Djokovic – Federer, Wozniacki – Serena Into Semis

2011 US Open
By Hiland Doolittle, September 10th, 2011

Playing around the rain, the U.S. Open 2011 winners of Thursday’s matches stayed focused and made quick work of their opponents. The result is that Friday’s U.S. Open schedule is loaded with high profile matches and the biggest names in the sport.

The women’s semifinals features top seed and world number one Caroline Wozniacki and imposing 13-time Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams. Both players have won convincingly to reach the semis. The stage is now set for the tournament’s most anticipated women’s match.

On the men’s side, top seed, Novak Djokovic, was pushed by his Serbian Davis Cup partner, Janko Tipsarevic who battled the miracle man for the first two sets but was forced to retire in the fourth set. The win boosted Djokovic’s 2011 record to an amazing 68-2.

The loss was a hard blow for Tipsarevic, who gained a late break in the first set and was serving for the set at 6-5, only to lose in a tiebreaker. Tipsarevic claimed the second set tiebreaker at 7-6 (3). It was Serbia’s number two’s first trip to a Grand Slam quarterfinal. The win marks Djokovic’s 5th straight visit to the semifinals in Flushing Meadows.

The 20th seed showed the effects of an injury in the third set and was trailing 0-3 in the fourth set before he retired. The 7-6 (2), 6-7 (3), 6-0, 3-0 victory lasted three hours and twenty minutes.

Djokovic is scheduled to face Thursday’s rain delayed winner, Roger Federer. The Swiss crushed Frenchman Jo Willy Tsonga, rebounding nicely from a quarterfinal setback at Wimbledon. Tsonga is playing the best and most powerful tennis of his career, but nobody is playing any better or more efficiently than Roger, the 16-time Grand Slam winner.

Federer’s impressive 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win was an excellent prelude for the Djokovic confrontation. Federer holds one of the two losses that the Serb has suffered this year. The media suspected that Tsonga had played himself into position to pull another upset.

But, Federer served sharply and capitalized on just about every critical error to thwart any rally by Jo Willy, who had come from two sets down at Wimbledon to stun the 30-year old Federer. Roger neutralized Tsonga’s power by moving the big Frenchman east –west and well behind the baseline. Meanwhile Federer was rarely caught far behind the baseline. This is the strategy that can defeat Djokovic. Against Tsonga, the Swiss executed it perfectly.

Federer enjoys a career 14 –9 edge in head-to-head matches against Djokovic.

Nadal – Roddick, Murray – Isner in quarters

The men in the bottom bracket are one round behind the upper bracket. That means that to win the tournament, a player from the bottom bracket will have to win four matches in five days, while Federer and Djokovic will enjoy a day of rest on Friday and then again on Sunday.

In the lower bracket quarters on Thursday, Rafa Nadal emerged from a tough first set and then cruised through France’s Gilles Muller, 7-6 (1), 6-1, 6-2. Nadal seems to be struggling with physical difficulties but has won 11 consecutive U.S. Open matches. The defending Champion completed his Grand Slam resume by defeating Djokovic in the finals last year.

The Nadal match began where it was when rain halted play on Wednesday. Trailing 0-3, Muller looked to be in control of the first set. Rafa was all business when returning to the court on Thursday. Muller looked exhausted as the second seed used every weapon in his arsenal to overcome the 0-3 start.

Nadal will next face Andy Roddick, the USA’s consummate competitor. Roddick dismissed the 5th seed, Spaniard David Ferrer, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Roddick’s serve is not the weapon it once was but he leads the tournament in number of breaks.

With his victory over the fifth seed, Roddick is where he wants to be. Nadal will not only face the 21st seed but will be forced to deal with a full and very vocal house. Nadal owns a 6-3 career advantage against Roddick.

4th seed Andy Murray made quick work of young American Donald Young, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. With Murray’s championship at Cincinnati, he is a force to be reckoned with. Once regarded as the best returner in the game, he will be tested by 6’9” Georgia Bulldog, John Isner. Isner won three tiebreakers against Gilles Simon, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6 (4).

Murray and Isner have only played once with Murray overcoming the big guy. Their styles of play are completely different. Murray is a finesse player while Isner just wants everything to happen quickly. His high-risk offense will pose an unusual obstacle for the Scotsman.

Wozniacki - Williams, Stosur – Kerber In Semis

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki is well known for her delightful sense of humor but she has established herself as a fierce competitor in this year’s Open. The media downplays the Dane’s style of play but much of this criticism is self-serving and should be ignored.

Once again Wozniacki took out a fierce power player, Andrea Petkovic, who many people thought might win the tournament. The Wozniacki – Williams match may seem like the finals of this tournament. Williams possesses 13 Grand Slam titles and wants this one for one million reasons.

Wozniacki is chasing her first Grand Slam and wants to establish her validity as the world’s top player. The Dane has taken control of every match and it is clear that her conditioning and strategy grates on opponents. Against the German, Caroline registered an impressive 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory.

The Dane committed 25 errors compared to Petkovic’s 44. The winner only had 9 outright winners. Caroline is at her best when she does not attempt to be flashy. Caroline Wozniacki wins by wearing opponents down, not by going toe to toe with them.

Serena Williams ousted 20-year old power player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-1. Williams was off her game in the first set and committed a number of unforced and tactical errors. The Russian broke Serena’s serve three times, but could not serve out the first set. After dropping the opener, Anastasia went away quietly as Williams picked up her level of play and pace.

Serena will know she has been in a match after today’s semifinals, in which she is a heavy favorite. The unflappable Dane will keep Serena on the court and severely test her conditioning. The fleet top seed retrieves balls other players don’t reach. This will be a battle between contrasting styles. Wozniacki’s critics are quieter known that she has reached this semifinal.

In the second semifinal, Australia’s big server Samantha Stosur has her notorious kick serve in high gear. Stosur registered her eighth win against no losses to Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 6-3. This is the time in tournaments that Stosur has played with nervousness. She dismissed Zvonareva quickly and appears to be in great shape for the semis and finals.

Stosur will be the heavy favorite against the event’s real-life Cinderella, Angelique Kerber. Kerber has made the most of her opportunity and downed veteran Flavia Pennetta, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Analysts have expected Kerber to fold under the spotlight but the German is enjoying herself.

Kerber is the 91st ranked player on the tour and entered the event with a sub .500 won – lost record. She will face the best serve in the bracket against the heavily favored Stosur. Her underdog role has worked well for Kerber as she has not been favored in a single match in the draw.


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