The field has dwindled down to four in both of the 2015 U.S. Open draws, with scintillating semifinal action the only thing separating us from a pair of finals at the year's last Grand Slam.
As tends to be the case at this point in any major, there are shocking surprises sprinkled in with a number of top-seeded foes. That's the case for Thursday's women's semifinal draw, which sees Serena Williams going for her untouchable calendar Grand Slam and second-seeded Simona Halep trying to guarantee a final appearance for the first time in 2015.
The action is right around the corner, so let's take a look at how to catch Thursday night's play.
Thursday, Sept. 10 Viewing Info
Event: Women's semifinals
Coverage Time (ET): 7-11 p.m.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Schedule of Play
|7 p.m.||No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Roberta Vinci||Arthur Ashe|
|9 p.m.||No. 2 Simona Halep vs. No. 26 Flavia Pennetta||Arthur Ashe|
No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Roberta Vinci
As Williams navigates her way into another semifinal of a major championship, the same sense of casualness can't be felt opposite the court in Thursday's battle.
That's because Williams is going up against unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci, one of two Italian players in the women's semifinal. The 32-year-old didn't have to actually beat a seeded foe—No. 25 Eugenie Bouchard was a walkover—but showed her grit in a three-set win over Kristina Mladenovic.
Although Vinci hasn't been this far before, she's not the only semifinalist with a lack of experience compared to Williams. ESPN Stats & Info shared as much:
Of course, Williams is also embarking on something she's never done before, something that hasn't been done since Steffi Graf last dominated the sport. With two more victories, she'll have completed the Grand Slam sweep in one year and won her fifth straight major.
With that in mind, Williams is focusing on what's in front of her, per USA Today's Nick McCarvel, as she noted when the two played in Toronto last month.
"She played me really tough, and I didn't really expect that," Williams said. "I'm not going to underestimate her. ... She's not in the semifinals of a Grand Slam for no reason. She knows what to do and she knows what to play."
Williams is right—Vinci made it this far for a reason. But the same can be said of Williams' entire career, and history tells us the 33-year-old will likely win in exhilarating fashion.
No. 2 Simona Halep vs. No. 26 Flavia Pennetta
One of the true tests of a champion is figuring out a way to remain at an elite level—or get back to that level—when things haven't gone your way. The latter can be said of Halep this season, but she's taking a tough 2015 campaign into her own hands.
Majors have been rough for Halep this year. Her quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open was strong, but she followed it up with second-round and first-round exits at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, respectively.
Her grit has been tested over and over in Flushing Meadows, but Halep has responded with energetic wins over Victoria Azarenka and Sabine Lisicki. She struggled to find the words to explain her last win over Azarenka, but Grantland's Brian Phillips attempted to help:
Things don't get any easier heading into Thursday night's match, however, as she faces 26th-seeded Flavia Pennetta. The 33-year-old Italian is well past her prime but isn't playing like it after a three-set win over Petra Kvitova in the quarters.
Pennetta is a strong 3-1 against the No. 2 seed for her career, but that's misleading. All three of the Italian's victories came between 2010 and 2013, before Halep emerged as one of the world's best.
She'll have a chance to prove just how far she's come and notch her second Grand Slam final appearance ever with two strong sets Thursday.