Wednesday, September 4, 2013

US Open Women's Quarterfinals Bottom Half preview

After Serena Williams and Li Na booked a semifinal against each other in contrasting fashion, the remaining quarterfinalists in the women's draw take to the court on Wednesday in an attempt to reach the final four at the US Open.

Roberta Vinci (10) vs. Flavia Pennetta

Flavia Pennetta - US Open 2010
Flavia Pennetta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This match pits two Italian veterans and very good friends against each other. This is far from a plucky run through the draw, as both Vinci and Pennetta have played some excellent tennis to reach the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows yet again. In the previous round Vinci was comfortable transferring the onus to attack against the inexperienced Camila Giorgi, and benefitted from her young compatriot making a high amount of unforced errors. Pennetta however is capable of finding the lines with more accuracy and consistency, and if Vinci continues to play a tentative game, she will be vulnerable to getting overpowered. Vinci's best chance lies in Pennetta having an off day on the first serve, as her second serve is extremely weak, although even then the tenth seed does not have the game to aggressively take balls on the rise. The two haven't played each other since 2010, and their matches are often cagey. The first set is going to be crucial, and if Pennetta can set the tempo by regularly coming to the net, she should see off Vinci.

Daniela Hantuchova vs. Victoria Azarenka (2)

While Azarenka's place in the quarterfinals is hardly a surprise, not many would have predicted Hantuchova to reach this far in the tournament. That the Slovak has had made it this far is largely down to a fantastic first serve that has held firm in defining moments. Having won 61% of her first serve points in her third round match against the Israeli Julia Glushko, Hantuchova stepped it up another notch against Alison Riske in the round of 16, winning 81% of her first serve points, including 15 aces. Azarenka goes into the match on the back of two unconvincing performances. If Ana Ivanovic could have controlled her demons while serving, Azarenka could well have lost a thrilling fourth round match. Azarenka is also committing a high number of errors off her backhand, and that she is still managing to pull through with victories is a testament to her improved mental toughness. If I would have written a preview for this match a week ago, I would have had Azarenka nailed on to win in straight sets. However, the Belorussian has seen a dip in form coinciding with the crafty Hantuchova's increased confidence, and I have a strong feeling the pair are going to engage in their third successive three-setter. Hantuchova has to continue to serve well, and she might have a chance if Azarenka continues to play erratically from the baseline. When push comes to shove though, I do believe Azarenka will edge it out due to her better ability to handle pressure coupled with a desire to reach another US Open final.
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