On Thursday, the four remaining women in the draw will battle it out for a spot in the prestigious Australian Open final. In the second semifinal, the World #1 Simona Halep lock horns with former World # 1 and 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, with neither player having lost a match since the start of the year.
The 26-year-old Romanian made her first ever Australian Open semifinal after cruising past one of the tournament favourites, Karolina Pliskova, in the quarterfinals. Despite this, it is no surprise that the World #1 has made it this far, after serving up a bagel to Katerina Siniakova in order to win the Shenzhen trophy earlier this month and only dropping one set over the entire fortnight.
Halep has constantly proven that her defensive counter-attacking can hold up during the tight moments. She was given a tough first round draw against the young Aussie big hitter Destanee Aiava, but managed to pull through and save two sets points in the first set and recover from a 2-5 deficit to win the set in a tiebreaker. It was her third-round match, however, that proved to be the most difficult. She lost the first set against Davis and found herself 10-11 0-40 down in the decider, but held her nerves to save the three match points and subsequently win the set 15-13.
Despite this, she has cruised through her two latest encounters, beating the dangerous Japanese player Naomi Osaka and former World #1 Karolina Pliskova, losing just five games in both matches. It’s clear Halep is in the form of her life and is on a high in terms of confidence, which makes the match up with Kerber even more mouth watering.
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Despite only being ranked 21st, the 30-year-old German has been the huge favourite to win the title among both fans and bookmakers. It has been clear since her very first match, where she saved two match points against Lucie Safarova, that the 2016 Kerber is back and is eager to win her third Grand Slam title. Other impressive wins in her title-winning run in Sydney earlier this month included ousting Venus Williams in three sets and easing past the tricky Aussie Ashleigh Barty in the final.
It hasn’t been an easy past couple of years for Kerber though–after an amazing 2016 campaign, she had a lackluster 2017 and could only make the fourth round in Melbourne and lost in the first round in New York (where she was defending her Grand Slam titles). She didn’t win a single WTA title and also dropped a total of twenty ranking places over the year. It was not clear whether she would ever return to her best, but after hiring Wim Fissette, many would agree that she is back in top form. Her new coach has vastly improved her serve and encouraged her to play more aggressive tennis.
Like Halep, Kerber has impressed over the last two weeks or so and has only dropped one set. She cruised through her first three matches, including a dominant victory over Maria Sharapova. In what was expected to be a very close match, the German lost her service game just once and lost just four games. In her fourth round match against Taiwan’s Hsieh Su Wei, she found herself a set down and had to serve to stay in the match, but her experience proved decisive and managed to edge her in three sets.
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Both players are playing inspired tennis, however the factor that is making this match even more difficult to predict is their playing styles. They have extremely similar playing styles and prefer to be on the defense; furthermore, their head to head is leveled up at 4-4. This should be a close one, but I believe Kerber has a better attitude and handles her nerves better, so she will just edge this one.