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Ladies' semi-finals Pick 'Em

Serena Williams prepares to serve during her second round doubles match.
by Courtney Nguyen
Thursday 5 July 2012

Angelique Kerber (GER) [8] vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [3]: While Serena and Vika might be the marquee match of the day, I suspect Kerber and Radwanska will provide the most competitive. This is the match that the hard-core tennis fans and pundits have struggled with to predict a winner, especially given their 2-2 head-to-head record and the fact that their last three matches have gone the full three sets. While both would probably fall in the counter-punching category of players there's still a wide gulf in how they go about doing it. Kerber has more power in her baseline game, while Radwanska has the variety, beating you with a thousands cuts rather than one strike. Despite the fact that Radwanska is the higher ranked player, this is her first Slam semi-final, and one wonders whether the nerves will get the better of her. Kerber on the other hand made the U.S. Open semi-finals last year and as the winningest player on the women's tour this year, she seems to have completely forgotten how to lose. This one is a tough match to call, but I think Radwanska's combination of angles, drop shots, and flat strokes will win the day.

Pick: Radwanska in three sets.

Did you know... Angelique Kerber is trying to become the first German woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 1999.

Serena Williams (USA) [6] vs. Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [2]: Serena Williams has an uncanny knack of making you raise an eyebrow in skepticism. After her quarter-final win over Petra Kvitova, Serena said the only pressure that matters is the pressure she puts on herself. Fair point, but when it comes to her semi-final showdown with Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, Serena says she'll be playing with nothing to lose. "She's had a better year than I have," Serena told reporters. "She's been so successful already, like I said, winning a Grand Slam. Going against a player like that, I feel like she almost has an advantage, I guess. So, you know, that makes me really relaxed and I can just kind of hit." Serena Williams, four-time Wimbledon champion who has not won a major title in two years playing like she has nothing to lose? If she's truly convinced herself of that then Azarenka is truly in a world of trouble.

After being pushed deep into a third set in back-to-back matches in her third and fourth rounds, Serena buckled down after a stern talking to from her father, Richard Williams, and sister Venus. With her decisive win over Kvitova, Serena looked confident and self-assured, banishing the Ghost of Upsets Past.  It's still hard to get around the idea that Serena is playing like she has nothing to lose but for the first time this fortnight she did play as if unencumbered by expectation and, as she said, "just kind of hit".

What can Azarenka do to win this match? If Serena comes out serving like has been during the tournament (she fired down a Wimbledon ladies' record 23 aces against Zheng Jie last week) she'll effectively take the racket out of Vika's hands. That's the ultimate challenge for Azarenka, who is one of the most skilled returners in the game. She may not strike a slew of return winners against Serena, but she does have the ability to get the back deep and earn a short reply. That's what she needs to do to neutralize Serena's serve.

Pick: Serena Williams in two sets.

Did you know... if Victoria Azarenka wins today she will assure herself the No. 1 ranking on Monday.

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