Friday is Ladies Singles semi-finals day at the 2014 US Open, with Caroline Wozniacki and Serena Williams both looking to seal their places in the final today.
Kate Makarova took full advantage of a lacklustre Vika Azarenka to seal her place in the semis on Wednesday in a match that fell short of my overs requirement, as the Belarusian fell away in set two.
It was later revealed by her PR firm that Azarenka had food poisoning the night before the match, which probably didn’t help the two-time former finalist, but it was a well-deserved success for Makarova despite that.
My second bet was a winner though when Flavia Pennetta took a 3-0 lead over Williams, which ensured the first set overs came in in that one.
The advance forecast is for another hot and sunny day on Friday, with highs of around 29C and wind of around 12mph.
Caroline Wozniacki vs Shuai Peng
Regular followers on Twitter will know that I’m sitting on a nice little wager on Wozniacki outright (and also Makarova) and she’s just one win away from having me at the payout queue, but this may not be an easy task for the Dane.
I was surprised at how easily she did beat Sara Errani, but not shocked, as Errani should be getting belted off the court far more regularly than she actually does.
The Italian had nothing much to hurt the Dane with, but I still thought she’d make a match of it with durability, however the ‘new’ Wozniacki of this summer has a bit more about her game than previously.
Caro hit 26 winners against Errani and, yes, it was ‘only’ Errani, but it shows how much more confident she is right now and she won’t fear Peng, having beaten the Chinese player in each of their last five meetings.
Wozniacki leads the career series 5-2, but perhaps none are really relevant to today, other than maybe one of the two last season when Caro beat Peng 6-1, 6-1 in Cincy.
Even that was perhaps too long ago now, given the form Wozniacki has been in this summer and Peng’s form from out of pretty much nowhere this fortnight.
For Wozniacki to stand a chance of cashing my each way outright punt the Dane will need to make sure she hits close to the lines to make the Chinese remove one hand from her double-handed shots, which generally gets a short reply.
It’s been easier said than done for the likes of Aga Radwanska, Roberta Vinci and Lucie Safarova this tournament and Belinda Bencic was blown away before she got into the match in the quarter finals.
Nine of the last 12 Ladies Singles semi finals have ended in straight sets and I can see this year’s following that trend, with the 2-0 to Wozniacki appealing here.
They may well be tight sets, but I think Woz will have just enough to take both at 1.75.
Ekaterina Makarova vs Serena Williams
My other outright pick still standing has a far harder task on her hands to make the final, but Makarova shouldn’t be totally ruled out of this one.
Williams has suffered some surprise losses here before – not least to Sam Stosur in the 2011 final as a 1.14 shot – and Makarova has beaten her at a hard court major before.
Serena, if she is going to be beaten at a major, usually loses sooner rather than later though and she has a 21-3 record in semi finals at grand slams, with her last loss coming here to Kim Clijsters in 2009.
Her only other defeats in a major semi final came to Justine Henin in Paris in 2003 and to her sister, Venus, at Wimbledon even further back in history in 2000.
So, only family members and Belgians have ever beaten Serena in a slam semi final and Kate will have to play the match of her life in the biggest match of her life to get the win.
After four prior losses in major quarter finals Makarova is into her maiden semi and she’ll need to defend better on her forehand side than she did against Azarenka on Wednesday if she wants to win this.
The Russian looked vulnerable to a forehand down the line regularly from Vika and Williams will have noted that, surely.
Serena has bagelled Makarova twice in second sets in their last two meetings, which might make the under 7.5 games in set two at 4.20 an interesting wager, while the 1.44 about Williams minus 1.5 sets looks a solid choice for shorter priced backers.
The bet I like slightly more than either of those two is the minus 5.5 games on Williams though and at 1.77 that’s my choice.
Only once in her last five major semis has Serena not covered that handicap and much as I’d like to think Kate could cause a shock it might be wishful thinking.
Back Wozniacki to beat Peng 2-0 at 1.75
Back Williams –5.5 games to beat Makarova at 1.77