NEW YORK – The final four women will play for a spot in the 2016 U.S. Open final on Thursday. In the first match starting at 7 p.m. ET, top-seeded Serena Williams looks to make her fourth Grand Slam final of the year against No. 10-seed Karolina Pliskova. No. 2-seed Angelique Kerber will continue her battle for the WTA's top rank against No. 74 and two-time U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki in the second match of the night.
No. 1 Serena Williams vs. No. 10 Karolina Pliskova
After failing to reach the fourth round in 17 previous trips to Grand Slams, Pliskova is into the U.S. Open semifinals in convincing fashion with a quick win over Ana Konjuh. Pliskova is riding a ten-match win streak, dating back to her title in Cincinnati in early August, and she’s beaten four Top 10 players en route to the semifinals in New York—Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza and Svetlana Kuznetsova in Cincinnati, and Venus Williams on Monday in the fourth round. Now the 24-year-old will try to take down the other Williams sister and the World’s No. 1 player.
Both players carry strong serves into the match—Pliskova won 92% of her first serves against Konjuh; Serena has fired 60 total aces so far and hit at a tournament-high 126 mph serve. They’ve met once before at Stanford in 2014, where Williams won in straight sets.
“I was completely different player at that time, so I am I improved a lot and obviously she probably [is] as well,” Pliskova said of their last meeting. “She's a big hitter and she can, you know, have 50 winners and you cannot do much about it.”
Serena is the odds-on favorite to win in two sets, but Pliskova has proven a lot this summer. It could be fun.
No. 2 Angelique Kerber vs. Caroline Wozniacki
Kerber and Wozniacki know each other very well, both on and off the court; Not only have the two vacationed together, but Thursday’s semifinal will mark their career 13th meeting, a series that has seen three of the last five matches go the full three sets. Kerber holds an alltime 7–5 advantage over Wozniacki, though the two have split their last four meetings.
“I remember long matches with her,” Kerber said Tuesday. “I remember we have tough rallies, always really tough ones.”
The match represents one of two possible hurdles Kerber will have to clear to grab the No. 1 ranking from Serena Williams, who has held it for 186 weeks. Kerber can claim the spot if Williams is eliminated before the final. If both players make it to the title match, Williams will need to beat Kerber to retain her ranking.
For Wozniacki, a former World No. 1 and two-time U.S. Open finalist, the semifinal match provides yet another opportunity to salvage a dismal year, which saw her ranking drop to No. 74 ahead of the tournament. The Dane will play in her fourth U.S. Open semifinal, while Kerber has only made it to the semifinals once here, in 2011. Given what’s on the line for Kerber, the familiarity between the two and Wozniacki’s return to form at this year’s U.S. Open, it should be a fairly competitive match.
“I know how she is playing; she is strong again; she had great wins here,” said Kerber. “So it will be a good semis.”