U.S. Open: Serena Raises the Bar
Serena Williams was already the favorite before her 6-0 6-0 demolition of Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarterfinals. She must be feeling even better about her position after watching the rest of the women left in the draw struggle to join her in the quarters.
Williams’ match might have been the most complete one she’s played in New York in a decade. The top seed won 53 of 71 points and spent just 53 minutes on the court. Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News describes the carnage:
Navarro has some solid results on her resume, including quarterfinal runs in the 2008 French Open and the 2009 Australian Open, and a fourth-round victory over No. 8 Angelique Kerber of Germany here, but she looked overwhelmed from the start on a blustery night that had a hint of fall. In an opening set that took 19 minutes, Navarro was outscored, 24-5, and for the night, she was outwinnered, 20-3, Williams pounding her serves, overpowering her groundstrokes, pouncing on every short ball, every tentative swing. “I want to do something,” Navarro said. “I want to play. But the games went so fast. I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, the most credible threat to Serena in Flushing Meadows, Victoria Azarenka, needed more than two hours to get through a rain-delayed fourth round match, 4-6 6-3 6-4 over Ana Ivanovic. She’ll have to return to the court today and face Daniela Hantuchova to get to the semis, where she would face the winner of the all-Italian Flavia Pennetta-Roberta Vinci quarter. Azarenka took control of the match after a shaky first set, but struggled to close out the valiant Ivanovic. Lynn Zinser of the New York Times tells the story:
Ivanovic raced to a 3-0 lead and took the first set by blasting forehand winners. She had a chance to win in two sets had she taken advantage of Azarenka’s struggles on her serve and not struggled so much on her own. She followed an early break of Azarenka by giving it right back, and failed to control any of her service games from there. “This was the big difference because I felt like I could break her, but it was very frustrating that I was losing my serve constantly,” Ivanovic said.
Just when it seemed Ivanovic would fold for good, she dug out a break of Azarenka’s serve in the third game of the third set, hitting a lob for a winner on break point. But with Ivanovic serving at 3-4, Azarenka dictated several points in a row to go ahead, 40-0, and grabbed a crucial break to serve for the match at 5-3. Ivanovic staged another rally, managing to break Azarenka on her third break chance. Azarenka had several match points in that game, which she responded to with some of her weakest play. “The match points were pretty bad,” she said. “I really didn’t go for my shots. I kept waiting for a mistake, and it didn’t happen. She played really great. In the tough moments, I felt like she was raising her game and I had to respond as well.”
Fifth-seeded Li Na struggled with nerves of her own, holding off a game Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-7 6-2 to set up a semifinal meeting with Williams. It is already Na’s best run at a U.S. Open—she’s the first Chinese woman to ever reach the semis here—but she’ll have to raise her game significantly to stay on the court with Williams. Gillian Tan of the Wall Street Journal sets the scene: