Friday, 9 September 2016

Pliskova to meet Kerber in Final

There will be a new number one in the women's rankings come Monday, and on Saturday a first time winner of the US Open Women's Singles will have been crowned.  It may very well be the same person.

Angelique Kerber will become the latest number one, displacing Serena Williams, and ironically she can thank the very same player who denied her from taking the top spot just a few weeks back in the Cincinnati final.

Yes, Karolina Pliskova defeated Angie in that match, and the Czech big server this time upset Serena Williams and several million Americans by eliminating the 6 time champion at the semi final stage of her home major, just as Roberta Vinci had last year.  A US Open final appearance was the prize for Karolina - the side effect was Kerber's ascent to the top of the tree.

Pliskova has become stronger each match of the tournament, and not even the might of Serena held any fears for the woman who has overtaken Petra Kvitova as the number one tennis star in her country.
Set one of the first semi final in front of an expectant night crowd turned into a nightmare for the favourite - Pliskova hit twice as many winners as Williams, was in complete control of her own serve, not having to save a single break point, and derailed the best serve on tour in the third and seventh games.   Down 6-2, a Serena comeback was required, and for many simply assumed.

The first few games of the second stanza were notable for a slight drop in the standard of Pliskova's tennis and Williams appearing to handle the Czech shots with a degree or two more comfort. Until 2-2 30-15 that is, where a couple of American forehand errors produced a break point, dutifully converted by Karolina, thanks to her forcing an errant Serena backhand.

A Williams backhand winner precipitated a double fault and two forehand clangers from Pliskova and Serena vocalised her joy at the immediate break back.
Serving first in the set, the top seed forced the tenth seed to play catch up, which Karolina did, all the way to a tie break.
Both players had advantages at various stages in the tiebreak, and both served double faults to lose the edge.  4-4, and Serena with a backhand winner was just two points for the set.
Pliskova was donated points on her next two serves with poor shots from Williams and it was match point, but with Serena at the line 5-6.
Sadly a double fault ended the semi final and Karolina Pliskova entered the 2016 US Open Women's Singles Final with a great victory 6-2 7-6.

Safe in the knowledge that she will soon be officially installed as the new world number one, Angie Kerber stepped out next to do battle with Caro Wozniacki in the second semi, this to decide the Pliskova opponent in the Saturday final.

A much different affair than the first semi - instead of two big servers with points often settled quickly, here we had two exquisite shot makers, with a propensity to partake in long rallies, waiting for a mistake from the other end.  Error free, highly watchable tennis, but it could be awhile to determine the winner.

Maybe not, considering the start of this semi final.  Caro was broken to love in the opening game, and didn't register her first success until the fifth game of the match.  There must have been more mistakes made in those four games than Wozniacki had made in total for the whole tournament.
Angie was the one to throw in a few winners here and there to spice up things, but the crowd were hoping for more from the Dane.  She provided one service break before the end of the set, but the lead was too much to drag back, and Angie led 6-4.

If one key area was the difference, it would be return of serve - Angie was winning half the points from the Caro serve in the opener.

The writing was probably already on the wall, but when Wozniacki was broken in the first game of set two after her forehand failed on a second break point, the message was splashed in red paint across all of Queens.  Kerber was steady and Caro could not find a method to break back.

Serve was held for 1-2, but Kerber shattered any remaining hopes in the fifth game with another assault on the Wozniacki delivery,  set up by two German forehand winners and concluded with Danish two backhand failures.

Angie suffered a nervous moment when serving for the match at 5-2, and Caro deserves credit for hanging in there, breaking the second seed to love.
However, the inevitable was delayed by only a game, with Angie Kerber entering her third Grand Slam tournament final of 2016, defeating Caro Wozniacki 6-4 6-3.

Before we experience a unique major women's singles final - one without Serena - there are 2 terrific men's semis to enjoy:

(1) Novak Djokovic v (10) Gael Monfils
(3) Stan Wawrinka v (6) Kei Nishikori 

Of the 4, only Djokovic has won the US Open (2011, 2015) and Nishikori has been a finalist (2014)
Nishikori defeated Djokovic in the semis to reach the 2014 final, and I believe that the two could meet again here, but in the final.

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