Thursday, September 9, 2021

Two seeds, two upstarts--who will be the last two standing at the U.S. Open?

So far, Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu have defied all the conventional wisdom about inexperience, nerves and very big stages. The pair of 18-year-olds (Fernandez is now 19) have blazed through the U.S. Open draw like it was something they do every day between visits to the coffee shop (where I am now, so that I can have Wi-Fi). Raducanu has done it without dropping a set, and Fernandez has done it while taking out two top 5 players, plus former champion and currently very in-form Angie Kerber. 

For her part, Radacanu, who had an easier draw, did prevail over 11th seed Belinda Bencic. She also played three more matches than Fernandez, since she had to qualify to get into the main draw. She is the first qualifier in history to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

In the meantime, 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka didn't have much trouble defeating the undoubtedly tired (mentally and physically) French Open champion, Barbora Krejcikova. And Maria Sakkari, who played that wild, intense, extremely long thriller that ended with yet another Andreescu injury, defeated 4th seed Karolina Pliskova, a favorite to the win the tournament. The Greek star has improved a lot about her game, and one of those tweaks is her serve, which made it a lot easier for her to go head to head with Pliskova. In fact, Sakkari's first and second serve win percentages were 92 and 74, which are numbers we just don't see, as a rule.

If Sakkari continues to serve at this level, it could spell trouble for her next opponent, Emma Raducanu. It would, in fact, spell trouble for just about anyone. Fernandez will face Sabalenka, whose power and doubles skills have taken her this far.

In the meantime, Diede De Groot is trying to achieve the Golden Slam, and her chances are very, very good.

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