The field at the WTA Osaka Japan Open Tennis Championships has whittled down to four players. Top seed Zhu Lin will lock horns against Xinyu Wang in an all-Chinese clash. And 19-year-old American Ashlyn Krueger will attempt to stop home wild card Mai Hontama. Who will make the final?
WTA Osaka Semifinal Predictions
Ashlyn Krueger vs Mai Hontama
Head-to-head: first meeting
This has been some week for 19-year-old Ashlyn Krueger who will play in her first WTA semifinal. Before this year, Krueger was winless in WTA matches, losing in all previous six main draw appearances. But victory over Victoria Azarenka in ‘s-Hertogenbosch this season convinced her she belonged on the same courts as some of her high-ranked peers. It was a career-altering win as just a week later she won her biggest title at the 125K event in Gaiba, Italy.
The young American didn’t quite make the impression people expected on home soil, but she’s made the splash in Osaka, where a statement win over Anna Kalinskaya thrust her name in the last four against Mai Hontama. The Japanese player will also play in her maiden Tour-level semifinal. And while she can count on home factor tipping the scales in her favor, she was extremely profligate in beating Arianne Hartono. On the balance of play, she deserved to win that match, but it was a dismal serving performance by both players. Krueger is definitely playing at a higher level and is a massive favorite in this matchup.
Prediction: Krueger in 2
Zhu Lin vs Xinyu Wang
Head-to-head: Lin 2-0 Wang
Zhu Lin sits four spots above Xinyu Wang in the WTA standings, but it is the fast-rising Wang who leads in the live rankings by virtue of reaching her third WTA semifinal. So technically, this match is a straight shootout for whoever wants to stake their claim as China’s No.2 player, behind Qinwen Zheng.
Lin leads the head-to-head, winning their two confrontations on hard courts including a semifinal clash in Hua Hin earlier this season. The experienced Lin has grown in this tournament after a troubled start, but her serving frailties could haunt her in this match. The 29-year-old has dropped her serve a combined eight times in three matches. By contrast, Wang has fared marginally better being broken just six times, in addition to facing the toughest path to the last four, beating two former Top 50 players. This should be a compelling contest. I can see both players have their fair share of success behind the return and Wang will give a good account of herself than in Thailand. Still, Lin is an instinctive ball striker and will make her shots count most of the time. The top seed will survive, but only just.
Prediction: Lin in 3
Main Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran – USA TODAY Sports