Strewth! what a couple of days down under, I doubt I was the only one to be surprised by those QF results, one thing is certain: my ability to predict a tennis match remains non existent.
Ekaterina Makarova def Simona Halep 6-4, 6-0
The unassuming Russian is so comfortable here in Melbourne and continues to silently scythe her way through the field with efficiency and style. Her much heralded opponent – like others that day simply ‘didn’t feel right’. The Romanian would uncharacteristically spray errors frequently in an uneven display. Makarova you sense wont be fazed by a semi-final berth.
Maria Sharapova def Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-2
Billed by those who saw it as a ‘tennis lesson’ the sometimes wayward Sharapova produced her A-Game this time around when it mattered; and that is too much for anyone else to handle on the tour. An uneven match with more errors than winners but an intensity that remained constant, ultimately Bouchard couldn’t compete with the on-song Masha who will need to stay in sixth gear til Sunday.
Tomas Berdych def Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-0, 7-6
Is Tomas Berdych the happiest man alive right now? After another shall we say uncertain 2014 season, the Czech began this year by getting engaged and reaching the semi finals of the Australian Open without losing a set and emphatically ending a 17-match losing streak against Rafa Nadal.
And that scoreline too – comprehensive to say the least. Berdych was able to stick to the almost impossible gamepln needed to defeat the Spaniard; faultless serving, deep groundstrokes into the corners and early in the point, and errors to a minimum.
Rafa’s subdued nature in those opening two sets was no surprise. Can Berdych go one step further this year?
Andy Murray def Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6, 6-3
Murray is rapidly nearing his devastating best a la the Lendl era. Kyrgios has plenty of weapons and will be a major star in the future – a grand slam champion very possibly. But the gulf in class right now is too much. Murray has the belief and a rejuvenated physical prowess that will see him challenge for every major title this season. Throw in the best return and lob elements of anyone right now and you have all the answers. Berdych will be a different test however.
Madison Keyes def Venus Williams 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
As heartwarming it has been to see Venus back in the big time (and there’s no reason to suggest she won’t continue to do have one mighty swansong of a 2015) America has been crying out for some new blood on both tours for when the Williams siblings finally hang up their glittering racquets. For while John Isner and Sloane Stephens have hinted at such a new era, nothing has materialised. In Madison Keyes we might just have the answer. The 19 year old probably wont progress further here, but in her win against Venus (who herself had many chances) she has set U.S tennis alight.
Serena Williams def Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2
It is a familiar sight, a top ten (nigh on) player on the woman’s circuit who has every weapon in the book suddenly looks helpless against the irresistible power and precision of Serena Williams. Not even the Sharapovas and Azarenkas of this world can handle the American’s A Game when she is on song. Last year proved that this isn’t a dead cert – but boy has she started quick off the mark.
Simply put – Serena is the strong favourite here barring any sort of 2014-esque mental walkabout.
Stanislas Wawrinka def Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4, 7-6
Nishikori reminded the tennis community last year in New York just why he was so hyped before injury threatened to derail his career. He looks to have carried that momentum and has enjoyed another great major tournament. But in defending champ Stanimal the Japanese was up against a player with all the confidence and self belief that together with that backhand propelled him to the title a year ago. Never mind that it has taken the Swiss almost a year to find that momentum again. He is back and he will be a severe test for Novak.
Novak Djokovic def Milos Raonic 7-6, 6-4, 6-2
Djokovic is only now clicking into top gear – needless to say that is ominous. Poor Milos Raonic just doesn’t have the game over five sets – at least not right now – to deal with the Serbinator in such form. But then again who has? Wawrinka will have as much chance as anybody.
SEMI FINAL PREDICTIONS (because I’m so so good at them!)
Sharapova to beat Makarova in three
Serena to beat Keyes in two
Murray to beat Berdych in four
Djokovic to beat Wawrinka in five