Sabine Lisicki vs Maria Sharapova
Lisicki looked very good in her three-set win over Marion Bartoli. Bartoli faltered late, seeming fatigues and perhaps cramping up a little. Lisicki was solid throughout, hitting big and using her extended variety of shots to keep Bartoli guessing and off of the baseline, where Bartoli was beating Lisicki in more rallies early. Lisicki used the drop shot perhaps a little too much, but was very effective at winning points with it and forcing Bartoli into an uncomfortable position at the net. In the end though, it was probably more Bartoli’s fatigue from playing so much more recently (3 more hours of play at Wimbledon alone and she won the title in Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon) than anything else that got Lisicki through to the semifinals.
Maria Sharapova, on the other hand, absolutely ran over Dominika Cibulkova in her quarterfinal match. Unlike Caroline Wozniacki, who Cibulkova managed to hit with and overpower from the baseline in the fourth round, Sharapova gave Cibulkova no quarter whatsoever. Sharapova served big and hit returns deep from beginning to end and never allowed Cibulkova to settle into her game. Maybe Cibulkova was a little tired from her two-and-a-half hour match with Wozniacki the previous day but it really didn’t look like that would have mattered much. Sharapova is in her first semifinal here since 2006 and you can bet that she would to make Wimbledon the first Slam she wins twice.
Honestly, there is little reason that Sharapova can’t do to Lisicki what she did to Cibulkova. Lisicki will have to use her whole repertoire of shots to keep Sharapova from just hitting big. Still, Lisicki has more mileage on her this tournament than Sharapova and Sharapova does have a little more talent at this point in each of their careers. Lisicki also had a bit of nerves show through while attempting to serve out the match in the second set, but hopefully winning on Centre Court will have helped her avoid that in the future.
Prediction: Sharapova in three
Petra Kvitova vs Victoria Azarenka
Kvitova is in her second consecutive Wimbledon semifinal. She doesn’t really have the type of game that jumps out at you. She hits very well and accurately, painting lines throughout the match. Pironkova had her on the run a lot but Kvitova’s running forehands were impressive indeed. It was disappointing to watch because for the first set Pironkova looked like the player who only won 4 matches in 2011 and not the player who easily took out Venus Williams. But Pironkova showed up and played well late in the match. Kvitova was just too much for her. This is a very good result for her and her ability to hit well on the run will help her a lot against Azarenka. She will need to be perfect to beat Azarenka with the way Azarenka has played so far this tournament.
Azarenka clearly had the easiest quarterfinal match of the four who got through. This should be no offense to Tamira Paszek, who did an incredible job just to get to the quarters and looks to have a bright future. She was just outmatched against Azarenka. Azarenka hit huge even though she doesn’t have the natural power in her game that players like Sharapova or the Williams sisters have. She did jump on every possible short ball and hit them deep or at an extreme angle. Her movement was perfect and her shots were deep and penetrated the court, and she never hesitated to follow her big shots into net, where she looked very comfortable.
Kvitova definitely has a chance in this match. She has an incredible amount of talent and could work Azarenka around the court a little. Azarenka just looks too good so far. She is doing everything right and is playing the kind of grass court tennis that looks to have the making of a Grand Slam championship. Her slight lack of extreme power could cause her problems and let her be passed at net or cost her some points she should win, but the rest of her game seems so flawless right now that I really can’t see anyone beating her if she keeps up the level she is playing at right now.
Prediction: Azarenka in two