Thursday, September 06, 2018

2018 US OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's semifinals at the US Open for 2018. Last year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals, correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals, 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. I will also have  a prediction for the men's semifinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [17] vs. Anastasja Sevastova (LAT) [19] Sloane Stephens (USA) [3]I thought that this semifinal would be an all-American affair, with defending champion Sloane Stephens prevailing over Sevastova and Serena Williams enacting revenge on Karolina Pliskova. My second prediction came true,  but Sloane did not  fulfill her side of the bargain. Last year Sevastova and Stephens had played a wild match, with the American coming from down a break in the 3rd set to eventually win. It was expected that with her increased confidence, Stephens would win more easily. Sevastova upended that narrative early, using all her spin and slices to confuse and frustrate Stephens and took the first set 6-1. Sloane came back in the second set but ultimately lost that one 6-4. She is the type of player who can frustrate Serena if she is not playing well, but if Serena's power game components (serve, deep groundstrokes and facile movement) are intact then she should be able to weather the storm. A player with excessive guile like Sevastova uses the opponents power against them, but can still be blasted off the court by a combination of power and accuracy. I suspect that will happen today, but not as easily as some would think. The two have never played before, so Serena may not really take the threat seriously, but you don't get to a major semifinal by luck, and Sevastova always plays her best tennis in New York. However, one can't underestimate the mental aspect of the occasion. Sevastova is playing in her first major semifinal, while Serena is playing in her 12th in New York and 36th in her career (4th all-time).  PREDICTION: Williams.

Naomi Osaka (JPN) [20] vs. Madison Keys (USA) [15].  This should be the more interesting semifinal. Madison Keys is in her second consecutive US Open final, and everyone expects her to win a major sooner rather than later. In fact, some of us that she would win last year when she played "her best friend on tour" (Sloane Stephens) in the final but was overwhelmed mentally by the occasion and the more mature and nuanced play of her opponent. Keys wants another chance to reach a final and actually show that she can play her best tennis in a major occasion. Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka is in her first major semifinal at 20 years old (Keys was still 19 when she made the semifinals of the 2015 Australian Open) and is playing the best tennis of her career. She demolished her quarterfinal opponent by only losing 2 games. In fact, Osaka has only lost 22 games in 5 rounds to get here, by far the lowest of all the semifinalists. As I have said before, individual match results often come down to matchups and here Keys has the edge, having beaten Osaka all 3 times they have played, including an infamous win in 2016 when she was down 1-5 in the 3rd set and came back to snatch the victory in a 3rd set tiebreak. Both players have that match in their minds as they approach this one. I think this will probably also be a 3-set classic, but not as dramatic as that one. PREDICTIONKeys

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