The Venus Rosewater Dish, awarded to the winner of the Wimbledon Women’s Singles tournament, could have a new name on it by Saturday teatime. While Serena Williams remains the favourite having progressed to the semi-finals, there are three other names on the sheet with her, none of whom have ever progressed beyond this stage. Williams is expected to handily deal with Barbora Strycova in the second semi, but before that match takes the court, two of the bumper crop of excellent Eastern European players will battle it out for one of the spots in the final.
Separated by just one spot in the World Rankings, Romania’s Simona Halep and Elena Svitolina of Ukraine are expected to put on a show for the Centre Court spectators. Halep, who made the semis here in 2014, is the bookies’ favourite, particularly in light of Svitolina’s preference for clay. The Ukrainian has only ever been as far as the fourth round on these courts before this year, and lost her opening games in the warm-up tournaments at Eastbourne and Birmingham. However, she’s down to the last four here, and consequently has every chance of walking away with the trophy this weekend.
Halep the bookies’ favourite, but stats may tell another story
Unlike the men’s game where, barring a giant meteor, the major tournaments are still likely to be divvied up between Djokovic, Nadal and the ageless Roger Federer, the women’s Grand Slam tournaments are generally competitive. For all the talk of Serena’s dominance, she last won a major in January of 2017 when she picked up the Australian Open title. Since then, eight different names have been etched on various coveted trophies, with only Naomi Osaka having picked up more than one – and she’s already been eliminated here. Of those eight names, only one of them is involved in this match, and that’s Halep, who won the 2018 French Open.
Svitolina is looking to become a first-time major winner, and before this tournament had never been beyond the quarter-finals of any of the big four titles. Add to that her opponent’s better record on this surface, and it makes sense that the Romanian would be favourite for this match. However, that needs to be balanced against the players’ head-to-head record, in which the underdog here has a 4-2 advantage. That – along with the fact the players have never faced off on grass – makes this match something of a coin toss, and Svitolina’s 39/20 odds with 888 to win the match represent the better value for bettors.
A hard match to call, but worth looking at recent matches
So Halep is the higher-ranked player, but Svitolina leads the head-to-head. While the Ukrainian has knocked out two seeds on the way here, her opponent has at least won a slam before. In trying to figure out how the cards may fall here, both players have reasons to be confident. However, if we accept that the best predictor of future performance is the player’s recent record, then Halep merits her spot as favourite as she has lost just one set on her road to the last four. Svitolina has lost two, and may have been knocked out in the second round had opponent Margarita Gasparyan not retired injured at 5-6 in the second set after having won the first.
It’s a fact, then, that Halep has the better record of the two in this season’s tournament – but it’s a narrow margin. All of which points to this match not being settled in two straightforward sets. This makes Betway’s odds of 10/11 on Svitolina winning more than 11.5 games look very interesting indeed. Should the Ukrainian win a single set here, she’d only need to pick up five or six games across the other two – and if she wins overall, she’d have won at least twelve games. In a match we’d expect to be very competitive, that’s an interesting bet.
An evenly-balanced semi-final which either player could win
Halep or Svitolina will come out of this match with their first-ever Wimbledon final awaiting them, and while the bookmakers very much seem to feel that the Romanian player will have too much for her opponent, that isn’t necessarily the case. Remember, they’re ranked seventh and eighth in the world respectively; while Halep is ahead in that and in career titles, we’re certainly not talking about a one-sided cakewalk which the favourite can win without ever getting out of first gear. While the balance of probability is in the elder player’s favour, Svitolina is far from an untried ingenue.
We’ve said it a few times already, because it’s true: this match is hard to call, and it’s likely to be close. In that light we’d say that Paddy Power’s odds of 5/4 that both players will win a set are probably the most generous we’ve seen from the Irish bookie in a while. Either player is capable of winning this, it will probably swing back and forth, and in that respect we’d certainly not be surprised to see it go to a decider before one or the other books their date with Wimbledon history.
Bets of the Day
Both players win a set (Paddy Power, 5/4); Svitolina to win more than 11.5 games (Betway, 10/11); Svitolina to win (888, 39/20)