WTA Birmingham, Semi-Final Previews: Kerber v Lisicki, Pliskova v Mladenovic

1. Angelique Kerber v Sabine Lisicki (Birmingham, SF)

LisickiYay 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)

PliskovaA 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.

29 thoughts on “WTA Birmingham, Semi-Final Previews: Kerber v Lisicki, Pliskova v Mladenovic

  1. I picked Sabine to win this tournament from the start:) she has played well to make the s/final,recording WTA history with 27 aces against Bencic.Sabine has never defeated Angie,though I feel if she can keep that serve on song and keep the points short she can finally get a win:)

    Delighted with Pliskova’s form so far and she is my pick to win in a closely fought match.

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  2. My money is with Kerber and Pliskova not at the start of the match but when they are a break down or more possibly a set down.Both matches have the potential to be three setters.I hope Lisicki plays erractically after winning first set as she often does and Pliskova loses her first set like she did many a times earlier this season specially in Prague.Happy trading and Hunting

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  3. The Hantuchova match was the first I’ve watched of Lisicki this week and I barely recognised her, to be honest. She seemed so stern and focused and there was almost none of the usual joyful mischief in her eyes which is both a gift to her game, giving her spells of inspired, unplayable tennis, but also hinders her, as she gets carried away with her own cleverness and plays the wrong shots. I wasn’t really impressed with her, if I’m honest. Kerber is unlikely to give her the free points that Daniella did.

    I also think Mladenovic is really going to struggle to back her Halep win up. That’s been a big story of her career so far and I just don’t think she’s quite used to playing at this level on her own (in singles) to be mentally tough enough. But Pliskova could throw in a real stinker and hand her the win… I just don’t think she will on this occasion.

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    • IMO, her game has seemingly retrogressed. Not sure why, but even after some of her bitter defeats, she never did anything to really improve or change her approach. I feel she will end up being one of the mosi underachieved girls on tour if things don’t go her way soon. A massive serve is just that, a massive serve. You need more than that.

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      • With Lisicki? I think it’s her mentality that’s the real problem and always has been. She’s brought coaches on to change things up for her but she’s just a mess at the end of the day.
        I thought Hantuchova actually looked better in that first set today up until the tiebreaker.

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      • Sabine is out their in 5th heaven(is that the term?). Maybe its the color green which sparkles her game. In any casehe’s out of control lol. Funny stuff that. Although she did dig really deep in Indian Wells where she usually doesn’t excel. Thats the only time I’ve seen Sabine win by being sobre lol.
        Angie’s not going to like it one bit and she’ll do all she can just to avoid having to watch another Sabine episode in person. Don’t think Sabine will get away with it here. She should be more sobre on the important points-maybe that’ll do the trick but then the grass won’t be green anymore 😦

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  4. Thanks moo!!
    Very excited. We’ve just arrived in Birmingham ready for tomorrow & Sunday! As you know I’m a massive Sabine fan, so I’m super excited! Only managed to watch the very end of her aegon exit two years ago to Alison Rosie.
    It’s going to be an absolute treat.
    Let’s go Sabine, let’s go!!!!

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  5. Kiki to make the final. Angie and Sabine are my biases and I will be happy whoever wins and the winner of this German semifinal, I predict will go on to win the title! Prediction-wise I will pick Angie, so it’s Kiki v Angie! Staying positive that Kiki can trouble Kaja, she has her brother in her box, he has been a huge source of motivation and encouragement from what I’ve seen and she should just serve aces and hold her service games and find a way to break! Like Charleston few months back, it’s a very similar semifinal clash for Angie, playing a fellow German (played Petko in the Charleston semis and went on to win the title!) #TeamAngie #TeamLisicki #TeamMladenovic

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    • Kerbed is an aggressive baseliner. Her weight of shot is wayyy heavier than a regular counter puncher. The one thing she needs to watch is throwing in too many angles as she did with Pironkova. She needs to put the ball up the centre and deep and force Lisicki to overhit.

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      • Kerber is an aggressive pusher. She doesn’t hit as hard as other pusher but her consistency is better than them therefore she manages to win a few more matches. I think at least Halep hits harder than her.

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      • Halep doesn’t hit as hard or as flat. And she doesn’t have the lefty advantage either. Both are great at changing the direction of any ball and opening up the angles of a court. But that’s not always a good move. Give a player like Lisicki or Ivanovic or Williams an angle and they’ll blast a winner off it.
        If it weren’t for Kerbers second serve, she’d probably have won a Slam by now.

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  6. I think you can’t write of Kristina Mladenovic against Karolina Pliskova especially when she’s leading head to head 1-0. After her thrilling win over top seed Simona Halep , she will be fired up and I think now is the time to step it up and not go out after a big win.

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    • I agree with you. I think it won’t settle in two sets. It is tight and Kiki has a chance here expecially if she starts to play drop shots and slides. It will difficult for Pliskova. Both players deserve to be in the final.

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  7. Kiki had played in grand slam final and reach her final in Strasbourg this year. I disagree that she doesn’t have the experience at this level. I like Karo and on paper she has a better chance to win but Kiki has no problem playing with power hitter(s) except Serena. If Karo’s serve is not good today, Kiki will take the match. I expert Karo will force her to play at baseline like she did to CSN. Also, Kiki has beaten several seeded players before this semi final, I believe she can back it up if she wants too.

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  8. Yay it’s a fourth final for Pliskova, now leading the way on tour for most finals.
    She’s playing practically perfect on grass. Lisicki and Kerber both better watch out

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  9. Well done to Pliskova if she wins the final against Kerber she will make it into the Top Ten,also win her first Premier title of the WTA.

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  10. Kiki’s games were affected by the rain. She just couldn’t move very well on the slippery surface. Anyway, Karo played extremely well with her serves. She should win over the pusher in the final.

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    • She has a name! I don’t agree with pusher. Kerber has gone through matches where she has been too defensive but there’s definitely been more intent to be aggressive this year. Not everyone is going to go out there and smash the living daylights out of the ball. Kerber can hit plenty of winners though. Personally I love watching her play but each to their own.

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  11. Kerber and Pliskova have a h2h 2 all,Pliksova defeated Kerber at Sydney this year on a HC.This is their first meeting on grass.Both player’s deserve to be in the final,hoping the rain stays away.I am picking Pliskova in a closely contested final,good luck to both players.

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    • Sorry for no preview but i’m all focussed on Eastbourne right now! I’m actually going for Kerber in 3. I think it will be a great final. Angie has had some success in finals this year and I just really like her game for the grass.

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      • Yeah if it weren’t for Kerber’s two clay titles this year, I’d be going for Pliskova in straight sets. Because Angie had a really terrible record in finals before this spring!
        I’m unsure of where to go now. I haven’t watched Kerber this week, but heard she made just seven unforced errors against Lisicki which is pretty incredible. I really want to see Karolina push through and win a bigger title though. She could be a legitimate contender at Wimbledon should she win today, whereas I’m not sure Angie will ever win a Slam.

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