Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2017 AUS OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview

The women's semifinals are now set at the 2017 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. This year I was unable to predict the quarterfinals due to my vacation travel but I am excited to predict the semifinals.

 Angelique Kerber (GER) [1] Coco Vandeweghe (USA) vs Venus Williams (USA) [13]. This is a surprising (and rare) all-American major semifinal. Unsurprisingly at least one of the players is a Williams, but the real surprise is that the other American is Coco Vandweghe, who joins Venus and Serena and Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys as the only American women to reach this far into a Grand Slam draw in the last decade. Vandeweghe is coasting on a tsunami of confidence sourced by her demolition of two of the top players in the game who are both reigning Grand Slam champions. The 25-year-old Coco blasted the World #1 Angie Kerber off the court 6-2 6-3 to reach her 2nd career major quarterfinal and then followed up that huge victory by only losing four games (including a rare second set bagel) in defeating 2016 French open champion Garbine Muguruza to reach her first major semifinal. She will face Venus Williams who is in her first major semifinal in Melbourne since 2003, when she made the final and lost to her sister. Could she possibly replicate this feat 14 years later? Just by reaching the semifinal at 36 years 221 days Venus is the oldest woman to reach a major final since Martina Navratilova was 38 days older when she reached the Wimbledon final in 1993. Somewhat unusually, the two Americans have only played each other once on the WTA tour, on clay last year and Venus won in straight sets. This Coco is a very different player from that player. However, Venus has been doing a pretty good job in recent years in generally beating players ranked lower than she is, and while Vandeweghe has won 6 of the last matches against Top 10 players she has faced, Venus is no longer in the Top 10. I think the fact that many people now expect Vandeweghe to win will complicate things for her. Mad Professah's pick: Venus in 3 sets.

 Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [5] Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) vs Serena Williams (USA) [2]. Karolina Pliskova had doled out three bagel sets on the way to reaching only her second major quarterfinal but she ran into a player whose story is absolutely irresistible. Lucic-Baroni is playing in her second major semifinal which is happening an astonishing 18 years after her first. As Mirjana Lucic she was a teenage phenom, and now at age 34 as Mirjana Lucic-Baroni she is a seasoned veteran who is renowned for her longevity and perseverance with the sport. Lucic is one of the original purveyors of "Big Babe Tennis" and even among the modern game's big hitters she has power which distinguishes her from the rest. She exploited Pliskova's lack of mobility to outlast the 2016 US Open finalist in three tight sets. The book on Lucic-Baroni is that she can go off mentally in high pressure situations but that it did not happen in her biggest match in nearly two decades is remarkable. Amazingly, Serena and Mirjana have only played each other once before--at the 1998 Wimbledon (won by Serena). Since both of them are 34 years old now they both understand the significance of this moment. I am confident that it will be the mentally tougher player who will reach the final. Mad Professah's pick: Serena in 2 sets.

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