Venus Williams Overcomes Petra Kvitova In A Three-Set Thriller To Reach A Ninth US Open Semifinal - UBITENNIS
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Venus Williams Overcomes Petra Kvitova In A Three-Set Thriller To Reach A Ninth US Open Semifinal

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In the first evening match scheduled in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, it was a battle between multiple Grand Slam champions between five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. It was Williams, who came out on top, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (2) in a pulsating battle to reach the semifinals at the US Open for the first time since 2010, and for the ninth time in her career. She will face fellow American Sloane Stephens in the last four as she bids to reach a third Grand Slam final in 2017. Williams will also return to the top five in the WTA rankings next Monday for the first time since January 2011.

 

The two multiple Grand Slam champions both held their opening games to get this mouth-watering quarter-final encounter inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium underway. However, it was the former world number two Petra Kvitova who made her move in Williams’ second service game as the ninth seed committed three untimely double faults to hand her opponent a 2-1 lead.

The 13th seeded Czech was all business as she consolidated the break but the two-time US Open champion responded with a hold to love, and a poor service game from Kvitova handed the break back to Williams. Both players were trading from baseline going toe-to-toe but it was the seven-time Grand Slam winner who won three games in a row leading 4-3.

The American played some inspiring tennis (Photo by Elsa / Getty)

Kvitova had gone off the boil in the opening set as she trailed 0-40 and the former world one capitalized on the first break point created to her, and she broke for 5-3 with a crushing backhand winner down the line, which gave her the opportunity to serve out for the first set.

The ninth-seeded American, who’s aiming for her first Grand Slam title since winning at Wimbledon in 2008, edged closer to that goal by clinching the first set with a serve to Kvitova’s forehand, which she could not return, taking the first set 6-3 in just 33 minutes.

 

Kvitova responds to send their sixth encounter to a deciding set

The 13th seed was competing in just her tenth Grand Slam quarterfinal, and Kvitova halted the run of games against her with a good hold of serve. Furthermore, the former world number two was on the comeback trail as she broke Williams’ serve to take a 2-0 lead in the second set.

There was a chance for Williams to break back immediately but she was unable to convert the two break points that she created. Kvitova was upping the decibel levels with a roar of “pojd”, and she took a crucial 3-0 lead in the second set.

There was a halt of play for almost eleven minutes due to rain and the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof was closed. Williams finally got on the scoreboard with a hold to love, and she had another chance to break Kvitova’s serve, however, the Czech saved it and she produced two back-to-back aces, along with a primeval roar, stretching out to an unassailable 4-1 lead.

The two-time US Open champion remained faultless on her serve, and more chances came and went for the seven-time Grand Slam champion but Kvitova was ready in the heat of battle, and at tough moments, her swinging lefty serve got her out of jail and she clinched the game to lead 5-2 with another big roar.

As to be predicted, the two-time Wimbledon champion closed out the second set with ease with Williams’ backhand sailing long taking it 6-3 in an energy-sapping 54 minute set of tennis.

Williams claws her way back to clinch a berth in the semifinals

Kvitova had a good reason to feel to be the favorite in the final set as she led Williams 4-1 in their head-to-head record, and en route to her second Wimbledon title in 2014, they played the match of the tournament in the third round with Kvitova winning 7-5 in the final set.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion won her first game in the final set, and Kvitova responded getting onto the scoreboard early, leveling the score at 1-1. Moreover, despite leading 30-0, it was the 13th seed who drew first blood and took advantage of Wiliams’ frailties on her serve to take a 2-1 lead with two stunning back-to-back cross court backhand winners down the line.

Once again, the American did not give up as she was looking for the immediate break back. However, at 0-40, Kvitova did not give the former world number one a chance to get the break as she served immaculately well. The Czech held onto her serve, nudging the scoreboard once again with an ace out wide to lead 3-1.

However, once again, the pendulum swung in the ninth seed’s favor as she reeled off three games in succession to take a decisive 4-3 lead in the final set with Kvitova playing catch up once more. Under severe pressure and with the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd against the 27-year-old, she produced three aces in stunning fashion to restore parity at 4-4.

The two multiple Wimbledon champions have mutual respect for each other (Photo by Elsa / Getty)

Both players did not face another break point in this final set encounter, and the only way to separate these two multiple Grand Slam champions was a final set tiebreak.

The duo both won their first points in the tiebreak to keep the tiebreak at honors even at 1-1, however, it was the two-time US Open champion, who made her first move as her backhand caught Kvitova out, who was looking to pass the American, with her forehand going astray.

Williams stretched out to a comfortable 4-1 lead with the minibreak intact, and the wind had seemingly sailed out of the 13th seed. Her forehand continued to break down, and she committed an untimely double fault, which handed Williams a 6-1 lead, and five match points.

Kvitova saved the first one by virtue of a double fault from the former world number one but the seven-time Grand Slam champion made no mistake on the second one as she served a big second serve out wide to Kvitova’s backhand, clinching a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(2) in two hours and 34 minutes. It was arguably the match of the tournament in both men’s and women’s singles draws.

Williams spoke to Rennae Stubbs, after the match, and she thanked the fans for their support. “I have to say, I felt every single one of you guys behind me, all 23,000, it feels good, it feels amazing and I didn’t want to let you guys down, thank you so much for the support.”

Kvitova acknowledged the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd after a tough battle with Williams (Photo by Matthew Stockman / Getty)

Williams said some nice things about Kvitova after the match in her on-court interview. “First of all, everything that she’s gone through, to go through that is unbelivable, you don’t imagine one day and that’s going to happen, so it’s so wonderful to see her playing amazing. I’m so excited to her seeing well, I’m excited to be able to play her, I’m so fortunate to have won that match, it came down to the wire, and I hope we have more matches like that and I’m wishing her more titles and more winners.

Williams spoke about American tennis and praised her sister Serena, “I think we have to give some credit to Serena, but there was a time in tennis, where all of my rivals were American, Capriati, Davenport and Monica Seles, so I love seeing these young Americans coming up, and playing big and focused, I would love a top four, top five, and we’re playing each other in semifinals, that would be huge.

“When situations gtt hairy, it’s crazy out here, I try to tell myself to enjoy my competition, enjoy the battle, and I think that I was able to do that, thank you guys for staying out here to see me through.”

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US Open Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud Play for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Carlos Alcaraz at the end of Friday’s semifinal (twitter.com/usopen)

History will be made on Sunday at the US Open.  In an unprecedented men’s championship match, the winner will not only earn their first Major title, but also become the World No.1 for the first time.  So much is on the line for both 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 23-year-old Casper Ruud.

 

Alcaraz comes from humble beginnings, growing up in a small village called El Palmar in Murcia, Spain.  His father was a semi-professional tennis player, and Carlitos picked up the game from a very young age.  In 2018, he joined the tennis academy of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who quickly recognized the talent and potential of Alcaraz, and has been his primary coach ever since.  His idol is fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

Ruud is the son of former top 40 player Christian Ruud, who also serves as his coach.  Casper grew up in Oslo, Norway, and continues to set new records for Norwegian players: the first to win an ATP title, to reach a Major final, and to be ranked in the top 10.  And like Alcaraz, his idol is Rafael Nadal.


Casper Ruud (5) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Alcaraz is looking to become the youngest World No.1 in history, and the first teenager to ever achieve that feat.  He is the youngest men’s finalist at a Major since Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005.  Just last year, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100.  But since last summer, he has skyrocketed up the rankings.  He leads the tour with 50 match wins in 2022, and is 5-2 lifetime in ATP finals.

Ruud, currently ranked No.7, is looking to make the biggest rankings jump to No.1 of all-time.  This is his second Major final out of the last three, after being a surprise finalist three months ago in Paris.  In that championship match, he was routed by Nadal 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.  Overall, Casper is 9-4 in finals.

Alcaraz is 2-0 against Ruud, having claimed both those matches in straight sets.  They occurred a year ago on clay in Marbella, and six months ago in the final of the Miami Masters on a hard court. 

It’s hard to fathom Carlitos will be close to 100% physically on Sunday.  He is coming off three consecutive five-set wins that went late into the night or the morning, and even had to save a match point in his especially epic five-setter against Jannik Sinner.  As per Ravi Ubha, Alcaraz is the first player since Andre Agassi in 2005 to win three straight five-setters in the round directly before a Major final.  However, the youngster is remarkably fit, and continues to recover surprisingly well from his grueling five-set battles.

The second half of Ruud’s road to this championship match was considerably less complicated, spending over four hours less on court than Alcaraz since the fourth round.  Casper will be the much fresher competitor, yet even though he possesses previous experience in a Major final, he has much less experience in defeating top players.  He is 0-5 at Slams against top 5 opposition.

Unlike Ruud, Alcaraz has a favorable record against the top 10, having claimed seven of his last nine matches.  His incredible mix of speed and power make his game nearly impenetrable when he’s at his best.  And considering his comfortable victories over Casper in the recent past, Carlitos is the favorite to win his first Major title and become the new World No.1.


Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship match will be played at 1:00pm local time.  It’s Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (3) vs. Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend.  Krejcikova and Siniakova are vying for their sixth Major as a team, and their third of the season.  This title would complete their career Grand Slam.  McNally was a finalist at last year’s US Open alongside Coco Gauff.  Townsend is a two-time Slam semifinalist, including earlier this season at Roland Garros.  This is only Katy and Taylor’s second event as a team.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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US Open Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur Play for the Women’s Singles Championship

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Iga Swiatek during Thursday’s semifinals (twitter.com/usopen)

The championship match in women’s singles at the last Major of the year is fittingly between the two best players of 2022.  They are also two of the sport’s most likable competitors, with plenty of flair and aggression in their games.

 

Iga Swiatek 56-7 this season, with six titles, all of which were accumulated during a 37-match winning streak.  The world No.1 has more than double the points of all other players this season.  And the two-time Roland Garros champion has now achieved her first Slam final on a hard court.

Ons Jabeur is 44-13 on the year,with two titles.  She will reach a career-high ranking of No.2 based on this result, her second Major final this summer.  Ons is the first woman to achieve back-to-back Major finals since Serena Williams in 2019.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Swiatek’s best tennis has often escaped during her this event, and she’s spoken openly regarding the court speed and tennis balls not being to her liking.  But she has still advanced to this final fairly economically, dropping only two sets through six matches.  Iga has now claimed her last nine matches against top 10 opposition, and is a perfect 9-0 in tournament finals within the last two years, claiming all nine of those in straight sets.

Jabeur was only 10-8 this season on hard courts prior to this fortnight, and went just 2-3 on this surface in August after her highly disappointing loss in the championship match at Wimbledon, where she won just four of the last 16 games after securing the first set.  However, she dropped only one set in her first six rounds, and dominated a red-hot Caroline Garcia in the semifinals by a score of 6-1, 6-3.  Ons is 2-3 in finals this year, and only 3-6 lifetime.

Swiatek and Jabeur have split four previous meetings, and split their two encounters on hard courts.  They played once before at a Major, with Ons prevailing in three sets in the round of 16 at last year’s Wimbledon.  When they met this season, in the final of Rome on clay, Iga was comfortably victorious 6-2, 6-2.

Swiatek will look to dictate play from the baseline, but will need to cut down on her unforced error count.  In all of her six matches this tournament, she has struck more errors than winners, averaging a -8 differential.  Jabeur is an excellent server, especially for her height, but will need to dramatically increase her first serve percentage.  In her semifinal against Caroline Garcia, it was only 43%.  Iga’s aggressive returns would easily exploit that on Saturday.

Based on her play this year, as well as her outstanding record in finals, Swiatek is the favorite to win her third Major title.  But regardless of the outcome, if these two competitors both play anywhere near their best tennis, they could create one of the most memorable finals in recent memory.


Also on Saturday, the mixed doubles championship match will be played at 12:00pm local time.  It’s the Aussie team of Storm Sanders and John Peers (4) vs. Kirsten Flipkens and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.  Peers and France’s Roger-Vasselin have both previously won a men’s doubles titles at their respective home Slams.  Flipkens retired from singles after this year’s Wimbledon.  Her and Sanders are both vying for their first Major title.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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US Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals (twitter.com/usopen)

The men’s semifinals feature four players all vying for their first Major title.  Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud is the only remaining man who has previously played in a Slam semifinal.  Carlos Alcaraz, Frances Tiafoe, and Karen Khachanov are all making their debut at this stage of a Major.  And both Ruud and Alcaraz have a chance to leave New York as the new world No.1 if they win the title, or if one reaches the final and the other loses in the semifinals.  Which two men will advance to Sunday’s championship match, and which one will become a first-time Slam champ? 

 

Also on Friday, the men’s doubles final will be played.  And it is a blockbuster between the top two seeds.


Karen Khachanov (27) vs. Casper Ruud (5) – Not Before 3:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Ruud has reached this semifinal rather efficiently, dropping only three sets.  And in the one five-setter he played, he comfortably claimed the fifth set 6-0.  Casper previously had the reputation of being a clay court specialist, but he’s now 17-6 this season on hard courts, and was a finalist at the Masters 1000 event in Miami.

Khachanov was a two-time Major quarterfinalist before this fortnight, yet those results came on clay and grass.  He had never previously advanced beyond the third round of a hard court Slam.  None of his matches at this event have been easy, as he lost at least set in each.  Karen is coming off consecutive five-setters against Pablo Carreno Busta and Nick Kyrgios.

Their only prior encounter occurred two years ago on clay in Rome, with Ruud prevailing 6-1 in the third.  And Casper looked extremely sharp in the last round against another big server, Matteo Berrettini, returning aggressively and breaking the Italian five times across three sets.  Ruud will also be the fresher competitor on Friday, despite each player having two full days of rest.  Casper should be favored to reach his second final out of the last three Majors.


Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe (22) – Not Before 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

These are two of the sport’s most exciting, charismatic young stars.  But only one will reach their first championship match at a Major this week.

Tiafoe has exhilarated the New York audience, and dropped only one set through five matches.   He is a perfect 6-0 in tiebreaks during this tournament, and spent significantly less time on court than Alcaraz.

Carlitos has played consecutive epics that ended early in the morning.  In the fourth round, he came back from a set down in the fifth to defeat Marin Cilic.  In the quarterfinals, he played for five hours and fifteen minutes, and until nearly three in the morning, to overcome Jannik Sinner in what was easily the best match of the year to date. 

Tiafoe and Alcaraz have only played once, a year ago on clay in Barcelona, with Frances winning in straight sets.  Even though that was only 17 months ago, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100 at the time, and he’s now the ATP’s winningest player in 2022.  However, while he’s one of the fittest athletes in the sport, he can’t possibly be 100% coming into this semifinal.  Even by five-hour match standards, that quarterfinal with Sinner was incredibly taxing, with an extremely high level maintained throughout the match.  And that will be a huge advantage for a confident Tiafoe, who also thrives playing in front of big crowds, and in night matches in his home country.  I like Tiafoe’s chances of becoming the first American man to reach a Major singles final since Andy Roddick.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (2) – Ram and Salisbury are the defending champions, while Koolhof and Skupski are easily the best men’s doubles team of 2022, with six titles.  These teams split two meetings earlier this year on hard courts.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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