Visitor numbers are telling me that you enjoyed our quarterfinal previews and, as promised, Omair is continuing his statistical tennis research to help us predict the winner of the upcoming WTA semifinals at the 2015 Australian Open. Enjoy!
One thing is certain: the women’s singles final at Melbourne Park will be a battle between a Russian and an American. Let’s see which American and which Russian are the numbers favoring!
The following preview is based on the performance of the players so far at the 2015 Australian Open.
MARIA SHARAPOVA  vs. EKATERINA MAKAROVA 
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 5-0, (including two wins at the Australian Open, in 2012 and 2013)
- Makarova has been serving strongly throughout the tournament. She has put in 64% of her first serves and won 82% of those points. This is the most of any woman left in the draw, including Serena Williams.
- Sharapova has won 74% of points behind her first serve and 52% behind her second serve. Return of serve is not a very strong point of Makarova, so Sharapova will be happy if she manages to keep up these numbers.
- Serve is Makarova’s strong point, but return of serve is Sharapova’s strength. She has won 41% of the first serve returns during this tournament and a good 69% of the second serve returns. There will definitely be pressure on Makarova to hold her serve and move from thereon.
- Sharapova has been playing cleaner matches compared to Makarova. Makarova came through her quarterfinal despite a -10 winners-to-unforced errors differential. However, if she puts up these numbers in the semifinal, Sharapova will make her life tough, unless Sharapova is also having an off day like Makarova’s quarterfinal opponent Simona Halep had.
- Sharapova has had a 0 winners-to-unforced errors differential on average per match, while Makarova’s differential is -3.
- Makarova has saved 71% of break points, compared to 74% by Sharapova.
The numbers make Sharapova a favorite to advance to the final. Makarova will have to play very aggressively, take time away from Sharapova and constantly keep her on the run, which is in a way too much to ask from Makarova.
I will stick with the numbers and pick Sharapova.
SERENA WILLIAMS  vs. MADISON KEYS
Head-to-head: Never played before.
Can Keys serve up an upset and make her first Grand Slam final? Let’s see what the numbers are suggesting.
- Serena Williams has an advantage over Madison Keys in almost every statistical category, but so had Keys’ quarterfinal opponent Venus Williams. However, Venus put on a horrible -18 winners-to-unforced errors differential that led to her defeat.
- Serena has been averaging 11 aces per match, compared to Keys’ 6.
- Serena has put in 61% of her first serves and won 73% of them, Key on the other hand has put in only 58% of her first delivers and won 73% of them. Serena has won 52% of points played on her second serve, compared to 50% by Keys.
- Serena has a winners-to-unforced errors differential of +10 per match on average so far at the tournament. Keys on the other hand has a differential of -4.
- Serena has won 44% and 60% of the points played on her opponents’ first and second serves, respectively. Keys on the other hand has won only 38% and 54%, respectively.
- Serena has saved 68% of break points, compared to 59% by Keys.
- The only category where Keys has been more effective is the break point conversion, which is an important one. Serena has won 43% of the break points, while Keys has won 51% of those.
Madison Keys will be playing her first Grand Slam semifinal, making it third year in the running that a teenager has made the semifinals of the Australian Open. The 19-year-old is bound to be nervous (I know I said it before too 😉 ).
One advantage that Keys will have is having Lindsay Davenport, who knows how to beat Serena Williams. However, I doubt that it will be enough for Keys in her semifinal. Keys will need to play the match of her life to beat Serena Williams.
I will again stick with the numbers and take Serena to join Sharapova in the championship match.
FUN FACT: Serena Williams has never lost in the semifinals of the Australian Open. She is 5-0 in the semifinals at Melbourne Park.
Who is your pick? Do you think Keys and Makarova can upset Williams and Sharapova and make their first major final? (photos: Jimmie48)