Brisbane and Auckland have both delivered an enticing duo of semi-finals in the first week of the 2014 tennis season. In yesterday’s poll, Jankovic just came out on top with 53% so well done to those who correctly predicted she would beat Kerber. I had a great day of predictions so hopefully more of the same for Friday!
1. Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova (WTA Brisbane, SF)
Brisbane has suffered with injuries and withdrawals again this year, but they have not affected the top three seeds who have all reached the semi-finals. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will square off for the first time on a tennis court since last year’s French Open final. Serena was certainly rusty in her first match against Andrea Petkovic and showed an improvement in the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Dominika Cibulkova. Sharapova faced a tough test against Kaia Kanepi and although struggling at times, she came through in three sets. Serena and Sharapova’s head-to-head is a well documented one with Serena winning their last 13 matches. The French Open final was one of Sharapova’s better performances as she really gave it some welly in a 6-4 6-4 loss. Sharapova is way off her best and that is no fault of her own with just two matches under her belt since the long lay-off for her shoulder. This match will come too early in her comeback.
Prediction: Serena to beat Sharapova in 2 sets
2. Victoria Azarenka v Jelena Jankovic (WTA Brisbane, SF)
The late night match on the Rod Laver Arena between Serena and Sharapova will draw all the headlines, but it is the first of the womens semi-finals between Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic that in my opinion, is far more intriguing. Jankovic cracked the top ten again last year after labouring for much of 2011 and 2012 and she has started the season where she left off from in 2013. She showed great determination to come back from a set down and in the end, completely overwhelm a tiring, Angelique Kerber, 6-7(8) 6-3 6-1.
Azarenka defeated a sprited and gutsy performance from Stefanie Voegele, who saved 8 match points in the second set and 10 match points overall. It was the second match in a row that Azarenka was broken serving for the match and she did not look convincing at all when faced with some pressure. She did though recover well in the third set to finish off a 6-4 6-7(7) 6-1 victory. Azarenka and Jankovic last played at the WTA Championships where JJ won in straight sets. I originally went for Azarenka to make the final, but I think Jankovic has been impressive this week and Azarenka is obviously still finding her feet…
Prediction: Jankovic to beat Azarenka in 3 sets
3. Venus Williams v Jamie Hampton (WTA Auckland, SF)
Two players who aren’t afraid to come into the net, Venus Williams and Jamie Hampton will play out an all-American semi-final in Auckland. Venus has had a great start to the year and a 6-3 6-3 victory over the talented Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza was her best performance of the week so far. Hampton has done well to make the semi-finals in her first tournament back since last year’s US Open due to injury; what has been most impressive from Hampton is progressing through the rounds while not playing her best tennis. She was forced to three sets against Lauren Davis in a three set quarter-final, but now up against Venus, she will need to raise her level if she wants to make the final. This will be a first ever encounter between the pair and I am expecting a really fun match. I would love Hampton to win, but I think Venus will prevail in straight sets.
Prediction: Venus to beat Hampton in 2 tight sets
WTA Auckland Semi-Final Prediction
Ana Ivanovic to beat Kirsten Flipkens in 3 sets
WTA Shenzhen Semi-Final Predictions
Li Na to beat Annika Beck in 2 sets
Peng Shuai to beat Vania King in 3 sets
ATP Brisbane Quarter-Final Predictions
Roger Federer to beat Marinko Matosevic in 2 sets
Jeremy Chardy to beat Sam Groth in 2 tiebreak sets
Lleyton Hewitt to beat Marius Copil in 2 sets
Marin Cilic to beat Kei Nishikori in 2 sets
ATP Chennai Quarter-Final Predictions
Stan Wawrinka to beat Aljaz Bedene in 2 sets
Vasek Pospisil to beat Yuki Bhambri in 2 sets
Benoit Paire to beat Marcos Granollers in 3 sets
Edouard Roger-Vasselin to beat Dudi Sela in 3 sets
ATP Doha Semi-Final Predictions
Rafael Nadal to beat Peter Gojowcyzk in 2 sets