Thursday, September 07, 2017

2017 US OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's semifinals at the US Open for 2017. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals, 1 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinalsThis year I will also predict the men's semifinals.

CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) [20] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [1] vs. Madison Keys (USA) [15]. I did not expect CoCo to join the rest of her American countrywomen in the U.S. Open semifinals, because I thought Pliskova would find a way to spoil the party. The two have split their 4 previous meetings so it was clear that the match would be close, and it was. In some sense, Keys had the more difficult task because she had to complete the American sweep of their semifinal opponents, something she did with a pretty straightforward win over Kaia Kanepi. Keys and Vandeweghe have played twice this summer in the hard court warmups to the U.S. Open and even though the matches were close, Keys won both contests, including one which was a final (at Stanford). A major semifinal for all intents and purposes is even more significant than a final of a regular tournament since a major also has the weight of history behind it. Prior to this year I would have given Keys the clear mental edge but Vandeweghe has clearly been improving this aspect of her game with coach Mats Wilander. Even so, under great pressure, a player's true instincts  (and character) will be revealed. This should be a good one.  PREDICTION: Keys.

Venus Williams (USA) [9] vs. Sloane Stephens (USA). This quarterfinal almost didn't happen due to the presence of Petra Kvitova. Despite being up 3-1 in all three sets they played somehow Petra managed to lose two of them. The first one she lost when Venus went on a tear and won 5 games in a row (followed by losing 3 games in a row). In the final deciding set Kvitova was up 3-1 and at one point had saved 8 consecutive breakpoints. But finally Venus broke back and once they reached a tiebreak Venus was the steadier player, eking out a 6-3 3-6 7-6(2) win. Sloane also had to win a 3rd set tiebreak to reach this semifinal, but she did so against a far less celebrated (but surprisingly tricky) opponent in Anasasja Sevastova. Interestingly, Sloane has never lost to Venus (but the two have only played once before on clay back in 2015 in the first round of the French Open). This is an incredible opportunity for all three non-Williams American semifinalists, but especially for Sloane who was the first of the three to reach a major semifinal but has failed to love up to that promise since then, although one can argue she is the best natural athlete. Amazingly it is 20 years since Venus reached her first major final here in 1997 and the fact that she could be playing in her 3rd of the year at age 37 is an incredible testament to her love for the game, and her own athleticism. At this point I will be happy with almost any of the four winning, but for sentimental reasons, I have to root for Venus. PREDICTION: Venus. 

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