Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Down to four

In yesterday's quarterfinal competition, Ajla Tomljanovic--now a household word because she defeated Serena Williams in her final U.S. Open match--made her own exit from the Open at the hands of close friend and Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur. Jabeur was frustrated throughout parts of the match, threw a couple of rackets, and worried later that "I think I'm going to be fired from my job as Minister of Happiness."

But she persevered by keeping up with Tomljanovic's hard hitting, and by grabbing more of the key points. Despite occasionally being somewhat rattled, Jabeur displayed a keen tennis intelligence throughout the match, and hit more than twice as many winners as Tomljanovic. Hitting as hard and precisely as her opponent, and using her well-known variety of shots, the Tunisian star prevailed, 6-4, 7-6. The tiebreak "should" have been tension-filled, but Tomljanovic saw nerves creep in at that point, which made it easier for Jabeur to close the match.

In Tuesday's other quarterfinal, Caroline Garcia posted a 78 first serve win percentage, and she was successful at the net in 81% of her attempts. Those stats would make anyone hard to beat, and indeed, Garcia won the match against Coco Gauff 6-3, 6-4. Garcia was in a major slump for a very long time, and she has dramatically pulled herself out of it, winning Cincinnati, and now reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

Garcia is known for "flying" after a victory, and her stylish French plane has been on view a lot lately. Aryna Sabalenka, on the other hand, may have channeled her inner Lockheed Blackbird when she met Karolina Pliskova in their quarterfinal match today. 

Pliskova, who broke her wrist at the beginning of the season, has finally come back into form, but not quite enough to do much about her opponent. Sabalenka hit seven aces, and had first and second serve win percentages of 72 and 63. Most significant--Pliskova never saw a break opportunity; Sabalenka was too powerful and too fast. The 2016 finalist picked up her level considerably in the second set, but Sabalenka would have none of it--she won their match 6-1, 7-6, and reached the U.S. Open semfinals for the second straight year.

In the night match, world number 1 Iga Swiatek faced off against the USA's number 1 player, Jessie Pegula, who is seeded number 8 in New York. Swiatek won the first set with relative ease, but the second set was another thing altogether. Pegula became more aggressive, as Swiatek experienced periods in which she made repeated unforced errors. In the end, though, it was the Polish star who knew what to do, and she defeated Pegula 6-3, 7-6. This is the first time that Swiatek has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open. 

Here is the semifinal draw:
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (6)
Caroline Garcia (17) vs. Ons Jabeur (5)

In other U.S. Open news, 3rd seeds Brbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova advanced to the semifinals today, as did 13th seeds Caroline Dolehide and Storm Sanders (who defeated Caroline Garcia and Kiki Moadenovic). And defending champion Diede De Groot advanced to the semifinals in women's wheelchair competition.

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