Western and Southern Open 2016: Ladies Semifinals

Pliskova d. Muguruza, 6-1, 6-3

This one really barely got started, at least for Garbine Muguruza. Looking sluggish, and not moving well, she wasn’t able to get her power game started against a very sharp Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova unleashed hard serves and a combination of driving winners and intelligent rally shots to draw errors from the French Open champion. Pliskova has had the upper hand in this match-up, winning the last three out of the four total matches between the two. Muguruza looked like she might hold firm in the second set, but Pliskova broke serve at 4-3, winning the eighth game of the set with a three-point combo featuring a lob winner, forehand drive winner, and an error from Muguruza which Pliskova drew using an off-speed forehand. Moments after the win, the skies erupted, so Pliskova also scored a win against this week’s toughest opponent — the rain.

It’s hard to draw much from this loss with respect to Muguruza. She’s logged a lot of miles this summer — Montreal-Rio-Cincinnati, and now off to New York, after winning her first Slam this spring at Roland Garros. That she made it to the semis after such a long summer is a good sign, and losing to a player who’s played her well on a windy day is hardly cause for alarm. But, it certainly makes us all look to the US Open wondering whether Garbine will be able to bring her Slam-winning form from Paris to New York.

Kerber d. Halep, 6-3, 6-4

The latest iteration of the Adidas Player Development Alumni Invitational wasn’t quite as one-sided as the score indicates. In a match-up of two players with a similar movement-and-ball placement style of play, the result was always going to depend on who executed better. In the early going, Kerber was able to race out to an early 6-3, 4-1 lead, built on a combination of her own strong play and an uncharacteristically high number of errors from Halep. But Halep certainly brought the fight in the second set, and even had her chance to break Kerber to take a lead in the set. But, it was not to be.

When it seems the rest of the tennis world is running on fumes post-Rio, Kerber only seems to be gaining momentum. In the end, the difference today was Kerber’s greater confidence, and her focused play, using her movement and accuracy to better Halep. This was Kerber’s first hard court win against Halep, and only her third win out of the seven matches they’ve played. But this summer’s Kerber is a different player than we’ve seen before, and, after a brief post-Australian Open stumble, Kerber has put together the most impressive WTA record since Wimbledon, and is now only one match away from gaining the number one ranking, and you have to like her chances tomorrow.