Fireworks and electric tennis are in store on semifinal day at the WTA St. Petersburg Ladies trophy. Defending champion Kiki Bertens faces her toughest hurdle yet when she plays Russia’ Ekaterina Alexandrova, while 20-year-old Kazakh sensation Elena Rybakina is in search of her third final of 2020.
Who will advance to Sunday’s final?
WTA St. Petersburg Semifinal Predictions
Elena Rybakina vs Maria Sakkari
Head-to-head: First meeting
Elena Rybakina has been a breath of fresh on the women’s tour, and her meteoric rise has been nothing short of magical. Ranked outside the world’s top 100 (No.191) at the start of 2019, the young Kazakh is on the cusp of cracking the Top 20 for the very first time. Currently, she sits at a career-high ranking of No.25, built by a series of breathtaking displays throughout the 2019 season–in which she claimed a maiden WTA title in Bucharest, and made the semifinals of Hertogenbosch and Luxembourg. She also scored her second Top 10 win of her career when she beat Simona Halep in Wuhan last autumn. Can she maintain her sizzling form and reach a third final of 2020?
Maria Sakkari will stand in her way. The sixth-seeded Greek produced a gutsy come-from-behind victory against Belinda Bencic to reach her first semifinal of the season. Sakkari is making her third appearance in Russia’s second city, but she had never gone beyond the first round in her previous two editions–losing both to Julia Goerges in 2018 and 2019. However, she has shown consistent progress in the past two seasons, finishing runner-up in San Jose in 2018 and then capturing a maiden WTA title on the clay courts of Rabat in 2019.
Both players came through taxing quarterfinal matches. Rybakina needed to save a pair of match points against French qualifier Oceane Dodin. As impressive as Sakkari’s win over Bencic was, the Swiss hasn’t quite hit the heights her career-best 2019 season. Rybakina has been in the form of her life, and I’d be amazed if Sakkari was to win here.
Prediction: Rybakina in 2
Kiki Bertens vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Head-to-head: First meeting
Kiki Bertens is on course to retain her St. Petersburg title this weekend. Whatever sadness that may have accompanied her after the Netherlands’ Fed Cup loss last weekend, it is fair to say it has spurred her on this week. She demolished Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 6-2 in her first outing on Thursday, needing just 57 minutes to complete the whitewash. She proceeded to beat a spirited Anastasia Potapova in the quarterfinals.
The Dutch powerhouse will now face her third Russian opponent on the trot–and undoubtedly the toughest of them all. Ekaterina Alexandrova has won a remarkable 33 of her last 38 matches on the indoor hard courts, and she has only lost one match in 2020 so far. She has risen as high as No.26 in the world (currently No.28), and is now Russia’s new No.1. Will she thwart Bertens’ hopes for a second title in St. Petersburg?
Alexandrova admitted to feeling fatigued after her win over Vekic, and she hasn’t quite recovered mentally after leading Russia to a Fed Cup qualifier victory against Romania last weekend. The 25-year-old will certainly benefit from a day’s rest after her quarterfinal opponent Petra Kvitova pulled out due to illness. But regardless of her fitness, Bertens should have the upper-hand in this match up. The Dutchwoman possesses one of the biggest serves on women’s tour, and not only will she be able to match Alexandrova in the power department, she will test her movement and that could derail the Russian’s striking efficiency.
Prediction: Bertens in 3
Main Photo from Getty.