The women take centre stage at Flushing Meadows on Friday as semifinal action gets underway at the U.S Open. World number one and defending champion Serena Williams takes on China’s Li Na, while Victoria Azarenka will battle it out against the veteran from Italy, Flavia Pennetta. Remarkably, the line-up comprises of three women in their 30’s with the 24 year old Vika crashing the party.
Williams’ path to the final four has been nothing short of spectacular. Dropping just 13 games in her run to the semis, the four-time U.S Open champion has looked in ominous form. “I’m having a blast this week. I have just really been enjoying my matches. For me, I have to stay in that moment of fun but intensity but calm. If I can try to do those three things, it works out” said Serena in her post-match press conference. Her opponent has also been in good nick of late, dropping just the one set in her previous round to Russian Ekaterina Makarova. But, if their previous meetings were to suggest anything about Friday’s encounter, Li Na will have her work cut out for her. Standing at an imposing 8-1 head-to-head record, Williams’ only loss to the Chinese came in 2008 at Stuttgart.
The fifth seed Li is a clean striker of the ball and hits on the rise. While she has the chops to pose a few problems for Williams, the 2011 Roland Garros champion does not have enough weight of shot to outplay Serena. So, it will take a mammoth of an effort on Li Na’s part to topple the world number one, especially in her own backyard.
The story of this year’s women’s draw has undoubtedly been Italy’s Flavia Pennetta. 12 months ago, she was at her parents’ place in Italy, recovering from a right wrist surgery and watching the U.S Open on T.V. A year later, here she is in her first Grand Slam semifinal and playing the tennis of her life. “She went through some ugly times,” said Roberta Vinci, Pennetta’s long-time friend and former doubles partner. “But Flavia is strong-headed. She’s stubborn,” she continued. “She’s someone who, when she wants something, she wants it all costs, which is the right way to be.”
Pennetta has had some notable scalps on her way to the semifinals, beating four seeded players. But it does not get any easier as she goes up against world number two Azarenka on Friday. The two have met twice before, splitting both of those matches. And interestingly, the last one went in the Italian’s favor. The start of the match will be key for Pennetta as she looks to avoid giving Vika the early advantage. While, the steely Belarusian has a tremendous amount of respect for Pennetta, she will be going all out to make her second U.S Open final’s appearance.
As the tennis pundits look for a repeat of last year’s final, stranger things have happened in the world of tennis. Either way, with a forecast of light winds and clear skies from the weather centre, fans can look forward to an exciting day of tennis.