Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Women's Semi-Final Preview and Picks

All good things must come to an end.

Apparently, Venus Williams didn't get the memo. Or maybe she got it and threw it away.

The five-time Wimbledon champion has not lost a set on the grass at the All England Club since the 3rd round of 2007 - a total of 32 sets- and she doesn't appear to be about to lose one either, in spite of that ominous looking tape job that she has been sporting on her left knee.

Enter Dinara Safina. Could this be just the thing Safina needs - a match where the tennis world will certainly be expecting her to lose and perhaps to lose big, in order to force those squeaky nerves of hers to take a back set to her better half, the half that can hit scorching winners with the best of them?

Tomorrow's Wimbledon Women's semi-finals are a study in contrast. They feature a pair of American sisters who are high on confidence (neither have dropped a set all tournament) against a pair of Russians who are perpetually low on confidence (neither of them, in spite of getting oh-so-close oh-so-often, have ever won a slam).

It seems almost borderline pathological to expect anything other than a Williams sister demolition. It happens virtually every year, so why should 2009 be any different? Since 2000, 11 of the 18 Wimbledon finalists have gone by the last name Williams, and there have been three finals between the two.

It may be close to impossible, but, as Dinara Safina's favorite t-shirt says, "Impossible is Nothing." Now if she can just play like she believes it, fans may get their money's worth.

Here's a look at tomorrow's match ups:

1. Serena Williams vs. Elena Dementieva

Interesting and surprising fact: Dementieva has won 3 out of her last 4 matches against Serena. But when the pressure was really on in January in the Australian Open semi-finals, Serena returned to form to crush the soft-serving Russian, 6-3, 6-4.

In their only previous Wimbledon meeting way back in 2003, Serena put a 6-2, 6-2 whooping on Dementieva.

What can Dementieva do to neutralize Serena's powerful game? Probably not much. She'll have to play the best match of her life and Serena, for reasons beyond comprehension, will have to be uninspired.

Pick: Serena in 2

2. Venus Williams vs. Dinara Safina

Venus is looking to become the first woman to win three consecutive Wimbledon championships since Steffi Graf (1991 -1993).

Poor Dinara Safina, all she wants is just one Slam.

If she wants to get it at Wimbledon she'll more than likely have to go through both Williams sisters to get it. It's a long shot at best, even for the worlds No. 1 ranked player who has been the most consistent player on tour for pretty much all of 2009.

Safina is 1-2 lifetime against Venus, with that win coming in their last match this spring. But it won't do much to help her confidence because it came on the clay in Rome. That's a far cry from the grass of the All England Club, where Venus has won five of her seven Grand-Slam titles, and been to an additional two finals as well.

What can Safina do? Play like a maniac and hope for the best. If she doesn't leave everything she has on the grass, this one could be ugly, but hopefully not as ugly as Safina's Australian Open final against Serena where Safina remarked to the press after the match that she "was nothing more than Serena's ball girl."

Pick: Safina in 3


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