1. Maria Sharapova v Svetlana Kuznetsova (Madrid, SF)
The first of the WTA semi-finals will be an all-Russian affair featuring Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. As to be expected, Kuznetsova’s victory over Lucie Safarova was a pretty painful watch for moi. Huge credit must go to Kuznetsova for the way she has battled through this draw. In the early hours of Thursday, Kuznetsova sealed a 5-7 6-2 7-6(5) win over Sam Stosur. Later in the afternoon, Kuznetsova saved two match points in an epic quarter-final, beating Safarova, 5-7 7-6(5) 7-6(3) in three hours and five minutes. It is worth noting that Kuznetsova also prevailed 7-5 in the third set of her second round match against Garbine Muguruza.
I’ve watched the ends of each sets and overall, it was a pretty gripping contest. After winning three straight games at the end of the first set, Lucie was always ahead in the second set on serve. She eeked out a 0-30 opening on Kuznetsova’s serve towards the end, but became a little passive as the Russian player forced a second set tiebreak. Safarova played some superb tennis to go up 5-2 in the tiebreak. Lucie and tiebreaks haven’t been a match made in heaven this year and that proved to be the case again as Kuznetsova won five straight points, sealing the set on a pretty fabulous return winner.
Safarova was up for most of the third set and stepped up to serve for the match at *5-4. She quickly went down *0-40 including a double fault in there. She rescued those three break points, but really, she gave herself a lot to do. She set up a first match point with a tremendous on-the-run forehand that was crashed down the line. She had a backhand that was there for the hitting on match point, which she did but sent long. The second match point, Kuznetsova carved out another superb return. It wasn’t even a short second serve from Safarova. Kuznetsova broke back and the match flowed into another tiebreak after Lucie secured a pretty emphatic hold to love… why couldn’t you have done that at 5-4, Lucie?! Lucie was up 3-2 in the final set tiebreak but it just wasn’t to be. Kuznetsova was the better player in the crucial moments and an ace to go up 6-3 was the writing on the wall. Chin up, Lucie 🙂
In the first match of the day, Sharapova needed three sets to dispatch Caroline Wozniacki, 6-1 3-6 6-3 in just under two hours. It was the pair’s third consecutive three set match, but the first one Maria had won in three having lost both encounters last year. Sharapova looked to be strolling to the semi-finals, up a set and a break; however Wozniacki won six of the next eight games to force a decider. The Dane went up a break in the decider but Sharapova would not be denied, coming through 6-3 in the decider.
Sharapova has beaten Kuznetsova in their last four match-ups and I really don’t see Sveta having much in the tank, particularly with this match starting at 11am local time… seriously, Madrid schedulers?
Prediction: Sharapova d. Kuznetsova in 2 sets
2. Serena Williams v Petra Kvitova (Madrid, SF)
YAY FOR THE PETRA. I’m sad about Lucie, but delighted to see Petra in the semi-finals and to be able to bring out the smiling Petra pictures. Kvitova defeated Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets, yes straight sets, 7-5 6-3. Kvitova’s route through the draw has been favourable, but I don’t really buy in to all this “easy draw” malarky. It’s got nothing to do with Petra and she’s played who was on the other side of the court and won. By the way, Petra’s winning Wimbledon again this year… I thought i’d just chuck that in there. It will be fun to see another Petra-Serena match although I won’t get to watch it. Madrid loves to schedule the women early and therefore, officially hates me.
I don’t like to say this but Carla Suarez Navarro actually exceeded my expectations by winning four games in her quarter-final with Serena. It’s always going to be a tough match-up for the Spaniard and her lack of intensity doesn’t help her in this one. Serena leads the head-to-head with Petra, 5-0. Their closest match came in Doha in 2013 where Serena won 7-5 in the decider. I’d have to go for Serena, but I really, really, really hope that Petra can give this a real good go. I’d love to see another Petra-Serena match at Wimbledon…
Prediction: S.Williams d. Kvitova in 2 tight sets
Poll results: 56% of readers correctly predicted that Sharapova would beat Wozniacki, 85% correctly predicted that S.Williams would beat Suarez Navarro, 47% correctly predicted that Kuznetsova would beat Safarova and 80% correctly predicted that Kvitova would beat Begu