Australian Open 2016: Preview Of The Semifinals

The semi-finals have been set for both the men’s and women’s singles as Andy Murray and Milos Raonic among men and Angelique Kerber and Johanna Konta won their quarter final matches on Wednesday at the Flinder’s Park in Melbourne on Wednesday.

In the opening match of the on the Rod Laver Arena, the seventh seeded German jumped to an early 4-0 lead over the 2012 and 2013 champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, to whom she had lost all six career meetings including the final in Brisbane on January 9th. After double faulting twice in the third game, the 14th seeded, Azarenka fought back breaking serve in the sixth game and had two chances to break in the eighth game to level the match at 4-4.

Kerber held after five dueces to take a 5-3 lead and then broke serve again in the ninth game to clinch the set 6-3 in 48 minutes. Azarenka broke serve to start the second set and then served for the set after breaking again in the seventh game. From there on Kerber reeled off five games in a row and is now the first German since 1998 to reach the semi final in Melbourne.

The 6-3,7-5 win was claimed in 1 hour 44 minutes. Kerber had 31 winners while Azarenka hit 28, but the 33 unforced errors from Azarenka cost her dearly, while the consistent Kerber had 16 unforced errors. The last left handed player to win the Australian Open Championship was Monica Seles in 1996.

Next on court were the two unseeded players left in the draw as Briton Johanna Konta took on Shuai Zhang of China. Konta broke serve with a bullet-like backhand in the third game and then broke in the seventh game. She lost her own serve while trying to serve out the set at 5-2 and Zhang then had a break-point to level at 5-5. Konta erased it with an ace, had another ace and a service winner to close out the first set 6-4 in 48 minutes.

The second set was all one way traffic as Konta reeled off six games from 1-1 in the set and sealed the 6-4,6-1 win with a forehand winner in a match lasting 1 hour 23 minutes. The 23 year Konta is now the first British woman in the semi final of a grand slam in 33 years. Zhang had a good run beating the second seeded Simona Halep and last years semi finalist Madison Keys after 14 consecutive first round losses in grand slams.

Four time finalist Andy Murray of Scotland kept alive his bid for a maiden Australian Open with a compelling four set win against the veteran Spaniard David Ferrer. In a battle of brutal baseline exchanges, the second seeded Murray never looked like loosing the match and stated it was his best match of the tournament despite dropping the second set in a tie-break.

The first set was won with one break of serve by Murray in the fourth game. With the roof closing due to an impending storm the 28 year old Scott broke early in the third set and saved multiple break points. From there on Ferrer could offer little resistance as Murray won 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3 in 3 hours and 20 minutes. He had 49 winners but also made 64 unforced errors.

Murray will take on the Canadian, Milos Raonic, who outgunned the 23rd seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3,3-6,6-3,6-4 under the roof to book his first career grand slam semi final in two hours and seventeen minutes. The seventh ranked Raonic whose fastest serve was clocked at 228 kmh, had 47 winners including 31 points at the net. Surprisingly he had only 10 aces while Monfils slammed down 14 in the entire match, but dropped serve only once in the second set while converting three out of eight break point chances. Monfils went into the match having won both their two previous meetings at Stockholm in 2011 and at Halle in 2013.

The following is the semi final line up with my pick mentioned first :-

Serena Williams (1) v. Agnieska Radwanska (4) ; Williams leads 8-0
Angelique Kerber (7) v. Johanna Konta (-); first match between them
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Roger Federer (3); tied at 22-22
Milos Raonic (13) v. Andy Murray (2); tied at 3-3.

It will be the first time since 1977 that two British players have reached the semi final at the same grand slam when John Lloyd and Sue Barker played in last four stage on the grass courts at the Kooyong stadium. Radwanska and Williams have not played in the last two years and the only time the fourth seed from Poland took a set of Williams was at Wimbledon 2012 final.

Radwanska has 18 career singles titles. Williams the six time Australian Open champion, with 21 grand slam titles, is only one short of Steffi Graf’s tally of 22 titles. Radwanska has little to lose and can certainly push it to three sets. However, Serena is in prime form and it is hard to see her beaten at this stage.

This will be Kerber’s third grand slam semi final having reached the semi-final stage at U.S. Open in 2011 and at Wimbledon in 2012.  She has seven WTA titles. The 47th ranked Konta will be making her maiden grand slam semi final and has no WTA tour level titles. Kerber will need to ensure that she keeps her eye on the title and brings the same intensity to the match that she brought to the match against Azarenka. Konta will have to fight any nerves that might take over on the big stage.

Over on the men’s side the first semifinal features the 45th career meeting between Djokovic and Federer and the series is tied at 22 apiece. Only Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have met more times then these two, with Djokovic leading the series 24-23. The duo clashed eight times in 2015 and although Federer won three matches against Djokovic at Dubai, Cincinnati and in the round robin action at the WTF in London, Djokovic won five times including the prestigious Wimbledon and U.S. Open final, at Indian Wells, Rome and in the final of WTF in London.

Expect this one to be another classic and Djokovic will need to lift his game toa better level than the level he displayed in his 100 unforced errors filled match against Simon to have a shot at his sixth Australian Open title and 11th major title overall. Federer, who has been a winner in Melbourne four times in the past, will be looking to have an opportunity to add to his 17 slam titles. For the record Djokovic leads 7-4 in grand slam matches between the two.

The other semifinal between the four time finalist Murray and Raonic who will be making his maiden last four appearance at the Australian Open is also tied at 3 apiece but Raonic has a 9-0 record in 2016 with a title in Brisbane where he defeated Federer in the final. If his serve works well on Friday he will be a tough nut to crack as Murray who has stated he will quit at the Open at any stage if his wife Kim Sears goes into labor (expected in mid February) will have personal matters on his mind which he says exceeds Tennis.

– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@gmail.com]

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