Australian Open women’s semi-final preview: Karolina Muchova v Jennifer Brady
On Thursday afternoon, Karolina Muchova and Jennifer Brady will play in the second of the women’s singles semi-finals at the Australian Open. Neither have played in a Grand Slam final before and so both will consider this to be a golden opportunity to breakthrough to that next level. Below, we take a look at their respective routes to this stage, and explore their past record against one another.
Karolina Muchova (25) v Jennifer Brady (22)
Karolina Muchova’s route to the semi-finals:
R1: d. Jelena Ostapenko, 7-5 6-2
R2: d. Mona Barthel, 6-4 6-1
R3: d. Karolina Pliskova (6), 7-5 7-5
R4: d. Elise Mertens (18), 7-6(5) 7-5
QF: d. Ashleigh Barty (1), 1-6 6-3 6-2
Jennifer Brady’s route to the semi-finals:
R1: d. Aliona Bolsova, 6-1 6-3
R2: d. Madison Brengle, 6-1 6-2
R3: d. Kaja Juvan, 6-1 6-3
R4: d. Donna Vekic (28), 6-1 7-5
QF: d. Jessica Pegula, 4-6 6-2 6-1
In stark contrast to the bottom half of the draw, it is hard to imagine that anyone predicted this particular semi-final. Ashleigh Barty, the world No 1, and Sofia Kenin, the reigning champion, were the top seeds, but both crashed out ignominiously, and none of the other lurking top seeds could take advantage.
Karolina Muchova had come into the Australian Open very much under the radar. Her recent form had been patchy, highlighted perhaps by a fourth-round run at last year’s US Open, where she fell in three sets to eventual finalist Victoria Azarenka.
She started strongly in Melbourne, beating former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the first-round and making it through to only her second ever career Grand Slam quarter-final without dropping a set. Along the way she also beat sixth seed Karolina Pliskova as well as one of the tour’s most in-form players, Elise Mertens.
At the start of her quarter-final match against home hope Barty, Muchova was a heavy underdog. This notion was impressed further when she dropped the first set 6-1 in seemingly no time at all and then went down an early break in the second.
At this juncture, the Czech, feeling dizzy and faint, took an off-court medical timeout. Barty was left alone out on court with perhaps a little too much time to think about what might be, and when Muchova returned the match flipped on its head.
Errors were suddenly spraying from Barty’s racket, whilst Muchova was far more solid and composed than she had been. The match unravelled for the Australian and Muchova produced one of the shocks of the tournament, winning 12 of the last 15 games to win the match and move on to a first ever Grand Slam semi-final.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Brady was the beneficiary of a quarter that imploded almost straight away. Sofia Kenin led the way but was knocked out unceremoniously by Kaia Kanepi in the second-round, 6-3 6-2. Fifth seed Elina Svitolina was next in line for a semi-final spot, but she fell in the fourth-round to Jessica Pegula.
As the other seeds fell around her, Jennifer Brady marched on, and in spite of being only the 22nd seed, she has reached the semi-finals without facing a player ranked higher than herself. That is not to say she is unworthy of her position. A player can only beat the opponents they are drawn against, and Brady has done that with some style, losing no more than four games per match through the first three rounds, and only losing her first set in the quarter-finals. After losing that set, to close friend and countrywoman Pegula, Brady then won the next two sets 6-2 6-1 to book her place in a second career Grand Slam semi-final.
Muchova and Brady have met just once before, and there is not much that can be read into the result. They played on clay, two years ago in Prague, and Muchova won in a deciding set tiebreak. Since then, Brady has had her mini breakthrough, reaching the semi-finals at last year’s US Open, where she took a set off Naomi Osaka in one of the matches of the tournament.
Brady could not cross the line that day, but she did so against a number of other top players in 2020, including: Maria Sharapova, Ashleigh Barty, Elina Svitolina, Garbine Muguruza, and Angelique Kerber. Muchova, on the other hand, whilst picking up some good wins this week, has had the far less impressive build, and last reached this stage of a tournament at the 2019 WTA Elite Trophy.
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