2011 Australian Open – Nick’s Picks – Women’s Singles Semifinals
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs. Na Li (CHN)
Wozniacki needed three sets to beat Francesca Schiavone in the quarterfinals and she really just outlasted her, playing defensive tennis and basically just waiting for Schiavone to tire out. I would have like to have seen Wozniacki play more offensively and take the action to Schiavone rather than waiting for her to tire out. She cannot play this way against Li, because if she does, Li will take her down quickly.
Speaking of Li, she has lost a total of 26 games in her five matches and she has yet to drop a set. She comes in on a hot streak and she is now one win away from reaching her first career Grand Slam final. There is no doubt in my mind that she has the talent and the mental ability to win a Grand Slam and I feel it is just a matter of time before she does.
Li is 2-1 against Wozniacki and she beat her twice in 2010, including in the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open. Despite playing defensive tennis against Schiavone, I came away with a ton of respect for Wozniacki. She was able to adapt to the situation and was still able to win a big-time match. This is the trait of a top player and I was really happy to see her play like this.
This will be a much different match for Wozniacki than she had against Schiavone. I felt that Schiavone hit with a little too much spin which enabled Wozniacki to get back into rallies and to keep herself in points longer than normal. Li will not hit with much spin at all. She is going to take the ball early, hit it flat and try to catch Wozniacki out of position. I really feel that this will be the difference in the match. When you combine that with Li’s mental toughness, her great movement, solid serve and her confidence I am going to pick her to win this match in three sets.
Nick’s Pick – Li in 3 sets
Kim Clijsters (BEL) vs. Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Clijsters was up and down against Radwanska, but once again, she was able to win the big points and eventually she proved to be too much in the second set tiebreaker. She had 37 unforced errors in her last match, and if she commits that many against Zvonareva, she will not win.
Zvonareva won the first set easily against Kvitova, and raced out to a 3-1 lead in the second set before a distraction in the audience broke her concentration for a couple of games. She was able to recover and won the match 6-2, 6-4. The old Vera might not have won that match, but the new, improved Vera was able to keep her focus and win the match going away.
Clijsters is 6-3 against Zvonareva, but Zvonareva was 3-1 against her in 2010 with the only loss coming in the finals of the US Open. When you compare these two women’s games, they match-up pretty evenly. Let’s break it down:
Movement – Both are fantastic movers and both use this is a big weapon in their games. Clijsters can make quicker adjusments and hit when off balance while Zvonareva plays great defense and forces her opponents to over-hit.
Forehand – Both have great forehands. Clijsters plays with more variety while Zvonareva hits it flatter.
Backhand – Same as forehand.
Volleys – Clijsters is a little more loose with her volleys while Zvonareva has very solid techniques and is a great doubles player.
Serve – Advantage here goes to Clijsters. She has a more consistent second serve, but in her last couple of matches she has had some double faults. Watch out!
Creativity – This has to go to Clijsters. She definitely plays with a ton of spunk of creativity.
Court Position – Clijsters stands close to the baseline and moves back a few steps while Zvonareva will stand on the baseline and she really won’t move off that position.
Mental Strength – The last few matches, Clijsters has been up and down and you never know what you are going to get. She has gotten away with this so far, but that may be a different story against the Russian. Zvonareva’s mentality has improved dramatically, and when she puts that towel over her head she is able to get into the zone and this really helps her.
Nick’s Pick – The longer this match goes, the more it favors Clijsters. I pick Zvonareva in 2 sets or Clijsters in 3 sets.