Just four women remain in with a chance of winning the title in Cincinnati after what has been an excellent week of tennis. French Open champion Ashleigh Barty is set to take on the resurgent Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova whilst in an all-American battle, Sofia Kenin will take on former US Open runner-up Madison Keys. But who will reach the final?
Cincinnati Semifinal Predictions
Ashleigh Barty vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Head-to-head: first meeting
Both players have had to wade through adversity to get to this point with both having had an opponent serve for the match against them. For Barty that came against Anett Kontaveit in the third round whilst Kuznetsova found herself on the brink against Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. It is difficult to say whether Barty’s back-to-back three-setters will have had more of an effect on her fitness than Kuznetsova’s long quarterfinal clash, but it is fair to say neither woman will be at her freshest.
It is quite incredible that Kuznetsova has made it to this stage. It is her first tour-level semifinal since Washington last year, but it is clear to see that she loves the American hard courts. She has had the biggest successes of her career on these surfaces and she seems to grow as a player by at least 10% when she takes to them. But she will need to be at her very best to trouble Barty. The Australian started to click into gear after another stuttering first set against Maria Sakkari.
Kuznetsova has been able to get into the service games of her opponents regularly in Cincinnati and Barty will need to have a good day from the line to avoid that danger. Fortunately, she has been serving superbly all year. As well as being the ace race leader on the WTA tour this year, Barty closed out her quarterfinal match by conceding only four points in her final six service games. That’s an incredible level.
The only way that Kuznetsova can cause the upset here is if she does what she did against Pliskova and hangs tough long enough for the other player to weaken just slightly and then capitalises. However, Barty is making a habit of getting stronger as the matches wear on at this tournament and expect her to reach yet another final in 2019 as a result.
Prediction: Barty in 2
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Sofia Kenin vs Madison Keys
Head-to-head: Kenin 1-0 Keys
Kenin’s superb season has continued in Cincinnati, whilst Keys has proved what a danger she can be. In fact, Keys’ resurgence has been so positive and so uplifting this week that it is difficult not to get swept up by it and begin predicting big things for her. Tennis observers of all levels have always agreed that Keys has almost everything it takes to do anything she wants in this game, but she has flattered to deceive on the biggest stages so far.
Kenin, by comparison, is really only this season making her mark on the game. It would be fitting for Kenin’s excellent season to be augmented by an appearance in a WTA Premier event final for the first time. However, Keys is not just going to roll over and allow that to happen. Their previous match, which came in Rome earlier this year, went the distance, but Kenin managed to get on top of Keys’ second serve enough times on the clay to win.
This encounter being on hard court may well be serve dominated and could come down to whoever can take the higher percentage of their breakpoint opportunities. But Keys has the greater experience and surely the better serve and that should give her just enough of an edge to claim victory in what promises to be a close contest.
Prediction: Keys in 3
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