By Ros Satar

  • Serena Williams [1] v Agnieszka Radwanska [4]
  • Angelique Kerber [7] v Johanna Konta

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – few would have doubted at least one of the names here, few would have guessed at one of the others as the women’s semi-finals are set.

Serena Williams [1] v Agnieszka Radwanska [4] – H2H: Williams leads 8-0

Defending champion Serena Williams has never really looked in doubt despite a shaky start to the year. She had opted to play in Perth in the Hopman Cup, withdrew from her first match, sending in super-sub Vicky Duval, before retiring in her second – hardly the most auspicious start for the player expected to hit a career Slam only to fall at the (semi-)final hurdle in last year’s US Open.

It is an intriguing match up between last her and last year’s WTA Finals champion Agnieszka Radwanska, who won the title in Shenzhen at the start of the year, before opting out of Sydney with injury. The rest and recuperation has done her the world of good and she has looked in good form, despite perhaps aa scratchy match against Anna-Lena Friedsam – a self-styled lucky escape for the Magician of the WTA tour.

But against Williams it is a whole other matter. The only time she has ever been able to take Williams to three sets was their last Grand Slam encounter in the Wimbledon final in 2012. She will need to start quickly to try and at least force around the court, and absolutely not let her dictate from the back.

While Radwanska’s returning and use of angles and guile on the court get her past many less able opponents, she is playing against one of the strongest and best all-court players of all time. Radwanska makes up for the lack of a powerful serve with her court coverage and exploitation of crazy angles – but that serve is likely to be punished many a time with a trademark Williams return riflling down the line.

It is a very tough ask to expect Radwanska to make this her second Slam final in the form that Williams has played herself into, but the Pole should take heart from the fact that confidence gained with her Singapore win has seen her reach her second semi-final here in Melbourne and could be used to kick on for that greater glory this year, but our pick is Williams.

 

Angelique Kerber [7] v Johanna Konta – H2H: First meeting

This is the hardest of the two semi-finals to call. On the one hand, Angelique Kerber is no stranger to a Slam semi-final – this is her third, with her first in Australia, having achieved the same at the 2011 US Open and Wimbledon 2012. As the seed, she will come in the favourite – a position that does not always sit well with her.

She will face an unknown quantity in Johanna Konta, who until this year had never even made it to the main draw of the Australian Open. Enjoying the media hubbub, the Aussie-born Brit has handled the good natured teasing between the Aussies and the British press with maturity that has developed since the early shoots of her success with a run to the Eastbourne quarter-final before arguably her breakthrough at the US Open where she made the fourth round.

This ability to handle the ensuing swirl of expectation seems to be sitting slightly better with Konta. She takes each match as it comes, each point as it comes and does not set any expectations on herself about all the little dominoes of history she keeps knocking over.

Kerber may feel that her big win over Victoria Azarenka was a major landmark as she finally got a win on the board in seven meetings, and to lift herself to beat a player with no expectations could mess with the German’s mind.

For Konta – it would be a great continuation of the dream and it could be achievable as she bids to become the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977, and here in Melbourne since Wade won the Australian Open title in 1972.

It is a quick turnaround for the players in the bottom half of the draw who have to play on consecutive days, but the end is in sight!

 

Williams and Radwanska are scheduled on Rod Laver Arena, not before 1:30pm (2:30am GMT) followed by Kerber and Konta.

 

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