Serena, Djokovic And A Rank Outsider Take Top Billing In The Australian Open Semis

Here's what to look forward to when the semi-finals begin on Thursday morning...
15:30, 17 Feb 2021

We knew this Australian Open would be different, but even so, a semi-final line-up without Rafael Nadal or Ash Barty and instead with a Russian ranked 114 in the final four would’ve been hard to predict. The semi-final action gets going in the early hours of Thursday morning and here is what we have to look forward to... 

 

Naomi Osaka v Serena Williams

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When: 03:00 GMT - Thursday February 19

The two giants of women’s tennis meet in Melbourne in one of the most anticipated semi-finals of the modern era. The current Australian Open champion Osaka looks to defend her crown against the second most successful female tennis player of all time, as Williams targets her 24th Grand Slam title to draw level with Margaret Court. 

The pair have only met three times in history, and while Osaka leads the series 2-1 both will be coming into this one full of confidence. Williams put in a strong performance against second seed Simona Halep, dominating her serve in a 6-3, 6-3 win. The 23-year-old Osaka came through her quarter-final with ease, beating Hsieh Su-Wei 6-2, 6-2, but also overcame a tough test with last year’s beaten finalist Garbine Muguruza, coming from one set down to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. 

Osaka has said on several occasions how much she idolises Serena, but can the apprentice beat the master? This could be a semi-final for the ages and finally a chance to see these two talents take each other on while in good form. Don’t miss it. 

Sportsman Prediction: Naomi Osaka to win in three sets at 11/4 with Betfred

 

Karolina Muchova v Jennifer Brady

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When: 04:30 GMT - Thursday February 19

The 25th seed Muchova v 22nd seed Brady may not have the glitz and glamour of the first semi-final but it does provide a golden opportunity for one of the players to make their first Grand Slam final. This is the first time Muchova has reached a semi-final at this level, while Brady has been on an upward trajectory, also reaching the final four of the US Open in 2020.

This is so close to call. Both have made light work of the tournament so far, dropping one set apiece, although the Czech Muchova has faced much tougher opposition. The 25-year-old has beaten sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and 18th seed Elise Mertens in straight sets, but most notably she took out world number one Ash Barty in the last round. Meanwhile her American opponent has only beaten one seed, Donna Vekic (28th) to make it this far.

Both players will be well aware of the shot at glory this match presents them with. It could well come down to who can handle the pressure of the occasion. 

Sportsman Prediction: Karolina Muchova to win in straight sets at 10/3 at Betfred

 

Novak Djokovic v Aslan Karatsev

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When: 08:30 GMT - Thursday February 18

Onto the men’s draw now and, on paper, the most one-sided semi-final since Brazil 1-7 Germany. Luckily for us, tennis isn’t played on paper and world number 114 Aslan Karatsev has been producing some special tennis this tournament. Now facing the world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic, if he pulls this one off it will go down as one of the greatest sporting upsets we have seen this century.

The Russian had to play three rounds of qualifying in Doha just to make it into the main draw, and in his debut Grand Slam event has been riding the crest of the wave all the way to the final four. He's the first qualifier to make it this far in Melbourne since 1977. The 27-year-old got past an injured Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals and now the man who has never cracked the top 100 gets a shot at the defending champion.

Djokovic came through a four-set tussle with Alexander Zverev in the last eight and looks well set to win his ninth Australian Open title. The toughest draw possible for Karatsev means the fairytale run is likely to end here.

Sportsman Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in straight sets 3-0 at 8/13 with Betfred

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas v Daniil Medvedev

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When: 08:30 GMT, Friday November 19

Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas fought from two sets down to knock out Rafael Nadal in one of the matches of the tournament on Wednesday and set up a semi-final encounter with Daniil Medvedev. To put that in perspective, Nadal had previously won 223 of the 224 matches in which he had gone two sets up. Staggering.

In terms of head-to-head match-ups, Medvedev certainly seems to have Tsitsipas’ number, winning five of their six meetings, although the 6ft 4in Greek did win their last meeting in 2019. Medvedev came through an all-Russian quarter-final, beating Andrey Rublev, and will hope for an all-Russian final if Karatsev can shock Djokovic. The fourth seed has also had the experience of a five-set thriller with Filip Krajinovic, showing great nerves having blown a two-set lead to win the final set 6-0. 

Sixth seed Tsitsipas had a walkover in the fourth round but also got taken to five sets in the second round by Thanasi Kokkinakis. This one, played on Friday morning, could be a slog. 

Sportsman Prediction: Medvedev to win in five sets at 9/2 with Betfred

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