By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • Women’s Semi-Finals
  • Serena Williams v Elena Vesnina
  • Angelique Kerber v Venus Williams

WIMBLEDON, UK – Thursday is Ladies’ semi-final day at Wimbledon: Serena Williams plays Elena Vesnina while sister Venus Williams takes on Angelique Kerber.

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Serena Williams (1) vs Elena Vesnina – H2H: Williams leads 4-0

Williams was made to work for her 6-4 6-4 quarter-final win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. However, she demonstrated her appetite for the task with a superb serving display. She hit 11 aces, got 69% of her first serves in, won 90% of points behind those first serves and did not face a single break point in the match. She also threw in 29 winners for good measure, so the six-time Wimbledon champion is in excellent form.

The world number one comfortably beat three of her first four opponents in this year’s Wimbledon in straight sets. She was particularly dominant in the second set of her fourth-round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, as she won it 6-0 in 20 minutes for the loss of just five points. Her one real test so far came in round two against fellow American Christina McHale. The world number 65 played some inspired tennis to take Serena to three sets, but faded in the latter stages.

On paper, Serena’s semi-final opponent Vesnina does not have a hope of beating her. She has lost all four of their previous meetings in straight sets and was the world number 50 before Wimbledon started. But the Russian, 29, is arguably in the best form of her career right now so do not count her out completely. She reached the final in Charleston in April, then took out defending champion Belinda Bencic en route to the quarter-final in Eastbourne.

At Wimbledon, Vesnina has taken her game up to another level. She has won four of her five matches in straight sets, has beaten three difficult opponents (Dominika Cibulkova, Ekaterina Makarova and Andrea Petkovic) and has looked focused and determined throughout. However, perhaps the most impressive element of her run is her winner count. She has hit 135 winners so far, which is an average of 27 per round. It is balanced out somewhat by her unforced error tally of 108, but 31 of those errors came during a shaky first-round performance against Tamira Paszek.

Vesnina will have to hit plenty more winners to have any chance of taking out Serena. She will also need to try and keep Serena off balance as much as possible, as many of the American’s conquerors in recent years (Alize Cornet, Kerber and Roberta Vinci for example) have managed to do. But it is a monumental task facing the Russian and, even if she plays well, Serena will probably still beat her.

Prediction: Serena to win in two tight sets

 

Angelique Kerber (4) vs Venus Williams (8) – H2H: 3-2 Kerber

Winning the Australian Open in January was easily the biggest achievement of Angelique Kerber’s career, and she would surely love nothing more than to win Wimbledon in the same year. She beat Serena Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4 in the Melbourne final in Melbourne, and may have to overcome both Williams sisters to win at SW19.

The signs are good for the German though. She is the only player left in the draw who is yet to drop a set. Consequently, she has spent less time on spent on court than all the others, so she should have plenty of energy left for the challenges ahead. Kerber has also played some excellent tennis, and was particularly good in her quarter-final against fifth seed Simona Halep.

In a match defined by 13 breaks of serve (seven to Kerber) and countless high-quality rallies with both players scampering all over the court, it was Kerber’s aggression at the crucial moments which enabled her to come through 7-5 7-6(2). The world number four also hit some wonderful winners during the match, including a ridiculously good backhand drop shot that spun away from Halep as she charged in to try and retrieve it.

The German will be up against one of the most experienced players in world tennis. Venus Williams is into her 22nd year as a professional and has won seven Grand Slams in that time, including five at Wimbledon. However, this is her first Grand Slam semi-final appearance since the 2010 US Open, so it will be interesting to see how she reacts to the occasion.

The American has made hard work of her five matches so far, despite having an easier draw than any of the other semi-finalists. She won two tight sets to beat round one opponent Donna Vekic, lost a set to Maria Sakkari (ranked 114 before Wimbledon started) in round two and almost lost to rising star Daria Kasatkina in round three, eventually winning 10-8 in the deciding set. Venus played better in her straight-sets wins over Carla Suarez-Navarro and Yaroslava Shvedova in the last two rounds, but Kerber will be a much tougher proposition than anything she has faced so far.

Tiredness could also be a factor in the match, as Venus has already been on court for over 10 hours at this year’s tournament. By contrast, Kerber has won five matches in just over six hours of court time. So everything points to a Kerber win in this one, and Venus will probably need to produce her very best tennis to have any chance. One element of the match-up that makes her task especially difficult is Kerber’s defence, as shots that would be winners against most players will not get past the German.

Prediction: Kerber in straight sets

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