US Open Day 11, Semi-Final Preview: Simona Halep v Flavia Pennetta

Pennetta

The second of the women’s semi-finals on Thursday night will feature Simona Halep up against Flavia Pennetta.

Halep produced one of her best performances of the year to come from a break down in a rain-interrupted third set to defeat Victoria Azarenka, 6-3 4-6 6-4. This was a really compelling match from start to finish with the pair producing some superb rallies in the decider. After a bright start from Azarenka to get the early break, Halep won six out of next eight games to take the opening set, 6-3. After a tentative start from Halep, she settled into a rather commanding groove from the baseline. Azarenka was error-strewn, hitting 14 unforced errors to just 4 winners with Halep able to expose the Belarusian’s movement and find a steady balance between defence and attack.

Azarenka raced out into a lead in the second set with some aggressive yet accurate play and benefitting from Halep missing some first serves. The world number two won 70% of points behind her first serve but only 29% on the second serve. Thankfully for Halep, she managed to keep her first serve percentage high at 76% during the whole match. Azarenka twice was ahead in the second set at 3-0 and 5-2 but wavered. While she failed to close out the set at *5-3, Azarenka broke straight back in the next game, taking advantage of some errant play from Halep from 30-30.

This match had a wonderful flow to it and interesting dynamic with Halep looking to get into rallies and use her superior agility and movement to get Azarenka in uncomfortable positions and out wide, while the Belarusian was looking for the first strike to be able to close out Halep with a winner or up at the net. The pair played some of their best tennis at the start of the third set. Azarenka saved three break points in the first game as she was rewarded for her boldness. She held and faced break point again in the third game, saving another three. Eventually though, the pressure took its toll and Halep converted on her seventh break point of the set.

The heavens then opened and there was a delay of a couple of hours (enough time for me to watch GBBO – Nadiya is my favourite!). Azarenka played a brilliant service game at 2-2, but Halep returned the favour with some equally dominating play. In a monumentally massive seventh game, Azarenka failed to convert on a game point and Halep got the break. I must say this was a whole new level from Halep who was so bold in her hitting and really went for it. The rallies were of such a high quality but Halep was dictating the majority of them and didn’t allow Azarenka to play her game.

Halep was down *15-30 when serving for the match, but won three points in a row, letting out a huge scream on match point. You could see how much this one meant to her. Halep finished with impeccable stats of 40 winners to 19 unforced errors while Azarenka had more errors (!) than winners with a 38-42 ratio. If you’re wondering why it was so close, Halep’s break point conversion was 6/19.  It was a tough one for Azarenka who is slowly getting there but not quite. The win over Kerber was superb but I think she’s set herself up nicely for 2016.

The Italians are having another wonderful US Open with Flavia Pennetta joining Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals. Pennetta came from a set and a break down to beat a tiring, Petra Kvitova, 4-6 6-4 6-2. Kvitova hadn’t been playing her best tennis in the first set but she was clutch in all the big moments. Kvitova failed to serve out the first set, but broke in the next game with Pennetta up *40-0.

It took Pennetta until the second set to win at the sunny end. Kvitova got the first break but it didn’t last long with Pennetta upping her intensity and generally playing better. Pennetta took hold of the reins of this match, breaking at 4-4 with a wonderfully timed backhand return winner. The final game was a struggle with Pennetta missing a straightforward shot at the net after she had dragged Petra all over the court. Pennetta saved two break points, the second with a gorgeous backhand winner down-the-line, and wrapped up the set, 6-4.

Kvitova stayed with Pennetta early on in the third set but was looking increasingly tired and was barely squawking pojds at her winners. The heat and humidity looked intense. Pennetta was just too solid in the final set, keeping a good depth on the ball and making Kvitova move from side-to-side. Kvitova closed a few points out at the net which was nice to see. Petra was 20/26 on net points and it’s a tactic i’d like to see more because Petra is great volleyer. I fee like she was doing it a lot more a few years ago but perhaps that’s just me.

Pennetta won the last four games of the match to march into her second US Open semi-final. It’s great to see Flavia playing well as she’s a fun character to have in the latter stages of tournaments. This was a great tournament for Petra given her issues this summer and I will admit that I am sad we didn’t get to see Petra-Simona or Petra-Vika in the semis.

Pennetta leads Halep in the head-to-head, 3-1 and won their only previous match at the US Open back in 2013 en route to the semi-finals. 6-2 7-6(3). Pennetta’s a tough match for even the best players on tour and she’s playing some excellent tennis. This won’t be an easy match for Simona… even though I am going for her to win in two tight sets. Halep was so impressive against Azarenka, particularly in her aggressive mentality and how well she served. While I suppose there could be a slight letdown, I think she’s brimming with confidence and mentally ready to go one step further…

Prediction: Halep d. Pennetta in 2 sets

26 thoughts on “US Open Day 11, Semi-Final Preview: Simona Halep v Flavia Pennetta

  1. James I know you are aware that the 3 s/finalists are in their 30’s:) Halep is the lone youngster:) being an Italian I am over joyed that 2 Italian women have made the s/finals at the USO.This is the 2nd time that Flavia has made the s/finals at the USO.There are rumors that this maybe her last USO by the way.Halep really stepped up her game against Azarenka,her serve to me overall was a pleasing factor,I still feel Darren Cahill has been a god send for Halep during the HC season,she is playing more aggressive tennis,her court positioning has been great,especially in her match against Azarenka.Halep and Flavia both have good bhands,again I feel the serve of each player will be a telling factor.Both players also have the ability to make each other play one more ball.Though the player who takes the ball on from the baseline and plays the more aggressive tennis I feel will win.Of course my heart is with Flavia,though I feel Halep will win in 3 sets.

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      • Andrew,remember 2 years ago she also thought of retiring,when she was forced off the tour with surgery,then she found her game again,it is only rumors at this stage,also she has made the doubles s/finals at the USO,I am really happy for her,she is a really lovely down to earth person,of course I am not biased at all:)

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      • I think there was something earlier this year about Pennetta may-be retiring? She’s had a lot of problems with her wrist and imagine if that flared up again, retirement would be an option… but she’s doing great right now!

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    • I’m sure being good friends, they are also finding inspiration from each other. One positive is the match is an evening one. Hopefully, it is not too humid so that they both play good tennis. I agree with you, Halep is likely going to be aggressive. Her serve against Azarenka, especially in the third after the break was decisive. This would be a factor here. How much patience Flavia can employ to work around this will be interesting. With Vinci, it’s easier to discern since she has a style virtually opposite of Serena’s.

      A Halep win it is for me, but, Flavia could make this very interesting. She has the skillset, maturity and experience to do this. Let’s hope she has the hunger too, because, Simona really wants this.

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      • USO is a different ball games. Also, Lisicki has exposed Halep’s weakness except Vika did not execute it properly for some reasons. If Flavia keeps up with her first serves. This is a close match that can go either way. I expect Halep to ask for MTO again if Flavia taking the lead 🙂

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    • Yes! I’m probably leaning more to three sets over two now. I was taken aback by Halep’s performance yesterday although there could be a letdown and Pennetta is playing very well.

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  2. Monumental effort for Halep to dig herself out of that QF and even admitting she would’ve struggled without the rain delay. She’s going to have to run a lot again against Pennetta, who has been this deep or nearly this deep in an awful lot of US Opens, and is getting close to the end of her career. I really think Pennetta is going to play a great match and get at least a set, and if Simona isn’t really intense, or throws in a weird performance like vs Makarova earlier this year, she could be in trouble.

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    • Fair points, I agree that I think Pennetta will play a good match. Depends on Halep’s level for me. I’d be surprised if Halep didn’t come out fighting in this one based on how she won that match against Vika. There could be a letdown I suppose and Pennetta is more than capable of taking advantage of that. I’m obviously favouring Halep though as I stated in the preview.

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      • Kidman … that shows how little you watch Simona play. No way is Simona a pusher. And for your information, she has been playing plenty more dropshots this year. Last year she could go 8 or 10 matches without playing one. This year, she has barely gone a match without playing one or two (or more). Sometimes they’re not great, but sometimes they are just beautiful. Just further evidence of her desire to keep on improving and trying new things (note also her Rios/Aga-style jumping backhand that she’s developed this year.)

        Simona for the win in 2 tight sets. Hoping the quality will be as high as their Miami match which was a terrific 2-setter.

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  3. Neither of them is opposition for Serena, so the result of this match has little meaning as far as the USO is concerned though prefer two grannies to play in the final.

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  4. Match has been postponed till mid morning friday, USA, eastern daytime. Good news for Halep, she gets to rest a little while longer, and for Pennetta as while.
    May help Vinci too, but wouldn’t change the inevitable.

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    • All the Halep fans on the WTA’s Facebook page are thinking the USTA is plotting against her because they put her in the hottest slot of the day. Which means they are stupid because it be hotter in the later match and sunnier too. This delay is good for Halep more than any of the other players and she does not have to call for MTOs.

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      • With your constant bleating about MTOs you’re just showing yourself up to be a pathetic little hater. Get used to it – tennis players get injuries. No surprise really given the physicality of the game.

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      • I don’t hate any player. I am just amused by players who like to call for MTOs when they are down one set nowadays. She has constantly taken MTO nowadays..just saying. You are such a dulltart. When someone wrote something not to your taste, you call that person pathetic.

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  5. i am in a bit of shock right now,not because my Serena-Halep final i predicted i down the drain right now but because i didn‘t think for a moment Vinci will find the power to overthrow Serena.so we have an italian final at US open first time in history and its ironic coz everybody said at the beginning of that slam we will see history made here:).we did see history but not that who was intended to happen:).kudos to both italians girls,they deserve that for their careers in WTA and i am really happy for them.

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