1. Angelique Kerber v Sabine Lisicki (Birmingham, SF)
Yay for Angie-Sabine! This was the semi-final I wanted to see from the bottom half and oh my goodness, it actually happened! Sabine has won all three of her matches in straight sets. Against Belinda Bencic in the second round, she hit a record breaking 27 aces. Poor Belinda tried her best to return that serve! In the third round, Lisicki was mentally a tad stronger than Magdalena Rybarikova, edging a very tight first set and then clung on to her break in the second set to seal a 7-6(7) 6-4 win. In a similar scoreline, Lisicki won her quarter-final match against Daniela Hantuchova, 7-6(2) 6-2 in a repeat of the 2011 final from Birmingham.
Kerber has been tested this week, but came through in flying colours. Her first match against Tsvetana Pironkova was a superb encounter. Kerber won, 6-4 2-6 6-4. Pironkova played an excellent second set, dragging Kerber from side-to-side and converting with a plethora of down-the-line winners. Pironkova started the third set with the same intent, but Kerber stepped up her game in a positive game and drew errors from the Bulgarian player. Kerber was second best early on in her third round match against Jelena Jankovic, saving multiple break points to stay on serve. After a chat with her brother at one of the changeovers, Jelena promptly collapsed (never change, Jelena) and Kerber didn’t let up, prevailing, 6-4 6-2. In the quarters, Kerber defeated another gutsy effort from Katerina Siniakova, 6-2 6-4.
Kerber and Lisicki have played each other on five previous occasions with Kerber winning all five matches! Two of their previous clashes were on grass; Kerber won in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2008, 6-7(7) 6-1 6-2 and at Wimbledon in 2012, 6-3 6-7(9) 7-5; the latter, a quarter-final on Centre Court, was an awesome match that I still remember watching vividly. Both Kerber and Lisicki are ones to watch at Wimby and i’m not surprised to see either in the semis of Birmingham. Lisicki can take it up another level like few other players. Kerber’s tough though…
Prediction: Kerber d. Lisicki in 3 sets
2. Karolina Pliskova v Kristina Mladenovic (Birmingham, SF)
A big serving clash is all set in Birmingham for the first of the semi-finals at 12pm local time with Kristina Mladenovic taking on Karolina Pliskova. Mladenovic enjoyed her second win over Simona Halep with a terrific 2-6 6-0 7-6(4) victory. Mladenovic failed to serve out the match in the third set but came back to win it in the tiebreak. Mladenovic’s results have been steadily improving and she has the game to cause the top players problems on this surface. Equally, Pliskova seems to be finding her feet on the grass as she dispatched Carla Suarez Navarro in straight sets, 6-2 6-2. Carla had won their last two matches in straight sets, but on a different surface and with Pliskova much fresher, this match had a different outcome. In their only previous match, Mladenovic defeated Pliskova in Moscow, 6-3 7-5. I’m edging towards Pliskova in this one as she has much more experience at this level, is more consistent and little more stable in closing out matches. I’m delighted to see Mladenovic performing well though because she seems a really warm personality, but backing up her win over Halep will be a tough ask.
Prediction: Pliskova d. Mladenovic in 2 tight sets
Poll Results: 47% of readers correctly predicted that Pliskova would beat Suarez Navarro, 32% correctly predicted that Mladenovic would beat Halep, 86% correctly predicted that Kerber would beat Siniakova and 87% correctly predicted that Lisicki would beat Hantuchova.