Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki will play for the first time in a Slam when they meet in the US Open semi-finals on Thursday.
Kerber battled through a gruelling opening set against Roberta Vinci before rolling through the second, recording a 7-5 6-0 quarter-final victory over last year’s finalist. The first set was brilliant and Vinci had her tactics spot on as she frustrated the German player with her potent backhand slice. Vinci twice led by a break, including serving for the set at *5-4. Kerber had played a very impatient game to get broken to love at 4-4. However when she was on the brink, Kerber fought her way out of trouble admirably. In an anticlimactic ending to the set, Kerber broke to love by virtue of a Vinci double fault with a foot fault… never seen that before!
Vinci was clearly struggling with both calf and foot complaints and losing the first set seemed to break her spirit. Kerber was superb in the second set, hitting 14 winners to just 3 unforced errors as Vinci won just ten points. It was a sad end to the match for Vinci and I honestly thought whether this could be the last time we ever see her on the tennis court. Vinci has already stated that she is contemplating retiring at the end of this year and this was her best result of 2016. It will be a sad moment when it happens but we’ll have to wait and see. Once again, Kerber showed her improved problem solving skills and mental calmness to prevail in straights.
Wozniacki dropped just two games against a struggling, Anastasija Sevastova, 6-0 6-2. It was a tough one for Sevastova who injured her ankle in the second game of the match but continued on valiantly. It was a disappointing night session on Ashe (luck of the draw for the fans!) as Wozniacki wrapped up the win in 64 minutes, finishing with 14 winners to 5 unforced errors. Since dropping the first set of her tournament to Taylor Townsend, Wozniacki hasn’t dropped more than four games in the last ten sets she has played.
Head-to-head record: Kerber leads Wozniacki, 7-5 in their head-to-head. Kerber won two of their three 2015 encounters including their most recent match-up in Beijing, 6-2 6-3 which was one of their shortest matches. No player has won more than three matches in a row in their head-to-head.
Interesting stat: Kerber may have lost her last three finals on tour but she is enjoying her most consistent stretch of the season, winning 24 of her last 27 matches since Wimbledon. For Wozniacki, she has won five matches at a tournament for the first time since winning the Kuala Lumpur title in 2015. It is her best result at a Slam since the 2014 US Open.
Final thoughts: On a fast hard court, this is a really exciting match-up. They both know each other’s games really well and the match-up is not a mental one in the sense that the best player on the day will win. Kerber’s had the far more consistent season, but Wozniacki has elevated her level this tournament and she’s proven on multiple occasions that she can come out on top in this match-up. It will be fascinating to see if Kerber’s recent improvements, mostly mental, give her the edge in this one.