by Mad Professah
The 2007 Australian Open Women’s semifinals are now set for 1:30pm Thursday afternoon in Australia which is 9:30 pm EST Wednesday, broadcast live (or tape delay) on ESPN 2.
Maria Sharapova (RUS)  vs. Kim Clijsters (BEL) . The 2-time Russian Grand Slam champion played a “scratchy match” to take out Anna Chakvetadze (RUS)  in two close sets, 7-6(5), 7-5. “Aussie Kim” Clijsters had an even closer match against the wily veteran Swiss Miss, Martina Hingis (SUI), which was a three set battle: 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. This is the Belgian’s final year on the tour and her desire to put a bigger stamp on the tennis record books is clearly conflicting with her mixed emotions at leaving the sport she has been playing since she was just a very little girl in a very little country. Intense desire to win is an integral component of Sharapova’s game plan. However, head-to-head Clijsters leads 4-2 and beat Sharapova in a thrilling US Open semifinal in 2005 on the way to winning her only major title. Clijsters had 62 unforced errors against Hingis (and 46 winners), while Sharapova had 41 errors to 32 winners in 2 sets, which is only a marginally better performance. Sharapova served better (69% first serves in but only won 56% of first serve points and 42% of second serve points) than Clijsters did in her quarterfinal (61% first serves in and but won 58% of first serve points and 48% of second serve points). Going by the numbers and their head-to-head, I think Clijsters will make her seventh Grand Slam final, though Sharapova will not go down without a fight.
PREDICTION: Clijsters in 3 sets.
Serena Williams vs. Nicole Vaidisova (CZE) . When Nicole Vaidisova was a little girl, oh, four or five years ago, she used to idolize the powerful, athletic play of 7-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. Now the Czech teenager has to beat her idol to get to her first Grand Slam final. The two have never played, although Vaidisova has played Serena’s sister, taking Venus Williams out in three sets at the 2006 French Open, where she eventually reached her first Grand Slam semifinal. This is the semifinal that no-one predicted (defending champion Amélie Mauresmo (FRA) was in this half, as was the ailing Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS), which would have been a delightful all-lesbian semifinal). This semifinal is equally impossible to predict. I thought Serena was gone in the previous round when Shahar Peer (ISR) served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd. But Serena did something I have not seen in a while. She got quiet, stopped grunting or shrieking on her shots and calmly played high percentage tennis, allowing Peer to break herself and even the match. Then, still remaining (relatively) quiet, she started hitting with power and precision and won 3 of the next 4 games, and the match. If that Serena shows up, she will reach her 3rd Australian Open final. However, if the Serena who played the first set of that match shows up, she’ll be gone in straight sets. The other question is how will Vaidisova do playing against her idol for the first time in such an important match? She has a history of starting off matches slowly (all her breakthrough matches at Roland Garros were 3 set wins where she lost the first set easily) and Serena Williams is not someone you want to give license to swing freely with a one-set lead. But who knows which player will show up to play? PREDICTION: TOO CLOSE TO CALL.
[Mad Professah Lectures]
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
by Mad Professah