First and foremost, today’s big news saw confirmation of the growing cloud of rumours as Li Na retired from tennis. I wasn’t a huge fan of Li’s game, but I really loved her personality and what she brought to the WTA. It’s such a shame that she won’t get to play in her home town, Wuhan. Her post on Facebook was beautifully written, which you can read HERE. The outpouring on Twitter from both players and fans shows how popular Li is and she will be sorely missed on the tour. This news had been coming for some time, but another more surprising storyline broke today that Ashleigh Barty will take an “indefinite break from the game”. You can read more about Barty HERE. It’s been a day of sad news really! Anyway, here’s my favourite Li Na moment…
Tokyo semi-finals are up on Saturday and both look intriguing. Unfortunately both are in the early morning in the UK. The main draw for Wuhan was also released on Friday. The qualifying draw is a mess with so many players still competing in Seoul, Guangzhou and Tokyo.
1. Ana Ivanovic v Angelique Kerber (WTA Tokyo, SF)
This has been a great week so far for Ana Ivanovic. After snapping a four match losing streak to Victoria Azarenka in the second round, she defeated Lucie Safarova in the quarter-finals. This was a huge win for Ana because she had lost five consecutive matches to Lucie. Despite a wobble at the end of the first set, Ivanovic played a fine match to win, 6-3 6-2. One thing I noticed in this match was that Ivanovic’s ball toss was wild, even for her. However, it just doesn’t seem to affect her mentally like it used to. This was a disappointing performance from Lucie. She made a slow start to both sets, never got her lefty serve working and was often impatient in rallies. She worked her way into the first set and got it back from 5-0* to *5-3, which unsurprisingly, came after a chat with Rob (legend). Lucie had three break points in the next game, but despite working her way back into the match, Ivanovic closed out the set and with it, Lucie’s momentum.
Ivanovic takes on Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals, who defeated Dominika Cibulkova, 6-3 6-0 for her third straight victory over the Slovakian. The first set was tight for the most part with plenty of breaks, but once Kerber consolidated a break at 4-2*, that was pretty much it. Cibulkova’s intent was there, but she became increasingly frustrated as the match wore on as Kerber soaked up the pressure and exposed her lack of variety and a plan B. The second set was a really superb performance from Kerber. She was calm, she was composed and most importantly, she was very patient in rallies.
The last two matches that Ivanovic and Kerber played were both hugely entertaining. In 2013, Kerber defeated Ivanovic in an intense and tight two set finale in Linz. Ivanovic gained revenge earlier this year in Dubai, surviving match points to prevail in a terrific match, 3-6 6-3 7-6(6)… would you believe that was a first round match?! Kerber is playing well, but Ivanovic has enjoyed some big wins this week, which are likely to have gone a long way to boosting her confidence. Based on their H2H and recent form, all signs suggest this could be a stunner.
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Kerber in 3 sets
2. Caroline Wozniacki v Garbine Muguruza (Tokyo, SF)
This should be fun… Garbine Muguruza will go for the hat-trick of wins over Caroline Wozniacki in the first of the semi-finals in Tokyo. Muguruza defeated Wozniacki in Miami last year and then rallied from a set down to beat the Dane in a high profile third round match at the Australian Open earlier this year. Muguruza has had a brilliant week in Tokyo; after defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Jelena Jankovic in straight sets, she came back from the brink to get past Casey Dellacqua, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-3. Casey served for the match, but as she has done all week, Muguruza competed marvellously well to reach her first Premier semi-final.
Wozniacki struggled in her first match since the US Open final up against Jarmila Gajdosova. She came from a set and a break down, and then a break down in the decider to win, 4-6 7-5 6-3. Despite showing more willingness to go for winners, Wozniacki will always struggle against ultra-aggressive opponents like Gajdosova. It’s lovely to see Jarmila playing well again and for two and a half sets, she played (for her!) a reasonably consistent match. The power she can generate is pretty awesome, but her net game let her down. Wozniacki then beat Carla Suarez Navarro in straight sets to book her place in the semi-finals.
This match is so tough to call and i’ve done a pretty superb job this week at getting things wrong. Without doubt, Muguruza has the game to beat Wozniacki. She’s done it twice before and is the kind of opponent that Wozniacki hates. Petra Kvitova, Camila Giorgi, Julia Goerges, Sabine Lisicki… All big hitters, all have had success against Caro on a good day. There has definitely been a change in Wozniacki in these last few months, but whether it is enough to get a first win over Muguruza? I am really on the fence with this one…
Prediction: Wozniacki d. Muguruza in 3 sets
WTA Seoul Semi-Final Predictions
So much has happened today that Agnieszka Radwanska’s second consecutive loss to Varvara Lepchenko got swept under the carpet a little. It’s good to see Maria Kirilenko back from injury, but i’d probably make Pliskova the marginal favourite to win Seoul. In all truth, it’s very even between the four players left and I won’t be surprised whoever prevails.
Varvara Lepchenko d. Christina McHale in 2 sets
Karolina Pliskova d. Maria Kirilenko in 3 tight sets
WTA Guangzhou Final Prediction
Monica Niculescu d. Alize Cornet in 3 crazy, dramatic, exhausting, terrifying and generally awesome sets