Tuesday, November 28, 2023

My 2023 top 10

This year was so eventful (in every possible way) that I could have easily compiled a top 20 list--and I almost did. Iga Swiatek lost her number 1 ranking to Aryna Sabalenka, then won it back. The WTA Finals were a near-disaster, taking place during hurricane season in a stadium that was still under construction when the players arrived. And Barbora Krejciova and Katerina Siniakova broke up their very long doubles partnership--at least for 2024, the Olympics notwithstanding.

Barbora Strycova, who had already played her final singles match, played the last doubles match of her career with long-time partner Hsieh Su-wei, and won the Wimbledon title. And Australia's Storm Hunter became the number 1 doubles player in the world.

All of the above items could be considered "11."

The season was filled with disappointments, and the biggest one, for me, was Daniela Hantuchova's pronouncement that WTA players should just accept things the way they are and stop trying to get more prize money. Actually, "disappointed" doesn't begin to describe what I felt (and still feel) when Hantuchova made this sexist and inane statement.

Here, in ascending order, are my 2023 top 10 happenings:

10. But of course she did: In March, Petra Kivitova did something that I seriously doubt anyone was expecting--she won the Miami Open. And she had a very tough draw--The Czech star defeated Linda Noskova (with a second set bagel), Donna Vekic, Varvara Gracheva, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Sorana Cirstea, and Elena Rybakina. Kvitova dropped only one set (to Alexandrova) during her Miami run.

9. All the wheels on fire: In 2023, the great Esther Vergeer was finally inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Vergeer's record as an athlete is mind-boggling, and unlike that of any other athlete, ever. 

Also in 2023, Diede de Groot won her third consecutive singles Grand Slam and her sixth consecutive masters championship. (She won't be eligible to win a fourth consecutive Grand Slam because the Paralympic Games will coincide with the US. Open--more stupid scheduling.) Diede the Great's mentor is none other than Esther Vergeer.

8. Putting the "back!" in "comeback": Elina Svitolina has been a very busy woman the last few years. She got married, had a baby, had to deal with some health issues, and worked tirelessly for the Ukrainian cause. After taking a year off, the former top 5 player returned to the tour in the spring of 2023 with a new, less defense-oriented game, and she had a Wimbledon run that was unforgettable. 

During the course of that run, wild card Svitolina knocked out five-time champion Venus Williams, Elise Mertens, Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka, and world number 1 Iga Swiatek. She was finally stopped by eventual champion Marketa Vondrousova, but Svitolina's mastery of the grass courts was a highlight of the season.

7. Czech treasure: Two players whom I could watch over and over are Bianca Andreescu (when she's "on") and Karolina Muchova, and--don't you know--those are the two players who are so cursed with injury that we don't even get to see them that much. However, the clever and gracefully athletic Muchova was healthy for the French Open, and she put on one of the greatest shows of the season.

Muchova began her Parisian campaign by defeating 8th seed Maria Sakkari, and went on to defeat the likes of WTA upstart Elina Avanesyan, 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka. She lost the final to top seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek, but not before taking Swiatek to three sets. Muchova was a joy to watch throughout the tournament. She would go on to have a semifinal run at the U.S. Open, and to qualify for the WtA Finals, from which she had to withdraw because of--all together now--injury.

6. They the North!: For the first time in history, Canada won the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly known as Fed Cup). Led by an absolutely on-fire Leylah Fernandez, the Canadian team defeated Italy in the final. Fernandez had some expert assistance from Gabriela Dabrowski and also from newcomer Marina Stakusic, who defeated Italy's Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening rubber. 

5. Business as usual: There are those who are convinced that she's innocent, and those who are convinced that she must be guilty; the doping case of Simona Halep is complex and somewhat confusing. But regardless, the treatment of Halep by those in power leaves much to be desired. There is simply no excuse for the constant delays that the Romanian star has had to endure in the course of having her case processed. 

But this is what we have come to expect from the organizations that oversee doping rules. In the case of Maria Sharapova (which, in some ways, was similar to Halep's), the head of WADA made a public statement that was outrageously discriminatory against Sharapova. Such a statement would have cost him his job in any other venue, and that would have been the end of the case, but there was no pushback at all. There are other examples of the doping system's failure to act fairly and consistently, and someone needs to take a serious look at that system. In the meantime, Sinona Halep has to wait--and wait.

4. Meeting her potential: No one ever doubted the talent of Aryna Sabalenka, but the Belarusian star has had her ups and downs, especially concerning her errant serve. However, she began the 2023 season in the best way possible--by winning the Australian Open. Sabalenka took out Elise Mertens, Belinda Bencic, Donna Vekic, Magda Linnette, and 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. Sabalenka would go on to be the finalist at the 2023 U.S. Open.

3. It was only a matter of time: The question, "When will Coco Gauff win a major?" was answered this year when Gauff won the U.S. Open. Gauff, seeded 6th, knocked out Laura Siegemund, young star Mirra Andreeva, Elise Mertens, Caroline Wozniacki, Alona Ostapenko, Karolina Muchova, and 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka.

2. A French trilogy: In  2020, an unseeded Iga Swiatek stunned the tennis world by winning the French Open without dropping a set. In 2022, Swiatek won in Paris again, and this year, she did it for a third time. The world number 1 handed out four bagels in the course of the tournament, and she didn't drop a set until she had to face an on-fire Karolina Muchova in the final. Swiatek would go on to win the WTA Finals and end the year as the number 1 player in the world.

1. Destroying Wimbledon tradition: Anyone who reads this blog knows how pleased I am any time a Wimbledon tradition is broken or eliminated. This year, a very long-standing tradition was broken when the first unseeded woman in history won the tournament. And it was a Czech--of course. Marketa Vondrousova--who had to watch the event from the stands last year because she was recovering from surgery for a wrist injury (second injury, second surgery)--had to do some heavy lifting in London, and she did it with style. The 2019 French Open finalist and Olympic silver medalist defeated Peyton Stearns, Veronika Kudermetova, Donna Vekic, Marie Bouzkova, 4th seed Jessica Pegula, the very on-fire wild card, Elina Svitolina, and 2022 finalist Ons Jabeur.

Monday, November 6, 2023

She's the WTA Finals champion! She's number 1!..... She's Iga Swiatek, of course

Last year, when, at the last minute, the WTA--which is sponsored by a company that "focuses primarily on improving women’s health and well-being"--moved the WTA Finals from Shenzhen to a state whose leaders are dedicated to letting women die, get maimed, or suffer permanent disability, I was beyond disappointed. But, as a friend of mine likes to say, it can always get worse.

Back when we used to learn how to think in school, we were all taught the logical fallacies. It seems clear that they are no longer taught--spend five minutes on X or watch a session of Congress--so the concept of either-or thinking may be new to a lot of people. Either-or thinking is a logical fallacy in which a person is presented with only two choices, when--in fact--there may be many choices available.

A good example would be "You can play the Finals in Saudi Arabia, or you can play them somewhere where there's no stadium." I exaggerate. To be fair, Ostrava--according to a former member of the WTA Players' Council--was the original alternative to Saudi Arabia, but the Council selected Cancun, where there was no stadium. Why, one wonders, was the selection again made at the last minute?

When the players (sadly, minus Karolina Muchova, who still can't catch a break) arrived in Cancun, they couldn't practice--because the courts were not available. The stadium was still under construction, so the competitors had to just wait (or maybe some of them went all Badosa in the hotel--I don't know). Then there was the rain--a lot of it--to add insult to injury. And then there was the wind, which was fierce. The players complained, and--of course--they were told by some to shut up. Business as usual.

Somehow, the Finals did take place, with alternate Maria Sakkari substituting for the again injured Muchova. But the event had to be stretched to nine days because of the rain, with both the singles and doubles finals being played on Monday instead of Sunday. Players had to endure repeated rain delays, but patience wasn't the ony requirement; those who knew how to master the wind had a distinct advantage.

It wasn't all grim. At one point, while the ballgirls were wiping the courts dry, the deejay played "YMCA," and when the chorus came on, the girls dropped their towels so that they could properly dance out "Y-M-C-A!"

Sometimes, the math at the Finals can be confusing, but this year, the two singles finalists blew their way to the final. Jessica Pegula and Iga Swiatek each won all three of her round robin matches, and neither of them dropped a set. Pegula defeated Coco Gauff in the semifinals, and Swiatek--in a brilliant performance--defeated world number 1 Aryna Sabalenka. In addition, Swiatek lost only 20 games en route to the final--the fewest conceded games since the event was established.

There was also brilliance from Pegula, who, arguably, handled the wind better than any of her competitors. Pegula now holds the unique status of being the only woman in WTA history (more precisely, since the rankings system was established, in 1975) to play the four top-ranked women in the world in one event. Numbers 1, 3 and 4? No problem. But number 2 proved to be another matter.

If Swiatek looked deadly against Sabalenka in the semifinals, she looked even more lethal in the final. In just under and hour, the Polish star defeated Pegula 6-1, 6-0. She had first and second serve win percentages of 82 and 69, and the only break point opportunity that she faced--when she served for the match--she saved. It should also be noted that Pegula looked a bit tired--she just wasn't the same player who had stormed through round robin play and the semifinals. She also played three round robin doubles matches, so that was a lot of tennis.

In winning the championship, Swiatek has reclaimed the world number 1 ranking, and the glory that comes with being the year-end number 1.

6th seeds Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva won the doubles title, defeating 8th seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez 6-4, 6-4 in the final. Top seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula lost all three of their round robin matches; 2nd seeds Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens won all three of their round robin matches, as did 7th seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

There is no trophy like redemption

For two consecutive weeks, the WTA Tour has featured the kind of drama we don't get to see that often: Two top players--one stuck in a double slump, and one stuck in something much worse--won big titles, just when they most needed to win them.

2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova started the year in fine fashion. She won the tournament in Dubai, once again serving as Iga Swiatek's kryptonite in the final. But in both singles and doubles (she was an elite doubles player long before her breakout in singles), the Czech star faded away as the season progressed. Krejcikova and long-time partner Katerina Siniakova won both the Australian Open and Indian Wells, and it was fair to think that they were on track to win the Grand Slam that had just eluded them in 2022 when they had to miss the French Open because Krejcikova was ill. 

But they stopped winning, and they made early exits in the remaining majors. This dramatic fall in both singles and doubles was mysterious and somewhat disturbing. But no worries--Krejcikova showed up on the hard courts of San Diego and took home both of the trophies. She defeated Beatriz Haddad Maia, Danielle Collins and Sofia Kenin, and she and Siniakova won their third title of the season.

This past week, the beautiful Guadalajara tournament, a 1000 event, became somewhat controversial when several top players withdrew. The tournament was moved to a post-U.S. Open, pre-Asian swing slot, and those top players made it clear that this change was undesirable. But it was nevertheless an excellent tournament, and it featured memorable performances from Martina Trevisan and Caroline Dolehide.

And not all of the tour's top players stayed home--Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari, Caroline Garcia, Madison Keys, and Alona Ostapenko were all there, as were Vika Azarenka and Sofia Kenin. Sakkari, the 2022 runner-up, has rock star status in Guadalajara--the crowd adores her. And she probably really needed them this year. The Greek player last won a tournament in 2019, and since then, she had lost six finals. Add to that the fact that she reached the third round at this year's Australian Open, and went out in the first round at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

But in her beloved Guadaljara, Maria Sakkari prevailed, defeating the likes of Camila Giorgi, Caroline Garcia and breakout star Dolehide. 

At one point during her emotional trophy acceptance speech, Sakkari had to pause because the crowed was screaming "Maria! Maria! Maria!" so loudly. And while the Sak bun deserves to be on display as much as possible, it had to feel good to be able to conceal it under a flashy sombrero as a mariachi band played its beautiful, spirited music for the new champion.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

My U.S. Open top 10

Here are my top 10 U.S. Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. California, here she comes: Unseeded Katherine Hui, an 18-year-old from the U.S., won the junior girls title, defeating 9th seed Tereza Valentova of the Czech Republic in the final. Hui is on her way to Stanford, where she's sure to get an enthusiastic welcome from the tennis team. The 8th-seeded Romanian team of Mara Gae and Anastasia Gureva won the doubles title, defeating Sara Saito and Nanaka Sato of Japan.

9. At least the players were good: I'm not going to go so far as to say that the U.S. Open crowd is now ruder than the French Open crowd, but it has certainly reached the French level. It never used to be that way, and it's really discouraging to hear cheering over double faults, yelling during points, and the constant "calling" of lines. As for the commentary--well, ESPN remains even worse than Tennis Channel; some things never change.

8. The predictable and the unpredictable: First there was the heat, which brought back memories of days at the Australian Open, when players were given IV fluids on the court, and were sometimes removed in wheelchairs. This situation isn't going to improve, so more attention will need to be paid to protecting the players. 

Then there was the issue of having the women use the heavier tennis balls. Some of the players had been asking to use these balls, and the WTA did have reservations about it, but this year, they were introduced in the women's game. There needs to be more discussion about this issue, and I'm sure there will be, but Marketa Vondrousova has already stated that she believes that the balls caused the elbow injury that resulted in her withdrawal from doubles competition. (This was especially unfortunate because her partner was Barbora Strycova, playing in her final tournament.)

And of course, there was the matter of the environmental protesters that showed up during the semifinals and disrupted play. Three of them were easily escorted off of the grounds, but they fourth had glued his feet to the stadium floor, and play was interrupted for 49 minutes.

7. A bittersweet observance: 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open's providing equal pay to women and men, so there was an on-court celebration which honored both the anniversary and WTA trailblazer Billie Jean King. Michelle Obama delivered a down-to-earth and inspired speech, and it was all very nice, and yes, all the majors now (finally) pay players equally, but.....there are only four majors a year. The rest of the season, the pay disparity is offensive. And while players like to honor BJK and thank her, what would be really useful would be for them to emulate her and the Original Nine. The sad truth is that equality must always be fought for, not just talked about at ceremonies.

6. Rolling to number 20: Diede de Groot won her sixth U.S. Open singles title, her 20th singles major, and her third consecutive Grand Slam (not a "Calendar Grand Slam") in New York. It's enough to make your head spin. She wasn't able to win her sixth U.S. Open doubles title because her partner, Jiske Griffioen (they were the top seeds), had to retire during her singles semifinal match and was unable to play. The 2nd seeds, Yui Kamiji and Kgothatso Montjane, got a walkover, and thereby won the title.

5. Consistency? Czech. Brilliant shot-making? Czech.: Her shoulder was generously taped, and she also sustained an elbow injury, but Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova nevertheless backed up her London victory (as the only unseeded player to ever win Wimbledon) with a U.S. Open run to the quarterfinals. She was stopped by a very in-form Madison Keys, but being in the final eight was an emphatic follow-up statement.

French Open finalist Karolina Muchova did one better and made it all the way to the semifinals. Coco Gauff stopped Muchova's run, but it was a beautiful run to watch, and the third set of that semifinal--thanks to both players-- was just thrilling. A (finally) healthy Karolina Muchova's game is a thing to behold.

4. Storm damage: As if there weren't enough disruptive things already going on at the U.S. Open, Tropical Storm Alona blew in right about the time that defending champion and world number 1 Iga Swiatek was set to play her round of 16 match. Ostapenko, the only player on the tour who was undefeated (3-0) against Swiatek, defeated her yet again, not only knocking her out of the tournament, but also knocking her off of the top of the rankings, and assuring that Aryna Sabalenka would become the number 1 player in the world. 

After wreaking her havoc, Tropical Storm Alona dissipated (with some help from Coco Gauff, in the quarterfinals), as storms do (and as this one frequently does).  

3. What did you say your name was?: Anna Danilina and Harri Heliovaara had never met when they found themselves in the referee's office, hoping that they could somehow enter the mixed doubles competition. The pair--she, from Kazakhstan--he, from Finland--decided to take a chance on each other, and what a decision that turned out to be! Danilina and Heliovaara won the mixed doubles title, and--to make their victory even more dramatic--they defeated top seeds Jessica Pegula and Austin Krajicek in the final. As a bonus, they were both utterly charming during the trophy ceremony.

2. When it pays to take a chance: Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe played together for the first time in Montreal this year, and now, just a few weeks later, they've won the U.S. Open. The pair defeated 2020 champions Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva 7-6, 6-3 (that first set tiebreak was riveting). During the trophy ceremony, each woman thanked the other for taking a chance on her. This is Dabrowski's first major title in women's doubles--she has two mixed doubles titles. And this is not only Routliffe's first major title--it's the first time that a woman from New Zealand has ever won a major title of any kind.

1. Holding a racket or holding a mic, Coco gets it done: She won DC, then she won Cincinnati, but instead of being tired, Coco Gauff was simply fired up by the time she reached New York. In fact, she was speeding around the court like a woman on a mission, which is exactly what she was. Defending beautifully, displaying an upgraded forehand, and solving problems like a boss, Gauff got the better of tough opponents like Caroline Wozniacki, Alona Ostapenko, Karolina Muchova, and Aryna Sabalenka. And when she won the U.S. Open, she used the microphone not only to show gratitude and graciousness, but also to "have a word" with those who have had low expectations of her.

At just 19 years old, Gauff has the poise--both on and off the court--of a champion. She was last year's French Open runner-up in both singles and doubles, so it shouldn't have surprised anyone that she took it a step farther and, this time, got the big trophy. We can only look forward to what our new champion will achieve next.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

From prodigy to major champion--Coco Gauff makes the journey in style

Today, 19-year-old Coco Gauff became the 2023 U.S. Open champion, defeating soon-to-be number 1 in the world Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. It was an exciting final, and featured an opening set in which Sabalenka--always a formidable opponent--looked as if she could do no wrong. The Belarusian star overpowered Gauff (which isn't that easy to do) and broke her three times.

The second set was a different story, which shouldn't have surprised anyone. Gauff saved a couple of break points to start the set, then broke her opponent. As the set progressed, Gauff's defensive skills became the perfect foil to the very power that had caused the 6th seed problems in the first set. She was relentless, and won the set to set up some real third set drama.

But the only thing truly dramatic about the final set--other than the ferocity of Gauff's sometimes-unstable forehand--was the degree to which Sabalenka continued to make errors. The ball just kept coming back to her, eventually forcing her to hit an error. In all, Sabalenka hit 19 winners, but made 46 unforced errors.

In her post-match speech, the new champion said the usual things--she thanked her family and her team, thanked the tournament staff, thanks the fans, and gave touching praise to her opponent. But---in the tradition of Italy's Sara Errani--she also thanked her detractors. It is sometimes hard to believe that so much poise and thoughtful speech is coming from a 19-year-old, but this isn't just any 19-year-old--it's Coco Gauff.

Not long before she competed in the U.S. Open, Gauff won the 500 tournament in Washington, DC, and the 100 event in Cincinnati, presumably making her the hottest prospect coming into the Open. But winning warmup tournaments often doesn't translate to winning an upcoming major. In Gauff's case, however, those victories were just a taste of what was to come. 

Aryna Sabalenka's consolation prize isn't a bad one--on Monday, she becomes the number 1 player in the world. Her new ranking was clinched when current world number 1 Iga Swiatek lost to Alona Ostapenko in the round of 16. Swiatek has held the number 1 ranking for 75 consecutive weeks, the longest that a first-time number 1 has ever held it.

Friday, September 8, 2023

U.S. Open semifinals--a drama in two acts

In the last couple of days, the U.S. Open has been a bit overwhelming, but not always in a good way. The extreme heat brought back memories of days at the Australian Open when players had to get IV fluids and the old Rebound Ace surface caused the rubber to melt on the wheelchairs. And there was the issue of the first semifinal, which was interrupted for 49 minutes as three environmenal activists were escorted out of the stadium while officials had to deal with a fourth one who had glued his feet to the stadium floor.

Then there was the tennis. 

In Thursday night's first semifinal, Coco Gauff easily dominated Karolina Muchova, whose usual very good serve wasn't there, and who also wasn't bringing her usual shot-making magic. It looked like a case of nerves, yet I did have that niggling feeling that it might also be physical. Muchova had quite a bit of tape on her body, but then, if I were she, I would, too.

Down 1-5, the world number 10 seemed to suddenly "wake up," and proceeded to win three straight games. But Gauff took that set 6-4. She led 1-0 in the second set when play had to be stopped because of a lot of yelling in the stands that turned out to be environmental protesters. As stated above, play was delayed for over three-quarters of an hour while those in charge extricated a protester who was glued to the floor. (You can't make this stuff up.)

During a portion of this "break," Muchova had a medical consultation. When the players returned to the court, they both held serve until Gauff broke Muchova to go up 5-3. But when the world number 6 served for the match and held a match point at 40-30, Muchova--looking totally like herself (i.e., gracefully making what look like impossible shots)--broke her. At 5-all, the match contained all the tension that it lacked earlier. 

Muchova would go on to save five more match points in the final segment of the match, which was as thrilling as anyone could imagine, and which had the crowd in awe of the players. 

In the end, though, Gauff simply would not be denied. Having had just about everything thrown at her that can be thrown at an opponent in a tennis match--including at the net and over her head--she remained steady. Near the end, there was a 40-shot rally that fans will be talking about for some time to come. Gauff then ended the whole thing on her sixth match point. Her 6-4, 7-5 victory puts her into the second major final of her career.

And while we might have thought that the second semifinal would be comparatively "normal," we would have been fooled. In that match, Madison Keys, who has been playing at an extremely high level in New York, walked onto the court and proceeded to do what some might consider a magic trick--she bageled the soon-to-be number 1 Aryna Sabalenka. Keys, who hit twelve winners and made only three unforced errors in the set, was totally dominant over a player who is not easily dominated.

Sabalenka--never one to hide her emotions--became increasingly frustrated and angry. And then an image of Dr. David Banner popped into my mind: "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." 

That image proved to be an accurate metaphor. After emphatically losing her first set of the tournament, Sabalenka fought back. Keys went up 5-3 in the second set, but was broken. She then went up 5-4, but her attempt to win the match was destroyed by a series of errors, including a double fault. Sabalenka was able to take the set to ta tiebreak, which she won, 7-1. 

Keys broke to go up 4-2 in the third set, but Sabalenka broke her back. That set also wound up in a tiebreak, which Sabalenka won 10-5. (At the U.S. Open, a 10-point final set tiebreak is played. I see no need for this, and Sabalenka wasn't the first player to think that she'd won the match after she "won" a seven-point tiebreak). 

For what it's worth, the Belarusian star is only the third woman in the Open Era to win a major semifinal after losing the first set 0-6. The others were Steffi Graf (French Open) and Ana Ivanovic (Australian Open).

Sabalenka is 2-3 against Gauff, and 1-2 against her on hard courts.

Paths to the final:

round 1--def. Laura Siegemund
round 2--def. Mirra Andreeva
round 3--def. Elise Mertens (32)
round of 16--def. Caroline Wozniacki
quarterfinals--def. Alona Ostapenko (20)
seminfinals--def. Karolina Muchova (10)

round 1--def. Maryna Zenevska
round 2--def. Jodie Burrage
round 3--def. Clara Burel
round of 16--def. Daria Kasatkina (13)
quarterfinals--def. Zheng Qinwen (23)
semfinals--def. Madison Keys (17)

In other news, defending wheelchair champion Diede de Groot has now won 120 consecutive matches. If that sounds impressive--and it is--bear in mind that her mentor, Esther Vergeer, won 470 consecutive matches.

Some miscellaneous notes about this past week:

The WTA finally announced a location for the 2023 WTA Finals; the event will be held in Cancun, Mexico. Tomas Petera, negotiating for the Czech Republic's bid to have the finals held in Prague, had a lot to say.

Some advice: If you have no context whatsoever, and even less knowledge of the tour, please refrain from accusing a player of bigotry, and please refrain from automatically believing those with no context and even less knowledge.

And finally--but not at all surprisingly--an ESPN commentator, i.e., someone who is paid very well to say words, told us that she has a hard time with pronunciation; it just isn't her thing, Well, okay.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

We have our semifinalists!

In today's first U.S. Open semifinal, 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka took control early, winning the first set against Zheng Qinwen 6-0. Sabalenka served about as well as one could serve, and--while Zheng managed to make the match more competitive in the secone set, she never saw a break opportunity. Sabalenka defeated her 6-0, 6-3. Zheng has been quite impressive at this tournament, but there wasn't a lot that she could do against an in-form Sabalenka.

Aryna Sabalenka, by the way, has now reached the semifinals of all four majors this year.

In the last quarterfinal to be played, Madison Keys began business just the same as those in the quarterfinals before her did, getting a 6-1 first set against Marketa Vondrousova. In the second set, Vondrousova was able to be more competitive, but failed to convert nine break opportunities, The Wimbledon champion still had her shoulder taped and was presumably still dealing with an elbow issue, though she didn't appear to be especially hampered in her movement.

Vondrousova saved two match points, but Keys prevailed, 6-1, 6-4. Vondrousova's failure to convert any break points was somewhat mystifying.

Keys last reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open in 2017, when she defeated Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets. She would go on to lose the final to Sloane Stephens, who defeated her 6-3, 6-0.

(And I'll take this opportunity to say that I think that Madi looks great in her stylish and colorful kit.)

Here is the singles semifinal draw:

Coco Gauff (6) vs. Karolina Muchova (10)
Madison Keys (17) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2)

And here is the doubles semifinal draw:

Gaby Dabrowski/Erin Routliffe (16) vs. Hsieh Su-wei/Wang Xinyu (8)
Laura Siegemund/Vera Zvonareva (12) vs. Jen Brady/Luisa Stefani