Predictions in sports always make sense in theory, but then things happen and order gives way to chaos, matches are played, players lose, players suffer injuries, and in New York this year, players suffered in the heat and humidity.
The women’s top two seeds have made their way to the semifinals, but their journeys have been challenging and demanding. What most certainly no one predicted was that their opponents would be experienced Italian players. Gone are the days when teenagers dominated the majors; three of the four semifinalists are over thirty years of age with Simona Halep being the youngster at 23.
The first semifinal will feature world #1 Serena Williams against Italian Roberta Vinci ranked #43. Listening to commentators and reading predictions most have already conceded the match to Williams. In her quest for her calendar year Grand Slam an opponent the likes of Vinci clearly will not throw her off course. This is the first time Vinci has reached a major semifinal in singles play, but she has a wealth of experience to draw on from doubles play. Vinci has won five major doubles titles and has qualified four times for the WTA tour finals draw. Vinci will not be able to challenge Williams with power, but her backhand slice can give power players all sorts of trouble. In this match up the only one who can really beat Williams is Williams herself. Early matches in the tournament saw Williams start off very sluggish and her service rhythm was clearly out of sync, but as she showed in her match against her sister Venus, she is as usual playing into form.
The other semifinal features the #2 seed Romanian Simona Halep against another experienced Italian, Flavia Penetta. Penetta is currently ranked #26 on the WTA tour with her biggest tournament win coming last year at the premier event in Indian Wells where she defeated Agniezska Radwanska to collect her tenth WTA title. Like Vinci, Pennetta is also an established doubles player, having won the WTA doubles final in 2010 and the Australian Open in 2011.
Penetta’s opponent has had a successful summer, but it has also been a summer that has put a lot of stress on her body. After reaching the final in the premier event in Toronto, Halep faced a tough opponent in Belinda Bencic and the heat and humidity of the Toronto summer. Bencic won the first set and even though she appeared to be suffering from a upper quad injury Halep managed to level the match. In the third set, Halep was overcome by the heat and was forced to retire. In her run to these semifinals Halep has had tough matches in the heat, three sets versus Sabine Lisicki and three sets versus Victoria Azarenka, and she has also shown that the leg injury is still present. But if anything, Halep has shown she is a fighter, willing to stay in every point to the bitter end.
In a clash of similar styles, Halep may be a better mover and a more powerful hitter and should win this match and find herself in the final.
So in the finals we could have the top two seeds as expected or we could have two Italian players fighting for the US Open title. Please note, in a change from previous years, both matches are scheduled to be played tonight, Thursday September 10 starting at 7pm.
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