There is a possibility that there could be a final in Birmingham between Zhang Shuai and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. For a premier event, this would be pretty staggering. Queens has also seen a number of notable upsets and the number two seed, Tomas Berdych joined the list of casualties from the ATP 250 event. Berdych never looked entirely comfortable on the grass in any of his three matches. The match of the day featured Dustin Brown, who was squeaked out by Philipp Kohlschreiber in an epic third set tiebreak in Halle, 6-4 5-7 7-6(16). The most intriguing match-up from the semi-finals will also come from Halle…
1. Roger Federer v Kei Nishikori (ATP Halle, SF)
Saturday’s match of the day will see Kei Nishikori gunning for his third straight victory over Roger Federer. Kei won three setters in Madrid (2013) and Miami (2014). The match they played this year was a particularly interesting one as Nishikori came from a set down against an inspired first set Fed to book his place in the semi-finals (which he would then go on to withdraw from). On grass, the dynamics of this match-up are likely to change a little. Federer has played just one match all week after he received a walkover from Yen-Hsun Lu today. He was forced to three sets against Joao Sousa in the second round. Federer dropped only seven points on serve in the set he lost, but failed to convert on five break points. This was the telling factor in the set, which Sousa claimed on the tiebreak.
Nishikori began his grass court season against Gael Monfils, a very tough opener. He went 5-0 up within 20 minutes, but needed three sets in the end to progress to the quarter-finals, 6-1 3-6 6-3. He was two points from losing a set to Steve Johnson in the quarter-finals, but pulled out the win in straight sets, 6-1 7-6(4). Nishikori seems to be recovered from the injury he picked up in Madrid, which derailed his bid to go deep at Roland Garros. He still remains pretty vulnerable to niggly injuries. He has a good record against Federer and will bring confidence from their last match in Miami, which he won, 3-6 7-5 6-4. On grass, Federer should have the edge, but I am anticipating three sets.
Prediction: Federer d. Nishikori in 3 sets
2. Ana Ivanovic v Zhang Shuai (WTA Birmingham, SF)
The potential Ana v Sloane semi-final was halted when Zhang Shuai beat Sloane Stephens, 6-3 6-1 in the first of the quarter-finals on Friday. For Stephens, it always seems to be a case of one step forward, two steps back. This was an excellent opportunity for her to win her first title. I just wish she would have had *this* performance against Alison Riske on Thursday. Zhang will play Ana Ivanovic on Saturday as she continued her swift progress through the draw. Ivanovic has looked in great form on the grass this week and lost just two games against Zhang in their only previous match back in 2011. Zhang is a remarkably improved player this year and has delivered some consistent results on the tour in the last year. Ivanovic will still be the clear favourite to make the final.
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Zhang in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)
3. Stan Wawrinka v Grigor Dimitrov (ATP Birmingham, SF)
Grigor Dimitrov didn’t have to hit a ball on Friday when his opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov was forced to pull out of the tournament due to injury. Dolgopolov and Richard Gasquet are the top two seeds in Eastbourne next week and it’s probable that both players will pull out. Dimitrov goes on to face his doubles partner of this week, Stan Wawrinka in a tantalising semi-final match-up. Wawrinka has looked in great form this week, beating Sam Querrey and Marinko Matosevic, who had knocked out Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in straight sets. It is hard to gauge how Stan is going to perform at a tournament based on his recent results. I’m surprised he has made such smooth progress through this draw. Dimitrov will be his toughest match of the week so far although he does have a 2-0 H2H lead. This is a really difficult one to call because I would have given Dimitrov the edge on grass. I think not playing on Friday will go against Dimitrov (marginally) and Stan will move into a first ever grass court final.
Prediction: Wawrinka d. Dimitrov in 2 tight sets
WTA Birmingham Semi-Final Prediction
Casey Dellacqua d. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in 2 sets
ATP Queens Semi-Final Prediction
Feliciano Lopez d. Radek Stepanek in 3 sets
ATP Halle Semi-Final Prediction
Philipp Kohlschreiber d. Alejandro Falla in 2 tight sets