Will Wimbledon women's semifinals produce a Serena-Halep final?

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Halep cruises into Wimbledon semifinals (1:20)

Simona Halep defeats Shuai Zhang in straight sets 7-6, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals at Wimbledon. (1:20)

LONDON -- After a week and a half of exciting matches, compelling storylines and intriguing personalities (we miss you, Coco Gauff!), the semifinals of the women's draw at Wimbledon are finally upon us.

Thursday is shaping up to be an epic day at the All England Club, with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams taking on the upset-minded Barbora Strycova, and former world No. 1 and 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep facing a surging Elina Svitolina.

Who will advance to Saturday's final? We can't tell the future, but here's what we know heading into the matchups, along with our predictions.

No. 11 Serena Williams vs. Barbora Strycova (unseeded)

Head-to-head: Williams has won all three of their previous meetings, including at Wimbledon in 2012. They last played in the fourth round of the 2017 Australian Open, with Williams rattling off a straight-sets win en route to her 23rd Grand Slam title.

Previous Wimbledon bests: Williams is a seven-time Wimbledon champion and played in the final last year, when she lost to Angelique Kerber in straight sets. This marks Strycova's first major semifinal appearance. Her previous best result at Wimbledon was a quarterfinal run in 2014.

Strengths: Where to start with Williams? The 37-year-old is good at so many things, but it was her huge serve that really saved her in Tuesday's quarterfinal win over Alison Riske. Williams had 18 aces, including one to close out the match. She leads all women at Wimbledon with 41 aces throughout the tournament so far, and also notched the fastest serve speed of 122 mph.

Strycova was down 4-1 in the first set Tuesday against Britain's Johanna Konta, playing in front of as hostile a crowd as one can get at Wimbledon. But she broke back for 4-3, then won the set in a tiebreak and dominated in the second set for the win. Strycova, 33, doesn't seem to get fazed, and she remains composed even when down. During this run at the All England Club, she has eliminated four seeded players, including No. 4 Kiki Bertens, No. 21 Elise Mertens and Konta, the No. 19 seed, with her versatile game. She has proved capable of playing up to the moment against players considered the overwhelming favorite -- something that could come in very handy against Williams.

Weaknesses: Due to injuries, Williams hasn't played as much this season as she would have liked, and she's quick to point out her lack of current experience. Wimbledon is just her sixth tournament of 2019 and her only one on grass. This marks her first semifinal appearance of the year. She seems concerned about her lack of matches and how that might impact her in a tricky contest.

But while Williams hasn't played much this season, Strycova hasn't played much in the second week of a major, ever. Inexperience on the sport's biggest stage, against the sport's biggest name, could be her ultimate downfall.

Best quote so far: "I definitely feel a lot more pressure as I got older. Now that I am past older, I feel a little bit less pressure. I'm so serious. I definitely felt pressure, like not so much when I was younger, and then older, yes, yes, yes.

"Now it's like I've done everything I need to do. Like, I've had a great career, so I don't feel the pressure as much anymore." -- Williams

"Every day, even if I have a day off, I walk around the court[s] and looking where I was playing when I was [in] juniors and I'm proud of myself. It's my 17th time here, and you just try to be happy. And I am very happy what I'm doing." -- Strycova

Biggest turnaround moment of their Wimbledon campaigns: Williams looked a little bit lost in the first set of her second-round match against Kaja Juvan, falling 6-2. But it was like she needed the challenge to play at her best, and she responded with a dominant performance the rest of the way. She didn't lose another set until playing Riske on Tuesday.

Strycova, meanwhile, was down a set and trailing 5-2 in the second against Mertens in the fourth round, but she found a way to pull off the epic comeback for a statement win in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

Fun facts (that probably will have nothing to do with the final outcome, but will be great to tell your friends while you're watching):

  • Williams is 2-1 vs. players from the Czech Republic in major semifinals. She fell to Karolina Pliskova at the 2016 US Open in her last such meeting.

  • Strycova was world No. 1 as a junior and won the 2002 and 2003 Australian Open junior titles.

  • Both Williams and Strycova had to play doubles matches after their singles wins Tuesday -- Williams in the second round of mixed doubles with Andy Murray, and Strycova with Su-Wei Hsieh in the third round of women's doubles.

Odds: Williams -400/Strycova +320 (according to Caesars Sportsbook). Williams is also even odds to win the title, while Strycova is +800.

Predictions:

Pete Bodo: Williams has missed a lot of tennis this year, but she has a great capacity for making up lost ground and getting into match-tough conditions without playing many matches. Aided by a draw that really opened up (did people really call her quarter "the group of death" when the draw was made?), she will have too much firepower and confidence for Strycova.

Simon Cambers: Now that she is in the semis, don't expect Williams to blow this. She has too much power for Strycova. Straight sets for Serena.

Tom Hamilton: Williams is nicely poised to add her eighth Wimbledon singles title and should see off Konta's conqueror, Strycova. But expect this to go to three sets, with Williams' lethal backhand and ruthlessness with serve returns seeing her into the final.

Maine: This is Williams' 12th semifinal appearance at Wimbledon. In the previous 11, she has only once not advanced to the final. She knows what it takes to win, and while she says she feels like she doesn't have anything left to prove, it seems clear how badly she would like to win Grand Slam No. 24. She's determined and playing potentially her best tennis since returning from maternity leave. Williams takes this one in straight sets.


No. 7 Simona Halep vs. No. 8 Elina Svitolina

Head-to-head: Svitolina holds a 4-3 career edge over Halep. However, Halep won their last meeting, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, in Doha earlier this year. They have never played each other on grass.

Previous Wimbledon bests: This marks Halep's second semifinal clash at Wimbledon. She lost to Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets in 2014. This is Svitolina's first major semifinal. Her previous best at the All England Club was a fourth-round appearance in 2017.

Strengths: Don't let Halep's 5-foot-6 frame fool you: She's a powerful hitter and technically sound across the board. She trailed 4-1 on Tuesday in the first set against Shuai Zhang, but the 27-year-old stormed back with intensity and resolve to win in straight sets. She has often struggled on grass, but says she is now more confident than ever on the surface -- and that clearly makes her all the more dangerous.

Svitolina, 24, is often praised for her sheer athleticism and versatility. She is fast, with a strong serve, and she can switch up her game depending on the opponent.

Weaknesses: Halep used to be criticized for her perceived mental fragility in tough moments on the court, but she has silenced many of her doubters since her French Open victory last season. However, despite her vast improvement in this area, she still has moments in which she seems to lose her edge.

Svitolina has struggled for the past several months with a knee injury that required her to take time off ahead of the clay-court season. She seems healed, but since she has had only one match go three sets so far during Wimbledon, it's hard to know how she would fare in a long, grueling match with so much on the line.

Best quote so far: "I started to feel more comfortable on the [grass] court. I didn't slide at all this tournament. Hope I will be the same in the next match. It's a little bit dangerous when you play on grass because the feet are not really stable as you are on hard court or clay court. That's why I prefer those surfaces.

"But now I started to feel it, to have it in my hands, to have it in my legs, and also in my mind, which is very important. I could do many things this tournament already to make the court work for me, like to play a little bit wider, then the ball slides a little bit because it's a grass court. I try just to adjust myself, my body, to this court. I feel more confident now. Every time the ball comes to me, I feel like I know what to do with it, which is important." -- Halep

"You just try to think about different things. If you start to think about, 'OK, it's [my] first time [playing in a] semifinal,' [it's] like, 'Stop it.' Like, 'Stop it. Let's think what I'm going to have for dinner.'" -- Svitolina

Biggest turnaround moment of their Wimbledon campaigns: As previously mentioned, Halep trailed Zhang 4-1 in the first set in their quarterfinal match, but she kept her cool and came back to win the set in a tiebreak, and then win the match.

Svitolina held two match points in the second set of her third-round clash with Maria Sakkari, before her opponent came back to win the second set. However, despite the hiccup, Svitolina dominated the third set 6-2 for the win. She hasn't dropped a set since.

Fun facts (that probably will have nothing to do with the final outcome, but will be great to tell your friends while you're watching):

  • Halep is a fan favorite -- and has the awards to prove it. She won the WTA's Most Popular Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015, as well as the fan-voted Singles Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

  • Svitolina is the first Ukrainian woman to reach the semifinals at a major since the nation declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

  • Halep has been ranked No. 1 in the world a combined 64 weeks -- 10th most in WTA history.

  • Svitolina is one-half of the most fun tennis account on Instagram -- @GEMS, which she shares with her boyfriend, Gael Monfils.

  • Svitolina came into Wimbledon on a losing streak, having fallen in seven of her previous eight matches. She had just one win since Indian Wells in March -- a first-round victory over Venus Williams at the French Open.

Odds: Halep -220/Svitolina +185 (according to Caesars Sportsbook). Halep is also +170 to win the title, while Svitolina is +550.

Predictions:

Bodo: Svitolina finally seems to have gotten over her fear of majors and has played up to her potential at Wimbledon. But that won't be enough to stop Halep, a Grand Slam champion who has loads of big-stage experience, a counter-punching game similar to Svitolina's but better, and a newfound love for grass-court tennis.

Cambers: Halep says she has learned to love grass, and I sort of believe her. Svitolina will run everything down, but Halep has the class. Halep in three.

Hamilton: Halep is back in the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time since 2014, and she should comfortably beat Svitolina in straight sets. While the majority of the top seeds have crashed out, Halep has kept her head and should continue her crescendo to the final.

Maine: Between Halep's resolve in her quarterfinal match and her dominance against crowd favorite Gauff in the fourth round, she seems somewhat unbeatable at the moment. Svitolina will give her a tough battle, but ultimately Halep in three.