Belinda Bencic takes on Caroline Wozniacki aiming to reach her second grass court final in the space of three weeks.
The unseeded Swiss teenager, languishing just outside the world’s top 30, was embarrassed in their first career meeting when she was outclassed by the former world #1 without winning a game at the 2014 Istanbul Open.
But last year Bencic was a fresh-faced 17-year-old who rocketed through the Aegon International Qualifiers only to come a cropper to Eastbourne-based Brit Johanna Konta in the 1st Round.
There was no repeat for Bencic this time against the Australian-born British #3, this time beating Konta in three sets following a surprisingly stuttering start in Thursday’s quarter-final clash.
In-form Bencic has been gradually climbing up the world rankings since she last met Wozniacki, when she inflicted a 6-4 6-4 defeat on the great Dane at the Indian Wells in March, and pulled off a string of impressive triumphs at Eastbourne to send Mona Barthel, defending champion Madison Keys, out-of-sorts Eugenie Bouchard and Konta packing.
No2 seed Wozniacki, in contrast, has been given a rocky ride to reach the semi-final showdown with Bencic but as usual once she has the advantage steps up a couple of gears and shows the drive to dismiss opponents with aplomb.
Her first victim was Australian Qualifier Jarmila Gajdosova, where Wozniacki edged the opening set in a fraught tie-break before cruising through to face former Eastbourne champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The veteran Russian also forced a tie-break in the first set, but Wozniacki bounced back to reel off the next two sets for the loss of just four games for a flattering result.
Against German clay court expert Andrea Petkovic once more Wozniacki took time to find her feet but snatched the opening set before running away with the match to reach her fifth semi-final of the season – and her third successive appearance in the last four at Devonshire Park.
And Wozniacki’s form appears to rely on her confidence, with just one title – the Malaysia Open – to her credit this term and twice finishing runner-up.
But to reach her fourth final of the year could take some doing against Bencic, who recently finished runner-up at the Topshelf Open on the Netherlands grass to Italian Camila Giorgi.
Bencic is playing in only her fourth semi-final, and the last year’s US Open quarter-finalist plays a typical Swiss game under the tutelage of Martina Hingis’ mother with tactics built on precision rather than power.
World #5 Wozniacki, the 2009 Eastbourne winner, is a very popular figure on Centre Court at Devonshire Park and as the highest seed in the quarter-finals remains on course to meet Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska – her close friend and fellow champion at the south coast resort – in Saturday’s final.
The Dane will use all her experience, guile and ability to mix up the pace to try to dislodge the clockwork antics of Bencic in what should be a mouthwatering clash. With both players possessing solid service games and strong all-court tactics then any wayward shots will swiftly be punished.
Defence rather than aggression should be the key factor to determine the victor, and with Bencic showing her natural strength on grass and Wozniacki’s game suited to fast surfaces this should be a topsy-turvy battle.