While the first of the 2015 Wimbledon semi-finals was expected, the second one, which will feature Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza is more unexpected. Radwanska has had a poor year by her standards; before the grass court season started, her best results were a quarter-final appearance in Doha and a semi-final showing in Katowice. The former world number two picked up her form significantly during the grass warm-up tournaments, reaching the semi-finals in Nottingham and the final in Eastbourne. However, both those tournaments ended with third set bagel losses that felt a little like one step forward and two steps back.
Prior to this Wimbledon, Muguruza had only ever won one main draw match before at Wimbledon. On the BBC coverage, they mentioned that Muguruza had previously called the grass “weird”. Away from the Slams, Muguruza has been disappointing this year, posting a 12-10 W-L record and winning back-to-back matches at just 2 out of her 10 WTA tournaments. However, Muguruza’s best results have come on the big stage, reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, the quarter-finals of the French Open and now the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Sam Smith in the commentary said that Garbine apparently had a practice session with Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon where something suddenly clicked on the grass. There were definitely no signs of this at Birmingham and Eastbourne where the Spaniard suffered losses to Magdalena Rybarikova and Johanna Konta.
On quarter-finals days, Radwanska overcame Madison Keys in three sets, 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3. It was a very scrappy start, particularly from Keys who was hitting balls into the net for fun. The American player settled though and it turned into a really decent match. Keys saved three set points at *5-6 in the first set to force a tiebreak where Radwanska’s consistency and ability to get one more ball back in court paid dividends. Keys played her best tennis of the entire tournament to win the second set and force a decider. She maintained her pressure on serve and finally grabbed an opportunity on the return, breaking through a lucky net cord.
The third set was really entertaining; Keys got to deuce on Radwanska’s service game at 3-3 but could not carve out a break point. In the next game, Madison had a shocker with a horrible leave and then a double fault. A forehand into the net saw Radwanska break and she then served out the match to progress into her third Wimbledon semi-final. This was Keys’s best performance of the week and she was close in that final set. One poor game and too many errors at the end cost her. The stats were as you would expect; Radwanska hit 13 winners to 7 unforced errors while Keys maintained a similar ratio but much higher in both categories with 48 winners to 40 unforced errors. Radwanska has had an excellent tournament and the matches on grass in Nottingham and Eastbourne definitely seemed to have gone in her favour. She will move back into the world’s top ten when next week’s rankings are published.
In the first quarter-final on No.1 Court, Garbine Muguruza edged Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets, 7-5 6-3 to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final. Bacsinszky started with real intent, taking chances on Muguruza’s second serve and showing off some of the variety that has seen her wreak havoc on the tour this year. The Swiss player probably just edged it in the first set. Both players dug out of *0-30 holds on multiple occasions but it was the Spaniard who looked the more stable. Bacsinszky was a little passive when she got some openings and she played a tight game at *5-6 as her forehand started to spray. Muguruza took the first set, 7-5.
After an exchange of breaks, the second set had that inevitable feeling. While Bacsinszky never stopped fighting, she looked more flustered and surprisingly, the more erratic of the two. Muguruza continued to impress as she won the crucial points and continued to get up to the net to close points, a very effective tactic on grass (14/22 net points won). Muguruza broke with a crashing winner and then served out the match without any problems.
Radwanska and Muguruza are tied at 2-2 in their head-to-head. Radwanska won their first two matches comfortably in straight sets (6-3 6-2 and 6-1 6-3) and Muguruza has found answers in their last two matches, winning 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 in Sydney and 6-4 6-2 in Dubai earlier this year. It’s worth noting that all four matches were on hard courts. I struggled greatly picking winners for the quarter-finals but surprisingly, I feel very decisive about making a pick in this one.
I have been so impressed with Muguruza this week, particualrly how well she has played the big points in all of her matches. Against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni she saved a break point at *2-2 in the third set before not losing another game. Against Angelique Kerber, she saved nine set points in the first set, most of them winners on the line. She has been clutch in the big moments and looked the stronger player in her last three matches against higher ranked opposition.
Muguruza’s match against Kerber was stunning and it’s been so impressive how she has continued to back up that win. She’s been playing effective grass court tennis and kept a rein in on her unforced error count. Radwanska poses obvious threats with her defence and court craft, and on her favourite surface. She also faces a similar match-up to the one against Keys. However, I would say that Muguruza has been surprisingly solid while still dominating with her power and she also faces a similar match-up to her recent matches. I think it’s Muguruza’s time to shine…
Prediction: Muguruza d. Radwanska in 3 sets