It’s final-four time at the 2014 U.S. Open on the women’s side of things, and tennis fans will be treated to two thrilling matches that feature the world’s top-ranked player and a former No. 1.
Peng Shuai will square off with Caroline Wozniacki in one match, while Serena Williams and Ekaterina Makarova face off in the other. According to the U.S. Open’s official website, the television coverage begins Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET and continues until 6 p.m. ET on CBS; the live stream is courtesy of U.S. Open Live.
Let’s take a closer look at each match.
Peng Shuai vs. Caroline Wozniacki
Regardless of the outcome in this one, the winner will be playing for her first Grand Slam title.
Wozniacki, who is a former No. 1 player, has certainly been close to the mountaintop before at Flushing Meadows. She reached the finals in 2009, where she lost to Kim Clijsters, and made it to the semifinals in 2010 and 2011. As for Peng, this is the first year she has made it past the fourth round.
In fact, this is Peng’s first appearance in any Grand Slam semifinal.
Wozniacki enjoys a 5-1 head-to-head record against Peng; that lone loss came when she was a teenager in 2007. Still, Peng has yet to drop a set in this year’s U.S. Open and already knocked out No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Wozniacki can counter that moment with her grueling three-set victory over Maria Sharapova.
Peng has certainly impressed at Flushing Meadows, but Wozniacki is the better overall player. She covers more ground, brings a consistent blistering serve to the table and has the experience edge in terms of playing on the brightest stage.
Look for all of those factors to come into play as Wozniacki sets the tempo from the opening set.
Prediction: Wozniacki in straight sets
Serena Williams vs. Ekaterina Makarova
Until someone knocks her out of contention, the women’s side of things is all about Williams.
She is the two-time defending U.S. Open champion, has reached the semifinals four years in a row, has 17 Grand Slam titles under her belt and has won at Flushing Meadows five different times. She is simply playing tennis at a different level than the rest of the field.
She also commented on something of a home-court advantage, via Richard Osborn of USOpen.org: “It feels so special to be back in the semifinals for the first time this year, especially here in New York in my home country.”
Williams has won all 10 of her sets thus far and is the only top-eight seed remaining in the bracket. There is also a bit of history at stake, as she is trying to become the first woman to capture three straight U.S. Open titles since Chris Evert won four in a row from 1975-78.
Sports Illustrated Tennis still thinks she is the one to beat, while Evert herself commended Williams for her focus during the tournament:
Serena Williams books her spot in the semifinals, beats Flavia Pennetta 63 62. Still the woman to beat. Plays Ekaterina Makarova. #usopen— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) September 4, 2014
Unfortunately for Makarova, she is likely the next obstacle for the dominant force in women’s tennis. It is unfair to completely dismiss Makarova, though, because she is playing some of the best tennis of her career. She was 0-4 in Grand Slam quarterfinal matches before handling Victoria Azarenka in straight sets Wednesday and has plenty of momentum on her side.
Still, Williams is 3-1 in her illustrious career against Makarova and actually beat her head-to-head at the 2012 U.S. Open in straight sets. We will see more of the same Friday as Williams takes the next step toward history.
Prediction: Williams in straight sets
Follow me on Twitter: