NEW YORK, USA – As the race for the World No. 1 and the US Open title intensifies, could a resurgent Caroline Wozniacki and Karolina Pliskova on a roll threaten to derail Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams?
Serena Williams  v Karolina Pliskova  – H2H: Serena leads 1-0
All lingering doubts about Williams’ elbow, any other dodgy limbs and her motivation have surely been answered with her battle back against an inspired Simona Halep. The Romanian has been in fine form but was slow to start against the World No. 1 as she jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set.
Halep has notched up some solid wins this year, including most recently in Montreal and the Cincinnati semi-final, and pegged Williams back saving seven break points before breaking Williams herself for a lead in the second set.
It was handy practice as the pair swapped break points and set points in almost equal measure, as Halep levelled the match on her fourth set point, fending off a further five break points in the process!
This was a good test for Williams, as she admitted to press after the match. As reported in WTATennis.com, Williams said:
“I feel great. I’m glad I got tested. I think her level really picked up in the second, but I had some opportunities that I didn’t take.
“So what I gather from that is I really could have played better in that second set and maybe had an opportunity to win in straights.
“I think if anything, that’s the biggest silver lining I take.”
Pliskova battled from a set down against older sister Venus Williams before blasting past Ana Konjuh to book a spot in her first Slam semi-final. The stars do seem to be aligning for the now No. 1 Czech who came into the tournament match sharp with the Cincinnati title.
Her serve is of course her biggest weapon, and should neutralise the advantages that Williams enjoys with her own. Where she is vulnerable of course is in her movement, and Williams will want to get away from baseline exchanges, where Pliskova will match her to send her around the court.
It is unlikely that Pliskova will feel particularly over-awed by the experience – her results this year have been solid, and she has exudes a quiet confidence that she belongs at this level.
Williams should expect another stern test, but ultimately the World No. 1 is showing all the signs that she is ready for Slam no. 23, and another US Open title.
Friends who share a determined attitude on court will face each other with a great deal at stake. For Kerber, she could not only make her third Grand Slam final of the year, and the World No. 1 spot is tantalisingly within reach.
For Wozniacki, this is a resurgent spell reminiscent of her 2014 US Open run, where she seemingly met with Williams in the final stages of the US hard court swing every week. Since then injuries and a lack of form have seen her drop out of the Top 20 at the end of 2015 to World No. 74.
She started the year with the Auckland semi-final and it has been a long wait to reach only her second of the year, after an ankle injury ruled her out of the tour for the entire clay court season, and her progress on the hard courts was stilted with no back to back wins in the US, and a second round exit in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Yet the stars have aligned for Wozniacki in New York after a difficult opener, where she battled from a set down against American qualifier Taylor Townsend, as well as taking out the ninth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, coming from 0-4 in the opening set to beat her in straight sets, and despatching Madison Keys in straight sets.
Kerber has yet to drop a set but has probably felt she has weathered a few storms, being pushed in sets throughout. She is looking in great form though – her movement has been outstanding and despite looking to be far more aggressive in her approach she has not lost her ability to defend to the hilt.
She will need that against Wozniacki, who can switch between attack and defence, and there is obviously nothing wrong now with her court coverage.
Again we can expect a tough match, but Kerber just seems to have that edge and sharpness that Wozniacki is building on.
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