Sydney SF #1: (1) Simona Halep vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Thursday’s first semi-final of the day at the Apia International in Sydney sees the top seeded Simona Halep come up against a resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova. Simona Halep’s injury interrupted Australian Open preparation seems to finally be back on track. The Romanian looked much stronger in her quarter-final victory over Karolina Pliskova but will face a much more physical test on Thursday when she comes up against a determined Svetlana Kuznetsova on the Ken Rosewall Arena.
Svetlana Kuznetsova is having a great week in Sydney. The Russian veteran’s level has progressively improved. Svetlana easily accounted for Tammi Patterson in the first round before coming from a set down to defeat Sabine Lisicki. It was during her quarter-final clash that Svetlana produced her most impressive display to defeat Sara Errani 7-6 6-0. Kuznetsova trailed 1-5 in the first set before finding some of her best form to win 12 of the last 14 games against an opponent that doesn’t give anything away cheaply. Svetlana is full of momentum heading into her next match.
Simona Halep seems to be progressively finding form in Sydney. Halep started the week with uncertainty surrounding her participation in the event and struggled with an achilles injury during her 6-4 2-6 6-1 victory over Caroline Garcia. Simona moved much better in her second match where she defeated Karolina Pliksova 6-4 7-5, Simona was at her defensive best for periods of the match as Karolina threw absolutely everything at her. In the end Simona was just too solid for a sometimes erratic Pliskova.
The head-to-head record between Simona and Svetlana is split at 3 wins apiece, suggesting that this is a very even match-up. Simona won the most recent clash between the pair, a 6-2 6-2 victory over a fatigued Kuznetsova at the quarte-final stage of Roland Garros in 2014. Svetlana defeated Simona 7-5 7-6 a couple of weeks earlier in Stuttgart. The two haven’t played on a surface other than clay since 2011.
This will be a really tough match for Halep, it will certainly test out her fitness. Simona’s first two opponents didn’t want to engage in long rallies and gifted Simona many free points, that will not be the case here against Kuznetsova. This is a tough match to call given the lingering uncertainty surrounding Halep’s injury problems. Injury problems aside, Simona should be too good for Svetlana, the Romanian can do most things better than Svetlana.