Australian Open semifinal preview: Coco Vandeweghe vs Venus Williams

Australian Open semifinal preview: Coco Vandeweghe vs Venus Williams

The two in-form Americans face off in what could be a fantastic match to see who will make the final in Melbourne.

oliver-dickson-jefford
Oliver Dickson Jefford

The first Women’s singles semifinal at the Australian Open this year sees the unseeded Coco Vandeweghe take on fellow American Venus Williams, the 2003 finalist who is seeded 13th at the tournament.

Williams won the only previous meeting between the two, a straight-sets victory in Rome last year, and is yet to drop a set in Melbourne. However, Vandeweghe has already beaten some big names to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal and is playing perhaps the best tennis of her career.

This is the second match in Rod Laver Arena, starting at about 14:00 Melbourne Time and the winner will face the unseeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni or second seed Serena Williams in the final.

So far in Melbourne

Vandeweghe caused a slight upset in the first round, defeating 15th seed Roberta Vinci in straight sets, before recording another straights sets win over Pauline Parmentier in her next match. Following that, she battled past Eugenie Bouchard in three sets to reach the fourth round, where she stunned defending champion and world number one Angelique Kerber for the loss of just five games to reach her second Grand Slam quarterfinal; there, she handed seventh seed Garbine Muguruza a second set bagel as she eased into the last four. The unseeded American will be full of confidence coming into this match.

Venus Williams celebrates after her quarterfinal win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Getty/Michael Dodge)
Venus Williams celebrates after her quarterfinal win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Getty/Michael Dodge)
 

It wasn’t an easy start for Williams, though the 13th seed edged past Kateryna Kozlova in two tight sets to start her campaign. Things were much more comfortable in her next two matches, recording comfortable victories over qualifier Stefanie Voegele in the second round and Duan Ying-Ying in the third round, and she then saw off qualifier Mona Barthel to reach the last eight. Her biggest test on paper came at that stage, as she faced 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, though the American was too strong for the Russian, winning 6-4, 7-6 to make the semifinal in Melbourne for the first time since 2003.

Analysis

Williams has been playing relatively well so far, but has, on paper, had an easier road than Vandeweghe so will likely need to raise her level, especially against an opponent who will be difficult to overpower. Serving is arguably the strongest part of the seven-time Grand Slam champion’s game, so she will be looking to serve well and use this to try and effectively take control of as many points as possible early on, and not allow Vandeweghe to get a foothold in many rallies. However, the 13th seed must be wary of making too many errors, as her opponent’s recent wins suggest she’ll have the confidence to take advantage of them.

Coco Vandeweghe will look to attack as much as possible as she aims to make her first Grand Slam final (Getty/Cameron Spencer)
Coco Vandeweghe will look to attack as much as possible as she aims to make her first Grand Slam final (Getty/Cameron Spencer)

One thing that helps Vandeweghe is the confidence she’ll have from beating the likes of Kerber and Muguruza, though it will be interesting to see how she copes with the pressure of not being the complete underdog for this match. The unseeded American has been serving well so far, and should look to keep this up against such a great returner, and should also look to come into the net and volley as often as she can; this has been effective for her so far in Melbourne. Furthermore, she must simply look to be aggressive as possible but should remember Williams is an extremely experienced opponent and will likely be able to take any opportunities she may get.

Assessment

There is no doubting that this is going to be an extremely powerful battle, and it will be interesting to see who is able to force and dictate play the most. This is a big opportunity for both women, and considering her recent form it shouldn’t be a surprise if Vandeweghe makes her first Grand Slam final, that it seems that Williams’ experience and precision will give her a tough victory to make her 15th Grand Slam final.

Prediction: Venus Williams in three sets

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