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2015 Australian Open women's semifinals preview: It's USA on one side, and Russia on the other

After 10 days of exciting tennis at Melbourne, we are at the business end of the Australian Open. The semifinals begin tomorrow and the four women in fray will fight it out to have their name engraved on the Daphne Akhurst trophy. The only thing certain at the moment is that it will be a USA Vs Russia final.

After 10 days of exciting tennis at Melbourne, we are at the business end of the Australian Open. The semifinals begin tomorrow and the four women in the fray will fight it out to have their name engraved on the Daphne Akhurst trophy. The only thing certain at the moment is that it will be a USA vs Russia final.

Note: You can watch both the semifinals live on Sony Liv Sports here.

Semifinal 1: Maria Sharapova vs Ekaterina Makarova

In a battle of Russians, the No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova faces off against No. 10 seed Ekaterina Makarova. Sharapova is looking for her sixth Grand Slam title, while Makarova is aiming to enter her first Major final.

The crowd will witness contrasting styles of play from both players when they take to the court tomorrow. Sharapova will be aggressive from the first game and Makarova will try to handle the pressure situations with her court craft and lefty spins. 

Both come into the last four clash with convincing wins in the quarterfinal. Makarova took out No. 3 seed Simona Halep 6-4, 6-0; Halep was no where close to her best in the encounter, and while Makarova did not play at a high level either, she did more than enough to prevail.

Makarova registered 75% on her first serves, hit 10 winners and a whopping 20 unforced errors in the quarterfinal. An interesting fact to note is that Makarova hasn’t dropped a set so far in the tournament.

Sharapova’s last eight clash against Eugenie Bouchard was hyped up by the media, but it did not live up to the expectations. Sharapova hit 27 winners and committed 18 unforced errors, while Bouchard committed 30 unforced errors and looked out of sorts, winning just 63% points on her first serve.

Sharapova was in trouble in her second round match against Alexandra Panova, but scraped through after saving two match points. 

The five-time Grand Slam champion’s serve will be critical to her chances in the semifinal. If she doesn’t serve an array of double faults, she will be difficult to beat. Makarova on the other hand would have to play ruthless tennis to have any chances against the No. 2 seed. She has to have a high first serve percentage and a good second serve to prevent Sharapova from getting easy points. 

Sharapova leads the head-to-head 5-0.

Match Time: Not before 8 am IST.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova in three sets.

Semifinal 2: Serena Williams vs Madison Keys

Five-time champion Serena Williams was on cruise control in her thrashing of 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals. The No. 1 seed was tested by Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round, but she came through after dropping a set.

Meanwhile, Madison Keys took out Serena’s sister Venus Williams in a tight three set match earlier today. The 19-year old has the game to challenge the 18-time Grand Slam champion; she can certainly match Williams as far as hitting groundstrokes from the baseline is concerned.

It will be interesting to see how Keys handles the pressure of a first Grand Slam semifinal. She has former World No. 1 Lindsay Davenport in her players’ box who could help her strategise for the crucial semifinal. Davenport met Serena 14 times during her career including the Austalian Open final in 2005, which Serena won in three sets.

Another stat in favour of Serena is the fact that she has gone on to win the title in Melbourne Park whenever she has gone beyond the quarterfinal stage. Keys has to attack early on in the match, when Serena tends to be a little tentative with her game. If the World No. 1 settles into a rhythm in the early goings of the match, it will be a mountain to climb for the teenager.

This will be the first meeting between the two players.

Match Time: After Semifinal 1.

Prediction: Serena Williams in three sets.

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