The 2020 women’s Australian Open semifinals are now set. Three of the four semifinalists have won a major championship, and one of the semifinals involves two players who have won two major titles, both at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. One of the two will play for the chance to win major titles at three different major tournaments, putting them within a U.S. Open title of winning a career Grand Slam.
Ashleigh Barty vs. Sofia Kenin
The reality of Ashleigh Barty’s situation is that after beating Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, she has a very good chance of making her first Australian Open final in front of her home-nation fans. Barty knows that other Australian women such as 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur have not handled the pressure of playing in the Australian Open very well over the years. Barty shows signs that she is up to the task of competing in front of her own fans. The win over Kvitova was made possible by winning a first-set tiebreaker. Kvitova had many chances to break Barty’s serve in that first set but squandered them. Kvitova even had a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker but lost the next three points. Barty has dealt with tight scoreboard moments in this tournament.
Kenin, who is making her first major semifinal, is not an easy player to knock out. She lost the first set of her fourth-round match against Coco Gauff but fought back to win in three sets. She then beat Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals. Her defense and her backhand are both world-class. This has all the makings of a very tight match. Barty deserves an edge, but only a slight one.
Garbine Muguruza vs. Simona Halep
The other semifinal has a pair of players who have won the Roland Garros and Wimbledon championships. The winner here will be able to win a third separate major tournament. Only the U.S. Open would be left if the winner of this semifinal then wins the title on Saturday night.
Garbine Muguruza won the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon. Simona Halep won the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon. Muguruza has a reputation for being the kind of player who struggles a lot but gets hot for brief bursts and can take charge at a major tournament. Halep has been the more consistent player than the two over the past few years, but she can sometimes be overpowered by a bigger hitter.
Muguruza did, in fact, overpower Halep in the 2017 Cincinnati final. That was, however, two and a half years ago. Does it mean anything here? Halep looked very sharp in a quick 53-minute quarterfinal win over Anett Kontaveit. Muguruza was not dominant in a straight-set quarterfinal victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but she did win the most important points of the match. This match could easily go in either direction.
Muguruza, if she is able to play her very best tennis, would more likely win, but Halep is a great defender who can neutralize an opponent’s big hitting and can easily force Muguruza to commit errors. If you think Halep can get Muguruza off her game, Halep is the better choice, but by a narrow margin.