Australian Open Day 11: Women’s Semi-Final Predictions

Maria Sharapova v Li Na
Maria Sharapova continued her devastating progression through the Australian Open draw with a 6-2 6-2 win over Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals.  The world number two has lost just 9 games throughout the whole tournament, but still comes up short to the record held by Mary Pierce who lost just 6 games on her way to the semi-finals of the 1994 French Open.  Sharapova will now play Li Na in the semi-finals who snapped Agnieszka Radwanska‘s 13match winning streak with a hard fought, 7-5 6-3 victory.  Radwanska was certainly off-colour in this one as she committed 21 unforced errors, a staggering total for someone who is normally so solid.  Li still struggled with errors at time, but held her nerve and had the weight of shot to come back from deficits in both sets… a successful prediction!

Sharapova leads the head-to-head with 8 wins to Li’s 4.  Sharapova won all three of their 2012 encounters with two straight set wins in Miami and Beijing (a bagel in each) and an absolute slugfest in the Rome final where Li choked a 6-4 4-0 lead before falling in a final set tiebreak.  Li had won four straight matches against Sharapova before last year although  none of those matches were on outdoor hard court.  Li has looked a much stronger and more solid player since the arrival of her new coach, Carlos Rodriguez and it was a much needed appointment after some tough losses that had clearly dented her confidence. However, for the first time this week, I will be going against my original prediction as I take note of Sharapova’s awesome form over the past two weeks, which I think will be too much for Li to handle.
Prediction – Sharapova to beat Li in two sets (one close set, one not so much)
Victoria Azarenka v Sloane Stephens
The women’s tourmament was thrown well and truly wide open as Sloane Stephens beat Serena Williams, 3-6 7-5 6-4 to set up a semi-final showdown with Victoria Azarenka.  Serena was hampered by back and knee injuries, but do not take anything away from Sloane who played an excellent match and is now in completely unchartered territory with a 1 in 4 chance of claiming a Grand Slam title.  Azarenka edged a high quality opening set with Svetlana Kuznetsova before strolling through the second set of her quarter-final to post a 7-5 6-1 victory.  Once again, a Serena/Azarenka match-up has been dashed, but I am sure Vika will not be complaining about that…

This will be a very interesting match because Sloane will feel on top on the world after her win over Serena.  She has never played Azarenka before and will certainly think she can take on anyone at the moment.  Sloane will need to mix up her game to disturb Azarenka’s pattern, which she is definitely capable of doing. In her quarter-final with Serena, she successfully made 18 net approaches out of 20 and will need to do that again tomorrow. I fancy Sloane to take the first set, but a fired-up Azarenka will come back fighting… her quarter-final with Kuznetsova showed that she is starting to peak at just the right time.

Prediction – Azarenka to beat Stephens in 3 sets

You can view my original predictions for the WTA quarter-finals here… I missed Serena obviously, but correctly predicted the other three winners.

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