Thursday, September 6, 2007

U.S. Open Semifinals set

And what semifinals they are. Two of the most talked-about possible champions, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, are out of the contest, the resurgent Venus Williams is still in, and a former U.S. Open champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, is still standing.

Serena Williams, in her quarterfinal, got a second set trouncing from world number one Justine Henin that looked a bit like the job she herself did on Sharapova in the Australian Open final. In that set, Williams could not find her game, and Henin--who is probably better at going after opponents' weaknesses than anyone on the tour--charged full-speed ahead. A stunned Williams was near-speechless in her press conference, though she has irritated a lot of people with her remark that Henin made some "lucky shots." Final score: 7-6. 6-1

Anna Chakvetadze
raised the level of her game from the somewhat messy affair it had been in the round of 16, and took advantage of Shahar Peer's service difficulties. The first set was spirited, but as Peer struggled with her serve and seemed to lose a bit of focus, Chakvetadze took the match in straight sets. The aggression that Peer has added to her game should not be ignored, however. She has definitely lifted her level, but like so many other players, needs to do something about her serve. Final score: Chakvetadze def. Peer, 6-4, 6-1

Svetlana Kuznetsova had a fairly easy time defeating Agnes Szavay (and, for the 100th time, USA, CBS and ESPN commentators--it's pronounced SHAH-veye), though the young player pulled herself together in the second set and made the match interesting. Final score: Kuznetsova def. Szavay, 6-1, 6-4

My understanding is that some people think the Venus Williams-Jelena Jankovic quarterfinal was the best match they had seen all year. I certainly didn't feel that way, though the match was good. I have become a diehard Jankovic fan over the last year or two, and I am going through the same frustration with her that I go through with Martina Hingis: She is not going to reach the level where she belongs with that serve of hers. In Hingis's case, there is something mental going on--I've seen her go out to the court and serve beautifully. I don't know what it is with Jankovic. If Jankovic were to develop a decent second serve, she could get away with her less-than-stellar first serve. But it wouldn't hurt her to strengthen the first one, while she is at it.

Venus Williams is a great player who has it all--speed, precision, cleverness, and great athleticism. She is always going to use her powerful serve to win points. Jankovic is an exceptional defensive player with brains, speed and toughness to spare, but without a good serve, it is very hard for her to beat someone like Williams on a big occasion like a U.S. Open quarterfinal, when Williams is bound to bring her best game. I have seen Jankovic beat Williams before, and she certainly had a chance last night, but she made it too hard for herself. Final score: Williams def. Jankovic, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6

Williams will now face Henin in a semifinal match, and Kuznetsova will play Chakvetadze. Williams has been extremely dominant over Henin in the past, but they have not played each other in four and a half years.

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