2021 Miami Open WTA Semifinals
Svitolina vs Barty :
These two matches are verrrrry hard to call as good as all the players are playing. Svitolina is rolling through after a great win over Kvitova and a solid win against Sevastova who’d had some success against her in the past. In this round things get a lot harder as Barty has improved in every round. Her match with Sabalenka saw her trading forehands with one of the hardest hitters on tour and holding her own. She’s had some trouble with Svitolina in the past, losing 3 in a row at one point, but won their last meeting in straight sets. Svitolina is a really tough test for any offense, but Barty’s serving has been good and she’s able to stay in long rallies with just about anyone so this is a match where neither is going to give up a lot of cheap points, but where one will likely have a bit more offense. Svitolina has been a terror in non-major events in the past, but she’s generally lost these very high profile matchups. I think it’ll go similar to the Andreecu Tormo matchup with Barty having a bit more ability to score but a very long day trying to prove that. Barty in 3. Honestly if Barty can win this in 2 it’s probably the best news for fans because she’ll need to bring a very high quality in the final as well as Andreescu and Sakkari are playing.
Andreescu vs Sakkari :
During the Sakkari Osaka match, I did not envy the task of bookmakers trying to price a possible Sakkari/Andreescu match, and it may have gotten even tougher after the dust has cleared. Sakkari played what seemed very much like her best tennis ever against Osaka. She took all of Osaka’s time away, hit some sharp angles off the backhand, and most importantly she served great. She hit a few T serves on second serves and really played the big points much better than Osaka. Naomi started off with errors and less than stellar footwork, and closed out the match looking vaguely indifferent. Losing a 6-0 set is always a shock, but there was a resigned look to her when Sakkari broke back in the second to cut it to 4-3. From there Osaka didn’t move up to some short balls, and made some very wild errors and double faults on the way out. The way Sakkari played was a huge surprise, but she won that second set by being mentally tougher.
Andreescu had a similar mental battle against Tormo, but this was a much higher quality affair than Osaka/Sakkari. Sara Sorribes Tormo just does not miss, and her speed lets her get to just about every ball. The result is one of the hardest tests on the tour right now, and today she mixed in some serve and volley and genuinely seems to be getting a bit more comfortable moving up the court. She was something like 6/9 at the net today, although one of them was an easy backhand volley that she hit into the bottom of the net late in the third. Bianca offered up one of those also after spiking the ball to Tormo exactly where she was standing. To be fair, Andreescu hit a number of extra balls to Tormo trying to put an exclamation point on winning the rally, and it cost her a few points. I expected Andreescu to win a bit more safely than she did, and she looked physically tired on more than a few occasions. In the end the biggest difference was her power, as many rallies went long but it was Andreescu who decided when they ended.
There isn’t a lot to separate the quality of Andreescu and Sakkari, but I make Sakkari a small favorite in this matchup just because of how much less tennis she’s played this week. Andreescu’s physical fitness isn’t back to its peak yet, and Sakkari can provide a similar shot-tolerance to Tormo, although she’s less likely to focus as much on height and keeping shots out of Andreescu. These two are likely to trade, and the question for Andreescu is if her weight of shots can disrupt Sakkari’s timing. For Sakkari, more of the same is all that’s necessary. Serving well will go a long way against Andreescu who like to return very aggressively. There won’t be fatigue concerns for Sakkari, and so far no one has really been doing a great job defending against her power either, so Andreescu will be getting a much different look than she did against Tormo who uses a lot more placement than power. Since the question marks are on Andreescu’s side, I think Sakkari may have the edge here. It still is likely to be a very close contest as both possess the ability to dig in and cut down the errors. Small edge in fitness to Sakkari. Sakkari in 3.