THURSDAY in week two of Wimbledon is women’s semi-finals day with Britain’s Johanna Konta among those vying for a place in the championship match.
We start at 1pm on Thursday on Centre Court with a fine day expected and the roof unlikely to be required if the forecast is correct.
Well. In short, Wednesday was a nightmare. I lost my outright, Novak Djokovic, to injury, while Andy Murray’s sore hip prevented him from beating Sam Querrey in straight sets with no tie-breaks involved.
Milos Raonic blew numerous break chances and a 3-0 tie-break lead to win a set against Roger Federer.
Djokovic succumbed to an elbow injury to continue my miserable 2017 luck on the outrights, while Murray failed to see out sets two and three against Querrey and ended up playing a breaker in set three.
“I've been in pain the whole tournament,” Murray said afterwards. Not as much as us you haven’t, Sir Andrew.
The latter stages of majors tend not to be the time for good value winners and in the women’s semi-finals this decade there have been only two underdog winners in the last 14 matches.
There haven’t been many tie-breaks either, with just four matches of the last 14 featuring a tie-break.
It might also be worth keeping an eye on the result of the first semi-final (Muguruza v Rybarikova) as if that one goes to three sets the chances of the second one doing so are slim. Not since 2004 have both women’s semi-finals gone to three sets.
Garbine Muguruza v Magdalena Rybarikova
I said at the start of the tournament Rybarikova had the form and the stats to be on the outright shortlist but I crossed her off it due to her woeful performances at Grand Slams in her career.
Prior to this Wimbledon the rangy Slovak had compiled 17 wins from her 52 main draw matches at majors and hadn’t won back-to-back matches at this level without the aid of a retirement since the 2009 US Open.
After the injury problems she’s had in recent times it’s good to see her making her presence felt at the business end of majors and considering she’s been playing at ITF level for most of this season it’s a remarkable achievement.
But it shows what the confidence of wins can sometimes do with Rybarikova having landed the Ilkley and Surbiton titles on grass, combined with a semi-final finish in Nottingham (lost to Konta) prior to this Wimbledon fortnight.
Her stats are excellent at main level on grass in her last 10 matches too with a service hold/break total of 117.1 (75.2% holds/41.9% breaks), and she won’t be under too much pressure as underdog for this match.
Rybarikova has a 2-2 career record against Muguruza with a comfortable win on grass in 2015 in Birmingham their most recent meeting and the noteworthy thing about that is after losing to the Slovak and then to Konta the week later in Eastbourne Muguruza went on to make the Wimbledon final shortly after.
Written off as disliking grass, Muguruza clearly wasn’t that averse to it and is a 1.39 chance to make another Wimbledon final but I’m a little worried about this match-up to back the Spaniard today.
She may get away with it as the surface is getting rather hard now but Magda’s junkball style, with her slices, dinks, drop shots and various other weaponry is well suited to grass and hasn’t sat well with Muguruza previously.
Only at the very slow Indian Wells event has Muguruza been able to have the time to set up her shots and use her power against Rybarikova effectively, with the other victory she had over the Slovak being a 14-12 final setter in Melbourne in 2013.
I wonder how Rybarikova will handle the occasion though and the bets of interest are the 2-1 to Muguruza if you’re backing her at a price of 3.85 or to take a chance on Rybarikova at 3.0.
Venus Williams v Johanna Konta
Although the prices don’t exactly offer a huge amount of value I have to go with Konta to make the final at the expense of the American veteran in this one.
The Brit has won three of the last four against Williams with the one defeat coming on Konta’s least favourite surface of clay, on which surface she’s 3-7 versus top-50 ranked opposition.
Konta’s latest win over Venus came on slow hard courts in Miami this spring and prior to that in the Stanford final of 2016 on quicker outdoor hard and at the 2016 Australian Open.
The Miami clash was a bit of an error-fest, with a total of 79 unforced mistakes from the two players combined in only two sets in a match where neither served well and Williams threw in 11 double faults.
The Stanford win was Konta’s first title (and first final) at WTA Tour level and she should have won it easier having been a set and 4-1 up and you wouldn’t necessarily rule out another potential choke if she gets to a similar position within sight of a Wimbledon final.
In Melbourne it was a physically below par Williams who was beaten in straight sets by Konta who was a 3.50 chance that day and the world No.47 and things are very different now.
In their career series as a whole Konta has held serve 69.8% of the time against Williams, who was held her own deal 63.5% of the time versus Konta, so there’s not a huge amount in it there, but Konta’s numbers on grass are clearly improving.
In the last 12 months on the green stuff Konta weighs in with a 12-2 win/loss record and a service hold/break total of 117.2 (82.1% holds/35.1% breaks), which is almost 10% better than her total in her grass court career as a whole.
Williams, as you’d expect at 37 years old, is going the other way, with her hold/break stats over the past 10 matches (Wimbledon 2016 and 2017) totalling 109.7.
That compares unfavourably with her career total of 119.7 and it’s clear from those figures that these are two players at very different stages of their careers.
That tight win over Simona Halep in the quarters must have surely boosted Konta's confidence regarding winning on the biggest of stages in front of an expectant crowd and she can go further yet.
I’d be tempted by the -1.5 games on Konta here but I am concerned about a possible choke so simply backing the British player to win the match and become the first British female player to make the Wimbledon final since 1977 looks the call.
Sean Calvert's Tip
- 1.5pts win Konta to beat Williams at 4-5, Unibet