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Australian Open Women’s semi-finals preview: Serena, Kerber aim for the final

Previewing the women's semi-final line-up at the 2016 Australian Open.

If tennis fans had expected that there would be no more upsets on the women’s side during the second week of the 2016 Australian Open, they were in for a shock. Heavily-favoured two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka was dumped out of Melbourne Park as the German No. 1 Angelique Kerber made her maiden Grand Slam semifinal at the Open.

She faces Great Britain’s history-maker Johanna Konta, who is also through to the last four for the very first time.

The other women’s singles semi-final will pit two experienced opponents against one another as World No. 1 Serena Willams takes on 2014 semi-finalist Agnieszka Radwanska. Are we in for more upsets?

Let’s find out how these two matches might unfold:

(1) Serena Williams vs (4) Agnieszka Radwanska

Head-to-head: Serena leads 8-0

Two different playing styles collide in Thursday’s first women’s singles semi-final as power meets panache two winning streaks from two strong players come face to face. Serena Williams’ brutal aggression is up against the guile and finesse of Agnieszka Radwanska as the fourth seed seeks her maiden final appearance in Melbourne.

At a glance, this is a tall order for the Pole. She is locking horns with a player who is on a 12-match winning streak at this arena and has lifted the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup -the women’s final here -  six times, including last year.

The World No. 1 has looked ominous, ready to lay her hands on her 22nd Major trophy, something she missed out on at the 2015 US Open after being stunned by Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals.

After a marginally tough opener against unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi at this year’s Australian Open, she has lost just 13 games in her next four rounds. The lethal serve has so far slammed down 38 aces, making her as intimidating as ever.

Williams’ impeccable form will not bode well for her rival. Having said that, Radwanska too is coming into this match with a lot of confidence.

 She has won her last 12 matches, which included the title at the WTA Finals last year and at Shenzhen this year. That probably means nothing against someone like Serena who can overpower her.

But Radwanska’s 0-8 head-to-head record against the mighty American has one very important match. The two met at the 2012 Wimbledon final, which was the only time the World No. 4 was able to take a set off Serena.

The Pole’s slices wreaked havoc on the low-bouncing grass courts, and Williams was put to the test for a good part of the match. This, after all, is not grass, neither are the courts that low-bouncing but the Pole can surely draw inspiration from that match to make Serena work hard for the win.

Watch Serena Williams take on Agnieszka Radwanska live on SonyLIV.com or you could catch the match live on their app. If you miss the live action, you can catch the highlights on SonyLiv.com or use the SonyLiv app to watch the highlights.

Prediction: Serena Williams to win in straight sets

(7) Angelique Kerber vs Johanna Konta


Head-to-head: First meeting

Self-belief can do a world of good even if the task ahead is seemingly insurmountable. Seventh seed Angelique Kerber brought copious amounts of self-belief to her quarter-final match against Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday and that ultimately aided her to overturn a 0-6 deficit against the Belarusian.

She afterwards told, “She didn’t lose it; I actually won it.”

It is a huge statement coming from the German, who was previously known more for her counterpunching skills.

Even in her last showdown with Azarenka at the Brisbane final just a little over two weeks ago, the Belarusian had emerged a 6-3, 6-1 winner.

But on Wednesday, Kerber unleashed 31 winners and dictated the points thoroughly against someone as aggressive as Azarenka, forcing her into errors time and again.

The left-handed German had a plan and she executed it perfectly. But the challenge gets even tougher now as she has to come down from the emotional high of such a huge feat and re-focus for an even bigger achievement – a maiden final berth in a Grand Slam.

She has never met her next opponent, Johanna Konta who became the first British woman to reach the semi-finals at a Major since Jo Durie at the 1983 US Open. What makes Konta’s run even more impressive is the fact that this is her main draw debut at the Australian Open.

But it would take more than just guts for the 47th ranked Briton to topple someone as feisty as Kerber. The German’s tenacity is admirable and she has shown it many times before.

Watch Konta take on Kerber in her first ever Grand Slam semi-final on live SonyLIV.com or watch them on the Sony Liv app. If you miss them in action, you can watch the highlights on SonyLiv.com or on the SonyLiv app.

Konta might put her under pressure with her wonderful movement and net approaches but the sixth-ranked Kerber should be able to eke out the win in the end.

Prediction: Kerber in three sets

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