Serena hits a backhand
This year's 2011 US Open has been pretty routine on the men's side, as the top four men have all made it to this stage with relative ease, dropping a collective three sets. In addition, the top two seeds have not dropped a set en route to their matches tomorrow. Though their roads only get tougher from here, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray all seem on course to hold their seedings and make the semifinals.
The women's side, however, couldn't be more of the opposite. The favorite is the No. 28 seeded Serena Williams, who seems to be on form to win this title without dropping a set. However, the remaining players in the draw are a solid mix of up-and-coming players and wizened veterans, all of whom have the capability to challenge Williams if she is not on her best game.
The quarterfinal matches of the women's draw, all taking place tomorrow, are, sadly, not full of "blockbuster" matches. In truth, the only truly enthralling matches will take place on the top half of the draw, where top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki and tournament favorite Serena Williams look primed to clash in the quarterfinals. The bottom half has a clear favorite in Vera Zvonareva, last year's US Open finalist and current No. 2 seed.
All-in-all, the loss of Maria Sharapova kills a lot of the allure of the tournament, as no player looks to even show the remotest hope of challenging Serena. Sharapova beat herself in this tournament, and, sadly, the bottom half of the draw was left without a star. When that happens, the final is destined to be a little bit lackluster.
However, tomorrow's quarterfinal matches are still exciting to watch and, what's more, to try to predict who will come through.
Quarterfinal #1: (26) Flavia Pennetta vs. Angelique Kerber
If you're wondering who either of these players are, it is very likely that you are not alone. This match has, easily, the least allure of the quarterfinal matches due to its lack of star power. Flavia Pennetta, an Italian veteran, is great on the hard courts and a former top 10 player. She took down No. 3 Maria Sharapova in the third round and backed up that win with a straight sets victory over 13 seed Peng Shaui of China. Along with the fact that Pennetta is 1-0 against Kerber, with that single victory coming earlier this year in Bastad, the Italian is the heavy favorite. Kerber is a very talented player, but she does not have Pennetta's experience to come through. Neither player has ever made it to the semifinals of a Grand Slam, so expect nervy play to be a factor.
Semifinalist: Flavia Pennetta
Quarterfinal #2: (28) Serena Williams vs. (17) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
This match has heavy star power with Serena, but the match will most likely be a routine straight sets win for her. The young Russian is, without doubt, a talented player and, against most other players, could be a heavy threat. Against Williams, a better and far more experienced player, she does not stand much of a chance. Williams outranks her in regard to serve, power, athleticism and shot-making. If Williams hits a rough patch, Anastasia may have a chance to take advantage. However, I don't expect that pattern to take hold for the duration of a set.
Semifinalist: Serena Williams
Quarterfinal #3: (1) Caroline Wozniacki vs. (10) Andrea Petkovic
Wozniacki has had a day's rest since her thrilling defeat of two-time Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, so one would hope that she is no longer feeling the effects of that grueling three-set win. Andrea Petkovic is having a career year and is, in most people's eyes, the underdog to come through this match. She does not have much to lose and has the talent to capitalize on Wozniacki's game. The two have played two times this year, with Petkovic emerging victorious in one of those encounters in three sets. Petkovic clearly has the game to bother the top-ranked Dane, but, in a Slam quarterfinal, I expect Wozniacki's experience to win out in a tight match.
Semifinalist: Caroline Wozniacki
Quarterfinal #4: (2) Vera Zvonareva vs. (9) Samantha Stosur
The No. 2 player in the world and the former French Open finalist Stosur have met nine times in their careers, with Zvonareva winning the first two and Stosur winning all seven since. Zvonareva has not beaten Stosur since 2004, so she will be looking to break that streak tomorrow at Louis Armstrong Stadium. This match is most likely the most exciting women's match tomorrow, as it really could go either way. Both players have been to a Grand Slam final and each has been relatively on-form this summer. This match could easily turn out to be a three-set blockbuster, with a very slight edge going to Stosur due to her record against Zvonareva. Stosur's serve seems to give Zvonareva trouble, and the experience she has, including two match wins against the Russian this year alone, indicate she could come through this match even as the underdog. However, Zvonareva has had easier matches up to this point and will be fresher, making her a very capable candidate for the semifinals.
Semifinalist: Samantha Stosur
Quarterfinal #5: US Open vs. The Rain
The most relevant match-up tomorrow will be that between Flushing Meadows and Mother Nature. All joking aside, there is a 70-90 percent chance of rain in New York City from now until Friday, with literally no dry-time in between. Chances are, none of these matches will actually be occurring until Friday or Saturday. It will be interesting to see how the US Open administrators handle the pressure that the rain is putting on their schedule.