World No.1 Simona Halep is on a ten-match winning streak, while the former World No.1 Angelique Kerber is on a 14-match winning streak. There’s little to separate them at the moment but one of these players will have to lose their first match of 2018 when they meet in this Australian Open semifinal. Read on for the preview…
Australian Open Semifinal
 Simona Halep (No.1) vs  Angelique Kerber (No.16)
Halep’s route to this stage
R1: d. Destanee Aiava, 7-6(5) 6-1
R2: d. Eugenie Bouchard, 6-2 6-2
R3: d. Lauren Davis, 4-6 6-4 15-13
R4: d. Naomi Osaka, 6-3 6-2
QF: d.  Karolina Pliskova, 6-3 6-2
Our World No.1 Simona Halep is really showing us why she is the number one player in the world at the moment. Halep went through a couple of danger moments in the first week, having rolled her ankle in the first round against Destanne Aiava and saving three match points against Lauren Davis in an epic 15-13 third set. Halep’s peformances were pretty flat during the first three rounds, mostly staying to defense and counter-punching. However she has turned the tide in the last two rounds with 6-3 6-2 wins over Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova. Simona’s stats have been peaking – Halep matched Osaka in the winner count with 22, and commited 20 winners to just one more from Pliskova. It is really impressive that she is matching the aggressive players’ winner counts and the ankle injury in the first round does not seem to be affecting her at all.
Kerber’s route to this stage
R1: d. Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-0 6-4
R2: d. Donna Vekic, 6-4 6-1
R3: d. Maria Sharapova, 6-1 6-3
R4: d. Hsieh Su-Wei, 4-6 7-5 6-2
QF: d.  Madison Keys, 6-1 6-2
Angelique Kerber has truly put her 2017 disappointments aside and is now back to being one of the best players in the world, if not, the best so far. Kerber has started the year 14-0, winning her four singles matches in Hopman Cup, winning her tenth WTA title in Sydney, and winning five matches at Melbourne thus far. With the fourth round as an exception, Kerber has been breezing through the draw at the moment, with comfortable straight sets victories over Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys. Her toughest examination thus far has been against the unorthodox Hsieh Su-Wei, who was a game away from beating Kerber, but the former World No.1 found her game at the last second to overpower the Taiwanese player. Kerber has been serving, attacking, and defending really well this week and will need that against the No.1 player again.
Head to head: The head to head between these players are tied at four wins apiece. Kerber won their previous two match-ups, in Singapore and Cincinnati in 2016. Halep leads the head to head on hard courts 4-2.
Stats: Out of the four players left in the draw (Kerber, Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Elise Mertens) Kerber is the remaining former champion and Grand Slam winner left.
In 2017, Kerber went 10-20 against top 50 players. Including Hopman Cup matches, she has already reached that exact number during the first month of January!
Kerber is 1-9 against Number One players, with her only win coming against Serena Williams in the Australian Open in 2016.
With Halep’s victory over Pliskova, Simona has reached the semifinal of every Grand Slam in her career.
Thoughts: The tendency in this Grand Slam is that the matches that sounded fun didn’t live up to its expectations (Kerber-Sharapova, Kerber-Keys) but the ones that were underrated were the gems of this tournament (Halep-Davis, Suarez Navarro-Kontaveit). Really hoping this one doesn’t turn out like that!
Both are stellar counter-punchers so likely the one that misses less and goes for her shots a little more will come up as the winner. After watching a couple of Halep matches against counter-punchers, I feel that Halep tries to go for too much against these kind of players. And that’s not her game, which causes her to miss more. You could say that Kerber is the slightly more powerful player and I think her ability to stay positive and go for high-risk shots will result in her edging the match in the end.
Prediction: Angelique Kerber d. Simona Halep in three sets
Australian Open predictions are here, you can find them at the menu at the top of the blog as well. Thanks for reading! 🙂