Google Down the Line!: PREVIEW: Australian Open Women's Semifinal Showdowns

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PREVIEW: Australian Open Women's Semifinal Showdowns

The four ladies of the Australian Open semifinals have been decided and are set for the Women's Semifinal Showdown. Here's a preview:

Maria "Shriek"apova vs. Jelena Jankovic

Head-to-head: Maria 3, Jelena 1
Last meeting: Birmingham '07 (grass), Jelena 4-6 6-3 7-5

How they got here: Maria played the women's match of the tournament, so far, against World No. 1 Justine Henin. In her comprehensive 6-4, 6-0 defeat of the Belgian, Maria showed she's matured as a tennis baller by mixing up her game with sharp angles, drop shots, and volleys - everything we thought she'd need to do to grab the win. Jelena caused the biggest upset, knocking off a subdued and out-of-sorts Serena Williams and taking a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head. All credit to the Serb for keeping her focus and composure during her 6-3, 6-4 win over the 8-time Grand Slam champ.

The last time Maria and Jelena battled was at Birmingham, a Wimbledon warm-up tourney. The World No. 4 got the better of the Russian, sneaking out a 7-5 third set win over Maria on her favored surface.

Here's what Maria had to say about playing Jelena:

"This is a new encounter, a new match. This is a great opportunity for both of us. I'm very excited about the matchup. [...] Ever since the juniors we've always played really tough and we've always battled it out, and it's great to see her in the semis. It's great we're playing together."
Jelena has this to say about getting to the semifinals:
"When I think about [the first match, saving 3 match points], I get goosebumps, actually. It's really scary, scary thought. If you see the match point that I saved on that first day, you wouldn't believe I could actually win that point when it started, because I kept hitting the balls like a slice. It would go out and somehow landed on the line. Then the next shot I hit a slice and it floated and it landed on the line again. Then the next backhand went in the corner all the way on the line again. And I was like, I don't know who was playing or what's happening out there, but it was really unbelievable. And then being in a semifinal after those matches where I survived, it doesn't get better than that."
Outlook: Will Maria suffer a mental letdown after defeating Justine? Can Jelena's body hold up for another match, or has it finally reached the limit?? We think Maria will need to win the match in two sets - Jelena is a superior mover and could run the 6' 2" Russian around keeping her off balance. But, Maria has a third Grand Slam title in her reach and she won't let up - we'll take her in 2 sets.

Ana Ivanovic vs. Daniela Hantuchova

Head-to-head: Ana 2, Daniela 1
Last meeting: WTA Championships '07 (carpet), Ana 6-2 7-6(9)

How they got here: Ana made it 2 for 2, taking out a second Williams sister in as many days. Showing improved movement and fitness, the Serb battled Venus for a 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 win - her first over the American in 5 tries. Daniela, taking advantage of a ravaged draw that saw World No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova go down early, is making her first trip to a Grand Slam semifinal after a 6-2, 6-2 win over Polish teen Agnieszka Radwanska (who took out Kuzy in the 3rd round).

Ana and Dani last played each other at the season-ending WTA Championships last year in Madrid, where the Serb took a straight set win in round-robin play.

Here's what Ana said about taking on Dani:
"She had a great run. She had a lot of good wins. Obviously there is no easy matches in a Grand Slam. But she obviously has a lot of confidence coming into semifinal. I believe it's her first Grand Slam semifinal, so it's going to be a very tough match. As I already spoke before, we both have a good chance and I really hope it will be a good match. We had tough matches last time we played in Madrid and also before that in Luxembourg and once more also last year on grass. It's gonna be I think interesting match and I'm really looking forward for a challenge."
Dani had this to say about being a first time semifinalist:
"Well, it's going to be, again, a new experience for me, which I'm really excited about. Either way, whoever I play, it's going to be a tough match. But I've got nothing to lose. I'm in a great position. I'm feeling like I'm playing well. I'm just really looking forward to be out on the court again and give my best and see what happens."
Outlook: Ana should take this match convincingly - too much game. But, if she gets nervous Dani has enough experience to make things interesting. But, nevertheless, we're picking the Serb to reach her first Aussie Open final in 2 sets.

(images via Rob Griffith & Rick Stevens/AP)

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