Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will meet for the second time in eight days when they contest the Cincinnati semi-finals on Saturday. Check out the Williams vs Wozniacki Head to Head.
Their encounter in Montreal last week was a fantastic watch. Wozniacki led Serena by a set and a break before the American stormed back, but the pair were toe-to-toe right up until the final point. Serena, a few notches short of her best form, showed characteristic grit, yet what made the duel so compelling was Wozniacki’s positive play. She did what she was supposed to do: get back as many balls as possible in order to make Serena earn it.
The Dane is entering the Cincinnati semis in even better form. She has just beaten two top ten players in the same tournament for the first time since 2010. On Thursday she out-steadied fellow human backboard Angelique Kerber, and on Friday afternoon she managed to drain the patience of Agnieszka Radwanska. In both matches, Wozniacki played with the verve and vigour that has been sorely lacking for much of the last two years. Her forehand wasn’t too much of a liability, and she launched herself into backhands instead of merely pushing the ball back into court.
The alarming news for Wozniacki fans is that Serena is also playing better than she did in Montreal. She might not have hit her peerless hard court peak just yet, but the signs are encouraging. She hasn’t dropped a set in Ohio and the wins have come more easily with every round. On Thursday, Serena dispatched occasional bête-noire Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-3, making up for a slightly disappointing serving performance by being brilliant on the return.
Having gone deep in a tournament for the third week in a row, Serena’s legs have covered a lot of ground. As a result, the world number one will aim to keep her ninth career meeting with Wozniacki short and sweet. To do that she’ll need to serve well and get the big strike in early – the longer the rallies go on the more chance Wozniacki will have of winning them.
Wozniacki is smart enough to know that this match is not really in her hands, so she’ll focus on her primary strength: retrieving. If Serena grows tired and drops a few balls short, Wozniacki can step into the court and go for a winner, but the Dane’s main goal will be to keep her friend under pressure and force her to come up with something special. That’s how she earned her sole win over Williams to date, in Miami in 2012.
It’s hard to predict which way this match will go. Serena, due one of her famously flawless performances, could come out firing, make Wozniacki look weaponless and desperate, and wrap up victory in an hour. On the other hand, she could wilt under the sheer mental effort of playing Wozniacki, a player who gives opponents next to nothing. This will be Serena’s 12th match in 18 days, and that kind of workload has to take its toll, even on a physical powerhouse like her.
Prediction: Wozniacki in three sets.