Auckland SF: (3) Caroline Wozniacki vs (5) Sloane Stephens
A blockbuster semi-final clash at the ASB Classic in Auckland sees 2015 finalist Caroline Wozniacki come up against American Sloane Stephens. Wozniacki has dominated Stephens in the past, winning all 5 previous encounters between the pair, Sloane will be desperate to make a mends for those losses on Friday evening by claiming a valuable victory.
Caroline Wozniacki has stormed through the draw to reach the semi-final stage in Auckland, dropping just three games in her last two matches. Wozniacki made a slow start in her opening round match where she found herself down 0-4 to Danka Kovinic, since then the Dane has barely been troubled. Wozniacki recorded a 6-4 6-4 win over Kovinic before crushing Christina McHale 6-0 6-2 in the second round.
Wozniacki found things even easier in her quarter-final clash, producing a very clean performance to record a dominant 6-1 6-0 victory over Alexandra Dulgheru. Wozniacki has seemingly looked to be more aggressive this week, particularly in her quarter-final clash where her forehand was unusually effective. It will be interesting to see if the Dane maintains an aggressive mindset in her semi-final clash with Sloane.
This is an important year for Sloane Stephens, I doubt the American can afford to have another mediocre year. Sloane has made a reasonable start to 2016 in Auckland, claiming reasonably comfortable victories over opponents that she should be beating. Sloane started the week with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Polona Hercog before coming from a set down to defeat Carina Witthoeft 3-6 6-1 6-3. The American advanced to the semi-final stage courtesy of a gutsy 7-6 6-3 victory over an in form Naomi Broady. Sloane faced multiple set points in a tight opening set but managed to keep her cool before running away with the match in the second.
Wozniacki has a wonderful record over the American, winning all 5 meetings between the pair, all in straight sets. The three most recent encounters between the pair have been particularly one-sided. The Dane has dropped just 11 games in their last 3 matches, thumping Stephens 6-0 6-1 in Miami and 6-3 6-3 at Eastbourne in their most recent clashes both in 2014.
On paper this looks like a really tough match-up for Sloane given the head-to-head record, however I believe Sloane is much more capable than the previous record suggests. The two actually have very similar games, both are wonderful movers and very solid form the baseline with decent serves. Clearly Wozniacki is much more consistent, but I believe Sloane is capable of playing tennis that can compete with Wozniacki. Sloane will see this match as a wonderful opportunity to measure how much she has improved, I think she will be much more competitive here and can actually cause an upset, all the pressure will be on Wozniacki.