Serena continued her serene progress through the tournament, dropping just four games against Klara Zakopalova. She dominated on the Zakopalova serve and her groundstrokes were simply too much for the Czech player to cope with. In reality, the only reason she dropped four games in the second set was because she switched off mentally as she has done in most matches this week. It almost seems like it is too easy for Serena at times and she is struggling to maintain her focus throughout the entire match. The unbeaten run is up to 27 matches on clay and, outside the Grand Slams, she has lost just one match since early August last year.
Johanna Larsson struggled early on against Flavia Pennetta, but improved steadily as the match progressed and was a deserving winner in the end. Her serve improved and she was solid in the rallies, forcing Pennetta on the defensive with plenty of powerful and well-positioned forehands. It was the first time she had really been tested this week and it was good to see that she battled back well after failing to hold serve once in the opening set.
They played earlier this year in the Fed Cup on a hard court. Unsurprisingly, Serena was a comfortable winner 6-2, 6-2. Williams hit 31 winners as Larsson left too many balls short, simply inviting Serena to step inside the baseline.
What They Said
“She has nothing to lose and everything to gain. I remember playing her this year. She has a good serve. I always thought she’d be good on clay. And I remember her spirit – she was fighting really hard” – Serena reminisces on her match against Larsson earlier in the year.
“It’s not very uplifting when you fail to hold serve once in the first set. But I still felt there was a chance and the audience deserved more fighting spirit and desire from me” – Johanna Larsson following her 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Flavia Pennetta.
As boring a prediction as it is, Serena Williams will cruise to her seventh title of the year. Larsson simply doesn’t have the ability to trouble the American. I would not be surprised to see Serena dominate the first set before switching off slightly in the second as she has all week. Something along the lines of 6-1, 6-3 would not be surprising.
Andrea Hlavackova has twice won the doubles title in Bad Gastein, but this time she looks to do it alone. While normally the nerves would be a factor in a first final, the Czech player is used to winning titles in the doubles and has played on the biggest stage, having won the French Open doubles and reaching the final of Wimbledon, the US Open and the Olympics. Arguably she was the weaker player in her semi-final against Elina Svitolina, winning fewer points overall, but she was able to hit enough winners in the end to see her through. She struggled on her serve as she has all week, but Svitolina was far too passive and allowed her to dictate enough of the points to come through in the end.
Yvonne Meusburger is enjoying the best run of her career, having reached back-to-back finals in Budapest and here. She is proving remarkably solid at the baseline, not allowing players to hit through her and has simply put plenty of balls back in play. It has worked very well so far and it would be a surprise if she were to change this tactic in the final. She is yet to drop a set this week, which will have helped with avoiding fatigue from two long weeks of tennis and her confidence will be sky-high going into the final here. It is a tournament that she loves to play in and the home crowd will be fully behind her.
Their only previous meeting came back on the ITF circuit in 2009. The match on the clay in Hechingen was won in straight sets by Yvonne Meusburger, but both players have made solid progress since then, so there is little worth in placing much emphasis on this result.
What They Said
“My way of playing in the high altitude gives me an advantage. Tomorrow, I will try to keep the same rhythm as the entire tournament” – Andrea Hlavackova on why she enjoys playing in Bad Gastein
“I have not really done anything spectacular today. I kept the ball in play and waited for her to make mistakes. If I could wish for an opponent in the final, then it would be Andrea Hlavackova, because my way of playing doesn’t really suit her” – Yvonne Meusburger after her 6-4, 6-3 win over Karin Knapp
As Meusburger says, her style will frustrate Hlavackova and will test the patience and ability of the Czech player. She will have to hit plenty of big shots as Meusburger will get plenty of balls back in play. If she can consistently hit winners, she has a chance, but players have struggled to hit through Meusburger all week and I would be surprised if Hlavackova can do it here. Meusburger to win in straight sets.