US Open 2017 Semifinal Preview: Venus Williams vs Sloane Stephens

Either Venus Williams or Sloane Stephens will make it to the 2017 US Open final… Will it be the veteran, who has excelled at Grand Slams all year, or will it be the underdog who is playing some inspired tennis right now?

[9] Venus Williams (No.9)

Route to this stage

R1: d. Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-3 3-6 6-2

R2: d. Oceane Dodin, 7-5 6-4

R3: d. Maria Sakkari, 6-3 6-4

R4: d. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-3 3-6 6-1

QF: d. [13] Petra Kvitova, 6-3 3-6 7-6(2)

Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova matches are always a treat and in their previous five matches, all of them had gone the distance. This one was the same as the pair traded grueling rallies and hard-hitting blows. Unforunately there had to be one loser..

Kvitova couldn’t find her range in the first as an inspired, Williams played smart by pinning the Czech in her backhand wing. It did not allow Kvitova to dictate play with her relatively stronger forehand and committed more errors instead. As it had been the whole week, Venus’ level had gone down during the second set and this allowed Kvitova to grow into the match. Kvitova had now settled and was serving extremely well to take it into a decider.

Into a third and Kvitova got the early break but Williams pegged her back, buoyed on by a partisan Ashe crowd. Both players raised their level from here, Williams going for more with her forehand down the line and Kvitova’s ‘pojd’ screams growing louder and louder. However, in the deciding tiebreaker, Kvitova seemed to lose focus and her groundstrokes were being broken down by a resilient Venus. A double fault from the Czech at 5-1 signaled the end of this match, as Williams booked her spot into her third semifinal of the year.

If you weren’t able to watch the match, you can find my highlights linked below. Sorry for the bad quality!

Sloane Stephens [No.84]

Route to this stage

R1: d. Roberta Vinci, 7-5 6-1

R2: d. [11] Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2 5-7 6-3

R3: d. Ashleigh Barty, 6-2 6-4

R4: d. [30] Julia Goerges, 6-3 3-6 6-1

QF: d. [16] Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3 3-6 7-6(4)

I didn’t watch Sloane Stephens’ win against Anastasija Sevastova but it seemed like a great one as well. Sloane was playing brilliant, aggressive tennis all week as she powered past Roberta Vinci, Dominika Cibulkova and Ashleigh Barty which set up a meeting with Sevastova. The Latvian had defeated Maria Sharapova in the previous round which also must mean she was in good form either.

The first two sets seemed pretty dull (from my Twitter timeline) but the quality began to increase in the third. Sevastova seemed to be cruising and flew into a 3-1 lead in the decider, and with a break point chance to lead 4-1, but Stephens began to clean up her game and produced some blistering ground-strokes. The Ashe crowd was really supportive of their home girl and seemed to break down Sevastova’s confidence as she went back into her shell, committing a stream of errors. It ended on a high with Stephens producing a backhand down the line of match point. Great to see a nice embrace from Sevastova at the net. Ostapenko, please learn from your fellow countrywoman! xD

Head to head: The pair had only met once, on the clay of the French Open in 2015, where Stephens won 7-6(5) 6-1.

Stat: Venus Williams has won the most number of matches at Grand Slams this year, amassing a 20-3 record including two finals in Australia and Wimbledon. She is one step away from her third Slam final of the year. Stephens meanwhile is into her second Slam semifinal (first one was in 2013’s Australian Open).

Thoughts: Really looking forward to this semifinal! This guarantees that at least one American would be in the semifinal and I would be really happy with either one going through. Both players have similar games, big groundstrokes, big serve and tactically very smart. It’s evident that Williams is very motivated to reach another Slam final and I feel she is the more superior one in the clutch moments. Stephens will definitely make things very difficult and this could be a classic under the Ashe lights (hopefully night session) but the more experienced Williams should take this one.

Please follow my US Open Predictions here and my Twitter account here 🙂 Thank you for reading!

 

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