By Michael Stafford-Jones
- Two entertaining semi-finals at the Wuhan Open
- Simona Halep  v Petra Kvitova  H2H: 3-0
- Svetlana Kuznetsova  v Dominika Cibulkova  H2H: 3-4
WUHAN, CHINA – Petra Kvitova is aiming to beat Simona Halep for the first time ever and Svetlana Kuznetsova is hoping to beat Dominika Cibulkova for the first time since 2008.
Simona Halep  v Petra Kvitova  H2H: 3-0
Kvitova is on fire in Wuhan and the rest of the draw better watch out. The tall Czech ousted new world number one Angelique Kerber in the last 16 by winning a gripping three-set epic which lasted three hours and 20 minutes. She then produced a clinical performance to beat Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4 6-3 in the quarter-final.
Looking at the two-time Grand Slam champion’s results for the rest of 2016, this run of form seems unexpected. But Kvitova has been like this her whole career. She is occasionally brilliant and sometimes seemingly unstoppable, but her usual mode of operation is inconsistent and her frequent bad days have led to lots of early exits from tournaments. When the Czech plays well at an event, however, she often wins the title, as her career tally of 17 trophies suggests.
To win her 18th career title, Kvitova will have to come through a tough test tomorrow in the shape of Halep. The Romanian is also in superb form and is yet to drop a set so far in Wuhan. Since her fourth round exit at Roland Garros, Halep has won 24 matches and lost just three, and has picked up two titles in the process. It is all set up for a fantastic match.
Halep’s 3-0 advantage in her head-to-head with Kvitova suggests she will win. However, the Czech has taken a set off the Romanian in two of those encounters, so it has not all been one-way traffic. And Kvitova is in good enough form this week to give her the necessary confidence to beat Halep. However, she will need to be at her best again and she will need to find a way to cope with the Romanian’s excellent movement.
In her previous victories over Kvitova, Halep has worked the Czech around the court brilliantly. This denies Kvitova the solid base she often needs to unleash her ferocious groundstrokes. If Halep can move the Czech around as effectively as she has previously, she will win again. It is such a difficult match to call, and will probably go to three sets, but I am backing Kvitova to win this time – just.
Prediction: Kvitova in three sets
Svetlana Kuznetsova  v Dominika Cibulkova  H2H: 3-4
Kuznetsova looked to be on her way out of the Wuhan Open when she was 1-6 5-6 down in her quarter-final. Her opponent, Agnieszka Radwanska, was a break up and serving for the match. But the Russian dug deep and produced her best tennis to take it to a tie-break, and won the breaker 11-9 after saving a match point at 7-8. Kuznetsova kept up her momentum to win the deciding set 6-4. It was an extraordinary match.
The Russian’s two opponents prior to Radwanska posed her no problems whatsoever, as she dispatched Madison Brengle 6-0 6-4 and sixth seed Venus Williams 6-2 6-2. Tomorrow’s semi-final will be Kuznetsova’s fourth of the year, but her first since the Prague Open in April. She will be especially keen to capitalise on this sudden run of form as she is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals.
Her last-four opponent, Cibulkova, is in a similar situation in the race to qualify for the WTA Finals, and it is possible only one of them will qualify. This fact adds extra spice to a match that already promises to be intriguing, particularly as they have not faced each other since 2011. Cibulkova was victorious on that occasion, as she was the previous three times they played. In fact, Kuznetsova has not beaten the Slovakian since 2008, so she will not want that record to continue.
The biggest challenge for Cibulkova may be dealing with fatigue, as she has won three matches that went the distance to get to this stage, and had to play two matches today due to rain delays. If she can conquer her tiredness, she will be confident of beating Kuznetsova again as she has the superior movement of the two.
However, if fatigue takes over for the Slovakian, Kuznetsova can use her powerful groundstrokes to bully Cibulkova and should win in straight sets. Considering Cibulkova has had to play eight sets in the last two days and did not complete her victory over Barbora Strycova until 12.57am, an easy win for Kuznetsova over the exhausted Slovakian seems the most likely outcome.
Prediction: Kuznetsova in straight sets
Kuznetsova v Cibulkova is the first semi-final, due on court at 8.30am UK time, and Halep v Kvitova is set to begin at 12 noon UK time.
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