The semifinal line-up for the International event in Shenzhen is completed, and it’s a fun one with World No.1 Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova and defending champion Katerina Siniakova all in action. Read on for the two match previews…
Shenzhen Open Semifinals
1.  Simona Halep (No.1) vs  Irina-Camelia Begu (No.38)
It will be an all Romanian clash in the first semifinal of the Shenzhen Open semifinals as Simona Halep and Irina-Camelia Begu will clash for the sixth time in their careers. Halep has a commanding record in their head to head, but will the tide turn this time around?
After an injury-muddled start to her 2016 and 2017 seasons, Simona Halep has finally started the new year injury-free where she has won her first three matches in Shenzhen. It has not always gone Halep’s way though – starting the year with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Nicole Gibbs, the Romanian needed three sets to get past the challenge of Duan Ying-Ying. Halep’s level has been improving from match to match and she made beating hard-hitter Aryna Sabalenka seem like a piece of cake in a 6-2 6-2 victory. She hit 11 winners to 5 unforced errors, got 76% of first serves in, won 77% of first serve points and 70% of second serve points. Begu though will be a tougher opponent for Halep as the former is the first top 50 player that she will play in 2018.
Consistency between week-to-week tournaments was a struggle for Irina-Camelia Begu, reaching only four quarterfinals in 2017, but she has started the year well in Shenzhen where she won three hard-fought matches to secure a spot in the semifinals. Begu’s serve has looked a little suspect so far, but it hasn’t exactly hindered her so far in her road, beating Liu Fangzhou, Ekaterina Alexandrova and Timea Babos enroute.
Head to head: Halep leads the head to head 5-0, with most recently a 6-3 2-0 ret.d victory in Wuhan 2016.
Thoughts: This has been a super dominant match-up for Halep as she is able to redirect pace from Begu’s shots and make her hit one more ball. Begu’s serve has looked shaky this week, and I believe Halep will be able to attack the serve of Begu constantly, most notably the second serve, where Begu only won 42% of those points against Babos. Everything points to a Halep straight-sets win here.
Prediction: Simona Halep d. Irina-Camelia Begu in two sets
2. Maria Sharapova (No.60) vs  Katerina Siniakova (No.48)
Maria Sharapova’s level in Shenzhen has not been convincing, but her customary fighting spirit has brought her through the first three matches. Sharapova has been struggling with her double fault count and break point conversion throughout the whole of the week – Sharapova has hit 22 doubles faults in three matches, and had disappointing numbers for break points won each match: 5/18 against Buzarnescu, 3/10 against Riske, and 4/11 against Diyas. Wins are wins, but Sharapova will have to keep improving if she is to compete against the higher-ranked players…
This week is the young Katerina Siniakova’s first try at defending a title, and she has been flawless so far at doing so. The Czech has improved to 11-2 in Shenzhen, including an eight-match winning streak having won her matches against Ons Jabeur, Wang Yafan and Kristyna Pliskova. The performance against Pliskova was particularly impressive, as she hit 26 winners to just four unforced errors in a perfect display of attacking tennis and perfect serving throughout the whole of the match, not needing to face a single break point on serve.
Head to head: This is a first-time match-up between both players.
Thoughts: Siniakova has mentioned that Sharapova has been her idol growing up. Sometimes it helps the players to get more motivated for the clash, while sometimes it could also make the player more narrow-minded and too nervy during the match. For Siniakova, I think she falls into the former category, but we shall see tomorrow. Siniakova has looked really good in Shenzhen throughout the week, and certainly can match Sharapova shot for shot, especially on her favoured backhand wing. If she manages to get more first serves in and stay focused and resilient, then the upset is definitely a possibility.
Prediction: Katerina Siniakova d. Maria Sharapova in three sets
Shenzhen predictions are here, you can find them at the menu at the top of the blog as well. Thanks for reading! 🙂