Wimbledon 2012: A preview of the women’s semi-finals
It is fair to say that the men’s side of the draw grabbed all of the headlines in the first week at Wimbledon: Rafael Nadal’s second round exit was one of the biggest shocks ever seen at SW19. With the Spaniard out of the tournament, Andy Murray’s prospects have become the main focus for British fans.
Yet, whilst the spotlight may be on Murray and his tough opposition, the women’s tournament has gradually come to the fore and is proving to be just as compelling to watch.
The exit of Maria Sharapova to Sabine Lisicki, in a rematch of last year’s semi-final, was a shock to many who had tipped her to win the title. Since then, Serena Williams has been at the top of the list of favourites to win her fifth Wimbledon title.
The four quarter-finals played on Tuesday were all high-quality encounters. Williams and Victoria Azarenka both proved their Grand Slam pedigree against difficult opponents; Petra Kvitová, rather surprisingly, did not provide a great challenge for Williams. Agnieszka Radwańska also came through a drawn-out tie against Maria Kirilenko, but it was Angelique Kerber’s victory over Lisicki that was the most gruelling quarter-final contest.
Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka
This is the only top-ten clash of the women’s semi-finals, as the world number six Serena Williams plays against Victoria Azarenka, the current world number two. The grunting match will be in full voice but that will not detract from what should be a high-quality tennis display.
Williams will be the bookies’ favourite when they take to the court, with their Grand Slam head-to-head standing at five games to none in the American’s favour. It has been an amazing turnaround for the four-time champion. It was little more than a month ago when she was defeated in the first round at the French Open, and now she is fighting for her fifth Wimbledon title. The American has gained in stature as the tournament has progressed and, like a true champion, she is coming into form at just the right time.
Strengths: Fighting spirit, powerful groundstrokes and a dominant serve.
Victoria Azarenka knows that the task ahead is one of the toughest. She has been playing some superb tennis at Wimbledon this year and will need to keep playing at this level if she is to beat Williams on Thursday. She will not be afraid of her opponent’s powerful game: Azarenka has a big-hitting game of her own. Her performance against Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open this year was dominant. Still, Azarenka will have to wait for her chance to shine against Williams.
Strengths: Focus, two-handed backhand and a high-tempo game.
Who will make the final?
This match should be a closely fought encounter, but Serena Williams is the strong favourite to win. She will be confident with such a strong head-to-head record against Azarenka, although the world number two will know that Williams can falter and she should capitalise if this is the case. If both players are at their best, Williams should take victory.
Agnieszka Radwańska vs Angelique Kerber
This tie is certainly the more evenly matched: they have played each other four times and both have won twice. Perhaps it is more significant that Kerber was the victor when they met at the US Open last year – their only Grand Slam encounter to date.
Radwańska, who has risen to the number three ranking this year, is the more experienced opponent, having previously reached two Wimbledon quarter-finals. She has had a superb 2012, winning 39 matches already, and will be confident that she can reach a total of 40 on Thursday. She played a difficult quarter-final against Maria Kirilenko, in a match that began on Court One at 2pm and finished under the Centre Court roof almost eight hours later.
Strengths: Variety, slice shot and court coverage.
2012 is Angelique Kerber’s best performance at the Wimbledon championships, having previously never passed the third round. However, she does not shy away from the spotlight. She was a semi-finalist at the US Open, beating Radwańska on the way, before being knocked out by the eventual champion, Sam Stosur. On Tuesday, her quarter-final against Sabina Lisicki was her first time on Centre Court, but it was the composure of the German number one that proved vital.
Strengths: Backhand, consistency and movement.
Who will make the final?
A harder match to predict, but it should entertain the Centre Court crowd. Kerber has shown that she is ready for the big stage and will be buoyant after beating her German compatriot Lisicki. Radwańska has been the most consistent player this year but may not have the overall game to beat Kerber. Nevertheless, this match will be intriguing from start to finish.