In a US Open that has been somewhat lacking in big match drama so far, fans are hoping that today’s semi-final clash between Serena Williams (Bio) and Li Na (Bio) will live up to the hype. Serena vs Li Na H2H HERE.
No player in the women’s draw has been in better form than Serena. The defending champion hasn’t lost any more than four games in a set; even very decent competitors such as Francesca Schiavone and Sloane Stephens could do little to dent her armour. In the quarter-finals, the younger Williams sister’s form was simply frightening. Her opponent, Carla Suarez Navarro, is praised for having one of the best one-handed backhands in the game, and some thought she could flummox Serena with her unique slices and spins. But the top seed demolished the Spaniard in just 52 minutes, blasting 20 winners and giving up only 18 points during the 6-0, 6-0 clinic.
Li Na hasn’t been quite as dominant as Serena in her five matches so far, but the fifth seed hasn’t looked this good since she reached the Australian Open final back in January. She played brilliantly against an inspired Laura Robson in the third round, and schooled Jelena Jankovic for the loss of only three games in the last 16. She lost focus midway through her quarter-final clash with Ekaterina Makarova, dropping the second set on a tie-break, but waltzed through the decider and ended the match with 44 winners.
Li has beaten Serena only once in nine meetings, but always plays her close. Six of Serena’s wins have featured tie-breaks, and their most recent encounter, in the Cincinnati semi-finals, finished 7-5, 7-5 after Li took leads in both sets. Their games are quite similar, based on power, movement and defence, and both leave the crowd gasping in admiration when their bold winners come off.
But there is a world of difference between pushing Serena and beating Serena. No one knows this more than Li Na’s coach, Carlos Rodriguez, whose former student Justine Henin is the only player who regularly got the better of the American. It goes without saying that, in order to win today, Li Na will have to play like Henin did against Serena in the 2007 US Open quarter-final: return with force, serve brilliantly and be the aggressor. She will also have to avoid the mental walkabouts that have cost her in previous high-profile matches.
One has to assume that Serena will have an off-day at some point this fortnight. Surely not even she can achieve perfection for seven matches in a row? If she fails to bring her A game against Li, this one could get close. But what makes Serena an all-time great is that she can still win, even against fellow top five players, with her B game. If her groundstrokes falter, she can close in on the net. If the formidable serve isn’t firing, she can rely on her rock solid defence.
Most crucially, Serena has the aura of a 16-time Grand Slam champion. Even if Li gets to a commanding position in the third set, can she stare down a tennis legend and close out the biggest win of her career?
Another Interesting Read: Patrick Mouratoglou – Serena Williams’ Coach and Boyfriend?