Wimbledon SF #1: (1) Serena Williams vs (4) Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will renew hostilities on Thursday, where a spot in the final at SW19 will be up for grabs. Serena has won the last 16 matches between the pair and will be as determined as ever to inflict further pain on one of her biggest rivals.
Serena Williams’ route the final four has been a challenging one. The five-time former champion’s form has been very up and down, ultimately Serena has shown why she is number 1 in the world. Serena has overcome multiple difficult opponents and tough situations on her way to the semifinals. After a challenging couple of matches, Serena now seems to be in prime position to capture her sixth Wimbledon crown.
Serena came agonisingly close to a third round exit, coming from a double break down in the deciding set to defeat Heather Watson in front of a vocal British crowd. Things didn’t get any easier for Serena, overcoming two of her toughest opponents in the next two rounds, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka. Serena’s performance against a determined Azarenka on Tuesday was particularly encouraging.
Serena cemented her spot in the final four with a 3-6 6-2 6-3 victory over Victoria Azarenka. The match was played at an extraordinarily high level, a level worthy of a Grand Slam final. Azarenka payed stunning tennis in the first set but Serena responded, yet again. Serena reached her unbeatable best, firing 46 winners including 17 aces past the Belarussian to record her third consecutive come from behind victory over the former world number 1.
If Serena produces a similar performance in the semifinals, Maria will be in big trouble. Given Maria’s recent form it’s extremely hard to imagine her competing with Serena anywhere near as well as Vika was able to do. Maria has multiple weaknesses in her game at the moment, weaknesses that Serena will look to exploit.
Maria Sharapova’s passage to the semifinals has been far more straightforward. The world number 4 has had the easiest route to the semifinals out of all the remaining competitors. Maria recorded comfortable straight set victories over Johanna Konta, Richel Hogenkamp, Irina-Camelia Begu and Zarina Diyas in her first four matches before running into some difficulties against Coco Vandeweghe in the quarter-finals.
Maria secured her spot in the final four with a hard fought 6-3 6-7 6-2 victory over Coco Vandeweghe. The first set was quite messy, both ladies struggled to find any rhythm behind their serve, Maria somehow managed to take the lead. The Russian served for the match late in the second set but threw in another sloppy service game, allowing Vandeweghe back into the match, Coco accepted the invitation and leveled the match in a second set tiebreaker.
Maria made a very professional recovery in the third set to get herself out of trouble and set up a semifinal clash with Serena Williams. Although Maria won, there were a number of signs to suggest that she will struggle to compete with Serena on Thursday.
Maria’s serve was all over the place during her quarterfinal victory, at times it seemed like Maria didn’t even know where her serve was going to end up. Furthermore, Maria allowed Vandeweghe to be the more aggressive player, Coco hit 19 winners to Maria’s 5 in the second set. Maria looked vulnerable in the baseline rallies and for large parts of the match couldn’t take advantage of a misfiring Vandeweghe serve. If Maria’s level doesn’t improve significantly, Serena will crush her in this semifinal, yet again.
Serena and Maria have a long and colourful history, on and off the court. Serena Williams holds a dominant 17-2 head to head record over Maria Sharapova. The Russian famously defeated Serena in the 2004 Wimbledon final, backing up that victory with a convincing win at the WTA Finals in the same year. Since then, Serena has absolutely embarrassed Maria, recording 16 consecutive victories, including 12 straight set victories. It’s always a passionate affair when these two go head to head, there is certainly no love lost between this pair who love to hate each other.
Their most recent encounter was in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year. Maria did force a competitive final, however Serena was too solid when it mattered most, recording a 6-3 7-6 victory. Their most recent encounter on grass was far less competitive, Serena obliterated Maria in a 6-0 6-1 demolition job on Centre Court at Wimbledon in the 2012 Olympics final. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a similar scoreline in this semifinal.
Serena will enter this match as the overwhelming favourite, it’s hard to see Maria causing Serena too many problems in this one. Serena seems poised to inflict more misery on Maria, the world number 1 is now in the groove after three tough matches in a row. Serena’s performance against Vika was awesome, she will enter this match full of confidence and as determined as ever to thump Maria.
Prediction: Serena WIlliams to defeat Maria Sharapova in 2 sets