Tuesday, September 06, 2016

2016 US OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the US Open for 2016. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinalsThis year I have also predicted the men's quarterfinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs Simona Halep (ROU) [5]. Serena has a commanding 7-1 head-to-head lead in the developing "rivalry" with this former World #2. If Halep wants to be a serious contender at the top of women's matches, she needs to start winning these matches, not just making them (occasionally) competitive. But Serena, returning to the scene of her greatest career disappointment, has looked extremely solid as she plays for a historic 23rd major title. In the first 4 rounds, she has lost only 20 games. In order to also maintain her grip on the #1 ranking, Serena is going to need to at the very least reach the semifinals here this year, like she did last  year. However, if she succeeds then she will simultaneously break two of Teffi Graf's great records: most consecutive weeks at #1 and most major titles in the Open era to cement her status as the new greatest  female tennis player of all time. PREDICTION: Serena.

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [10] Venus Williams (USA) [6] vs Ana Konjuh CRO Agnieska Radwanska (POL) [4]. This was expected to be a blockbuster showdown between Venus Williams and Aggie Radwanska but instead this will be a coming out party for two players, one of whom will reach their first major semifinal, a career highlight. Konjuh is a 18-year-old from Croatia who suffered an unfortunate accident while leading Radwanska in the second round of Wimbledon this year and ended up losing 9-7 in the third set despite being up a set and double break. So although upsetting the #4 seed looks on paper as a surprise their history would indicate otherwise. Konjuh's breakthrough is notable but the way Pliskova reached her first major quarterfinal is no less significant.  Pliskova got here by defeating 7-time major champion Venus Williams 4-6 6-4 7-6(3) in a thrilling match that featured operatic levels of drama reminiscent of the riveting Nadal-Pouille match the day before. Pliskova saved a match point in the second set while coming back from a set and a break down, and was mentally tough enough to weather having triple match point on her serve and despite leading the tour for most aces hit this year being forced into a 3rd set tiebreak.  Pliskova and Konjuh have never played against each other (since Konjuh is so new on the tour, she hasn't played a lot of people), but this will be the biggest match of their careers to date. However, Pliskova is building on having played her career best tennis just a week before the US Open in Cincinnati and will be brimming with confidence, which will have just been catalyzed by her 4th round win over Venus. it will be interesting to see how the youngster reacts to the situation, sometimes they can be overwhelmed by the circumstance, other times oblivious. Regardless, I think the older and wiser player will prevail this time.  PREDICTION: Pliskova.

Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) Madison Keys (USA) [8] vs Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [3].  Wozniacki announced her intentions early in this tournament by  dismissing a feisty challenge from African American lefty Taylor Townsend in the first round and getting past 2-time major champion Sveta Kuznetsova the following round. However, she made  a believer out of me (and others) when she used her superior defensive skills to teach Madison Keys a lesson in basic tennis strategy: defense often beats offense. So, we're not that surprised Wozniacki is in a US Open quarterfinal again, but everyone is surprised her opponent would be Sevastova. Sevastova eliminated a listless Garbine Muguruza in the second round, but even more impressively, she was able to follow up this upset of the reigning French Open champion by beating the in-form British #1 Johanna Konta to reach the quarterfinal. Incredibly, Sevastova has yet to drop a set through four rounds, despite not being a seeded player. Wozniacki has always had her best grand slam results here in New York (she's reached the semifinals or better in four of the last seven years) and I suspect that will continue to be the case. PREDICTION: Wozniacki

Angelique Kerber (GER) [2] vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA) [7]. Vinci is known as a clay court specialist but she has now reached the quarterfinals in New York four of the last five years and has been in the Top 10 for a year. Last year, she prevented Serena Williams from achieving the rare calendar year Grand slam. Can she be the spoiler in Angie Kerber's campaign to achieve the #1 ranking in tennis? It's possible but very, very unlikely, as Kerber now realizes that she legitimately belongs at the very top of women's tennis, and believes she should and will be rated #1. Currently the two are evenly matched in their head-to-head at 2-all but they have not played since either player had their breakthroughs (Vinci's win over Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals and Kerber's 2016 Australian Open win) in the last year. It should be an interesting match, but it's hard to see anything stopping another Kerber-Serena major final at this point.  PREDICTION: Kerber. 

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