Tokyo has been pretty fun this year and the semi-final line-up does not disappoint with four players who have all struggled this year, but shone in Japan.
1. Venus Williams v Petra Kvitova
The resurgence of Venus Williams continued today as she put away Eugenie Bouchard, 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3 in an entertaining contest that broke the 3 hour mark. It has been a fantastic week for Genie who will break the top 40 and showed a lot of heart and fight in her performances this week. She is heading straight to Beijing where she heads up the qualifying draw and will play Saisai Zheng in the first round. Most impressive of Venus's week was being able to tough out two demanding three setters and next up, will be another step up against Petra Kvitova.
Kvitova had a great day on Thursday posting two straight set wins (yes you read that correctly) over Madison Keys, 6-2 6-2 and Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4 6-1. The performance against Kuznetsova was one of the most measured and controlled I have seen from her in recent months. It wouldn't surprise me to read articles saying Petra's back to which I would say hush! Petra will always be an irratic player with her game style, but today she managed to find the perfect balance.
Kvitova and Venus have played twice on the WTA tour; Kvitova stunned Venus in Memphis back in 2008 before she had made a name for herself, but Venus levelled up with a surprising three set win in Miami last year in her first tournament back after being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome. Kvitova remains impossible to judge from match-to-match, but I think she's playing well and all these tough matches may catch up with Venus.
Prediction - Kvitova to beat Venus in 3 sets
2. Caroline Wozniacki v Angelique Kerber
Where the first semi-final is likely to feature short, sharp rallies dominated by whoever gets the strike in first, this second semi-final is going to be a complete contrast. The last time that Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber played each other was in Indian Wells earlier this year where Wozniacki prevailed in a slugfest marathon lasting 2 hours and 31 minutes, and featuring moonballs and everything.
Wozniacki's win today over Lucie Safarova was particularly impressive because a confident Safarova, after wins over Roberta Vinci and Sam Stosur, came out firing and hitting the ball so cleanly, you wondered why on earth she had never featured in the top 10. Lucie is one of the nicest players on the tour, but unfortunately the mental side of her game has really let her down over the years. Safarova's form dipped during the match (notably in the third set), but I was surprised how Wozniacki was willing to change her tactics and become more aggressive to put pressure on Lucie and eventually seal a 2-6 6-3 6-2 victory.
Kerber had her first top 10 win of the year as she beat a visibly tiring, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 6-4. Kerber hit a surprisingly high amount of winners, over double the amount Wozniacki hit during her match, which lasted 43 minutes longer. Kerber's performance today reminded me of her play in 2012 when she was more aggressive and was never shy of hitting some sparkling winners. Wozniacki and Kerber are tied at 3-3 in their head-to-head and once again, I am a little on the fence. I would give the edge to Caroline, but Kerber's form today has certainly made me sit up and take note.
Prediction - Wozniacki to beat Kerber in 3 sets