This has all the feel of a de facto final with two Slam champions going head to head, with the added elements of quite difficult times prior to this fortnight for both of them. Kerber had looked like she was struggling for form with just two back-to-back wins this season and two first round exits at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
Even her first outing on grass saw an early exit in Berlin, but Bad Homburg changed all that around with a run to the title. She has had tough battles though at Wimbledon, including the gruelling slug-fest against Sara Sorribes Tormo and having to come from a set down against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Barty’s woes have been more physical. She came back to the tour after not playing a stroke of competitive tennis in 2019 and she started the year very solidly, but injury in the clay court season saw her withdraw in Roland Garros, and not play any grass court matches before Wimbledon.
She has taken a while to get going, with an emotional opener against Carla Suarez Navarro, but since then she has not dropped a set, and against fellow Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic she was very much in control.
With the exception of their first encounter in Brisbane (2017) it has been straight sets wins but expect gruelling rallies. Kerber has looked back to her grinding best. Against Barty’s all court game and particularly her ability to finish at the net, her kick-serve and all-around variety, this deserves to be a three setter.
The two players who should have been making waves at Wimbledon and come up short in the past have finally made good on that potential as Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka go head-to-head in their first Wimbledon semi-final.
For once the fast-serving, quick-talking Czech has been very much under the radar. Save for her US Open final, she has nit really made much impression at the Slams, and even less so on a surface that should be tailor-made for her game. She has done well historically in the pre-Wimbledon tournament but had failed to carry that momentum forward. So when she had two straight first round defeats on the grass, in what has not been a stellar season for her until Rome, there were no real expectations.
It had not been a great start to the season either for her, with the exception of Rome and even then, the wheels came off in that final.
Contrast then Sabalenka, who started the year very strongly and has been the in-form tour player this year, but again at the Slams getting past that Round of 16 stage had been the biggest factor – until now.
An Eastbourne finalist (2018), she has the game to play on the British grass, and it has finally come good for her, with a couple of battles along the way, not least of which having to come from a set down against Britain’s Katie Boulter.
This will not be a game of crafty variety. This will be the kind of game where we pray for the covers of the little yellow fluffies. One thing that stood out in the quarter-finals was Pliskova’s movement – she is not renowned for her agility around the court, but she was all over the court against Viktorija Golubic.
Both can be adept at the net, so it is difficult to know who gets the edge here, but Sabalenka has just been that much more consistent. But in her first Slam semi-final, will nerves finally take hold?
Prediction: Pliskova in three sets.
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