On the Baseline Tennis News9.9.10
FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—The road to the U.S. Open semifinals has been long, and…shall I say, a bit windy. The blustery conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium have offered little control over the ball from any angle. As a result, players have had to shift their game to survival mode instead of trying to capitalize on their strengths. No major surprises in terms of who’s been able to handle the swirling wind and survive this fortnight.
Quarterfinal win over Dominica Cibulkova 6-2, 7-5
Top seed Caroline Wozniacki had only dropped 10 games heading into the quarterfinals on Wednesday night, an accomplishment only matched by Serena Williams in 2002. With her defensive style of play, Wozniacki took control early against the No. 45 ranked Cibulkova, leading 3-1. The wind conditions were a consistent problem, and Wozniacki needed to hit through every shot just to keep the ball from flying. She even had to put her hair into a braid in the middle of the match just to keep her hair from flying into her face. Unseeded Cibulkova started attacking more when she was down 1-5, but she couldn’t pull off taking the first set. Wozniacki broke Cibulkova at 5-5 in the 2nd set, and went on to win the 2nd set 7-5. Cibulkova had 43 unforced errors for the match; Wozniacki just 18. The average first serve speeds for both players were in the 80mph range, an indication of just how much the wind was impacting their games.
Cibulkova would have been just the ninth unseeded woman to make it to the U.S. Open semifinals in the Open Era had she won.
The 20-year-old Dane is the youngest of the semifinalists. She has not dropped a set, and has only lost 17 games since the start of the U.S. Open. Wozniacki has had the most consistent hard court season of any player. She defeated Vera Zvonareva in the Montreal final last month, and went on to win New Haven just one week later. Wozniacki is poised to make her second straight U.S. Open final.
Quarterfinal win over Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 7-5
This match was a first meeting for these two players. Kanepi, the towering 25-year-old from Estonia who has a big serve and solid ground strokes, had trouble with her nerves and the wind throughout this match, committing 60 unforced errors. “I don’t think she was just making errors for no reasons,” Zvonareva said after the match. “I think I was making it difficult for her. She had to go more for her shots. I was trying to guess where she was playing and read her game. So I was trying to make it as difficult as possible for her.”
The No. 7 seed Zvonareva stayed aggressive throughout the match, but suffered a few setbacks at 4-3 in the second set. Kanepi evened it up at 4-4. She was then serving at 5-4 to stay in the match, and Zvonareva couldn’t pull off the break. Zvonareva held serve, bringing it to 6-5, and went on to break Kanepi in the final game, winning the set 7-5.
Zvonareva managed to keep her emotions in check, despite the added challenges from the wind. “The weather was definitely not for the good tennis out there,” said Zvonareva . “But no matter what, the match had to be played. The most important thing was to find the right balance between being patient and being aggressive. I think I did it well.”
This will be Zvonareva’s first U.S. Open semifinal. She will be facing an uphill battle against Wozniacki. In the four times they’ve played against each other, Zvonareva defeated Wozniacki only once on hard courts (Indian Wells 2009). Her most recent victory over Wozniacki was this year in Charleston, beating her in the semifinals, but Wozniacki suffered an ankle injury during that match, and had to retire. Zvonareva will have to be aggressive and defensive in her play against Wozniacki if she wants to secure a spot in the final.
Quarterfinal win over Sam Stosur 6-4, 5-7, 6-3
For the first time at this year’s U.S. Open, Kim Clijsters dropped a set when she faced off against Sam Stosur on Tuesday night. Clijsters suffered eight double faults, but neither player was serving particularly well. Stosur did manage to throw off Clijsters’ rhythm, which made her a bit uneasy, but Clijsters managed to find her form in the third set. The high number of unforced errors from both players seemed to indicate that the windy conditions had significantly compromised their games (43 for Clijsters, 36 for Stosur). For Clijsters, this quarterfinal match was her 19th straight win at the U.S. Open.
As the defending U.S. Open champion and two-time winner, Clijsters will be back in familiar territory heading into the semifinals, so her confidence should go a long way in her match vs. Venus Williams. She defeated Venus in the fourth round of the 2009 U.S. Open, as well as the quarterfinals of the 2005 U.S. Open. Clijsters also won the U.S. Open title in both of those years. In their last four meetings (since 2005), Clijsters has beaten Venus each time (all on hard courts). Clijsters is likely the best hard court player on the Tour, and is as fit as she’s ever been. She also leads the pack in backhand winners (29).
Quarterfinal win over Francesca Schiavone 7-6(5), 6-4
Venus Williams had a 7-0 record going into her match against Schiavone.
She struggled with her serve, making nine double faults and 33 unforced errors. Venus couldn’t even warm up her serve with the wind on court. Despite the tough conditions, Venus managed to hit a 125mph serve.
In terms of stats, Venus Williams holds the tournament record for fastest serve speed (127mph), highest number of winners (137), and is the overall ace leader (26). She has also not dropped a set since the start of the tournament.
Heading into the semifinals, Venus, who will undoubtedly be wearing her 6th attention- grabbing outfit, will also be carrying the American torch. At 30, Venus is the oldest semifinalist, and hasn’t been in a U.S. Open semifinal since 2007. She also hasn’t won the tournament since 2001, but hopes are high for her to reclaim victory.
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