Much has been made of the withdrawals and early upsets, but the women’s semifinal lineup at the Tokyo Olympics features four world-class athletes. Vondrousova is a former Grand Slam finalist, Svitolina has won the WTA Finals, Elena Rybakina is a rising star, and Belida Bencic is a Top 5 player who reached the 2019 US Open final. Three of these four women will win medals, but only two will move on to the Gold Medal match. Our writers offer their thoughts on these matches. Predicting these matches are Jim Smith, Anurag Sahay, and Yesh Ginsburg.
Tokyo Olympics Women’s Semifinal Predictions
Belinda Bencic vs Elena Rybakina
Bencic’s run has come almost out of nowhere, but it has been some effort from the Swiss. Bencic–who is also in the semifinals in the women’s doubles–has already accounted for both the French Open champion and runner-up, but she will face another stern test up against Rybakina. The Kazakh has not yet dropped a set with her first four opponents all unable to impose themselves against her formidable power. Bencic won’t be swept aside, but with Rybakina in this sort of form it’s hard to see anyone stopping her.
Prediction: Rybakina in 3
Rybakina is in brutal form. She has not been stretched at the Tokyo Olympics yet as she recorded imperious wins over all her opponents. The Swiss, on the other hand, is riding her country’s hopes in the absence of Roger Federer, who she hoped to team up with in mixed doubles. She overcame Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets in a match that saw the latter visibly tired through the entire third set. Since she turned professional, Bencic has already bagged four upsets of No.1 players of their time.
Bencic and Rybakina are both young and rose to fame in a rather short span of time. Interestingly enough, their game styles complement each other, with one’s weakness being the other’s strength. A baseliner like Rybakina, Bencic plays a largely tactical and thoughtful game, hits the ball on the rise, and will want to surprise her opponent by cutting the ball short or creating sharp angles. Rybakina on the other hand is the quicker of the two. This should be the more absorbing of the two Semifinals. While either lady stands an equal chance to win, I sense that the Swiss might prevail.
Prediction: Bencic in 3
Elena Rybakina is absolutely blasting the entire field here. She looks just as good now as when she took out Serena Williams in dominant fashion at the French Open. Bencic has played well and been impressive all event, but it’s going to be tough for anyone to beat Rybakina.
Prediction: Rybakina in 2
Marketa Vondrousova vs Elina Svitolina
Bencic is not the only player to have suddenly found some form at the Tokyo Olympics. Svitolina had been in the midst of an entirely forgettable season and she did not make a particularly convincing start in the Japanese capital. But match by match she has improved and she excelled in her 6-4 6-4 win over Camila Giorgi in the quarterfinals. Vondrousova, however, has made herself extremely hard to play against in Tokyo, as even world #2 Naomi Osaka found to her cost. If the Czech keeps that up in the last four, expect her to book her place in the Gold Medal match.
Prediction: Vondrousova in 3
The recent developments in the fourth seed’s personal life seem to have reinvigorated her form as she hauled herself up to the top of her game this week. Finally, Svitolina recorded a stinging straight set win. She is getting better with every match and her pursuit for the Gold more relentless by the day. She has proved once again that she is best at finding a way out of perilous situations to turn matches into her favor.
The young Czech carries her nation’s hopes into the last four. Vondrousova is certainly playing her best tennis but she will have to raise her game if the Ukrainian maintains the same level, particularly because there is hardly anything she can exploit in the latter’s almost flawless game. Their most recent meeting ended in the Czech’s favor, but Svitolina won the rest of their matches. This should be close but Svitolina is known for her stamina, and an upset here would come as a surprise. A podium finish is certainly in sight for the Ukrainian.
Prediction: Svitolina in 3
I said before the tournament that Svitolina should be viewed as a favorite. Nothing this week has changed my mind about that. Vondrousova has been so impressive this tournament so far, with her variety and unique game frustrating opponents. Svitolina has made a career of handling slices and different spins, so this is a good matchup for the newlywed.
Prediction: Svitolina in 2
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