Wimbledon 2011: Women’s Semifinal Preview
June 30, 2011 · Print This Article
by: Tom Cochrane
For the first time since 1999, the finals weekend at Wimbledon won’t feature at least one of the Williams sisters or Roger Federer. The Swiss master was sensationally bundled out of the tournament in the quarter-finals on Day 9 by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Federer squandering a 2 sets to love lead for the first time in 179 Grand Slam matches.
Day 9 Recap
When Roger Federer comprehensively claimed the second set tiebreaker against Tsonga to take a 2 sets to love lead, it appeared as though the third seed was on track for yet another semi-final at Wimbledon. But the world number 19 had other ideas, and came storming back into the match. After breaking Tsonga in the opening set, Federer was unable to muster another break point against the Frenchman’s formidable serve in the entire match.
For the Frenchman, it was a case of everything going perfectly to plan in the final 3 sets of the match. Booming serves, diving volleys and uncharacteristic one-handed backhand drives all formed part of the highlights package for Tsonga. As the match wore on, Federer’s stronger forehand side began to break down and the Swiss master’s footwork became a little sloppy, but for the most part it was the brilliance of Tsonga’s play, rather than poor play on Federer’s part, that resulted in the upset win for the popular Frenchman. Tsonga managed to steady his nerves in the final moments of the fifth set, closing out the match, 3-6 6-7(3) 6-4 6-4 6-4.
Tsonga will face Novak Djokovic for a spot in Sunday’s final after the Serb accounted for his frequent hitting partner and protégé, 18 year old Bernard Tomic. The young Aussie was far from overwhelmed in the biggest match of his short career, collecting the second set and going up a break in the third set.
Tomic dictated the play in many of the rallies against Djokovic, but the second seed’s greater experience and high-percentage play on the big points eventually resulted in a 4 set victory, 6-2 3-6 6-3 7-5. Still, I expect we will be seeing plenty more of Tomic at the business end of Grand Slams in the years to come.
In the other half of the men’s draw, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal advanced to a semi-final showdown with victories over Feliciano Lopez and Mardy Fish, respectively. Murray looked sharp against the dangerous Lopez, taking control early on in each set and thwarting the power of Lopez’s big serve. Cheered on by a parochial crowd on Centre Court, Murray crunched 40 winners to claim victory in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 6-4.
Murray will need to adopt a similarly aggressive style of game against Nadal, who produced a typically gritty performance to see off Mardy Fish’s valiant charge. Nadal, who admitted after the match that he was forced to take a pain-killing injection to numb the effects of a sore left foot, raced to a 2 sets to love lead as Fish struggled to reproduce his superb serving efforts of previous rounds. The American fought back to claim the third set, but the result was never really in doubt, Nadal wrapping it up in just under 3 hours, 6-3 6-3 5-7 6-4.
Matches of the Day – Day 10
1. Victoria Azarenka vs. Petra Kvitova
Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova have been, along with Caroline Wozniacki, the form players on the WTA Tour in 2011, and I’m expecting this to be a hard-fought and close encounter. Azarenka and Kvitova have split their 4 previous meetings, but Kvitova has won the last 2 of those matches. It seems strange that this match represents Azarenka’s first Grand Slam semi-final, since the Belarusian has been a dangerous player on the WTA Tour for several years. Kvitova, on the other hand, burst onto the scene by making the semi-finals at the All England Club last year, and has since cemented her position in the world’s top 10.
I give a slight edge to Kvitova in this match for a few reasons. Firstly, the surface favours the Czech more than Azarenka. The fourth seed likes the high-bouncing balls that come her way on clay and hard-courts, and she is not as adept as Kvitova as getting down to the low, skidding balls that often come through on grass-courts. Secondly, Kvitova has the better serve and that is a crucial weapon in big matches, especially when things get tight. Left-handed Kvitova has done well off the sliding serve and big forehand combination in the tournament to date, and I think that will be an effective strategy against Azarenka as well.
Finally, although Azarenka has plenty of big-match experience, Kvitova’s experience in making the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year should allow her to stay composed during the match, which is important against a volatile opponent in Azarenka. I think this match will feature plenty of ebbs and flows, as the shot-maker Kvitova gets in and out of the zone. But in a tense third set, I favour the Czech to come up with the goods. Kvitova in 3.
2. Maria Sharapova vs. Sabine Lisicki
Some pundits claim that wildcard Sabine Lisicki has nothing to lose in this match-up and, given that the German had to re-learn how to walk after seriously hurting her ankle, I guess that’s true in a sense. But a spot in a Wimbledon final is up for grabs, and that’s the sort of opportunity that doesn’t present itself every day. To my mind, it’s critical that Lisicki makes a good start to the match. Sharapova demonstrated in her quarter-final annihilation of Dominika Cibulkova that she is a tremendous frontrunner, and Lisicki can’t allow the Russian to get ahead and get her confidence up.
Since hiring Thomas Hogstedt as her coach, Sharapova has made some subtle changes to her game from the back of the court, but the most noticeable difference has been the improvement in her notoriously shaky serve. Against a big server in Lisicki, Sharapova will be focused on getting a high percentage of first serves into play and putting pressure on the Lisicki second serve.
Against Bartoli, Lisicki varied her game to great effect, mixing powerful serves and groundstrokes with some deft drop shots, and I think a similar approach would prove effective against Sharapova. The Russian will want to dictate the rallies from the baseline and, if Lisicki can keep Sharapova off-balance with some well placed drop shots, the German will go a long way towards wresting back control of the rallies. I think this will be a tight match, with the outcome coming down to a few key points, but I expect Sharapova’s experience and superior groundstrokes will give her the edge. Sharapova in 2.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.