September 6, 2013 by Parveer Mann
The final weekend of the 2013 US Open will be slightly different from year’s past. Gone is the traditional Super Saturday for a more player friendly Sunday and Monday finish (at least for the next few years). In both draws, we have tremendous stories and players that will more than make up for the not as Super Saturday this year.
In a final four that skews older (three of the four players are 31), 24 year old Victoria Azarenka may be the most tired of all. She’s the only of the last four who had had to play back-to-back days this week (excluding Serena’s doubles) and did not look great until her win over Hantuchova. Her opponent, Flavia Pennetta is one of the most liked and respected veterans on tour who has had a tremendous week and a half to reach her first semis.
Pennetta has had the fortune of facing similar opponents (Vinci, Errani) who she could simply outplay but in Vika, she faces someone with better groundstrokes and a superior return game. It’ll be difficult for Flavia to dictate much and that’s why I foresee a straight sets win for Azarenka.
Coming off a rout (6-0, 6-0 over Suarez-Navarro), Serena Williams has returned to her dominating form in Grand Slams. On the way, she has enacted revenge on Sloane Stephens and used her off days to reunite with Sister Venus in doubles play. You would assume her next opponent will post the most difficult challenge yet. Li Na has had an incredibly consistent summer with semi-finals in Toronto, Cincinnati and now New York plus she brings championship experience to her match with Serena.
The only issue I have with Na is that she has a tendency to get tight in big moments and that allows for even minimal players to hang around in a match. The variable in this match may be the windy conditions that might alter Serena’s serve but barring that, I expect a win for Serena in two close sets.
The first task for Richard Gasquet in only his second Grand Slam semifinal will be to figure out how to get a break of serve against Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard has yet to be broken all tournament and did not even face a break point in his match against Tommy Robredo. Gasquet has had an impeccable run where he has lived up to his early promise and showed that he can endure five setters and big points. He knows he will have to be even better if he wants to upend the seemingly unbeatable Nadal.
Look for how Gasquet handles Nadal’s topspin on both his forehand and backhand side (it has given other one-handers like Federer fits in the past). I think ultimately Gasquet will have to be happy with his run and Nadal will advance to his third US Open final in straight sets.
These two were part of one of the matches of the year candidates in Melbourne earlier this year. That 12-10 triumph in the fifth set by Djokovic was both championship saving but also confidence building for Wawrinka. He played at such a high level that day that he proved to the tennis world that he could compete regularly with top 10 guys. His win over a flat Andy Murray was proof that Wawrinka had matured into a world class player with maybe the best backhand in the game.
The problem for Wawrinka is that Djokovic is no pushover himself. Novak’s only dropped one set this tournament and seems to always play great tennis in New York. The fresher and more experienced Djokovic should prevail in four sets.