1. Pliskova may just win this thing.
Those who have been watching Karolina Pliskova this summer probably expected a competitive match on Thursday night in her semifinal against Serena Williams. What they didn’t expect was for Pliskova to win the match in a relatively quick two set affair. While Serena did not play her best, the story of the match was Pliskova’s relentless hard hitting. For much of the match, Serena simply could not get a foothold in any of Pliskova’s service games, as Pliskova used her wide serve to keep Serena off balance. At the same time, Serena’s own serve faltered, and Pliskova was able to use her aggressive-go-for-the-lines groundstroke game to prevent Serena from trying to move her around too much. While much of the reaction to this match was understandably about Serena’s exit from the tournament, if you focus on the woman on the other side of the net, it’s hard not to see her winning Saturday’s final with this form.
2. What a year for Kerber!
Even if she doesn’t win in the final, Angelique Kerber has had nothing short of a stunning year. Not many would have picked her to make three Slam finals and to overtake Serena Williams for WTA #1 this time last year, but here she is. Her match against Caroline Wozniacki was clinic on how to play aggressive baseline tennis. As for Woz, in watching the match, you couldn’t help but feel that Kerber was playing the type of baseline tennis that Woz should have been playing, but then when Woz did employ more power shots, Kerber seemed to have an answer for it. As for the final, Kerber bowed out meekly against Pliskova in Cincinnati, so she will definitely have adjustments and a bit of revenge on her mind.
Prediction: Pliskova in three sets.
1. Stan is in beast mode.
For the first set of his semifinal against Kei Nishikori, it looked like Stan Wawrinka was going to exit the US Open rather meekly. His forehand, in particular, was misfiring, and Kei managed to dominate the baseline rallies. But, late in the second set, Stan snuck in a break and stole the second set. After that, Stan put on a backhand clinic — making his one-hander the dominant shot of the match. The thing about Stan is that he can play infuriatingly bad tennis at times, but this US Open has seen him turn around matches that he seemed sure to lose — most remarkably against Dan Evans. Between this match and his convincing win over Juan Martin del Potro, Stan has worked his way into strong form. When he gets this far in a tournament, he is awfully hard to beat these days.
As for Kei, this was a good run, and it shows that, even without the power of many of the other top players, he can be a factor in the Slams. His win against Murray alone is reason enough for him to walk away from the tournament feeling good.
2. Gael gonna Gael.
What hasn’t been said about the semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils? It was a very odd match, with shirt ripping, accusations of poor effort, and multiple trainer visits. It was always going to be a tall order for Gael Monfils — he’d lost 12 in a row against Djokovic, and the match up was never going to improve. Djokovic plays a relentless style of tennis — focus on every shot and every point, aggressive defense, if you will. Monfils (and just about everyone else on the tour) couldn’t bank on winning that style of match. Those who have had success against Djokovic in recent years have either been offensive minded players themselves, like Federer, or have tried to disrupt Djokovic with unconventional tactics. No one will ever accuse Monfils of being a master tactician, but I do think that a player who has made it to the semifinals is due the benefit of the doubt that there is a method to his madness. As it turned out, Monfils did manage to win the third set, but Djokovic simply ground him down to take the match in the fourth.
This has to be one of the strangest paths to a Grand Slam final in recent memory. Basically a week of rest and recovery may have been what Djokovic needed to get himself into form to play for the title. Regardless of what his condition is, we know he will be there and ready to play.
Prediction: Wawrinka in four sets.