Saturday, September 10, 2011

We finally have finalists!

Between the rain delays and the closing of Louis Armstrong Stadium, we had to wait a long time to get our 2011 U.S. Open finalists, but now we have them: 9th seed Samantha Stosur, and--surprise!--28th seed Serena  Williams.

Williams had to have a medical time-out during her semifinal against world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki; she had some problems with the toe on her injured foot. But that didn't stop her from defeating Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4. The 28th seed had a few wobbles when she tried to close the match, but she recovered, and will go for her fourth U.S. Open title tomorrow.

Wozniacki, for all her skills, was just no match for Williams, who dominated the match from the start.

More interesting--at least, to me--was the semifinal played between Stosur and the unseeded Angelique Kerber. They had never played each other before, and in the first set, Kerber, as expected, appeared to be somewhat beset by nerves. Stosur used her big serve to take that set 6-3. I wasn't expecting a beat-down, though, and--sure enough--Kerber came to life in the second set, improved her own serve, and put on the kind of show that got her to the semifinals.

Down 1-4 in the second set, Stosur saved three break points. Down 2-5, 0-30, she hit struck a serve that broke Kerber's racquet handle. Kerber only got better, though, hit confidently to Stosur's backhand, and won the second set 6-2. Her momentum went away, as did her serve, in the final set, however. Stosur easily moved to a 5-0 lead, but the world number 92 wouldn't go away. Kerber finally held, then broke the 9th seed when she served for the match at 5-1, and then she held at 15.

Stosur served for the mach a second time and went down 0-30, then 15-40. Angelique Kerber appeared ready to turn the match around, and she played what may have been the point of the match to get a break opportunity. But Stosur saved it, then she saved a second break point. She wasn't able to win on her first match point, but--after four deuces--she was victorious on her second match point.

She didn't make it to the final, but Angelique Kerber had an amazing run at the U.S. Open, and today, she showed what a fighter she is. Others in her position might have faded away, but Kerber hung in until the absolute last moment, and impressed spectators with the type of forehand superiority for which the German players have become known.

Stosur has had a long, difficult tournament. She played in the longest U.S. Open women's match in history, and the longest match ever played by two women in a major. Williams, on the opposite end of the spectrum, hasn't dropped a set. Each has impressed in her own way. Stosur--who is often reluctant to go to the net--has played with increased and precise aggression. Williams, of course, has served exceptionally well.

Williams and Stosur have played each other six times; Williams has won four of those matches. She also gave Stosur a walkover in Cincinnati this summer. Stosur's only hard court victory against Williams occurred in 2009 in Stanford. Stosur was the runner-up in the 2010 French Open. Her best run at the U.S. Open, prior to this year, was in 2010, when she got as far as the quarterfinals; Stosur lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters.

We also have finalists in the junior draw. Top seed Caroline Garcia of France will play the unseeded Grace Min of the USA. Three of the four semifinalists were players from the USA.