Yesterday afternoon, I was talking with a tennis fan, and I told her to be sure and watch the first semifinal on Arthur Ashe because it would be so exciting. Imagine my surprise when it was not only not exciting, but also a one-sided shut-down. I don't know what happened to Cincinnati champion Caroline Garcia (I don't accept Chris Evert's "She peaked too early" explanation--Garcia is made of better stuff than that), but she was a mere shadow of the player who won Cincinnati and cruised through the first five rounds of the U.S. Open
My comment isn't intended to take anything away from Garcia's opponent, Ons Jabeur, who was certainly a big part of what happened to Garcia. Jabeur, who is always difficult to play because of her creative shot-making, also brought an on-fire serve to her semifinal match against Garcia. The Tunisian star hit eight aces and 21 winners in the 66-minute match, in which she never gave her opponent a single chance to break. Still, considering the brilliance of Garcia's 13-match win streak, her 1-6, 3-6 loss was a big surprise.
The second semifinal was a different story altogether. Aryna Sabalenka, in the U.S. Open semifinals for the second year in a row, had to deal with world number 1 Iga Swiatek, normally a formidable task. But Swiatek hasn't looked that comfortable throughout the New York event, and it wasn't unreasonable to think that the huge-hitting Sabalenka might be the one to stop her run.
Sure enough, the sixth seed easily overwhelmed Swiatek in the first set, which she won, 6-3. The loss apparently woke Swiatek up, because--as I like to say--when she returned to the court for the second set, she remembered who she was. Swiatek steamrolled Sabalenka 6-1.
The third set was exactly what one would have expected--a tight contest in which the momentum rapidly shifted. At 4-all, the tension was palpable. But it was the world number 1 who--once again, remembering who she was--brought the whole thing to a close with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.
Here are the players' paths to the final:
IGA SWIATEK (1)
round 1-def. Jasmine Paolini
round 2--def. Sloane Stephens
round 3--def. Lauren Davis
round of 16--def. Jule Niemeier
quarterfinals--def. Jessica Pegula (8)
semifinals--def. Aryna Sabalenka (6)
ONS JABEUR (5)
round 1--def. Madison Brengle
round 2--def. Elizabeth Mandlik
round 3--def. Shelby Rogers
round of 16--def. Veronika Kudermetova (18)
quarterfinals--def. Ajla Tomljanovic
semifiunals--def. Caroline Garcia (17)
Also yesterday, 3rd seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova won their semifinal match. If the Czech pair wins the U.S. Open, they will be the owners of what I've decided to name the Super Golden Career Slam. Stay tuned.
And also yesterday: Top seed Diede De Groot won her quarterfinal match when her opponent retired, and she and partner Aniek Van Koot won their quarterfinal doubles match.