The semi-finals of week 31’s two WTA Tour events are set for Saturday in Washington DC and Palo Alto.
It was an up and down day on Friday in the capital, with Marina Erakovic providing another winning wager on the Kiwi, while Kristina Mladenovic had a shocking day and Nastia Pavlyuchenkova narrowly failed to take the one set required against Kate Makarova.
The predicted storms came to DC late on Friday, but all the WTA matches were done and dusted by that point and the forecast for Saturday is for temperatures in the mid to high 20s, with high humidity and possible thunderstorms again.
The schedulers haven’t done Makarova and Sveta Kuznetsova many favours today, putting the Russian pair on at 21:15pm local time (02:15 UK) – a full eight-and-a-quarter hours after the first semi final between Erakovic and Karumi Nara.
The latter match looks a really tricky one to call and could go either way, with Nara no doubt desperate for a bit of revenge after being beaten 6-0, 6-0 by the Kiwi in their last meet at the 2011 French Open.
Ekaterina Makarova vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Sveta has the advantage of not having played yesterday when the injured Vania King withdrew from their quarter-final, but Makarova has looked in fine form this week and is worth backing here in one where the layers can’t choose a favourite.
Kuznetsova hasn’t made a hard court final since losing to Caro Wozniacki in Dubai back in 2011 and she was beaten as a 1.3 shot in her last hard court semi final, which was in Auckland in 2012.
Much of Sveta’s inconsistency can be attributed to a long list of injuries and when she is fully fit and healthy she’s still one of the brightest talents in the women’s game, but there are certainly question marks over her ability to close out matches these days.
Makarova’s recent hard court form is the better of the two, with a quarter-final run in New York and fourth round in Melbourne both halted by Na Li and she went on to win the event in Pattaya City.
Kate didn’t have a good clay swing, but did well on the grass, making the last eight at Wimbledon and she’s carried that form on here in her first event since SW19.
The 3-1 head-to-head in favour of Kuznetsova and the day off yesterday add up to Sveta being favourite in some circles, but she’s lost three of her last five to lefties such as Makarova and can’t be trusted to produce her best level regularly.
This one might go long, but I like Kate to edge what could be a tight encounter, with her excellent recent winning record as favourite improving last night to 25-4 on hard courts since the start of 2013.
Over in Stanford Serena Williams will need to play better than she did for much of her narrow quarter final win over Ana Ivanovic if she wants to beat Andrea Petkovic as comfortably as her odds of 1.21 suggest.
Ivanovic was struggling with injury for most of the match and, as I suggested yesterday, she was able to take a set after a great start and she could have won were it not for a hip problem.
Williams served at less than 50 percent of first serves in that one and she’ll need to improve to cover a minus 5.5 game handicap over Petkovic, who beat Venus Williams in three last night.
Varvara Lepchenko has gone under the radar a bit this week, quietly making her maiden Premier level semi final, but she’s in great form and can test Angelique Kerber in the 03:00 UK time match in Stanford.
I remember backing Lepchenko to win a set against Kerber in the French Open earlier this year and she collapsed from a long way ahead in set two that one to go down in straight sets.
Indeed, both of her last meets with Kerber have come at the French, but prior to that she won four straight against the German.
The form that Lepchenko has shown this week suggests she can take a set and it’s hard to really gauge Kerber’s form after a woeful showing from her quarter final opponent Garbine Muguruza yesterday.
The 1.75 about Lepchenko taking a set here is a decent option, as is the Kerber 2-1 win at 3.75.
Back Makarova to beat Kuznetsova at 1.81