Australian Open Women’s Semifinal Predictions: Victoria Azarenka vs Elena Ryabkina

Elena Rybakina

Both semifinal matches at the Australian Open will be contested on Thursday. One of those two matches is already set. The second will be finalized shortly after we publish this article. As always, our writers here at LWOT will share their thoughts on the matches with you. (Editor’s Note: Now that it’s set, we also have predictions for the other semifinal match.) Predicting this mouth-watering semifinal clash–a battle of previous Grand Slam champions–are Jim Smith, Damian Kust, Yesh Ginsburg, Jack Edward, and Nurein Ahmed. Who do you think will win?

Australian Open Women’s Semifinal Predictions

Victoria Azarenka vs Elena Ryabkina

Jim:
This promises to be a thrilling match. Both women have excelled so far at the Australian Open and, whilst the occasion will be momentous, both have the experience of Grand Slam success behind them. Rybakina’s is more recent, but Azarenka’s is more extensive. But as well as both women have played, this fortnight and in the past, it’s hard to look past Rybakina as the favorite.

The Kazakh has the better serve and more power off the ground. Azarenka moves better and returns better, but her advantages in those areas are slighter than in the areas where Rybakina has the edge. There probably won’t be much in it, but that should actually end up making Rybakina’s narrow advantages more significant, especially because she back herself to swing freely when it matters most.
Prediction: Rybakina in 3

Damian:
Best serve of the tournament against the best return? Sign me up. Rybakina will hopefully be treated more seriously from now on as her Wimbledon title really should have given her recognition than it did. Azarenka is on a vintage run like at New York a few years ago and while she’s probably not as fierce a baseliner as she was in her prime, you could make an argument she’s more complete.

I believe Rybakina’s first serve can give her the edge here if it’s clicking and set her up for some easy short rallies.
Prediction: Rybakina in 3

Yesh:


It took Victoria Azarenka years to find her game again, after a pregnancy hiatus followed by a custody battle. Now, though, she’s finally at close to her best–beating the elites at the biggest of tournaments. The Belorussian hasn’t looked unbeatable this event, but she’s improved as the tournament has gone on. This should be a very tight match. But, quite frankly, Azarenka’s demolition of Jessica Pegula was more impressive to me than even Ryabkina’s victory over Iga Swiatek.
Prediction: Azarenka in 3

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Jack:
At first glance, this is a match-up where Rybakina’s first-serve, arguably her greatest strength, could be very crucial. Azarenka will look to return the Rybakina second-serve deep to the baseline repeatedly to keep the Kazakhstani at bay. Even then though–even if the first-serve isn’t firing–Azarenka can only do so much to neutralize the point with her return. Rybakina had the firepower to hold off Iga Swiatek, arguably the greatest mover of a generation with her groundstrokes.

On an average serving day or better, Rybakina should be the heavy favourite against the two-time champion. On a weaker serving day, she should be still be the slight favourite given how competently she’s been striking her groundstrokes. Given her first-serve percentage has crept higher with every match she’s played, I’m siding with a confident Rybakina win.
Prediction: Rybakina in 2

Nurein:


Azarenka took us by surprise with that straight-sets demolition of Jessica Pegula. In truth, it was quite astonishing the number of times she was able to get under the American’s skin and plant a seed of doubt. Pegula was helpless at times, almost to the point of being unsure what the right shot in the rally was. The big question now is whether Azarenka can emulate that performance. She was aggressive behind the return, winning over 50% of points. Losing half of her first-serve points proved to be the ultimate downfall for Pegula.

However, I don’t think Elena Rybakina will be that generous. The Kazakh has blasted her way into the semifinals with that monstrous serve. She continues to rack up some impressive numbers behind her first delivery which wreaked havoc on Iga Swiatek’s game plan. And I feel that might be the differentiating factor again. Azarenka has done remarkably well to get to this point against all the odds, but Rybakina is on top of her game.
Prediction: Rybakina in 2

Main Photo from Getty.