Osaka and Tianjin both have three seeds remaining in their line-up of semi-finals and more surprisingly, both of my pre-tournament picks are still in action! In Osaka, Madison Keys was forced to retire from her quarter-final match with Luksika Kumkhum. It’s been a tough few months for Keys, who has played her last competitive match in 2014. There were signs of progress, particularly on the grass, but there is still a long way to go for Madison before she comes even close to fulfilling her potential. In Tianjin, we will have a new WTA champion!
1. Sam Stosur v Elina Svitolina (Osaka, SF)
In a first career meeting, Sam Stosur will take on the steadily improving, Elina Svitolina. It’s hard not to be impressed by Svitolina’s performances of late and I definitely was a doubter. She has had some excellent results in the second half of 2014, winning Baku, reaching the quarter-finals of Cincy and the semi-finals of Beijing. Svitolina was pushed all the way in her second round match against Naomi Osaka, coming back from a 1-4 deficit in the third set to win five straight games. In my opinion, performing well at International tournaments where she is one of the highest seeds and is expected to do well, is just as impressive as the showings at some of the premier events.
Stosur has also had a solid week in Osaka. What looked like a very tough match in the second round against Jarmila Gajdosova proved a lucky escape for Sam as Jarka was forced to retire with an injury after a very competitive opening set. Stosur loves Osaka and always plays well at this tournament. This will be a first career match-up between Stosur and Svitolina; with no data to go on, it’s a tricky one to call. Stosur can be a right handful for some players, but then again, she can also struggle against other players. I’ll take the risk and stand by my champion…
Prediction: Svitolina d. Stosur in 3 sets
2. Peng Shuai v Belinda Bencic (Tianjin, SF)
A US Open quarter-final rematch is all set in Tianjin between Belinda Bencic and Peng Shuai. The circumstances may not be quite as grand as Flushing Meadows, but both are gunning for a first WTA title and in Peng’s case, this could be the best ever opportunity she will get. Peng is 0-6 in finals and has long been recognised as one of the best WTA players never to have won a title. She fought hard to book her place in the last four, surviving a tight three set battle with Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-6(5) 2-6 7-5. Bencic was also forced to three sets in her quarter-final match with Hsieh Su-Wei, which she won, 6-4 4-6 6-2. At the US Open, Peng thrashed Bencic, 6-2 6-1. On that particular day, Bencic played a very poor match, meanwhile Peng was aggressive and consistent. Bencic has done a great job at learning from defeats and I think this will be a much tighter match. Like the Stosur-Svitolina encounter, i’m really on the fence with this one and it really could go either way.
Prediction: Bencic d. Peng in 3 sets
WTA Osaka Semi-Final Prediction
Zarina Diyas d. Luksika Kumkhum in 2 tight sets
WTA Tianjin Semi-Final Prediction
Zheng Saisai d. Alison Riske in 3 sets
WTA Linz Semi-Final Predictions
Camila Giorgi d. Karin Knapp in 3 sets
Karolina Pliskova d. Anna-Lena Friedsam in 2 sets