Thoughts about the Madrid semi-finals: Sharapova v Kuznetsova, S.Williams v Kvitova

1.  Maria Sharapova v Svetlana Kuznetsova (Madrid, SF)

Svetlana KuznetsovaThe 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)

KvitovaYAY 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

Photo in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

35 thoughts on “Thoughts about the Madrid semi-finals: Sharapova v Kuznetsova, S.Williams v Kvitova

  1. If Kuznetsova can get herself going without exerting herself too much, which she did SO spectacularly against Safarova in the second and third sets, she could make this verrry tight and possibly win. She commented post match that she refused to let being tired ruin her chances at making the semi finals here. She’ll probably never have another chance at a Mandatory final so I think she’ll will herself into this.
    Tactically she needs to play the same as she did today. Keep pushing and forcing Sharapova to over hit. She won’t engage in as many rallies as Safarova did so Sveta will need to work hard to keep balls in play, but she can do that when she’s in the zone.

    I see Serena vs Petra being business as usual for Williams. She was tested enough today to keep her sharp. I got the impression she was intentionally only playing 50% against CSN knowing that a) thats all she needed to give and b) she needed to conserve energy for the next two rounds.

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    • Recovering from that match against Safarova andddd playing Sharapova, I think will be a step too far for Kuznetsova. I’ll be very surprised if she wins a set. Kuznetsova will definitely be one to circle in the RG draw.

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      • I do think Sharapova will win myself, but I’d like to have faith that Kuznetsova can pull off a big upset once again as she has so many times before!

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      • You were right to have faith, Andrew! I thought Kuznetsova had withdrawn because the live scores aren’t working (grrr). Does Kuznetsova look tired? Sounds like she is in the zone.

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  2. The way Sharapova keeps grinding out these 3 set wins really is a testament to her mental fortitude! I dont like Sharapova, I find her to be incredibly snooty and off putting, but I must give credit where it is due: Maria’s mental toughness is only second to Serena’s. I really do hope she loses tomorrow though, and if she doesnt, I hope she is dished some bakery products (as James likes to call it) by Serena.
    P.S I dont see Petra winning tomorrow, Serena has looked incredibly sharp this week (the match against Vika being an exception), and will probably out-move Petra. I do hope its a 3 set affair though, and would be absolutely delighted if Petra managed to carve out the win *wishful thinking*.

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  3. I loved the way the ‘new born Sveta’ has played this tournament,I have often said at times she was a ‘headcase’:) I have admired the way she has saved soo many MPs against her in this tournament.Sveta and Maria have played each other many times,Maria leads their h2h,so they know each others games well,my heart says Sveta,my head says Maria.

    Clay has never been Petra’s best surface,though she has surprised me in this tournament so far,she is up against Serena who has looked sharped.even her ‘houdini escape’ in her match against Azarenka:).Serena to win.

    James good news that the AO doubles champions defeated the No 1 seeds Hingis/Mirza,you do have something to smile about:)

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    • Yes, Margaret! Some good news for Lucie. By the way, loved your story on a previous post about Lucie and would be great to see that picture 🙂

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    • In fairness to Sveta, she’s usually pretty tough to beat on clay. She came pretty close to beating Serena at the French in 2013 when she was untouchable. If she’d have won that match, she may well have gone on to lift the trophy!

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    • But, but, I do like the Hingis/ Mirza although I know Mirza isn’t the greatest on clay. They’ve been a refreshing pair this year. Anyway, had Lucie come through, Sharapova would have beaten her.

      I will be more than happy for Svetlana to play herself into form this tournament. With Ivanovic and Bouchard all playing poorly she will be a welcome addition to the prospects come the French Open. I want her to do well but I just can’t trust Svetlana my life.

      My vote would have been for Petra being in with a chance against Serena, but given that Serena came back from staring into the abyss against Victoria, she may get into that place of hers where she feels this is her tournament. That ‘ eye of the tiger’ stance which makes her hard to shake off.

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      • Maria needs to win to regain her number 2 spot back. If Serena does well at Garros and Wimbledon, she will remain number 1. I hope Serena wins this title. Can they put Vika in Halep or Petra quarter? We need a Vika Halep match.

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  4. Very big kuzzy fan so happy to see her through … though like you James I’m also a Safarova lover… sharapova & safarova is one of my favourite rivalries, especially on clay! – Shame! Madrid scheduling is a farce. So many things have been wrong about Madrid this week, advertising boards, lighting, scheduling but some how it has managed to be my favourite torny of the year so far! Annoying!!! Hoping for something competitive tomorrow. Snore bore petra.

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    • I couldn’t agree more, Tanya. It’s been a fantastic week of tennis, one of the best of the year, but i’m kind of disappointed it’s all come in Madrid. This tournament really bugs with me with their scheduling and general lack of respect towards the WTA. Looking forward to Rome next week…

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      • I think they have a lack of respect to anybody in general really, aside from Spanish players.

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  5. Well even I have become a fan of Lucie now, never shows despair , ever smiling and graceful in conduct.
    Coming to today’s doubleheaders I don’t think any of those will go to three setters unless Serena is drowsed again like happened with Vika’s match. Sveta can give a tough fight but then for how long ;will be a a big question.
    Serena vs Maria seems to me.

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  6. Oh gosh I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled to see a player win a match. She really was sublime today and she did exactly what I said she should do LOL. She forced Maria to go for broke and the errors just began to fly and her confidence fell to pieces.

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    • I must admit I am really stunned at this result but v. happy for Kuznetsova. Who would have imagined this after she lost to Shuai Zhang in the first round of Prague last week?!

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      • Well Sveta herself has said that its the small events she’s struggling to get her levels up for. She’s a big match player who lives for these kind of crushing defeats of players she has no right beating, based on ranking.

        Whats more I think that I’d fancy her chances of winning the title if Kvitova comes through. And I’d say she has a better chance at Serena than Sharapova ever did.

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    • Am so happy too…Maria could never have won the second set ; her confidence was shattered like anything….What a victory….a crushing defeat

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  7. Serena didn’t see this defeat coming, therefore no injury announcement before the match. It’s her only way to falsely maintain that undefeated aura. She should have lost to Halep in IW also if she would have been brave enough to play. 🙂

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    • Well obviously you didn’t see Serena against halep at miami where Serena came out and crushed her in that first set to remove any doubters. Carry on Serena haters, continue to grab onto Serenas rare loses

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      • Serena barely won in Miami upon an exhausted Halep. That was devious planning, nothing more. It could have gone both ways, it was about 2 points or so. I repeat, Halep had the half of her tank empty by then. 🙂

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  8. What an odd match from Serena. Credit to Petra for an outstanding display of not only fantastic serving and attacking but also on the returning and defense. But Serena made zero attempt at firing herself up, did she?! I’ve never seen her so switched off in such an important match before… I think its times like this when she should use on court coaching.

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    • You’re so right Andrew! Really didn’t see this one coming but it reminded me of the Australian Open match between Halep and Makarova. Simply no fire power from Serena, like she was disconnected almost completely. Glad to see Petra winning, it intensifies the battle for the 2nd spot, being so close to Sharapova’s position, particularly if she goes ahead and wins Madrid.

      In regards to Kuznetsova’s win, I’m in the 16.67% that polled for her, on a whim.

      Rome looks sooo interesting now and can’t wait for RG.

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    • Okay I agree with most of what you said but Serena using on court coaching, I really don’t think so. There are certain old style ways that you should keep and to Me this on court coaching is fooliSHNESS. Work it out yourself.

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      • Oh I agree. But clearly on times like these when she cant pump herself up she should let Patrick come on and give her a kick up the backside like EVERY other player does.

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  9. Last month, I did say that the usual heavy hitters are not playing that great this season on clay. The others Garcia, Wozniacki, Halep, Kerber et al should just rest themselves and mentally focus for whats up ahead. It could be very interesting. It’s really anyone’s to fight for.

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  10. I think after this loss, Serena might be extra charged for Roland Garros. If Serena loses Rome too, I will pick her as RG champion.

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    • I agree. I think a loss like this will reduce some pressure but give her a reality check that she still needs to put the work in

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