US Open 2016 Men’s SF preview, Women’s SF review

Things are reaching a close in Flushing Meadows already, it has been a rewarding tournament full of some great matches, storylines, resurgences and breakthroughs.

WOMEN

Nowhere else was this better encapsulated than in the semi final line-up in the women’s competition.

Joining the favourites and top two seeds Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber in the last four were Karolina Pliskova – one of the form players of this summer and twice former finalist Caroline Wozniacki.

Resurgence

The Dane’s return to the big time is most welcome, true in her pomp the former world number one was something of a contradiction, unquestionably the best player in the world, such was the consistency with which she mopped up tour titles for fun, but the elusive major win never materialised.

Throw in the McIlroy dramas and Caro’s game completely crumbled. Seeing her carve through a roster of toughies in New York has been great to see; and her play has been more aggressive and attractive with it.

That her run would end against new number one Angelique Kerber is no surprise, as good as she has been, Kerber is playing with all the confidence her new ranking dictates.

The German’s court coverage was most evident last night – everything was run down and returned with aplomb, shot selection was nigh on perfect each time.

Breakthrough

What of Serena then? More New York heartbreak amidst the promise of broken records and rewritten history books. Unlike the disappointing loss to Vinci last year, there was little Williams could have done last night against a player who just happens to have chosen a major tournament to hit her stride.

And what a lengthy stride that must be for the 6, 11′ Czech former top-tenner. So much more than an Ace machine, Pliskova has an all-court game and used it to full effect against an out-of-sorts Serena. Williams put up more of a fight in the second set and showed her fighting spirit, but that horrid first set was a familiar sight – the American has a nasty habit of under-estimating her opponents and simply not being ready for the contest.

Often her opponent may collapse under the enormity of the approaching victory, such is Serena’s aura, but Pliskova was inspired and is as mentally locked-down as anyone.

MEN

Djokovic vs Monfils

Gael Monfils’ run to the semi’s here represents a mini-resurgence of sorts. Unlike the extreme trajectory of Wozniacki’s career, Monfils has been more consistently inconsistent. It will be fascinating to see if the talismanic magician can dazzle and ultimately derail Novak. Djokovic himself has had a strange tournament, with three of his opponents retiring after one or two sets it is unclear exactly where his level is at here.

True, when he has had to, Djoko has looked razor-sharp, but he has played only a dozen or so matches since his victory in Roland Garros. Injury and a noticeable dip in confidence render him ever so slightly ripe for picking. You know what, I reckon Monfils’ time may at last be now.

Verdict: Monfils in 4

Wawrinka vs Nishikori

Kei is a player I haven’t watched much of over the years, he always seemed consistent and had a complete game, if lacking one considerable weapon. Think David Ferrer with some acrobatics and pinpoint precision and energy thrown in for good measure. But his match against Murray midweek has shown me his full repertoire, he will probably be my favourite player once the Swiss duo hang up their racquets.

Stan is getting better and better and truthfully will be the biggest threat to Novak if he does reach the last hurdle and times his tournament form perfectly. The backhand dismantled poor Juan-Martin and should prove too much for Nishikori. But then the Japanese really got under Murray’s skin, and could so easily do so to the rather flappable Stan.

Verdict: Wawrinka in 4

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