WTA Tour: Australian Open Selected Quarter-Finals Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

We preview two of the four quarter-finals from the women's draw of the Australian Open. 

Serena Williams 7/20 | Karolina Pliskova 2/1
We are still on course for a rematch of that notorious US Open Final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. Williams was, ahem, serene in her opening three matches, barely breaking a sweat until that epic Simona Halep encounter. What a match. It really was fit to be a final. That third set contained some of the most epic rallying I have seen in some time. It was quite something to see the indomitable Williams slowly overwhelm the pugnacious Halep with her power on both wings. Williams is obviously the favourite going into any encounter, with seven Aussie Open titles to her name. The key to beating Serena is to take her the distance. While Halep lost yesterday, it was clear that Williams laboured as the match went on, only for the Romanian to suffer likewise in the third. And Czech star Pliskova could very well be the woman to do it.

First off, Pliskova has one of the most explosive serves in the woman’s game. It was evident that Halep’s relative powderpuff serve was a huge debilitating factor for her in that fourth-round match. This will be Pliskova’s third consecutive quarter-final appearance here. She is in great form having captured the Brisbane title. Pliskova had a steady year last season without quite reaching the heights that saw her momentarily occupy the World Number One slot. She won the Pan Pacific Open as well as the Stuttgart title. She reached the quarter-final of both the Aussie Open and US Open. She lost to Halep last season at the quarter-final stage in fairly convincing fashion. Pliskova has the power, when focused, to beat Serena Williams.

Serena Williams leads the head-to-head 2-1. Williams won comfortably in last year’s US Open quarterfinal. Pliskova tasted victory in the semi-final stage of the 2016 US Open, which is telling considering the grand stage it was played on. I think 2/1 for Pliskova is fairly favourable considering her powers. 

Naomi Osaka 6/10 | Elina Svitolina 23/20
Naomi Osaka has done it tough thus far. Two three-set thrillers against Hsieh and Sevatsova bear testament to the fighting spirt that she has shown. 2018 will always be remembered as the year that Serena lost her mind in New York. But Osaka’s year was more than just one carnival Grand Slam Final. She also claimed a tremendous Indian Wells title while she reached the Pan Pacific Open Final. Semi-finals in China and Nottingham highlight a level of consistency that is heartening for such a young player. Osaka reached the final 16 last season here when she was completely unheralded. So she will be feeling extremely confident ahead of this encounter. You almost have to feel sorry for the balls considering the level of power-hitting that will be on display for this match.

Elina Svitolina had a disappointing 2018 by her own admission. She enjoyed a tremendous 2017, claiming three WTA Premier 5 titles en route to a top three ranking. She largely disappointed on the Grand Slam front last season, though she did capture titles in Rome and Dubai. She confounded expectations with a relatively decent clay-court campaign. The 24-year-old is a solid baseliner who should be able to withstand Osaka’s considerable hitting power. She has had some bruising encounters with Zhang and Keys, which should leave her fairly battle-hardened going into this quarter-final.

I was quite surprised- considering Osaka’s age- that this will be their fifth meeting thus far. Svitolina leads the head-to-head 3-2, though Naomi Osaka won when the two met in this event in 2016. Svitolina won their two meetings last season, on the hardcourts of Miami and Dubai. I think Svitolina is great value at 23/20, especially considering her victory over Madison Keys. I honestly gave her no chance of winning there, so this may be the year that Svitolina makes a major breakthrough.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net 

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