Brain Game: Doha Semifinal Preview
Published February 14, 2014 12:11
Simona Halep is on the fast track to becoming one of the elite players in the world.
Halep is seeded seventh in the event and is the brightest star on the WTA with a fresh ranking this year in the Top 10 in the world and a quick comparison of the quarterfinal victories in Doha illustrates the massive weapons in Halep's game and the huge potential she possesses.
SAP analytics show that the other three semifinalists in Doha, Angelique Kerber, Jelena Jankovic and Agnieszka Radwanska, combined to hit 11 forehand winners in their quarterfinal victories to advance to tomorrow's semifinals. Halep impressively hit exactly double that amount with 22 forehand winners in a match against Errani that only lasted 14 games. Halep's forehand is a weapon that can dominate from all parts of the court and her backhand can also do significant damage. Halep hit seven backhand winners against Errani which were also the most backhand winners from any player in the quarterfinals.
Halep is now on a four-match winning streak against Top 10 players and will face World No.4 Radwanska for a place in Sunday's finals. Radwanska also dominated her quarterfinal with a 62 61 win over Belgian Yanina Wickmayer. Radwanska's stats are typically not as impressive as she often wins by making more balls, yanking her opponent all around the court and playing outstanding defense.
Radwanska only hit four winners (two forehand and two backhand) in her quarterfinal victory and will present a very tough match-up against Halep in the semifinals, who Radwanska holds a 3-1 record against. Halep won their last match in Rome last year in three sets and this encounter will very much highlight Halep's explosive offense against Radwanska's cunning defense.
The other semifinal features two Top 10 players in Jankovic and Kerber battling for the right to advance to the Doha finals. Jankovic had a solid 61 63 victory over Petra Kvitova in the quarters mainly by building scoreboard pressure early in the games. SAP analytics highlighted Jankovic won the opening point in six of her eight service games, going on to win five of them. Kvitova by comparison only won the opening point in one of her eight service games, which she won, but then only won one of her remaining seven service games when she fell behind 0-15 on her serve. It's tough to keep coming from behind against such a quality opponent.
Jankovic will play Kerber, who dominated Petra Cetkovska, 61 60, in their quarterfinal. Cetkovska scored the upset of the tournament in defeating Li Na in three sets in the round of 16 but Kerber proved too strong winning 7 of 11 break points for the match. Kerber dominated returning as Cetkovska only won 12 points serving for the match.
While all four quarterfinals unfolded as very one-sided affairs the semifinals promise to be the exact opposite. Halep and Radwanska is an intriguing match-up of dominating offense versus suffocating defense while Kerber and Jankovic will feature a toe-to-toe battle of in-form players. Tennis is a game of match-ups and both semifinal encounters are as good as it gets in today's game.
Craig O'Shannessy is an Australian tour coach who studies matches to uncover the patterns and percentages that dominate the game. He runs a tennis academy in Austin, Texas and a website called www.braingametennis.com.