My prediction of a comfortable straight sets win for Carla Suarez Navarro came to fruition in Acapulco yesterday and I was also correct in my feeling that Monica Niculescu would bamboozle Kiki Mladenovic.
But I wasn’t expecting the result that transpired in Florianopolis - Mladenovic was totally flummoxed by the forehand slice and looping backhands of the Romanian to such a degree that Kiki failed to hold serve once and spent most of the match arguing with the umpire. Niculescu simply kept the ball inside the lines to win it comfortably in what should be a pretty useful learning experience for the young French player.
In the other semi in Brazil, Venus Williams’ fitness let her down in the end against Olga Puchkova, who survived a choke that even Sabine Lisicki would have been proud of to stumble over the line. Puchkova may well find that she has the same problem as Mladenovic when she takes on Niculescu for the first time tonight in a match that will see a maiden tour level tournament win for one of them.
I doubt this will be much of a spectacle, but surely Niculescu will spin the limited Puchkova into submission eventually.
In Acapulco, Suarez Navarro takes on number one seed Sara Errani in a match that could prove to be close. But the French Open finalist is in rare form on the dirt these days – and other surfaces too – and I can’t see her losing this to the Spaniard.
Errani came from behind to defeat Flavia Pennetta in the final here last year and she has had the better of her career meetings with Suarez Navarro - although the Spaniard did shock Errani in Melbourne in January on a hard court.
The Italian was a comfortable winner on the clay of Barcelona last season 6-1, 6-2 and I think the best play today is to double up on Errani and Niculescu for a 1.77 payout.
Best bet: Back Errani and Niculescu in a double at 1.77