Miami WTA Semifinal Previews: Barty vs. Kontaveit; Halep vs. Pliskova

Miami WTA Semifinal Previews: Barty vs. Kontaveit; Halep vs. Pliskova

While Halep leads their head-to-head 7-3, the Czech and the Romanian have had their battles in the past.

Ashleigh Barty vs. Anett Kontaveit

Barty and Kontaveit have come a long way since their only meeting, at Wimbledon qualifying in 2014. The Estonian edged the Australian that day, but since then Barty has had the slightly better career. While Kontaveit cracked the Top 20 for the first time this month, Barty made it into the Top 10 for the first time with her win over Petra Kvitova on Tuesday night. It felt “bloody good,” as the easygoing Aussie put it.

Based on the current form of both players, this match should be competitive. Barty is coming off three-set wins over Kvitova and Kiki Bertens, as well as a career-best quarterfinal run at the Australian Open and a single-handed sweep of the U.S. in Fed Cup. Kontaveit, meanwhile, ended Bianca Andreescu’s spring surge in Miami (aided by the teenager's retirement), and came back from the brink of defeat against Su-Wei Hsieh in the quarterfinals.

That resurrection may make Kontaveit feel as if she has nothing to lose on Thursday, which would be a positive for her. But Barty has more weapons, especially with her serve, and the more complete all-court game. The next logical step is for her to make the final at a tournament this size.

Winner: Barty

Simona Halep vs. Karolina Pliskova

Thursday night’s showcase WTA semifinal would have made a fine final. Halep and Pliskova are perennial Top 10 players and Slam contenders, and they present a natural stylistic contrast. Pliskova is a hitter, Halep a runner; Pliskova is ice, Halep is fire.

While Halep leads their head-to-head 7-3, the Czech and the Romanian have had their battles in the past. The most recent, and perhaps the best, came in Fed Cup last month, when Halep beat Pliskova 6-4 in the third set. And Halep has mostly had a smoother road to the semis here, including a straight-set win over Venus Williams. Pliskova, by contrast, has fought her through long matches against Alizé Cornet and Yulia Putintseva, and she came back from 0-3 down in the second set against Marketa Vondrousova in the quarters.

Halep may still be the favorite on paper, but it feels as if Pliskova has been working up to something important this season. She has improved, but she hasn’t quite cashed in on that improvement yet. Miami would be a good place for her to make it happen.

Winner: Pliskova