Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview

The women's semifinals are now set at the 2015 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 1 of 2 women's semifinals correctly and 1 of 2 men's quarterfinals correctly. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals (blogger ate the post!).

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs Madison Keys (USA) Venus Williams (USA) [18] Petra Kvitova (CZE) [4]. Madison Keys is the breakout teenage female star of this year's Australian Open. The question is, following similar star-making turns by fellow teenagers in 2013 (Sloane Stephens) and 2014 (Eugene Bouchard), whose career path will she follow, the American or the Canadian? Hopefully, it will be the latter's not the former's. Keys impressed me with her mental and physical fortitude to gut out a win against her idol Venus Williams in the quarterfinal, despite repeatedly falling behind a break in the deciding set. This demonstrates why someone like Lindsey Davenport agreed to work with Keys and why her name has been bandied about as a future multiple slam winner for years. However, beating Venus at this stage in her career is one thing, taking out her 18-time major champion sister is quite another. Especially since Serena looks like she has righted the ship and demolished last year's finalist Dominika Cibulkova like it was a first week warm-up match, not a quarterfinal. Serena has won this thing 5 times before, usually in odd years, and has never not won the tournament when she reaches the semifinal. Then there's the extra wrinkle that Keys definitely injured herself in her win over Venus, things do not look well for a teenage finalist. Only seven players have ever defeated both Williams sister at the same tournament, and the people who did it at a major are multiple slam winners: Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Martina Hingis. Does Madison Keys belong on this list? We'll know soon! Mad Professah's pick: Williams in 2 sets.

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [10] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2]. Makarova did well to dismiss a surprisingly uncombative Simona Halep in the quarterfinals, giving up only four games. As other observers have pointed out, the lefty Russian is "sneaky good" and is peaking somewhat late in her career by reaching two consecutive semifinal runs at majors. However no one, perhaps even Makarova herself, believes that she can actually win a major. Maria Sharapova definitely believes she can win any major, and has been playing the best tennis at this one of anyone at the top of the women's game and may be rewarded with the #1 ranking again. She put on a master class against Eugene Bouchard (a.k.a. Sharapova 2.0), making a not-very-subtle statement to the heir apparent that Masha is not ready to leave the big stage and that others need to wait their turn. The question is, is she really ready to finally turn around a decade-long losing streak to Serena Williams in the final? That will definitely indicate mental toughness. Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 2 sets.

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