U.S. Open 2009: Women's Quarterfinal Preview and Picks
The defending champion. The Belgian mother of Pearls. The Chinese Prayer. The Great Dane. The Teen. And...Yanina Wickmayer?
Not your everyday cast of quarterfinalists. Half of them have never even made it out of the first couple rounds of a Slam, let alone into a second week. All the Russians are eliminated. The Serbian one-two punch was done before the tournament even began, or so it feels.
But no matter who has gone home, someone has to win the tournament.
For the record, here are some numbers that defined the fourth round of play.
The Numbers Game from Round Four
47. The number of minutes it took for Kateryna Bondarenko to avenge her sister's defeat to Gisela Dulko. The 6-0, 6-0 beatdown delivered by the Ukrainian saw Dulko winning 23 points in the match, only 11 of those off her own serve. Her 20 unforced errors nearly matched the amount of points she won.
In that amount of time, Rafael Nadal wouldn't have even been ready for the next point.
570. The amount of minutes spent on court by 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, an average of nearly two-and-a-half hours per match. Bondarenko could have beaten Dulko 12 times while Oudin was on court.
2005. The last year Kim Clijsters played at the U.S. Open. She also won the event that year.
59. The number of outright winners smacked by Svetlana Kuznetsova against Caroline Wozniacki. And she still lost. In fact, Kuznetsova won more points than Wozniacki in the match, too.
Yanina Wickmayer vs. Kateryna Bondarenko
The Story: Who and who? If you find yourself scratching your head, wondering "Who in the name of New York-style pizza are these two?", you aren't alone. Neither player has made it past the third round of a Slam in their careers. They share two singles titles combined. Wickmayer has even dabbled in the ITF Tour earlier in the season.
But some how, some way, they are both here now. And it's a case of contrasting situations, really. Bondarenko blasted through Gisela Dulko with a double bagel, while Wickmayer needed to go the distance to overcome Dinara Safina's bane, Petra Kvitova.
Both players like to go on the attack, but Wickmayer in particular is content to counterpunch. Which strategy will find its way through?
The History: Wickmayer leads, 3-2. Several of the matches were not played at a WTA level. The last meeting was in Toronto in 2009, won by Bondarenko in a tight two sets. Of the five meetings, only once has it gone to three sets.
The Keys: Wickmayer, at 19 years old, has never experienced a stage like this. However, Bondarenko has actually won a Slam, when she claimed the Australian Open doubles title with her sister in 2008. Which player can establish their game plan first and get into a rhythm? The woman who gets comfortable first has a great chance.
The Victor: Wickmayer in two.
Melanie Oudin vs. No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki
The Story: The feel-good story of Melanie Oudin continues, as she picked off her fourth consecutive Russian, winning once more after coming from a set down. The New York crowd has quickly embraced her as one of their own, and she is nearly receiving more headlines than players like Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
After ripping No. 24 Sorana Cirstea, Caroline Wozniacki came from a set down herself to overcome sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, a former U.S. Open champion. An owner of six career singles titles, including her most recent one at New Haven right before the tournament, Wozniacki is now on a nine-match winning streak.
Wozniacki also leads the WTA Tour in matches won in 2009, with 60.
The History: The two have never met in a WTA event.
The Keys: Remarkably, the two players share a very similar gameplan. They are both solid counterpunchers who don't hit a ton of winners, but also commit very few unforced errors. Oudin has benefited tremendously over the last two matches by receiving an incredible amount of free points by way of errors. Wozniacki also won by playing smart, tactical tennis.
Which player can do it better? Or which player will fold to the pressure and try and force offense, risking more errors? The player who not only can play defense, as both do that well, but play opportunistic offense will be the one to advance.
The Victor: Wozniacki in two.
No. 18 Na Li vs. Kim Clijsters
The Story: Super-Mom Kim Clijsters pulled one of the most monumental upsets of the tournament by dumping Venus Williams in the fourth round. After trading bagels, Clijsters played with passion and prevailed in the third set. Oddly enough, the last time the two faced each other was the U.S. Open in 2005, also won by Clijsters in three sets. That year, Kim went on to win the title. A good omen for the Belgian?
For Na Li, she just keeps winning. She took down screaming teen Michelle Larcher de Brito in the second round, upstart Italian Francesca Schiavone in the fourth round, and looks to do some more damage.
The History: Clijsters leads, 3-1. The last meeting was in 2007 in Miami, won by Li in three sets. Li was down a set but made an impressive comeback.
The Keys: Li has played an aggressive, under-control style of play so far, and it has done very well for her. She has mixed up her shots very well and needs to do that to have a chance. Clijsters just needs to be confident in herself. Too many women have self-destructed.
The Victor: Clijsters in three.
No. 10 Flavia Pennetta vs. No. 2 Serena Williams
The Story: Flavia Flav must feel as if she is playing with house money at this point. She had no business beating Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round, as she was grossly outplayed for the first hour and a half of the match, only to see Vera suffer a meltdown of epic proportions. She blew six match points and saw Pennetta celebrate a half hour later.
It's been the same old tale for Serena. Win. Win. Win. Just keep mowing down opponents without caring who is on the other side of the net. The player facing her won't change what Serena wants to do on a court. She has her sights set on one goal and one goal only: defend her title from last year.
The History: Serena Williams leads, 1-0. They met in 2008 in Miami, won by Serena in three sets. Flavia won the first set in a tiebreak, but dropped the final two in routine fashion.
The Keys: Aggressive play.
The Victor: Serena Williams in two.
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