Women’s Wimbledon 2016, Semi-Final Preview: Serena Williams v Elena Vesnina

Vesnina

The world number one, Serena Williams is into her eight consecutive Slam semi-final and 32nd overall. In stark contrast, her semi-final opponent on Thursday is into her first. A hearty congrats to Elena Vesnina!

Vesnina produced a simply stunning display to overwhelm Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2 6-2 out on Court No.1 on Tuesday. Both players had required extra-time finishes on Monday, winning their fourth round matches with a 9-7 third set scoreline. While Vesnina was also out playing doubles on Monday night, Cibulkova’s match against Radwanska was by far the more physical. In fact, Cibulkova even commented in her press conference that she thought it was her toughest ever match. The Slovak player was understandably flat out of the blocks, not moving and hitting with her usual intensity.

Take nothing away from Vesnina who didn’t give Cibulkova an opportunity to gain a foothold in the match. Vesnina played as clean a match you’ll ever likely see her play; the Russian player hit 22 winners to 10 unforced errors, didn’t face one break point and won six out of six points up at the net. There looked to be potential for a change in momentum once Cibulkova got on the board at 1-4 in the second set, saving two break points in the process. Vesnina was taken to deuce in her next service game but dug in to hold. Serving for the match and a place in a first Slam semi-final at *5-2, Vesnina served it out to love!

Serena needed just the one break of serve in each set to overcome Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4 6-4 in the second match on Centre Court. It was actually a spirited effort from Pavs who gave a very respectable account of herself. In both sets, she faltered on serve at *4-4 and that was it! One of the narratives for Pavlyuchenkova’s run to the quarters here has been improved fitness. In my opinion, the Russian player has always been capable of hitting form and it just seemed this was one of those tournaments where everything clicked. I’ll remain wary about whether she can build positively on this tournament but it’s definitely been a good week.

For Serena, the most pleasing aspect of her game in the last three rounds has been the serve. The first serve percentage has jumped up to the high 60’s (at 74% vs. Beck, 69% vs. Pavs) and while she was only winning one-third of points behind the second serve in her quarter-final match, she dropped just four points behind the first serve which was her best percentage of the tournament so far.

Head-to-head record: Serena leads Elena, 4-0 in their head-to-head with all four wins coming in straight sets. The pair haven’t played since Beijing in 2013 where Serena won, 6-4 6-2. The pair have never played before on grass.

Interesting stat (s): There have been some fabulous tennis stories this year and Vesnina’s comeback is definitely one that warrants attention. Vesnina began her year at #115 in the world and was forced to qualify for the Australian Open where she suffered a heartbreaking loss in the first round of qualifying to Lin Zhu, 3-6 6-4 7-9.

Since then, Vesnina has gone from strength-to-strength with quarter-finals in Doha (as a qualifier), finals in Charleston (as a qualifier), quarter-finals in Strasbourg, quarter-finals in Eastbourne and now semi-finals in Wimbledon. Vesnina has posted a 35-12 W-L record this year and is set to leap back into the world’s top 30 in next week’s rankings.

Final thoughts: This will be a tough ask for Vesnina but she will likely be beaming with her achievements at this tournament, no matter how the match unfolds. If she can bring the level she summoned against Cibulkova and the consistency she’s produced on the WTA tour all year then this won’t be a straightforward match for Serena.

The fact this is a first Slam semi-final for Vesnina may have an impact. She handled the situation of her first Slam quarter-final marvellously well and spoke in her post-match interview about trying to relax and enjoy the experience. The semi-finals on Centre though are a huge step up from the quarters. Serena’s serve is starting to find its rhythm and the world number one has won eight of her nine Wimbledon semi-finals, losing her first one against sister, Venus.

Here’s hoping for a competitive semi-final… Give it your best shot, Elena!

Photo in this post by mootennis.com

25 thoughts on “Women’s Wimbledon 2016, Semi-Final Preview: Serena Williams v Elena Vesnina

  1. I dont think Vesnina had to do much today, all she had to do was keep calm and keep the ball in the court, and that was enough to beat a clearly not-there Cibulkova. Kudos to Vesnina for the win but in my opinion the Cibulkova we know wasnt there (understandably)!

    I expect straight sets win for Serena something like 6-4 6-4. I just dont see Vesnina winning this, her match against Makarova was great, she played her best there, I hope she is able to repeat that performance and at least have Serena work hard.

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    • I’d have to agree, straight sets, either two tight or one tight & one more straightforward. I know Cibulkova was flat today (in hindsight it all makes sense – poor prediction from me!) but I think Vesnina played a great match considering she has also played a lot of tennis. The most impressive aspect was that she didn’t let Cibulkova back in, which I kind of expected in the second set.

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      • I agree Vesnina did well to not let Cibulkova back in, if Domi had won 2 games in a row that would have probably brought her back in the match.

        I had to watch most of the matches on ESPN3 in USA, they had the worst commentary from I dont who (all sounding like very old white men), they seem to have very little knowledge of womens tennis and players and playing styles, messed up the draws and names, it was not a good experience to listen to them, everything was either good shot or bad shot with no insight or depth, very very bad commentary. Austin and McEnroe were there in some of the matches to make it bearable.

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  2. I was expecting this too, Cibulkova had basically ‘run out of gas’. Her little engine couldn’t get going. Vesnina is a smart enough player to do just what is needed to keep her at bay, she also has more variety to fall back on if necessary. It will be a headspace encounter with Serena, although I thinks the odds will be in Williams favour. Moreso, if Serena is seeing that finish line clearly.

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  3. I thought that Domi looked weary and heavy legged and was nothing like the player we saw yesterday in a wonderful match which tired her out more than I realised. It is a pity that players are not given more time to recover between matches and I remember Kerber winning a long, tough and marvelous match in three sets against Sharapova here a couple of years ago and then looking totally worn out the following day when losing in 2 sets to Bouchard.
    Vesnina did play well though so credit to her and I am hoping that Serena will have a rare off day and Vesnina will win and then go on to lift the trophy on Saturday but it is unlikely to happen and I think that Serena will win this in 2 sets.

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    • I agree with your point about the tough turnaround for the women between Monday and Tuesday although they are used to playing day in, day out on the tour. It’s unfortunate for Cibulkova but to be honest, she would have struggled to contend with this performance from Vesnina even if she had been better prepared physically. From comments in press, it sounds like the emotional strain of her win over Radwanska was a big factor in coming out flat.

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      • Yes, sport can be mentally tiring as well as being physically tiring. I do think that tennis players play too much tennis though and something should be done to make the schedule less testing especially at Grand Slams. There seems to be too many injuries in this sport as mentioned by Martina Navratilova who blames the swelling injury list on the physical demands of the sport, the competitiveness of the WTA Tour and a packed season.

        Perhaps soccer is not a good comparison ( I have played soccer and not played tennis properly ) but soccer players regularly complain about playing more than one competitive match ( 90 mins ) in one week but tennis players will often play many hours of competitive tennis in a week.

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  4. The comments that Dominika was simply ‘tired’ are a little redundant. Vesnina has played just as much tennis as Cibulkova has, if not even moreso. Her match against Makarova was a long, tight affair and she also played doubles that day too. She’s played 9 singles matches in just over 2 weeks and doubles at Wimbledon AND Eastbourne as well…

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    • Look at the context though Andrew, some match-ups are both physical and emotionally draining, some just physical, some emotional/mental. Cibulkova had both emotional/mental and her game style is also physically demanding.
      Vesnina’s variety of play gives her more ammo to work with, even if she is feeling fatigued, imo. Kind of like when Caroline used to win the tier I tournaments on the daily. Yes, she had stamina but her game style lends itself to that kind of longevity. The roar Cibulkova let out after beating Genie just tells you she was fighting her emotions all the way through. You see how mental fatigue affects players whose main weapons are a great serve etc.

      That aside though, Vesnina played well. I’m thinking Aga may have fared better(not necessarily win) against someone like Vesnina given similar levels of fatigue. Kudos to her nonetheless, you can only really play what is in front of you and that she is exactly what she did.

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      • I’m not denying the Aga win. Though she beat Aga last week. So it’s not exactly Roberta Vinci at the US Open, is it?
        Vesnina on the other hand played her good friend and doubles partner the day before, a woman she’s lost convincingly to every but one of their matches. And then she came back out and played doubles with the same woman, winning in 3 sets (again).

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  5. Oh and unless Vesnina goes on to win Wimbledon Kuznetsova is back in the top ten. I believe I got a lot of sniggers at the end of last year when I said this would happen, so I’m definitely feeling like gloating.

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    • Haha! Yes I saw Sveta back in the top ten potentially. I didn’t see it coming, but pleased tbh, she’s played some cracking tennis this year.

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      • Yeah I’m thrilled for Sveta. She has a lot of opportunity to continue her run of form too. She’s typically had good results in the final third of the year. Obviously she got her first Slam on American hard courts and she made another final there. And Asia has been pretty great for her too.

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      • If Serena fails to make the Final AND Kerber wins the title, Kerber will be No. 1. If Serena does make the final OR if Kerber doesn’t win the title, then Kerber will stay No. 2.

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      • If Kerber wins the title and Serena fails to make the final. She does have more points to defend than Serena though so even if she does overtake her, it’ll probably only be for a few months at the very most and more likely a matter of weeks.

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  6. I think Serena in two. She should give herself a third chance this year to equalize Steffi’s record.

    Btw: I have been really impressed with Pavlyuvchenkova, I have watched the 2nd set against Timi and my heart really warmed for her when I watched her press conference! Seems to have a really nice personality!!! Loved how she was referring to her career as a junior where she was extremely good and how tough it has been since then. I had the feeling she is ready to make a few changes and to really improve her consistency! Would love if she could live up her potential!!
    Plus there was a long article today in a big German newspaper reporting about her new coach – a German – and how he tries to make a better player out of her. He basically changed everything, diet, training sessions, shoes and apparently, she is trusting him!

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  7. Serena has played so unbeleivably well since the tough three setter against McHale, and her serve is clicking at an unreasonable consistency at the moment. Pavs did not play bad by ANY stretch of the imagination, just Serena was that good. However, if Serena has an off day, one where her play dips, Vesnina seems like the player (see Vinci) with enough consistency to beat her. Im going to bet Serena takes the first set 6-2. After that, a Vesnina win would not surprise me.

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  8. Pavs played the best I’ve seen her played. Pavs performance could have best Halep and Kerber. Her serve is great and her movement is wonderful.

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