Tuesday, September 04, 2018

2018 US OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the US Open for 2018. Last year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals I also have  prediction for the men's quarterfinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [17] Simona Halep (ROU) [1] vs. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [8]First I would like to recognize Kaia Kanepi, the hard-hitting veteran Estonian who took out my pick for the 2018 US Open title and played a nerveless, entertaining match against Serena Williams in the 4th round on Sunday despite losing the first set 6-0 in under 19 minutes. I believe that was exactly the match Serena needed to prepare her for this showdown with Karolina Pliskova who last beat her on this court just two years ago, in the 2016 US Open semifinals, just a few rounds after beating Venus Williams. last meeting in Stuttgart this year and they also split their 2 hard court matches. I saw Pliskova overwhelm Ash Barty the round before and she actually moves better than I expected (she's no Lindsay Davenport!) But Serena hates to lose to players in consecutive matches so she will be well prepared for this match. In some sense, her tough draw may actually have helped her raise the level of her game, which is approaching the level she was at pre-pregnancy. It's somewhat surprising these two have only played twice, so Serena has not really been active on the WTA tour as Pliskova became World #1 (briefly) and remains ensconced in the Top 10. As others have noted, one blaring hole in Serena's comeback to the tour this year has been her inability to win against Top 10 players this year and Pliskova will be her first she will be facing in New York. Despite that, I think Serena will find a way to reach yet another semifinal in New York.  PREDICTION: Williams.

 Anastasja Sevastova (LAT) [16] Elina Svitolina (UKR) [4] vs. Sloane Stephens (USA) [3]. This is a rematch of last year's quarterfinal which was quite a barnburner. Stephens had to come back from 1-3 down in the final set. Sevastova clearly plays her best tennis in New York and is completely unafraid of big stages. I saw her demolish the #7 seed Elina Svitolina in the relative obscurity of the Grandstand court on Saturday (winning 6-0 in the final set). We are no longer surprised by Stephens success in big matches, as her World #3 ranking and 2 major finals in the last 12 months have demonstrated. How the defending champ takes care of someone who gave her so much trouble last year will tell us a lot about whether Stephens will be able to defend her title as she most likely will face the ultimate test in Serena Williams. I believe she will beat Sevastova, but I don't think it's going to be easy. PREDICTION: Stephens.

Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) [30] Maria Sharapova (RUS) [22] vs. Madison Keys (USA) [15].  It's a quirk  of fate that Suárez Navarro's birthday falls in early September, so she has often had to play very important matches in her career on this date. 5 years ago when she turned 25 she famously lost to Serena Williams without winning a single game. Things did not look good when she was scheduled to play Maria Sharapova at night in Arthur Ashe stadium, where the 5-time major champion was 23-0. However, Suárez Navarro  was undeterred and although it was not a pretty match (both players were serving horrendously) it was quite entertaining. The Spaniard is mostly known for her clay court prowess but she has reached multiple quarterfinals at all the slams but Wimbledon. She has a one-handed backhand and is a great mover. The result was that she was able to end Sharapova's streak and dismiss the Russian in straight sets. Her opponent will be another big hitting, big serving player who moves a bit better: Madison Keys. Keys continued her domination of Dominika Cibulkova who looked a bit tired after her upset of Angie Kerber on Saturday in three sets. The fact that Keys is undefeated against Cibulkova is mysterious; the Slovak is too good a mover to be blasted off the court, but typically this is what happens in their matches, because Cibulkova likes to do that to her opponents, and with Keys she faces someone who goes for broke even earlier than she does. Keys is 3-0 against each of the players she could face to reach her second consecutive US Open finalSuárez Navarro, Osaka or Tsurenko. Will she do better dealing with the mental expectations of success this year than last year? I hope soPREDICTIONKeys

Naomi Osaka (JPN) [20] vs. Lesia Tsurenko (UKR). It looks like 2018 may finally be the year for the breakout by the biracial 20-year-old Naomi Osaka into the big leagues of women's tennis. She won Indian Wells in a battle of the youngsters by defeating Daria Kasatkina (and a bevy of Top 10 players). However the rest of her season has been pretty quiet until reaching New York where she has been making a lot of noise by cutting through the draw like a scythe, losing only 7 games in the first three rounds. In the 4th round she faced a fellow youngster, 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka who has been the hottest player on tour for most of the American summer hard court season. The two played a see-saw match which involved multiple breaks of serve and swings of momentum in the deciding set and ended on a double fault. (Happily I was in the stands at Louis Armstrong watching with delight.) The tennis was tension-filled because both players knew that they would have to face an unseeded player in their quarterfinal to reach the 2018 US Open semifinal. It looked that opponent would be 19-year-old lefty Marketa Vondrousova from Czech Republic but somehow 30-year-old Lesia Tsurenko was able to battle back and survive the brutal sun and humidity yesterday on the Grandstand court to deny the youngster. I don't think she'll be able to do that again.  PREDICTION: Osaka. 

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