Sunday, September 9, 2012

US Open Report: Semifinals Recaps and Finals Predictions

It took two days, rain delays, and a tornado warning, but the Men's Semifinals have finally been completed just in time for the Men's Final to take place on Monday for the fifth consecutive year.

A deluge of rain and a tornado warning greeted players and fans on Saturday delaying the start of the men's semifinals. When the skies finally cleared, the first match between Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych began and it was clear that the swirling wind made it difficult for both players. Berdych handled it a little better in the first set and won it on a tiebreak, but Murray adjusted winning the next two sets quickly. Berdych put up a fight in the fourth set and when it looked like the match might go to a fifth set, Murray won it in another tiebreak to book himself a place in the finals, his second Grand Slam final this year. He is still looking to get that maiden slam as he is 0-4 in major finals, but after his Gold Medal win at this year's Olympics, things seemed to have changed. It certainly helps that he did not have to get through either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal to get through the finals, but getting an extra day of rest compared to his opponent should also be advantageous. Speaking of...

The second match came on court right after the first one as quickly as I've ever seen it. It was between defending champion Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer and the wind was still a major factor. Ferrer stood firm against the wind while Djokovic flailed going down 2-5 in the first set before the higher-ups declared the match suspended and for the tennis center to be evacuated with the threat of extreme weather imminent. No tennis would be played the rest of the day including the Women's Finals. The next day Ferrer managed to hold serve once to win the first set, but it was Djokovic who flourished with the picture perfect weather taking the next three sets easily to reach his third consecutive US Open finals.

Predictions: Along with Federer and Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have dominated the big events this past year. These two finalists have won big titles (Australian Open, London Olympics) and made the finals at others (French Open and Wimbledon). Neither of them have the top ranking, but you better believe that they both think they are number one. For Djokovic, this would put him back to dominant form that alluded him during the grass season. For Murray, this would be his most precious breakthrough for his first slam. Either player could also solidify their claim for Player of the Year with this win. So with all of that said, pressure is high. Djokovic leads their H2H 8-6, but only 6-5 on hard courts. This year alone they are 2-2 including Djokovic's fifth-set win at this year's Australian Open. Murray will be the better-rested player and will certainly be hungrier. It's a coin-flip for me and I certainly don't have any rooting interest. I'll predict Andy Murray.

As for the women, they played and completed their semifinal matches on Friday albeit that's all they really had in common. The first match, between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, was an instant classic with both splitting the first two sets and testing out their cumulative 23-0 record in their matches this year that have gone through three sets. The volume and drama were ramped up high throughout the match especially in the third set where Azarenka really made Sharapova worked hard to hold each and every one of her service games. It was only a matter of time then before Sharapova finally cracked in the 10th game to give Azarenka the break and the win for a chance to win her first US Open title (and her second Grand Slam title of the year).

Azarenka's opponent will be Serena Williams who absolutely dominated Sara Errani in their semifinal match. Williams overpowered the crafty Italian who has been having the year and tournament of a lifetime (she just won the Women's Doubles title with partner Roberta Vinci). In the match, Errani only managed 6 winners and 0 aces compared to Williams' 38 winners and 9 aces and those pretty much tell you everything you needed to know about the lopsided match. It really is a testament to Errani that the match lasted more than an hour, if just barely.

Predictions: Williams and Azarenka are set to clash in a couple of hours from now and history says that Williams is the odds-on favorite leading their H2H 9-1 including their last match at the Olympics where Azarenka only won 3 measly games. With that said everyone said pretty much the same thing when Williams went up against Stosur in last year's final and we all know what happened then. Plus Azarenka is a better all-around player than Stosur and has been amazing on hard courts this year. With that said, this is match against the world no. 1 versus the Olympic gold medalist, the Australian Open champion versus the Wimbledon champion. I'm going with Serena Williams, but just hoping it's a three-set classic.

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