In the mens draw, Juan Martin del Potro won his second match on his return from injury with an impressive 4-6 6-2 6-2 victory over the number one seed, Fabio Fognini. Next up for the big man is Mikhail Kukushkin in the quarter-finals on Thursday. It was great to see the end of the DelPo match and hear that forehand grunt… oh how I have missed that forehand grunt! I’d be surprised to see him make the final having to play back-to-back matches for four consecutive days, but it is really great to have him back. Thursday is semi-finals day for the women…
1. Karolina Pliskova v Angelique Kerber (WTA Sydney, SF)
Karolina Pliskova was the first player into the semi-finals as she came from a set down to defeat Carla Suarez Navarro.
The Czech player started the week with a straight sets win over Polona Hercog, 6-4 6-4 and a double bagel win over Nicole Gibbs. It has been a very encouraging start to the year for Pliskova, who ended the 2014 season in great form with titles in Seoul and Linz and began her year with a convincing win over Victoria Azarenka in Brisbane. Her semi-final opponent is Angelique Kerber, who has had a pretty heroic week. Kerber finished her match with Daria Gavrilova at 3.10am on Wednesday morning and returned to the court to defeat Garbine Muguruza, 0-6 6-1 6-4. I watched a few highlights from the end of the Kerber v Gavrilova match and was blown away by the quality and variety from both players at the very end. Gavrilova is definitely one to watch this year.
Furthermore, to come back from a first set bagel against Muguruza is a mightily impressive result from Kerber. There had been suggestions that Kerber’s attitude in her Brisbane quarter-final loss was not as good as it could have been, but she has responded admirably in Sydney with three straight three set wins, coming from a set down on each occasion. Kerber leads the head-to-head with Pliskova, 2-1. Pliskova won their last match on the clay courts of Nurnberg, 7-6(5) 6-4. This semi-final will be the first of the women’s semi-finals at not before 5.30pm local time in Sydney.
It’s been difficult to try and make any valid predictions this week for Sydney and once again, i’m feeling fencey. I’m going for Pliskova with the thought that one more match may be a step too far for Angie.
Prediction: Ka.Pliskova d. Kerber in 2 tight sets
2. Tsvetana Pironkova v Petra Kvitova (WTA Sydney, SF)
In a repeat semi-final from last year, Tsvetana Pironkova and Petra Kvitova will play each other on Thursday in Sydney. Pironkova’s love affair with Sydney continued as she defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 6-4 6-1 in the quarter-finals. Pironkova winning Sydney last year was a real storyline and for it to happen again, coming through AGAIN as a qualifier, would be pretty special! Kvitova needed three sets to get past Jarmila Gajdosova, 4-6 6-3 6-4. Gajdosova, who earnt back-to-back top 20 wins over Andrea Petkovic and Dominika Cibulkova, has made a great start to the year. It’s so nice to see Jarka enjoying her tennis again and producing notable wins. In their match from last year, Pironkova snapped a three match losing streak to beat Kvitova, 6-4 6-3. It would come as no surprise to me if Pironkova keeps rolling, but I am going stay true with my original prediction and back Petra to prevail in another three setter.
Prediction: Kvitova d. Pironkova in 3 sets
*Added a new poll after I had put Kerber instead of Kvitova – WordPress can be funny with polls so i’ve added a new one… apologies to those who had already voted, but you can vote again!*