Record-Chasing Serena In Grass Court Loving Strycova Test, Halep Confident

Jul 10 - by AFP for SportPesa News

Wimbledon women singles semi finals set for dramatic showdowns as American superstar Williams closes in on Margaret Court 24 Grand Slam titles

US player Serena Williams (R) and Britain's Andy Murray take part in a session on the practice courts on day nine of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 10, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

  • The 37-year-old seven-time champion had to draw on all her strength -- physical and mental -- to get past unseeded compatriot Alison Riske in the last eight and faces another grass court loving opponent in Barbora Strycova in Thursday's semi-finals
  • Strycova for her part described Williams as a great champion and amazing athlete but if that indicated she was intimidated, think again
  • Halep showed this in impressing in her previous two matches dealing with the partisan crowd in beating Coco Gauff and then coming back from 4-1 down and break points in the first set against Zhang Shuai in her quarter-final

LONDON, England- American superstar Serena Williams is tantalisingly close to equalling Margaret Court's record haul of 24 Grand Slam titles but it's far from a certainty given her shaky displays so far at Wimbledon.

The 37-year-old seven-time champion had to draw on all her strength -- physical and mental -- to get past unseeded compatriot Alison Riske in the last eight and faces another grass court loving opponent in Barbora Strycova in Thursday's semi-finals.

The 33-year-old Czech veteran -- the oldest player to play in a woman's semi-final for the first time -- has found the thought of retirement a spur for playing some of her finest tennis and says she will step onto Centre Court "without any fear".

The other semi-final pits two seeds against each other, seventh seed and former world number one Simona Halep against eighth seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. 

RECOMMENDED READ: Chastened Chipus To Draw Lessons From Uruguay World U20 Trophy Defeat

It says a lot about the turbulence of women's tennis that Williams is making her 12th semi-final appearance while of the other three only Halep has gone this far before, and that was back in 2014.

Williams is the colossus that still bestrides women's tennis, but there are chinks in her armour as have been exposed both at Wimbledon and in her last two Grand Slam finals.

Outplayed by Angelique Kerber in last year's Wimbledon final and then a spectacular meltdown in the US Open defeat by Naomi Osaka gives Strycova genuine hope of an upset.

Not that the diminutive Czech will require any as her bubbly character oozes optimism and her form guide is as good as any of the semi-finalists having ousted four seeds on her way to the semi-final.

Williams's clay court campaign was affected by a knee injury but has accrued invaluable extra game time by playing the mixed doubles with another former world number one, Andy Murray.

"This is the first time since Australia (she reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open) that I actually felt, like, good," said Williams.

RECOMMENDED READ: Former World Number One Simona Halep Into Second Wimbledon Semis

"It's been a really, really long year for me already, and hard year, because I'm usually not typically injured.

"I don't know where I am. I do know I feel good."

However, she has still looked vulnerable and Strycova's speed round the court and array of shots will pay dividends if she reproduces the leaden-footed performance she put up against Riske.

Fighting spirit

"She's good on the grass," Williams said of an opponent she has defeated three times without dropping a set, including the first round at Wimbledon seven years ago.

"She knows what to do. She has a good all-around game. She's incredibly tricky. It's definitely not easy.

"But it's something I'm definitely geared up for."

RECOMMENDED READ: Safari Rally Long-Awaited WRC Return Set To Be Confirmed This Week

Strycova for her part described Williams as a great champion and amazing athlete but if that indicated she was intimidated, think again.

"I don't have fear,"

"I don't have such a power like Serena, but I have other weapons.

"I will try to use them as much as I can. I will enjoy.

"I have really at this point nothing to lose."

Halep should  prevail in the other clash, not only because of her greater experience and having won a  Slam in last year's French Open, but she says she has at last taken to grass after not being best suited to it when she lost to Eugenie Bouchard in the 2014 semi-final.

RECOMMENDED READ: Serena Williams Wary Of Taking Any Alison Riske In Wimbledon Quarters

Halep showed this in impressing in her previous two matches dealing with the partisan crowd in beating Coco Gauff and then coming back from 4-1 down and break points in the first set against Zhang Shuai in her quarter-final. 

"I'm a different person," said the 27-year-old Romanian.

"Everything changed. I have a lot of experience now. I'm more confident.

"I love grass. It's first time when I say that."

Svitolina has at last broken the psychological barrier of reaching the semi-finals -- four losing quarter-final appearances at other Slams testify to her inability to go further.

"I am not going to give up the match easy," she said.

RECOMMENDED READ: Senegal Boss Cisse Believes This Could Be The Year They Win A Maiden AFCON Title

Wimbledon women's semi-finals head-to-heads

Serena Williams (USA x11) v Barbora Strycova (CZE)

Serena leads 3-0 

2017 - Australian Open Hard  last-16 7-5, 6-4

2012 - Wimbledon       Grass 1st rd  6-2, 6-4

2012 - Australian Open Hard  2nd rd  6-0, 6-4

Romania's Simona Halep takes rest as she takes part in a session on the practice courts on day nine of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 10, 2019. PHOTO/AFP


Simona Halep (ROM x7) v Elina Svitolina (UKR x8)

Svitolina leads 4-3

2019 - Qatar Open: Hard SF Halep 6-3, 3-6, 6-4

2018 - Italian Open: Clay F Svitolina 6-0, 6-4

2017 - WTA Finals: Hard 1st rd Svitolina  6-3, 6-4

2017 - Toronto: Hard SF Svitolina 6-1, 6-1

2017 - French Open: Clay QF  Halep 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-0

2017 - Italian Open: Clay F  Svitolina 4-6, 7-5, 6-1

2013 - Sofia: Hard 1st rd Halep 6-1, 6-1