Two Roland Garros and Wimbledon champions will square off for a chance to add their first hard court Slam to their trophy cabinet. For Simona Halep it will be another crack at the Slam that eluded her a couple of years ago after a brutal three set battle. Facing her will be Garbiñe Muguruza whose unseeded progress has tripped up three seeds on her way into the semi-final.
The last couple of years has seen Muguruza slip down the rankings a little, making her an unenviable prospect at this year’s tournament, and after a couple of three setters including getting over a virus to start, Muguruza has been focussed and certainly against the No.5 seed Elina Svitolina, she was ruthless.
It was a slow start for Halep with only one win behind her before her run here, and she is yet to drop a set. By contrast, a semi-final in Shenzhen and the quarter-final in Hobart has seen a match-sharp Muguruza find her way to her best Australian Open result.
Their head to head paints a varied picture – with just two three-setters, victories tend to be quite decisive, the most telling example being the Cincinnati final of 2017, when Halep was contesting for the World No. 1 spot, and could only get a game off the Spaniard.
Muguruza did not have things all her own way in her quarter-final and had to keep fighting back, admitting in her press conference that starting the tournament not feeling great had brought its own challenges.
She said: “It definitely has been from low to high, not starting at my best, then each day recovering, I was training at the same time. Yeah, very happy with the evolution of how I started.”
Moreover it has been a tough couple of years, before this resurgent start to the season.
Muguruza continued: “I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them to my previous years. That’s how I see it. I don’t see it at all as a coma. I just think you struggle as a player, and there is moments where things don’t go your way. You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again.”
What we will see is Muguruza’s attacking play, defence and her abilities at the net against the gritty scrambling of Halep’s own aggressive play, combined with the confidence that she has been this far before, although both of them are keen to lay their hands on a first hard-court Slam.
Halep was brutal in her quarter-final and the key will be who gets off the mark quicker.
Prediction: Halep in three sets.
Halep & Muguruza are scheduled on Rod Laver Arena, not before 2pm (3am GMT).
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