Us Open Friday Preview – Women’s Singles Semi Finals
And then there were only four. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Na Li and Flavia Pennetta, among these names there’s the one that is going to be engraved into the Us Open Trophy on Saturday. Only one winner. Who is going to get one step closer to what all the tennis players around the World dream to achieve? Who are going to be the two finalists?
The weather forecast
First good news for the tennis fans that will make their way tomorrow into the Flushing Meadows complex is that tomorrow there will be sun shining on New York. The weather forecast for Friday reveals that there is no threat of showers attempting to interrupt the game tomorrow. In fact, there’s a big chance the organizers will be finally able to have the men’s singles final played on Sunday.
Who The Finalists Will Be?
(1)Serena Williams (USA) vs (5)Na Li (CHN) - Head-2-Head 1-8
Second match - third after the doubles - scheduled on Arthur Ashe will be the 10th career encounter between World No.1 Serena Williams and 2011 Roland Garros Champion Na Li. Who is going to win? Thinking of the two semifinals this might be the easiest one to predict. In fact, Serena has won 8 out of the 9 matches she has played against Li. The only win for the Chinese top player came back into 2008, during the tournament of Stuttgart. It was only the second time the two opponents were meeting in the WTA tour. Back then Li was still a Top 30 player who had reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon two years before as her best career result. Serena, on the other hand, was playing her first tournament after winning her third Us Open title. Despite dominating the first set 6-0, Serena went on to lose in three sets to the Chinese rising star. Since then, Na managed to win only one more set in 7 matches against Williams. In 2013 the two have already played twice, both times on hard courts in Miami and Cincinnati, and it was always Serena who exited the court as a winner, without dropping a single set. After watching the American dominating a dangerous opponent like Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarter-finals, not conceding a single game, it’s very hard to imagine that Serena would let the Chinese to cause an upset. Out of the two Williams is the one who impressed the most during these first week and a half of competition. The World No.1 hasn’t dropped a set and didn’t allow her opponents to take more than 4 games per set away from her. After beating Sloane Stephens in the fourth round it looks like Serena was able to prove herself that she is playing some of her best tennis, much better than what she was able to produce back in January in Melbourne, when she was taken out from the tournament by her young fellow countrywoman. Li Na was quite impressive too, not losing a set to get to the quarter-finals, despite having to face tough opponents such as Laura Robson – who beat Li in the third round last year in New York- and Jelena Jankovic. When the Chinese failed to impress though, was just one day ago, when she let Russian Ekaterina Makarova take a set away from her, to then come back and win the third. Seeing how the two players are approaching the match, it’s hard not to pick Serena as the favorite to win. Williams is on fire, her serve is helping her whenever her groundstrokes are failing. To beat Serena Li has to play the match of her life, and it doesn’t look like the Chinese player can afford to be 100% at this stage of her season. Final Prediction: Serena Williams wins in straight sets, winning one set 6-4.
(2)Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs Flavia Pennetta (ITA) – Head-2-Head 1-1
First semi-final to be played on Arthur Ashe will see Victoria Azarenka taking on evergreen Italian Flavia Pennetta. Out of the two semi-finals this can be the one which final result can’t be taken for granted. Despite being the World No.2, Australian Open Champion and last year’s runner-up against World No.83 the match between Victoria Azarenka and Flavia Pennetta could be a very close and entertaining one. Pennetta has just resurrected from a terrible wrist surgery that forced her out of the tour for the second part of the season last year and has been able to find her best tennis back right in the city and the tournament where she always played on top of her game, thus reaching the quarter-finals for the 4th time over the last 5 years. Finally, the Italian was able to move one step further and reach her first ever Grand Slam semi-final defeating friend and fellow countrywoman Roberta Vinci on Wednesday. The best win of her tournament however, came for Pennetta in the 4th round, when she was able to beat one of the hottest players on tour this season such as Simona Halep from Romania. Azarenka has made her way into the semis not looking quite impressive to be honest. In Cincinnati the Belarusian was able to beat Serena Williams in the final playing an amazing match and producing tennis of the best quality. Arriving in New York though, it seems like Vika has lost some of that spark. Azarenka dropped a set both with Alize Cornet in the third round and Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round. Especially against the Serbian, it looked like the Belarusian was just being overpowered and unable to dictate the points as she usually does. Hantuchova wasn’t such an hard test for Azarenka in the quarter-finals, but it showed how Victoria can still improve many areas of her actual game. Azarenka is a player that rises with the occasion, someone who can produce her best tennis when it really matters, despite form, weather or any kind of pressure. Thus, Victoria still has to be considered the favorite to win tomorrow, but Pennetta’s game could drive the Belarusian mad. The two played twice before and are tied with 1 win for each player. Pennetta won the only time they have played on hard courts, two years ago in Dubai. For those who watched that match, it’s easy to see why Victoria could be in trouble for tomorrow. The Italian was dominating her opponent right from the beginning of the match, especially on the backhand side, Pennetta’s favorite. Flavia was leading Azarenka in the second set, but then lost her focus and had to go to a third set before coming back and win it all. Azarenka wasn’t No.1 in the World back then, but was still a top ranked player, someone to beat, and Flavia was able to beat her, playing an aggressive match. Final Prediction: Victoria Azarenka wins in three sets. Taking it down to percentages, though, the Belarusian is very slightly favorite, 51% against Pennetta’s 49%. The 31-year-old can definitively cause an upset.
How to play from the baseline
The expression “to endure the rally” is about those indeterminate moments of a rally where none of the players is leading.
The ability to endure the rally is fundamental when you play a “long rally”, because it offers you the chance to measure your opponent’s strong points and vulnerabilities, besides letting you position as best as possible for your next offensive shot.