The US hard court season kicks into gear next week with the women in Stanford and the men in Atlanta along with three other tournaments. Before then, we have semi-finals and finals to wrap up on this week’s clay court tournaments.
Nicolas Almagro v Fabio Fognini (Hamburg, SF)
Fabio Fognini is enjoying a pretty fantastic couple of weeks having won his first title last week in Stuttgart and continuing his good form this week to make the semi-finals in Hamburg. For the second week in a row, Fognini defeated Tommy Haas for the loss of 6 games and now takes on Nicolas Almagro in the semi-finals. The Spaniard has had a solid week and took out Juan Monaco in a tight three setter as he recovered an early break in the third set to post a 4-6 6-0 6-3 victory.
Almagro leads the head-to-head by 3 wins to 1, but they haven’t played each other since 2009 when Fognini won in Bucharest. Almagro would be the safe bet, but Fognini is on a real hot streak and although tiredness could be an issue, he has actually strolled through his three matches in Hamburg for the loss of no sets… let’s go for Fabio.
Prediction – Fognini to beat Almagro in 3 sets
Serena Williams v Klara Zakopalova (Bastad, SF)
For an International event, Bastad’s line-up has held up remarkably well, spearheaded by the world number one, Serena Williams. Klara Zakopalova will no doubt provide her with the biggest test of this week. Zakopalova often struggles against lower ranked players who she is expected to beat, but she has an impressive week (losing just 11 games) on top of an excellent year, excluding the clay court season where she was sidelined by allergies. Serena han’t played her best this week, but with the general calibre of the field, she hasn’t need to spring into life. Zakopalova has actually beaten Serena before, on clay in 2009; the Czech player has a game that can ignite and she has run close with some of the current top 5, most notably beating Li Na before and pushing Maria Sharapova in Paris. I still think Serena will win, but I can see Zakopalova winning a set.
Prediction – Serena to beat Zakopalova in 3 sets
Andrea Hlavackova v Elina Svitolina (Bad Gastein, SF)
It has come as no surprise that the Bad Gastein draw has been littered with upsets, leaving four players vying to win their first WTA title. 2013 has been a really rough year for Andrea Hlavackova, but since Rome, she has started to pick up some wins in both qualifying and main draws too. Her best win came in the first round against the world number 98, Eleni Daniilidou, but you cannot put a price on solid wins, especially when Hlavackova has been known to have some pretty epic wobbles in trying to close out matches.
Her opponent in the semi-finals will be Elina Svitolina, a new name to many, who took out the number 6 seed, Chanelle Scheepers in the 2nd round. At just 18, she has quietly started to make an impression on the tour with her best win of the year coming against an injury-affected Romina Oprandi at the French Open. This will be a first career match-up and although I haven’t seen Svitolina play, I think she will be mentally stronger than Hlavackova to make her first WTA tour final.
Prediction – Svitolina to beat Hlavackova in 3 sets
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Roger Federer to beat Federico Delbonis in 2 tight sets
Best of the rest: WTA Bastad Semi-Final Prediction
Flavia Pennetta to beat Johanna Larsson in 3 sets
Best of the rest: WTA Bad Gastein Semi-Final Prediction
Karin Knapp to beat Yvonne Meusburger in 3 sets