Thursday, June 30, 2011

WIMBLEDON 2011: Women's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's semifinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2011. I predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. Last year I predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals correctly.

Maria Sharapova RUS (5) vs Sabine Lisicki GER . Sharapova appears to be returning to the form that has led her to win 3 major tournaments (2008 Australian Open, 2006 US Open and 2004 Wimbledon) so far after surgery in 2009 really deteriorated her game. Lisicki is a wild card has put on two amazing performances on Wimbledon Centre Court this year, dismissing 2011 French Open champion Li Na in the 3rd round and eliminating 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli in the quarterfinals. With both Williams sisters gone from the tournament (this was Serena's half) this is the most wide open Wimbledon in over a decade. If  you start to match up the two player's games Lisicki has the better serve, while Sharapova has the better return.
Sharapova has the better second serve, or at least she goes for more, but this also makes it less reliable. Sharapova has 19 aces but also 19 double faults over 5 matches so far. Lisicki has 44 aces and only 13 double faults. Sharapova has a total of 126 winners while Liscki has 157, including an incredible 52 winners in the round before in her 3-set win over Bartoli. Lisicki is probably the better mover but Sharapova is faster than she appears and can do more with the ball when she gets there. Analyzing their groundstrokes you have to give a big advantage to Sharapova, especially on the backhand side, with the forehand side being a bit closer. On grass you have to give the edge to the better server (Lisicki) but all the intangibles (been in this position before, mental toughness) go to Sharapova.I would be delighted if Lisicki wins, but I think it's more likely she will falter than Sharapova will. I was very surprised that Lisicki had to play a 3rd set against Bartoli, after having 3 match points in the second set, but she shook that off to win 6-1. If she gives that opportunity to Sharapova to come back, the Russian will reach her 2nd Wimbledon final. PREDICTION: Who I think will win: Sharapova, Who I want to win: Lisicki.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (4) vs. Petra Kvitova CZE (8). This should be the more interesting match of the two because the higher ranked player is the one with the less experience being in the semifinals of Wimbledon. However, I'm sure in her own mind Azarenka feels like she should have won a major already. Azarenka is like a young Novak Djokovic in that early in his career the Serbian retired in a number of important matches and Azarenka is (in)famous for her withdrawals from multiple matches, especially this year.

They are both incredibly talented players and you totally expect them to win multiple majors. Djokovic has met (and possibly even exceeded) expectations but Azarenka is still waiting for her big breakthrough. If you look at each of the semifinalists' records to this point Azarenka has only had 10 aces to 9 double faults in 5 rounds. Kvitova has had 26 aces to 11 double faults. Interestingly, when you match up their games you see that Kvitova has the better serve and the better ground strokes. Azarenka is by far the better mover and I think the intangibles are pretty even. Kvitova disappointed me when she lost a 2nd set tie-break to Tsevetana "Venus-killer" Pironkova with some bad misses on attempted winners. Then again, like Lisicki, she won the deciding set pretty easily. This second match should be closer than the first semifinal with Kvitova, another left-handed female player born in Czechoslovakia like the great Martina Navratiilova, reaching her first (but probably not her last) Wimbledon final. PREDICTION: Who I think will win: Kvitova, Who I want to win: Kvitova.

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