23-time Major champion Serena Williams will continue her quest for a seventh US Open title when she takes on Carina Witthoeft of Germany. Williams has had a fragmented year, returning from maternity leave and dealing with some off-court issues. But she has shown more than once the qualities of a champion and will consider herself as having a real chance to go all the way in Flushing Meadows. Witthoeft, we may assume, will be equally determined to stop her. Who will come out on top?
This will be the first competitive meeting between Williams and Witthoeft. But in terms of experience it is as ever Williams who has the advantage. She has won 72 titles in her career as well as 796 matches and has gone 12-5 this year. Witthoeft has just the solitary title to her name, and her career-record is a more modest 269-176. She has five times been to the third round of a Slam, including at the US Open two years ago, but has never been further.
Path to the second round
Williams arrived in New York without any form to speak of after early exits in San Jose and Cincinnati. She also had to contend with the comments of French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli about her attire at the French Open causing a controversy that has spread beyond the confines of the tennis world. But, if Williams has been distracted, she did not show it, overcoming a slightly slow start to dismiss Poland’s Magda Linette 6-4 6-0.
Witthoeft’s hard court preparations were limited to her efforts in New Haven, where she reached the second round, losing to Pauline Parmentier. She began her US Open campaign against Caroline Dolehide of the USA, of whom much is expected in the future. But she has endured a difficult start to life on the professional Tour and arrived at the US Open without a win at Tour-level since the French Open. She continued that barren run with a 3-6 6-7 loss to Witthoeft.
How do they match up?
Though one would be hard-pressed to find an area in the game in which Williams does not excel, it is when she is on the front foot that she is at her best. Her serve is one of the most effective and reliable in the game, though she has had better days at the line than she experienced against Linette. But even when her serve is not firing, she has serious power off the ground and is capable of striking clean winners with both her forehand and backhand.
Witthoeft is also most comfortable when playing attacking tennis. Her serve and forehand combine effectively and she will need them both to be working well if she is to trouble Williams. The German is also comfortable moving forward and would do well to seize any chance to attack the net that presents itself. Her movement can be exposed, however, which may cause her problems against a player with Williams’ offensive quality.
Though it took Williams a while to find her groove against Linette once she did the match ended as a contest. When Williams is firing only the very best can hope to live with her, and even they fail to do so more often than they succeed. And as Witthoeft is not one of the very best that does not bode well for her. If Williams can maintain the level she showed in the first round, expect her to defeat Witthoeft without any problems.