Damien Kayat previews the women's semi-finals at Wimbledon 2021 where Ashleigh Barty faces Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova takes on Aryana Sabalenka.
2021 WTA Tour
Grand Slam Tennis
Wimbledon Tennis Championships
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Ladies Semi-Finals- 8th July
Ashleigh Barty 43/100 | Angelique Kerber 18/10
This promises to be a fascinating encounter, as the number one seed takes on the only player left in the draw with a Wimbledon title. World Number One Ashleigh Barty has reached her 3rd Grand Slam semi-final following the 2020 Aussie Open and 2019 French Open (which she ultimately won). She is one step closer to achieving something that seems predestined: to win Wimbledon on the 50th anniversary of fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s first title victory. She has been utterly ruthless since dropping a set against Suarez Navarro in her opening match. There was no room for sentimentality in her semi-final, as she completely demolished compatriot Alja Tomljanovic to set up this semi-final. That victory has taken her career grass-court record to 57-16. Her year-to-date record is even more impressive at an imposing 33-6. She has the opportunity to put some real distance between herself and Naomi Osaka in the world rankings.
However, Barty will be facing a considerable grass-court threat in a resurgent Angelique Kerber. I practically wrote her off the week before these championships. But as I was writing my preview for Wimbledon, lamenting her diminishing powers, she went and won the Bad Homburg Open. Kerber has been in shocking form over the past two years (she actually entered that Bad Homburg event with a win-loss record of 9-10). She has now won ten consecutive grass-courts matches. Kerber is a mercurial player who seems to frequently drift in and out of form. That makes her an easy player to underestimate. This will be Kerber’s 4th appearance in the Wimbledon semi-finals (she won the title as recently as 2018). She has managed to keep her first serve percentage high while mixing up her game cleverly. I lost count of the number of times she beat an advancing Coco Gauff in their 4th round match, hitting pinpoint passing shots with carefree abandon. Kerber doesn’t necessarily need to be in great form to compete here. She has excellent court-craft and match awareness.
Verdict: Barty to win in straight sets at 1/1
There is not much in the way of illumination in the head-to-head stats. They share the spoils at two wins apiece and this will be their first grass-court clash. I just think that all the signs are pointing towards Barty. Kerber has played solid tennis but Barty has more weapons. I actually think there’s value in backing Barty to win in straight sets at 1/1.
Karolina Pliskova (16/10) | Aryna Sabalenka 48/100
Not many people were talking about number 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka coming into this tournament. After winning her 2nd title of the year in Madrid she went through a slight dip in form. But I always felt that this was going to be the year for a concerted Sabalenka Grand Slam bid. It just felt right. And as I said in my Wimbledon preview, Sabalenka is just built for this surface. Her serve has been immense and her forehand has bailed her out time and again. She just dismantled the hugely impressive Ons Jabeur in a brutal straight sets victory. It’s amazing to think that this will be Aryna Sabalenka’s maiden Grand Slam semi-final (hell, she just won her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal). How does a player get seeded 2nd for Wimbledon without one previous Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance? She has been amazingly consistent over the past 18 months. She just hasn’t quite been able to transfer her exceptional one-week tournament form into a successful two-week tournament form. Now is her time.
Where did this come from? Karolina Pliskova must have arrived at Wimbledon this year with her confidence at an all-time low. Over the past 12 months, she has only made it past the quarterfinal stage once. Even then she was absolutely humiliated in the Rome final. She was given the dreaded double bagel treatment by Polish superstar Iga Swiatek. She then lost consecutive first-round matches as preparation for this year’s championships. To be fair, she is yet to play a seeded player this year at Wimbledon. The former World Number One Czech will need to rely on more than just her powerhouse service in this match.
Verdict: Sabalenka in straight sets at 11/10
The Belarusian leads the head-to-head 2-0. Both of those matches came in 2018, with Sabalenka actually conquering the Czech on the grass-courts in Eastbourne. I’m going to keep this simple. I pick Sabalenka to win in straight sets at 11/10. Former US Open runner-up Pliskova has been known to get gun-shy in the biggest moments. I think Sabalenka will capitalize on any weak second-serves. I just think that Pliskova will struggle with this enormous jump in quality. Everything about Sabalenka’s game looked in tiptop shape against Jabeur.