by: Ben Stevens

Who says tennis is just a game? It’s certainly not for Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

Nearly eighteen years since her last major semifinal the 34-year-old fought her way past Karolina Pliskova to once again reach a final four, in the process giving us the best moment of the tournament. The match won, she fell to the ground, overcome as much with disbelief as pure joy over what had just transpired. Deprived for so long of what her talent had earned her as a teenager, she finally had it back, and in her own words, the win had “made my life”. In Lucic-Baroni is the definition of a warrior, and a perfect example of what makes this sport so great.

This tournament’s place in the all-time most memorable beyond reproach, we’re now officially at the pointy end. Awaiting on Thursday are three semis, read on for a look at what to expect.

(All matches in order of play)

Venus Williams (USA) [13] v Coco Vandeweghe (USA) – Day session (Not before 2:30 pm local)

Two of the surprise packages of the tournament, Venus and Vandeweghe are now set to do battle in a match which will see the harming of more than a few tennis balls. Two of the hardest hitters on tour, expect to see an exhibition of power baseline tennis with all the subtlety of using a sledgehammer as a lockpick. The two have played only once before – a 6-4, 6-3 win for Venus in Rome last year, but Vandeweghe has showed this tournament an improved consistency to go along with her slugging, which should tighten the affair considerably. Mental toughness will be essential as neither woman will go down quietly – well, literally in Venus’ case. Expect this to be one rollercoaster you won’t want to get off.

Serena Williams (USA) [2] v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)

Not through any fault of her own, Serena goes from having widespread support for her own run at history to being the villain of someone else’s fairytale – where like in most such stories, the “hero” faces near-insurmountable odds. With her decapitation of Johanna Konta it’s obvious Serena remains the one to beat, although Lucic-Baroni is her ablest opponent so far, and it’s not like Serena is impervious to downswings either. Equipped with an inside-out forehand that might be the best in the business, Lucic-Baroni will have to make frequent use of it to keep Serena on her toes, speeding up rallies as much as possible, and finding the lines early and often. If Lucic-Baroni brings anything less than her A+ game Serena will dictate as only she can, but with the former’s “nothing to lose” mindset, there’s certainly the possibility of an upset.

Roger Federer (SUI) [17] v Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) [4] – Night session (Not before 7:30 pm local)

The ultimate battle between history and, well… slightly older history, there’s a strong case to be made for both players here. As the current US Open champion, Wawrinka holds the most recent hard court major and has cemented himself as one of the top-4 players in the world, but Federer owns a 21-3 record against his compatriot, with all three losses coming on clay – also, he’s Roger Federer. A big part of why Wawrinka fares so poorly in this matchup is that unlike someone like Novak Djokovic, Federer doesn’t give him the same time to take those massive cuts at the ball that form the basis for his attacking game. Realistically, that leaves two ways Wawrinka can win: either Federer starts slow and never catches up, or by simply playing out of his Vulcan mind.


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