Na Li will have too much for Eugenie Bouchard, while Radwanska will beat Cibulkova, says Unibet columnist Sean Calvert...
Day 11 of the 2014 Australian Open is semi-finals day in the Ladies Singles, with two intriguing matches on the card for Thursday.
My bets on Wednesday went one from two, with Domi Cibulkova’s experience in big matches proving vital against Simona Halep who, as forecast, was affected by nerves and Domi was able to take control of the match.
The second quarter-final saw an inspired display of tennis from Aga Radwanska that few expected and, even at one set apiece, I thought that my 2-1 wager on Vika Azarenka would come to fruition. But the Pole had other ideas and came up with one of the best sets of tennis from a female player that I can remember.
Opening things up on the Rod Laver Arena at around 2.30am UK time on Thursday are the new tournament favourite and the teenage sensation.
Eugenie Bouchard vs Na Li (starts at around 02.35 GMT)
A fabulous first foray into the main draw here at Melbourne Park for Bouchard must already have exceeded her most positive of expectations, as the Canadian attempts to take down the 2013 and 2011 finalist Na Li.
Genie is here after making the most of a draw that would normally have included Serena Williams, but after taking care of Serena’s conqueror Ana Ivanovic the 19-year-old has nothing to lose here in the biggest match of her life.
Bouchard has had to come from a set behind in her last two matches and it’s her temperament that has impressed me most about Genie this fortnight.
Li has improved as the tournament has gone on after a few stutters that almost saw her on the plane home earlier in the tournament and no doubt Carlos Rodriguez will have her tactics all sorted out for her in this one.
The 31-year-old has such a high level at times that I’m often left wondering how it is that she’s won just seven tour titles and one major in her career so far.
She can be utterly devastating one moment, but really poor the next and it makes betting on her matches a bit of a nightmare on a regular basis.
This will be the second meeting between Li and Genie, after the world number four was a 6-4, 6-4 winner in Montreal back in 2012, but Bouchard has improved considerably since that match.
She was perhaps fortunate to encounter a below par Ivanovic in the quarter finals and I can’t imagine that trying to dictate the play as she did against Ana will be a wise move when facing the Chinese star.
There again being too defensive is unlikely to pay dividends either, as Li has shown numerous times that she can usually deal with that approach, so it’s a bit of a poser for the Bouchard camp as to how to go about this one.
Genie will no doubt be back at this stage of majors many times, but I don’t see this match as her time to make the step to a Grand Slam final and although I expect her to make Li work hard it looks like a 2-0 to the favourite here at 1.75.
Dominika Cibulkova vs Agnieszka Radwanska (starts at around 03.35 GMT)
The last time this pair met across the net in Australia Radwanska walked away with a 6-0, 6-0 win, but the last time they met in a final Domi was a three-set winner and therein we have the unpredictable nature of WTA in a nutshell.
This will be the seventh meeting in all competitions between the two, with that title win in Stanford last year being Domi’s only success against the intelligent play of the Pole.
Should Radwanska produce the kind of display that saw her take apart Azarenka in the end on Wednesday one has to wonder how Cibulkova is going to breach the world number five’s defences with a game that tends to be less reliable than Vika’s.
It’s another match-up of the power hitter versus the counter puncher, but what we saw in the Azarenka match was a more offensive approach from Aga combined some jaw-dropping anticipation skills and tactical nous that bamboozled Vika.
From all that I’ve seen so far from both players I can’t trust Domi to consistently be able to punch holes in the Radwanska defence and now that she’s added a bit more in the offensive department the minus 3.5 game handicap on Aga looks good at around 1.7.
Back Li to beat Bouchard 2-0 at 1.75
Back Radwanska –3.5 games to beat Cibulkova at 1.70