23-time Major champion Serena Williams is on the march and looking for her first title since she became a mother and to draw level with Margaret Court in the all-time list. Standing in her way in the fourth round is Estonian world #44 Kaia Kanepi, a player who has been ranked as high as 15th in the world. Last year, she made it to a career-best quarterfinal in Flushing Meadows, but she will be hard pressed to do so again. Who will come out on top?
Williams and Kanepi have met four-times and Williams has won all four in straight sets. The matches, however, weren’t all as straightforward as they look on paper, with Kanepi coming close to taking a set off the great American more than once. All but one of their contests came in the last decade, but the most recent came at this stage of this very event four years ago. Williams won relatively comfortably 6-3 6-3 and went on to lift the title.
Path to the fourth round
Williams has yet to be given much trouble by any of her opponents at this year’s US Open. She beat Magda Linette 6-4 6-0 in the first round and advanced to face Carina Witthoeft of Germany in the second. She crushed her 6-2 6-2 to reach the third round and set up a mouth-watering match with her elder sister, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams. Many expected a close contest, but it proved anything but. The younger Williams was untroubled throughout and advanced with a 6-1 6-2 win.
Kanepi, likewise, hasn’t dropped a set. She appeared destined for an early exit when the draw pitted her against world #1 Simona Halep, who had been in tremendous form in the run up to the US Open, in the first round. But Kanepi defeated the Romanian 6-2 6-4. She next faced Jil Teichmann, who she bested 6-4 6-3. Her third round match saw her face world #61 Rebecca Peterson, from Sweden, who she got past 6-3 7-6.
How do they match up?
Both of these women possess serious power. Williams, in particular, is renowned for her strength, something which has been a major factor in her ability to conjure up one of the greatest careers in history. Kanepi will have to work hard to hold her own. An improvement from the line will be vital for her. Thus far she has hit only three aces in three matches, at the cost of six double faults. In a marked contrast, Williams has hit 29 aces and just five doubles.
Kanepi may also be forced to defend more than usual against Williams. She hammered 26 winners past Halep, and hit another 24 in the third round against Peterson. But Williams will not give her much time on the ball, and has been hitting plenty of winners herself, 87 to be exact. And Williams is also an excellent mover. But unless Kanepi comes out swinging she will have no chance and thus wherever possible she must look to take it to the former-champion.
There will be plenty of hard-hitting in this match, Williams playing her typically aggressive, powerful and accurate game style and Kanepi attempting to match her. Kanepi has been very impressive so far in this tournament, and she may be able to take a set off Williams. But with the six-time US Open champion in this kind of unstoppable mood, that is as much as Kanepi can hope for. And even that is unlikely. Williams in straight sets.