Serena Williams is back in the semifinals of a Grand Slam, and once again she stands on the cusp of history. Not that she is a stranger to history, having already made her case for being the best tennis player to ever do it, but she’s been sitting at 23 singles wins at the slams, one shy of Margaret Court, since she won the Australian Open in 2017.
Now, she’ll head into Thursday’s Wimbledon matchup with Barbora Strýcová, hoping to punch her ticket to the final, where she’ll face the winner of Simona Halep vs. Elina Svitolina.
It’s been a very fun women’s singles bracket thus far, with 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff giving us some early fireworks and four unseeded players making it to the quarterfinals. It hasn’t been an easy road here for any of the remaining four, and who comes out on top should be thrilling to witness.
Let’s break down the two matches
Williams vs. Strýcová
These two have played each other three times, though not since the 2017 Australian Open, which Williams won. Williams is 3-0 in their meetings, all straight-sets victories, including one in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2012. This will be the first time that Strýcová has played in a Grand Slam semifinal, having never made it past the fourth round in other slams.
Strýcová’s path to the finals has included wins over No. 32 Lesia Tsurenko (6-3, 6-2), Laura Siegemund, (6-3, 7-5), No. 4 Kiki Bertens (7-5, 6-1), No. 21 Elise Mertens (4-6, 7-5, 6-2), and, most recently, Johanna Konta, the 19th seed (7-6), 6-1. She’s dropped only one set thus far, though her two most recent matches have been closer than the rest.
Williams first bested Giulia Gatto-Monticone (6-2, 7-5), Kaja Juvan (2-6, 6-2, 6-4), No. 18 Julia Görges (6-3, 6-4), No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro (6-2, 6-2), and, most recently, Alison Riske (6-4, 4-6, 6-3). Riske, an unseeded American, eliminated the top seed, Ashleigh Barty, in the fourth round.
Looking at those two lists, it’s clear Strýcová has beaten the better competition, at least in this Wimbledon tournament. She’s had an up-and-down year, falling down the rankings, but her Wimbledon has been fantastic, and she’s going to be tough to beat for Williams.
Williams was pushed to three sets twice, and also played more this year than usual, taking part in a couple mixed doubles matches with surprise partner Andy Murray. Of course, she’s looked great and is adamant that the extra time on court won’t hurt her. She’s trying to match Court, who had 24 Grand Slam titles spanning from before the Open Era and into it. Williams already has the most in the open era, but tying and passing Court remains the goal.
Getting past the all-around game of Strýcová, an improviser who keeps opponents guessing, will be a tall order, but one that she should be more than capable of.
Halep vs. Svitolina
Halep was the favorite to win by many, but it’s going to be tough beating Svitolina, who she has lost to multiple times in the past. Halep has won three of their meetings, with Svitolina taking four of them. Most recently, they played on the hard courts in Qatar earlier this year, where Halep won in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
The two have never played on grass before, but Halep would seem to hold the edge there. She’s 7-1 on grass courts this season, though before her win in Qatar, Svitolina had won the previous three meetings between the two.
Svitolina’s run through the tournament included wins over Daria Gavrilova (7-5, 6-0), Margarita Gasparyan (5-7, 6-5 ret.), No. 31 Maria Sakkari (6-3, 6-7(1), 6-2), No. 24 Petra Martić (6-4, 6-2), and, most recently, Karolína Muchová (7-5, 6-4).
Halep’s run has included wins over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-4, 7-5, Mihaela Buzărnescu (6-3, 4-6, 6-2), Victória Azárenka (6-3, 6-1), Gauff (6-3, 6-3), and Shuai Zhang (7-6(4), 6-1).
In other words, Halep hasn’t had to face a seeded opponent yet at Wimbledon. In all, both Halep and Svitolina have had a much easier draw than both Williams and Strýcová.
This will be Halep’s second appearance in the Wimbledon semifinal, having made it there in 2014 as well. She has one Grand Slam win to her name, winning the title at Roland Garros in 2018. Svitolina, the No. 8 women’s player in the world and former No. 3, has yet to win a Grand Slam and will be playing in her first ever slam semifinal, having only previously made it to the quarterfinals in other slams.
Watching the women’s semifinals
ESPN has television coverage of Wimbledon, and the women’s semifinals are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. local time on Thursday. London is five hours ahead of Eastern time in the United States, which means the first semifinal, between Svitolina and Halep, is scheduled to begin around 8 a.m. ET. The other semifinal will take place immediately afterward on Centre Court. Live streaming of both matches can be had at ESPN’s website, either with login from your cable or satellite provider, or a subscription to ESPN+.