Just eight players remain in the running for the respective Australian Open singles titles with three of the four semi-finals scheduled for Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Arena today. The fourth, between Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov, will be played on Friday night (AEDT).
Men’s SF1: #17 Roger Federer (Switzerland) v #4 Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland)
To say these players know each other well is a huge understatement. This semi-final match-up is their 22nd at the top level, with the head-to-head count 18-3 in Federer’s favour. His record against Wawrinka is even more impressive on hard courts, a perfect 13-0 while winning 28 of 32 sets. Federer, who’s aiming to reach his sixth Australian Open final, beat Wawrinka the last time they played on hard courts at a Grand Slam, a straight-set win in the 2015 US Open semi-finals. Wawrinka is out to reach his second Australian Open final and his fourth in a Grand Slam. He has a 12-match Grand Slam winning streak dating back to his US Open title last September. Given Federer’s huge edge over his compatriot on this surface, he’s actually nice value at $1.70 straight up on Sportsbet.
Men’s SF2: #9 Rafael Nadal (Spain) v #15 Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria)
In a year where the veterans have occupied all the headlines, can the highly touted 25-year-old Dimitrov finally deliver on the promise he’s shown to reach his first career Grand Slam final? He’s won his past six sets, and to go with no less than 75 per cent of first set points in his past three matches. The Bulgarian has also won 10 successive matches on hard court. In his path stands one of the game’s greats. Nadal is into his first Grand Slam semi-final since the 2014 French Open as he eyes his fourth career Australian Open final berth. He barely put a foot wrong in his straight-sets win over Milos Raonic and has been broken just six times in his past four matches. Look for this one to go the distance (five sets at $3.50 on Crownbet).
Women’s SF1: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) v #13 Venus Williams (USA)
This all-American affair pits the unseeded world No. 35 against one of the legends of the game, who is making her first appearance at this stage at Melbourne Park for 14 years. Vandeweghe (priced at $800 to win the tournament pre-post) came through one of the toughest draws possible to reach the semi-finals, while Williams faced just one seeded player (Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) and has won each match in straight sets. In their one previous meeting (on clay in Rome last year), Williams emerged victorious 6-4, 6-3. The market appears to have this match completely wrong with Vandeweghe priced a $1.57 favourite. The seven-time Grand Slam winner has a huge edge on return in hardcourt events over the past 12 months, negating the slight advantage of Vandeweghe on serve. Take Venus to win ($2.40 on Centrebet).
Women’s SF2: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Croatia) v #2 Serena Williams (USA)
The world No. 2 Serena Williams has won 22 Grand Slam titles, level with Steffi Graf and just two away from Margaret Court’s all-time record. In stark contrast, a staggering 18 years after her first Slam semi-final appearance, Lucic-Baroni has reached the last four of a major at the ripe old age of 34. These two players have faced each other twice, but both contests date back to 1998! Williams, who is yet to drop a set in Melbourne this year, put in her best performance last time out as she cruised by World no. 9 Jo Konta. The world no. 79’s stunning run has featured wins over third seed Agnieszka Radwanska and World no. 5 Karolina Pliskova. Given Lucic-Baroni’s fighting qualities, she can keep this close (+5.5 game-total is $2.10 on Unibet).