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06 Sep 2018

Serena Williams vs Anastasija Sevastova: US Open semifinal preview and prediction

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History

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Path to the semifinals

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How do they match up?

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Prediction

(Photo credit: Marianne Bevis)

Six-time former champion Serena Williams will look to continue her charge towards another title at the US Open, which would see her draw level with Margaret Court’s tally of 24 Grand Slam titles, the all time record. Sevastova, meanwhile, had never been beyond the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam before this year’s US Open and indeed had reached that stage only once. But now in the last four she will surely have ambitions of title glory herself. Who will come out on top?

History

This will, somewhat surprisingly, be the first competitive meeting between Williams and Sevastova, though they have both long competed alongside one another on the Tour and thus will have a fair amount of familiarity with one another’s games. But in terms of experience the clear advantage lies with Williams. She has played 35 Grand Slam semifinals and won 30 of them. Sevastova, as mentioned above, is competing in her first.

Path to the semifinals

Williams raced to a 6-4 6-0 victory over Magda Linette before crushing Germany’s Carina Witthoeft 6-2 6-2 in the second round. That win was followed by arguably her most impressive of the tournament so far, which came against her sister, Venus. It was expected by many to be a close contest but the younger Williams instead roared home a 6-1 6-2 winner. She was tested by Kaia Kanepi, however, in the fourth round but advanced a 6-0 4-6 6-3 winner before brushing aside Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-3.

Sevastova, who also made the quarterfinals in the doubles with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, began her US Open with a hard-fought 6-2 2-6 6-3 win over Donna Vekic. She was rather more comfortable in dispatching the 18-year-old Claire Liu 6-3 6-1. That win was followed by a 4-6 6-1 6-2 comeback victory against Ekaterina Makarova and a seesawing triumph against seventh seed Elina Svitolina who she bested 6-3 1-6 6-0. She then stunned defending champion Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-3 in the last eight.

How do they match up?

This contest will be decided by whether or not Sevastova’s defence can stand up to the power Williams brings to the court. Williams’ serve has been excellent so far in New York and she has a healthy lead at the top of the ace race with 60. That is 28 more than anyone else in the women’s draw. She has also been dominant off the ground thus far. Williams has hit an impressive 169 winners already in this tournament, including 47 in the fourth round against Kanepi.

Sevastova will not be able to match Williams for power. But she does cover the court incredibly well and is amongst the hardest players in the sport to hit through. That phenomenal defence served her well against Stephens who made 28 unforced errors in their quarterfinal. But Williams is more comfortable on the front foot than her younger compatriot. She may also be able to expose the Sevastova serve. The Latvian won less than 60% of the points behind it against Stephens.

Prediction

Sevastova has played some superb tennis to make it to her first Grand Slam semifinal. But her success has been predicated on making it difficult for opponents to beat her, with frustrating defence and good depth her calling cards. But that may well fail to provide a path to success against Williams who excels at hitting through opponents and can maintain a more sustained and accurate barrage than anyone else in the game. That will be Sevastova’s undoing. Williams in straight sets.