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11.07.2019 11:30

Serena, Halep poised for Wimbledon finale, albeit a semis surprise

An all-insight guide into the matchups and possible predictions of an invigorating schedule of the Wimbledon Women’s Singles semi-finals.

After a week and a half of top-quality tennis action on the lush greens of the All England Club, the 2019 edition of the Wimbledon has now entered its business end. As you may expect, the preliminary rounds featured enterprising matches and also attracted some compelling storylines for up-and-coming superstars in the women’s circuit. The talent which reeks from the final quartet this year knows no bounds and without further ado, read our preview of the tantalizing clashes that kick off on Thursday.

Semi-final 1 | Elina Svitolina vs Simona Halep

The 24-year-old Svitolina became the first Ukranian woman to reach the last four of a Grand Slam, following her 7-5, 6-4 victory over Karolina Muchova in the quarterfinals. In due process, the eighth seed also broke her infamous streak of losing her last four Grand Slam quarterfinals, including the 2019 Australian Open.

In her ‘Last Eight’ clash against Muchova, Svitolina stared at a 4-1 deficit in the opening set but broke back when the Czech was serving at 5-2. Going forward, the World no. 8 came back into the contest to draw level at 5-5. After a fine share of opportunities in the tiebreaker and a slack overhead from the World No.38, Ukrainian Svitolina won the first set. The second set began in the way like the first, but Svitolina quickly turned it around and went on to win the set 6-4, while capitalizing on 22-year-old Muchova’s fatigue.

While this may be her debut semi-final appearance, Svitolina faces a familiar opponent in the former World no. 1 Simona Halep. The Romanian returns to the semifinal stage of a Major since the French Open last year and will start as an odds-on favourite against the Ukranian. In her quarterfinal meeting with Zhang Shuai, Halep was dancing to the tunes of the Chinese who instantly took a 4-1 lead in the first set. Staring at a possibility of 5-1, the 27-year-old refound her footing to take it to a tiebreaker and sealed it 7-6. The second set was quite the opposite of the first as Halep had the command in hand and wrapped up the game with a scoreline of 7-6, 6-1.

While Svitolina leads the head-to-head series 4-3, the experience of Halep gives her the outright edge in the contest. In their only face-off at a Grand Slam level event back in 2017 at the French Open, Halep beat the Ukrainian 3-6, 7-6(8-6), 6-0 and could possibly be the thorn in the flesh for Svitolina. But given her ambitious run, a first Wimbledon final spot can’t be easily ruled out for the reigning WTA Finals champion.

Semi-final 2 | Serena Williams vs Barbora Strýcová

In what is a ‘Battle of the Veterans’, seven-time champion Serena goes head to head with an unseeded Strycova in the former’s 12th semifinal fixture. The 37-year-old Williams, chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Alam title, was taken to the wire by compatriot Alison Riske who was on a high after beating World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round.

The three-set game saw Williams and Riske almost on par with each other, but it was 29-year-old Riske who had the slightest edge in the contest as she claimed the second set to her name, with Williams making 10 unforced errors. In the decider, the 2016 winner moved up to 3-1 before an under-pressure Riske came back at 3-3. Holding her nerve, Williams won three consecutive games and sealed her 97th victory at Wimbledon.

Williams’ opponent Strycova is playing her first Major semi-final in 53 Grand Slam appearances and is in high spirits following her crushing 7-6, 6-1 over Johanna Konta. Initially trailing 1-4 in the first set, the Czech international broke back 4-3 and proceeded towards winning the tiebreaker 7(7)-6(5). Come the second and final set, Strycova raced to a 3-0 lead and broke again at 5-1 before drawing close a fixture where she made only nine unforced errors (three doubles faults) to 22 winners.

While both are optimistic to rewrite the history books, the spotlight is currently being hogged by 33-year-old Strycova who is reportedly playing out her final Wimbledon tournament. History favours a clinical victory for Serena Williams but given the fact that the former’s opponent has her abilities of serve and volley magnified on grass, especially at one of her favourite venues, it is safe to say that the battle isn’t one-sided and the sporting world will be eager to see how the contest ensues.

Words: William Paul

Images: PA