Our busy tennis fan and loyal contributor Omair has already provided us with a preview of the first Australian Open semifinal on the schedule, the one between Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters, and now let's see Omair's preview of the semifinal clash between Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova.
When Kvitova and Sharapova meet for their semifinal, a lot of things will be out there on the line. They are both aware that whoever emerges victorious out of this encounter will keep alive her hope of attaining the top spot. Whoever wins the Australian Open other than Kim Clijsters will be the world No.1 when the rankings are released on Monday.
Sharapova has so far made it to the semifinals of the Australian Open four times (excluding this year's result), and has gone to the final twice. The two times she lost in the semis it was in three sets: in 2005 to eventual champion Serena Williams and in 2006 to Justine Henin. Will she make it to the finals this time and keep her hopes of regaining the top spot alive or will she bow out to the Czech power tower Kvitova?
As for Kvitova, this is her third Grand Slam semifinal and her first at the Australian Open. How will she fare in Melbourne? She obviously has the experience of playing and winning at the biggest stages of tennis, so she will not be fazed by the stage tomorrow.
So far Sharapova and Kvitova have faced each other three times, with Kvitova leading their head-to-head 2-1, although one of those victories came via retirement when Sharapova twisted her ankle at Tokyo last year in her match against Kvitova. However, Kvitova's other win came at the biggest stage of tennis, at the Wimbledon Centre Court in the championship match and she did that in style, beating Sharapova in straight sets. Will Sharapova be able to take revenge, only time will tell us.
Let's have a look at what the numbers tell us about their chances:
The stats tell us that Kvitova is not a great returner and she has not been very good at winning points on her second serve, and she will have to take into consideration that Sharapova is a great returner.
Kvitova will have to keep her serve under control, she will have to be more patient with points. Masha has an upper hand in the break point conversion ratio and the points won on the first and the second serves, but Kvitova comes on top when we look at the winners-UE differential.
There is not much that separates these two. What will be crucial in the match-up of two Wimbledon champions, one reigning and one former, will be how Kvitova wins points on her second serve, and how Sharapova's serve holds up.
Both Sharapova and Kvitova have so far lost one set in the tournament. However, Kvitova had concentration lapses in some of her matches and had problem in closing out the match, which will also be very crucial in her match against Sharapova.
Can Kvitova hold up her game long enough to outlast Sharapova or will it be Sharapova's day? If both are on fire, we all will be in for a treat. Who do you think will emerge out on top and who will you be rooting for? (photos: © Neal Trousdale)