There were some intriguing results on the ATP tour today. Roger Federer was a set and a break down to the world number 153, John Millman in Brisbane before coming back to win in three sets. These close matches are normally a good thing and i’m sure it will help Federer tighten up his game. In Doha, Novak Djokovic wasn’t so lucky as he went down in three sets to Ivo Karlovic, who didn’t even need a tiebreak to win the third set. I’ve been focussing on the WTA this week, but will have an ATP preview for the Australian Open; Auckland and Shenzhen are both heading towards blockbuster finals, but will the favourites be upset? Here are my thoughts about Friday’s semi-finals.
1. Caroline Wozniacki v Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Auckland, SF)
Caroline Wozniacki has made a confident start to the year with straight set wins over Julia Glushko, Taylor Townsend and Julia Goerges. Her draw, considering that this is an international event, has been reasonably testing. A 6-4 6-4 win over Goerges, a player she has always struggled against, was a positive sign for the Dane. Next up is Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who enjoyed her first straight sets win of the week against Coco Vandeweghe having been pushed the distance in her first two matches. It’s good to see BZS start the year with some good wins after her best year on the tour in 2014. In their last encounter, BZS was victorious over Wozniacki on the grass courts of Wimbledon. In Auckland, i’d back Woz to make the final.
Prediction: Wozniacki d. Zahlavova Strycova in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)
2. Venus Williams v Lauren Davis (Auckland, SF)
For the second year in a row, Venus Williams is zoning in on the Auckland final. The American player has enjoyed an emphatic start to the year, dropping no more than four games in any of the six sets she has played thus far. Her quarter-final match with Elena Vesnina was her toughest of the week; Vesnina led 4-2 in the second set, but had a pretty major collapse at the end. This will be an all-American semi-final with Lauren Davis progressing to her first WTA semi-final. Davis has won all three of her matches from a set down. I think Venus will have too much variety for Davis to cope with.
Prediction: V.Williams d. Davis in 2 sets
3. Simona Halep v Saisai Zheng (Shenzhen, SF)
After a ropey opening match against Annika Beck where she was taken to three sets, Simona Halep has settled well. She defeated Aleksandra Krunic, 6-3 6-3 on Thursday to set up a semi-final with Saisai Zheng. The Chinese player won her third consecutive three setter of the week against Zarina Diyas in the quarter-finals. I have nightmares from watching Zheng moonball Safarova into the abyss at the US Open. Her game may not be the most exciting to watch, but she has been doing something right as she has enjoyed some good results of late. Halep should find an answer though.
Prediction: Halep d. Zheng in 2 sets
4. Petra Kvitova v Timea Bacsinszky (Shenzhen, SF)
Oh Petraaaa. Three matches and three straight set wins. Her quarter-final was the toughest match of the week as she saved set points to come through in two against Tereza Smitkova. Kvitova will be the favourite against Timea Bacsinszky, but I do think the Swiss player is one to watch this year. She had a big win over Maria Sharapova last year in Beijing, but her wins on the ITF tour prior showed that her return to form has been sustained. Petra in straight sets, but I fancy another tight match like her quarter-final.
Prediction: Kvitova d. Bacsinszky in 2 tight sets