The women’s semi-finals feature the four best players in the game right now, minus one Williams sister. Jankovic is a steady force, as “the-No.1-ranking-without-ever-making-a-Major-final” fiasco proved. Dementieva’s serve and confidence keep improving, and that Olympic Gold Medal makes her the one to beat on hard courts right now. Safina won L.A. and Montreal in succession and played Dementieva for Gold in Beijing. And Serena has shown supreme mental and physical fitness this tournament – fighting off about 10 set points in her match against Venus last night. Oh, yeah, and she’s Serena Williams.
The men’s semis are also refreshingly devoid of the Arnaud Clements and Jonas Bjorkmans of the world. (Although I would’ve taken a Safin or a Tsonga.) We have Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and Federer, four of the most talented, consistent and exciting players in the world, all fighting for a spot in the finals.
It’s going to be a great weekend of tennis, as long as the rain stays away and Roger wins it all in the end (sorry, I had to go there.)
Get the match-by-match preview after the jump! (Click on the “Read More” link, below)
Safina vs. Serena: I’d prefer to have these two Lil’ Sisters meet in the finals, since I think a Williams always belongs in a Major final and Safina is the strongest and grittiest player of the summer. Dinara’s suffered from mental and physical exhaustion all tournament, and there’s no doubt that Serena’s the favorite in this one. But Safina’s such a young, hungry player, that you never know how she’ll react in the big moments. I give her a 20% chance of pulling off the win.
Dementieva vs. Jankovic: I’m not feeling a tight three-setter for Williams vs. Safina, but this match is a different story. It would surprise me if Jelena vs. Elena didn’t go three – both are tough returners and shaky servers. I’d give the Russian the slight advantage – she’s got less on the line and more experience, while Jelena has her reputation on the line. I, for one, would love to see Jankovic in a final, if only to prove that her week at No. 1 in the world was semi-justified during this weird time for the WTA tour.
BY THE WAY: Neat stat, Dementieva has now reached her fifth U.S. Open semi final – Serena’s “only” on her fourth.
Nadal vs. Murray: Okay, this is an interesting one. Rafa destroyed Andy at Wimbledon. But Andy’s built on his confidence since then, beating Novak Djokovic, another guy who’s had his number in the past. Nadal’s looking less than invincible (though he’s the only player left in the tournament who hasn’t been stretched to five sets), and Murray likes the hard courts and the New York crowds as much or better than the Spaniard. But really, deep down in your hearts, is there any way that you can really, truly believe that Andy will pull this one off? I say: hell, no. But it will be fun to see him try.
Federer vs. Djokovic: Oh my, I don’t know what to make of this. Roger and Novak have both had tough roads to the semis – especially their five-setters against Andreev and Robredo, respectively. They’ve both looked fatigued and grouchy at times, confident and dominating at others – sometimes all four in the course of a single match. They’re both hungry to win the last major of the year and prove that they can hang with Nadal at the top of the game. There’s no love lost between these guys, with both wanting nothing more than to show up the other. Add the No 2. ranking to the mix, and this is going to be a crazy nervy match – especially for me.
BY THE WAY: What do you make of Novak’s state of mind right now? His post match celebration after beating Roddick freaked me out with all the chest bumping, fist clenching, roaring and grimacing. But his comments to the crowd afterward were truly INSANE: “I know Roddick said I have about sixteen injuries in the last match, obviously I don’t.” (The audience BOOS.) “(The crowd is) against me anyway, because they think I’m faking everything. That’s not nice to say. I have nothing against anybody, but that’s not nice.” I gotta give Novak credit – he has some major cajones to say “F*#k you!” to 23,000+ New Yorkers. But Novak, weren’t you the one going on about your injuries before this match? Geez, get a grip.