Good friends Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki look set to meet in the final of the US Open but must first defeat opponents who have made unlikely runs to get there.
After her much publicised breakup with golfer Rory Mcilroy and the pairs early exit in Paris, their antics in Miami flooded over social media. Both had far from stellar Wimbledons, losing to lower ranked players but have picked themselves up for the North American hard court swing. For Serena, she won 2 titles (Stanford, Cincinnati) while losing in the semi finals of Montreal to her sister who had been showing some of her best form for a long time. Meanwhile, Wozniacki made the quarters and semis of Montreal and Cincinnati respectively only to run into Serena on both occasions, losing after taking the first set each time.
Pushing the world No.1 hard on both occasions will give Wozniacki confidence should they meet again and she has looked much improved on the way to the semi finals. Her serve has become much more of a weapon while her backhand has remained incredibly effective. A surprisingly tough opening round against Magdalena Rybarikova was followed by straight forward wins over Andrea Petkovic and Aliksandra Sasnovich saw her through to the last 16. In one of the matches of the tournament, Wozniacki hustled her way to a 3 set win over Maria Sharapova, surviving a second set onslaught against one of the toughest players on tour to seemingly clear her way to the final. She showed her dominance in the quarter finals, losing just one game and winning 31 more points than Sara Errani to make it this far.
If you were told that a Chinese player would make the semi finals of the tournament after Na Li announced her withdrawal, it would probably be followed with ridicule. However, Shuai Peng‘s stunning run perhaps suggests there will be life after the former No.2, for whom retirement rumours circle over. She has yet to lose a set and blew her quarter wide open after a shock win over Agnieszka Radwanska in round two. Quarter final opponent Belinda Bencic cleared the draw of top 10 players Angelique Kerber and Jelena Jankovic but was taught a lesson by Peng, who dropped just three games. That victory made it 4 straight matches without dropping serve, with Lucie Safarova and Roberta Vinci joining Radwanska and Bencic.
With Wozniacki in good form and Peng playing the tournament of her life, it promises to be an intriguing encounter although the Dane will be heavily favoured to advance. She leads the head to head by 5 matches to 2, with the last 5 all won by Wozniacki. Their most recent meeting was a retirement victory, although the last completed match saw Wozniacki drop just two games.
It looked like Serena and Victoria Azarenka would renew their rivalry with a third straight year meeting at the US Open but Ekaterina Makarova had other ideas with an impressive performance to make her first grand slam singles semi final. Notably, the Russian has already beat Serena at a slam, winning in Melbourne in straight sets in 2012. She dropped just 15 games in the first three rounds before stepping it up against Eugenie Bouchard, ending the Canadian’s run of slam semi finals this year. Each slam winner this year has defeated Bouchard on the way to victory but none of them had to face the world No.1.
Serena has been in impressive form having not lost any more than 3 games in any of the sets she has played against Taylor Townsend, Vania King, Varvara Lepchenko, Kaia Kanepi and Flavia Pennetta. While she has been below her best on occasions, she is still clearly the one to beat and responded well to danger in the first set against Pennetta. Facing a 0-3* hole, she ran off 12 of the next 14 games to complete a straight forward victory.
The outsiders making the final would be some feat but a marquee final between Wozniacki and Serena Williams promises a lot. Serena’s year by her standards has been a huge disappointment but gaining number 18 (and threepeating in the process) would erase many of the disappointments while Wozniacki picking up her first title would be some answer to those who wrote her off as a danger at the top level after her decline since losing the top spot in 2012.