Sharapova Highlights Women’s Semifinals at Wimbledon

2011 Wimbledon Women’s Tennis Championship Semifinals
Thursday, June 30, 2011, approximately 8:00 am Eastern, TV: NBC
All England Lawn Tennis Center, Wimbledon, England
Playing Surface: Grass

Maria Sharapova is a heavy favorite to win her semifinal match against Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon. Victoria Azarenka takes on Petra Kvitova in the other semifinal.

Some of the star power went out of Wimbledon on the Women’s side on Monday when both Williams sisters and #1 seed Caroline Wozniacki were upset. However, three of the top ten players in the world made it to the semifinals. Fourth seeded Victoria Azarenka, fifth seeded Maria Sharapova, and eighth seeded Petra Kvitova all made it to the final four along with unseeded Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki was formerly ranked in the top  25 in the world before she missed significant time due to injury. 

It is interesting that all four semifinalists are tall leggy blondes from Eastern Europe in their 20’s. However, Maria Sharapova is far and away the most successful of the 4 with 23 titles, including 3 grand slam titles. Her opponents have only 13 titles combined, and none of them have ever won a grand slam title. Sharapova is also the oldest of the four at 24. The other three are all 21. Sharapova will take on Lisicki in one semifinal while Azarenka and Kvitova will battle in the other. Here is a look at both matches with odds courtesy of bodog.

#4 Victoria Azarenka (Even) vs #8 Petra Kvitova (-130)

Kvitova is having a breakthrough year with 3 titles at Brisbane, Paris and Madrid. The 6’0″ tall Czech lefty had only won one title in her career before this year. She is 36-8 on the year. Kvitova made it to the semifinals here last year. She also made it to the quarterfinals at the Aussie Open in January and the fourth round at last month’s French Open. She dropped a set in a tie breaker in the quarters at Wimbledon against #32 Tsvetana Pironkova but otherwise hasn’t lost more than 3 games in any other set. Kvitova also beat #29 Roberta Vinci and #19 Yanina Wickmayer on her way to the semifinals. Incredibly, she is averaging just under 80%  on first serve winners and 66% winners on second serves.  She has 26 aces and only 11 double faults in the tournament. Serving like that she will be tough to beat.

Azarenka is 33-10 on the year with two titles at Miami and Marbella. This is the first time the 5’10” inch righty from Belarus has ever made to the semifinals of a Grand Slam event. She dropped a set in the third round to #25 Daniela Hantuchova, the only seeded player she has faced so far. She hasn’t lost more than 4 games in any other set in the event. Azarenka beat Nadia Petrova in the fourth round and crushed Tamira Paszek 6-3, 6-1 in the quarters. Azarenka has 10 aces and 9 double faults in five matches at Wimbledon. She is hitting 75.2% on first serve winners and 53.8% on second serve winners.

Kvitova and Azarenka have played each other 4 times in their careers, including in the third round of last year’s Wimbledon. The series is tied 2-2, with Kvitova winning the last 2. Kvitova beat her last year here 7-5, 6-0 and also beat her in the final at Madrid earlier this year on clay 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.

I like Kvitova to advance to her first Grand Slam final but I think it will go three sets.

#5 Maria Sharapova (-300) vs Sabine Lisicki (+220)

Sharapova missed much of the 2008 and 2009 seasons with injury and is just now rounding into the form she showed when she was the #1 player in the world.  She made it to the semifinals of the French Open this year, the first time she did that a major since she won the Australian Open in 2008. Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2007 but hasn’t made the semifinals since 2006 here. This year Sharapova is 26-7 with one title at Rome. Sharapova hasn’t dropped a set in five matches at Wimbledon. She went to one tiebreaker in the second round against Laura Robson but otherwise hasn’t lost more than four games in any other set. She beat #20 Shuai Peng in the fourth round and destroyed #24 Dominika Cibulkova 6-1,6-1 in the quarters. Sharapova has 19 aces and 19 double faults in the tournament. She is serving 74.6% winners on her first serves and 49.2% on second serves.

Lisicki was ranked as high as 22 in 2009, but plummeted to 179 in the world after missing much of 2010 with injury. She is currently ranked #62 in the world but is 28-11 with one win at Birmingham a couple of weeks ago on grass. It was her second career win. Lisicki made it to the quarters here in 2009 but has never made it past the second round of any other grand slam event until this week. Lisicki dropped sets to #3 Na Li in the second round and to #9 Marion Bartoli in the quarters. Bartoli and Li are the only seeded players Lisicki faced during her run to the semifinals. The 5’10” German right-hander has 44 aces and only 13 double faults during the tournament. She is serving 80.4% first serve winners and 54% on second serves.

Sharapova won the only career meeting between the two earlier this year in Miami on hard courts, crushing her 6-2, 6-0. Despite Lisicki’s powerful serve, I think Sharapova will win in straight sets.

Both matches should be entertaining despite the fact that Venus and Serena aren’t playing. You can see the matches live on NBC at 8:00 am Eastern unless you live on the West Coast like I do, and then you have to settle for tape delay.   

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