Everyone strapped in for this?! Serena Williams and Simona Halep were set to meet in a highly anticipated semi-final match in Indian Wells, but a knee injury forced Serena to withdraw (see match preview HERE). Two weeks on and the prospect of Serena-Simona sits on our doorstep once more. In fact, both semi-finals in Miami are repeats of walkovers in the last month where one player was forced to pull out pre-match due to injury. Halep has had a magnificent two weeks, winning the title in Indian Wells and now reaching the semi-finals in Miami. The Indian Wells-Miami double is one of the toughest feats to achieve in tennis, but Halep is powering through with both momentum and confidence. In her quarter-final match, she defeated Sloane Stephens, 6-1 7-5. She had a little hiccup in the second set, having led by a break, but recovered to prevail in straight sets.
Serena recovered from an almighty second set wobble to defeat Sabine Lisicki in three sets, 7-6(4) 1-6 6-3 in two hours and one minute. Serena saved a set point in the first set and then was the more steady player in the tiebreak; she produced a majestic defensive sliced backhand towards the end of the breaker to effectively seal it. However, it all came tumbling down for Serena in the second set as she hit an avalanche of errors (17 to be precise) to lose six straight games. Serena recovered in the decider and found her intensity again, breaking in Sabine’s first service game and riding it home for her 700th career match win. A word for Lisicki, who really impressed me in this match. She found a nice balance from the baseline, not going for too much, but enough power to unsettle Serena at times. She also changed up the rhythm a few times with some variety which was nice to see. I’m really hopeful Sabine can carry this form into the clay court season.
Serena and Simona last played at the WTA Championships in Singapore at the end of 2014; in two one-sided affairs, Halep stunned Williams with a 6-0 6-2 win in round robin action, but the world number one turned the tables in the final with a 6-3 6-0 win. Both players are having terrific years so far; Halep is on a 14-match winning streak that has seen her win titles in Dubai and Indian Wells, while Williams hasn’t technically lost a WTA match this year. Williams has won all 15 WTA matches that she has played in 2015. Halep comes in with a great deal of confidence although she is likely to be the more fatigued of the pair. Serena didn’t play a clean match against Lisicki, but she has the ability to switch on/off like a lightbulb from match-to-match. The loss in Singapore was a pretty monumental one for Serena and I think she’ll be up for this. I’m fascinated to see the result for this one, and i’d have to take Serena for the win.
Prediction: S.Williams d. Halep in 2 tight sets