Two rounds remain before we crown a new champion at the Libema Open, and there are potential upsets and plenty of good tennis in store. World No.4 Kiki Bertens produced a serving masterclass to down Natalia Vikhlyantseva in straight sets and book her spot in the semifinal. She will be joined by American Alison Riske, who maintained her 8-match winning streak dating back from the ITF event in Surbiton. Riske will need to beat another Russian (Veronika Kudermetova) if she is to make her first WTA tour level final in three years. Who will be the two women left standing at the conclusion of Saturday’s play?
WTA Libema Open Semifinal Predictions
Alison Riske vs Veronika Kudermetova
Head-To-Head: Riske 0-1 Kudermetova
Alison Riske is making just her second appearance at the Libema Open. Last year she made a quarterfinal exit at the hands of compatriot Coco Vandeweghe. The 28-year-old has gone one better this year at Den Bosch, where she will set sights on claiming her second career WTA title. Riske’s good form should not come as a surprise to many especially when you consider the momentum she carried with her from winning Surbiton, an ITF event in the UK just a week ago.
Her opponent, Veronika Kudermetova, is also enjoying a fine week in the Netherlands. The rapidly rising Russian has reached four quarterfinals this year on tour and managed to stun Caroline Wozniacki in the French Open first round. The 22-year-old also captured her first WTA title at the 125K level in Guadalajara. She is part of the 1997 boom generation in women’s tennis. Having started the year at No. 133, Kudermetova has climbed to a career-high ranking of No. 68 and she is projected to rise even higher at the end of this week.
Both these players have served consistently well throughout the tournament (each has been broken only five times in the three matches played). Riske has had a slightly more treacherous run to the last four with quality slate of opponents as compared to Kudermetova. The Russian won their only meeting in Tianjin at the tail end of last year, but expect the American to avenge that defeat and extend her winning streak to nine matches.
Prediction: Riske in 3
Kiki Bertens vs Elena Rybakina
Head-To-Head: First meeting
Top seed and World No. 4 Kiki Bertens has been lethal this week in her home country ,following her unfortunate retirement in the second round of the French Open. The Dutchwoman had walked in to Paris on the back of fine clay court season which yielded her maiden Premier Mandatory title in Madrid. However, she saw her slim hopes of clinching the No.1 ranking evaporate int thin air as she was forced to retire due to illness midway through her match against Viktoria Kuzmova.
That disappointment still does not tarnish what has been an accomplished year on tour for Bertens. She has already won two titles in 2019 (St. Petersburg and Madrid), the latter without dropping a set. She become the first woman to win the title in Caja Magica without dropping a set. Considering the draw she went through, in which she beat four former Grand Slam winners (Ostapenko, Kvitova, Stephens and Halep), that is an astounding achievement. The tennis world is also taking notice that Bertens is no longer just a clay-court specialist. While she has recorded some terrific results on the surface in her career, she has also been decent on grass. Bertens reached the last eight at Wimbledon last year, and she is the massive favorite to walk away with the title here this year.
The World No. 4 will brace herself for a tough assignment against Kazakhstan’s teen sensation Elena Rybakina. The 19-year-old booked her spot in her first-ever WTA semifinal by beating two-time Libema Open finalist Kirsten Flipkens.
Rybakina has surpassed expectations this week, starting as a qualifier and then knocking out the ninth seed Alison Van Uytvanck in the round of 16. She is currently at a career-high ranking of No. 134 after making her name as one to watch during the last few weeks. The Kazakh teenager reached the last eight in Istanbul and then qualified in her maiden Grand Slam main draw at the French Open.
Will she do the unthinkable and upset the top seed? It is certainly not impossible, but Bertens will be too strong. The Dutchwoman has a fearsome serve and measured ground strokes, with her forehand being the signature shot. Bertens is also vastly experienced at this and winning this tournament will be enough compensation for the French Open disappointment.
Prediction: Bertens in 2
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