yulia Putintseva and Elise Mertens. Osaka didn’t drop a single set in the entire tournament.
“I just wanted to win this really bad,” Osaka stated during her Sunday press conference.
“I think what I learned from this tournament is just to focus every point, and just to have really positive energy,” she later added.
There is also reason to celebrate for runner-up Pavlyuchenkova, who is yet to win a WTA title in Asia. This week is the first time she has reached a WTA final in 15 months. Last doing so at the 2018 Internationaux de Strasbourg in France. Earlier in the tournament she knocked out second seed Kiki Bertens and fourth seed Angelique Kerber.
“It is not the trophy you want standing here, but it has still been an amazing week.” The Russian reflected during the trophy ceremony.
“Congratulations Naomi you were really good today and played the better tennis.”
Osaka is the first Japanese player to win the Pan Pacific Open since Kimiko Date back in 1995. She exits the tournament with 470 ranking points and $137,125 in prize money.
Sam Stosur Produces Comeback To Reach First WTA Final For 28 Months In Guangzhou
Sam Stosur reached her first WTA final for two and a half years with a three set win over Viktorija Golubic in Guangzhou.
Sam Stosur came from a set down to beat Viktorija Golubic 2-6 7-6(4) 6-1 to reach her first WTA final in two and a half years.
After losing the first set in comfortable fashion and surrendering her early break lead in the second set, the Australian fought back to reach the Guangzhou final.
The win means that Stosur will now compete in her first WTA final for two and a half years, when she won the Strasbourg title in 2017.
Speaking after the match the former US Open was delighted with the way she rallied back into the contest, “I just tried to hang in there and find a way to start playing a bit better,” she told the WTA website.
“She’s very tough to play against so I’m just happy to get through. This is where everyone wants to be, so to now make it to the final, I’m really happy and I’ll give it my best shot tomorrow.”
Having reached the final, she will now re-enter the world’s top 100 and compete for the 10th title of her career, which would be her first on hard courts since 2014.
Standing in Stosur’s way will be world number 20 Sofia Kenin after the American edged out Anna Blinkova 7-6(5) 4-6 6-1 in a tight contest.
Six breaks of serve was enough for Kenin as she aims to win her third title of the season having won in Hobart and Mallorca this season.
Seeds Deliver In Seoul As Rain Halts Play In Osaka
Meanwhile in the Seoul, the seeds managed to deliver to book their spots in the semi-finals. Yafan Wang, Karolina Muchova and Magda Linette all cruised into the last four in South Korea.
Although second seed Ekaterina Alexandrova had to survive a big scare against in-form Kristie Ahn with the Russian edging through 6-7(0) 6-4 6-4.
However there was a bleak day in Osaka, Japan where only one match was completed as three of the quarter-finals will have to be played tomorrow.
The one result saw Angelique Kerber reach the semi-finals having lead Madison Keys 6-4 4-6 2-1 before the American retired.
Tomorrow will be Kerber’s first WTA semi-final since reaching the final in Eastbourne in June.
Serena Williams Confident In Bid For Grand Slam History Claims Patrick Mouratoglou
Patrick Mouratoglou says that Serena Williams is confident of another grand slam victory despite recent setbacks.
Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that the American is confident in her bid for more grand slam history.
Despite the American not winning a set in her last four grand slam finals, Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that she is still confident in winning another grand slam again.
Serena’s last grand slam win was at the Australian Open in 2017 before taking a break from the sport to become a mother.
Although it has been a struggle, Mouratoglou believes time is on the 37 year old’s side, “I think time is working for her,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports.
“I think she was much better at the US Open than she was at Wimbledon and Wimbledon better than Roland Garros.
“She is getting back in shape and the more in shape she will be the more dangerous she will be. I think she has started to play really good tennis.”
Losses to Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have exposed Serena’s lack of confidence and how nervous she is in the grand slam finals.
However Mouratoglou believes that Serena’s historic moment will come sooner rather than later, “It is one match for history and the pressure is quite high,” he said.
“I am not in her mind but I can figure she is playing one match for history. This is the highest pressure anyone can have in life and on the other side of the court she plays girls who have zero pressure because it is their first final.
“They are going to play many [Grand Slams], they are young, they are excited, enthusiastic so they play without pressure and that makes a big difference. But at some point she will figure out how to deal with that.”
Serena’s next tournament is scheduled to be the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in late October, should she qualify although there is a good possibility that we won’t be seeing on a tennis court until next year.
Will 2020 be the year that Serena finally figures out how to deal with the pressure of creating more history for herself? Only time will tell.
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