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5 things to watch in women's semifinals at Wimbledon: Halep-Bouchard, Kvitova-Safarova

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LONDON - For the fourth year in a row, three women will divide the season's first three Grand Slam titles, no matter who winds up lifting the trophy at Wimbledon on Saturday.

So far in 2014, Li Na won the Australian Open, then lost in the first round at the French Open and the third round at the All England Club. Maria Sharapova won the French Open, but was beaten in the fourth round at the other two majors.

In Thursday's semifinals, No. 6-seeded Petra Kvitova will play No. 23 Lucie Safarova, before No. 3 Simona Halep faces No. 18 Eugenie Bouchard. Kvitova is the only member of that group who already owns a major championship: She won Wimbledon in 2011.

Here are five things to watch at Wimbledon in the women's semifinals:

HALEP VS. BOUCHARD: Halep won their only previous match, on a hard court at Indian Wells, Calif., in March. Halep is all about court coverage and finding angles; she won the French Open girls' title in 2008. Bouchard is a more powerful hitter who was the Wimbledon girls' champion in 2012. "Her style, it's dangerous on grass because she's playing very flat (shots)," Halep said. "She stays very close to the baseline, so she's playing fast.

HALEP: The Romanian's progression at tennis' four most important tournaments has been impressive. She had never been past the third round at a Grand Slam until last year, when she made it to the fourth round at the U.S. Open. Then she reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January, and got to the final at the French Open last month. Including her five wins at Wimbledon so far, she is 18-3 at her last four majors (an .857 winning percentage) — after going 7-13 (.350) for her career before that. "It's tough to think that I can win a Grand Slam title, still," Halep said. "Doesn't matter if I was very close (at the) French Open."

BOUCHARD: The first Canadian woman to reach Wimbledon's semifinals, the 20-year-old Bouchard is the youngest player ranked in the top 20 at the moment — and will move into the top 10 on Monday. She is only the sixth woman since 2000 to get to at least the semis at a season's first three majors, joining Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Dinara Safina. So far, though, Bouchard is 0-2 in her Grand Slam semifinals. "I'm excited to be in the semis," she said. "But, of course, you know, never satisfied, so definitely want to go a step further — or as far as I can."

KVITOVA VS. SAFAROVA: This will be the first Grand Slam semifinal between two Czech women. They also both happen to be left-handers. Kvitova has won 14 consecutive matches against lefties, and she's 5-0 for her career against Safarova, including a three-set victory on grass at Eastbourne last month. But Kvitova has only had to beat one seeded player so far this fortnight, No. 30 Venus Williams, while Safarova eliminated No. 10 Dominika Cilbulkova and No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova.

KVITOVA: As of now, the 24-year-old Kvitova is the only player born in the 1990s to have won a major title, and she loves the grass of the All England Club, where she is 24-5 for her career, compared to 36-18 at the other Slams. Safarova, meanwhile, will be playing in her firsts major semifinal and had been 4-8 at Wimbledon until last week.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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