Roberta Vinci produced the biggest shock of the 2015 tennis season on Day 12, upsetting world number one Serena Williams in 3 sets to move into today’s final and thwarting the American’s bid to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
Day 12 Recap
Williams entered the semi-final against Vinci as an overwhelming favourite, with the top seed having claimed the last four majors and the last three US Open titles. The first set went according to script, with Williams breaking the Italian three times and collecting the set after just 31 minutes. But Vinci used her slice backhand to great effect, moving a visibly tight Williams around the court. A break in the fifth game of the second set enabled Vinci to move ahead, and she maintained her advantage to force a deciding set.
When Williams went up a break at the beginning of the third set, it appeared as though the American superstar would stroll to victory. But the world number 43 refused to wilt and continued to attack the net, producing some stunning half-volleys as Williams began to self-destruct. Williams had her chances to get back into the set after Vinci claimed the decisive break in the seventh game of the set, but the 32 year old held her nerve and fittingly produced an exquisite half-volley to claim the most unlikely of wins.
Vinci will play countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in today’s final, after the twenty-sixth seed produced an impressive upset of her own, ousting second seed Simona Halep in a one-sided semi-final. After registering her best win of the tournament over Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals, Halep delivered a flat performance, unable to match the power of the 33 year old Pennetta. The Italian was in fine form, capturing the win in 59 minutes, 6-1 6-3.
In the men’s tournament, the world’s top two players, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, will meet in a blockbuster men’s final on Sunday after each player registered an emphatic straight sets win in Friday’s men’s semi-finals. Defending champion Marin Cilic had been struggling with an ankle injury in his previous match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and it was evident that the Croat was still bothered by the problem in the match against Djokovic. The top seed exploited Cilic’s ailment, moving the Croat all over the court and eventually sealing a 6-0 6-1 6-2 – the most lopsided men’s semi-final in US Open history.
Federer wasn’t quite as fast as Djokovic, but the second seed certainly delivered a performance for the ages, completely outclassing French Open champion and compatriot Stan Wawrinka. Federer gained revenge for his defeat by Wawrinka in Paris, as the fifth seed struggled on serve from the outset. After a competitive first set, which Federer claimed 6-4, Wawrinka was broken twice in the second set, before the 17-time major winner got on a complete roll, capturing 15 out of 16 points at the start of the third set to put the result beyond doubt. After 92 minutes, Federer was back in the US Open final for the first time since 2009, courtesy of a 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory.
Match of the Day – Day 13
Flavia Pennetta vs. Roberta Vinci
Just like the Nishikori-Cilic final last year, this is the final that absolutely nobody (not even Italian tennis fans) expected. Either way, the Italian tennis fans will have plenty to celebrate. Pennetta has always performed well at Flushing Meadows and, after making the semi-finals in 2013, the 33 year old has advanced further this year and now has a golden opportunity to claim a major title.
Vinci is probably the bigger surprise, with 32 year old sitting at 43 in the world rankings and given virtually no chance of beating Williams in the semi-finals. But Vinci showed her competitiveness and experience in upsetting the American, and she is now just one win away from a miraculous Grand Slam title.
Pennetta has a slight edge in the head-to-head standings, having beaten Vinci in five of the pair’s nine career meetings, including a straight sets win at the US Open in 2013. But of course these players have played and practiced together hundreds of times over the past decade and a half, and so know each other’s games inside out. Usually when two players are competing in their first major final, it is a case of which player handles the occasion the best. Both of these players are hugely experienced and, as former world number one doubles players, have played plenty of times in big stadiums at the business end of tournaments.
I favour Pennetta in today’s final, giving her stellar form all tournament – she’s defeated Stosur, Kvitova and Halep in her past three matches, all of whom are either Grand Slam winners or finalists – and she has a long history of performing well in New York. That said, Vinci showed against Williams that anything is possible and, as the higher ranked player, more pressure will be on Pennetta. Vinci needs to replicate her form against Williams, using her slice to vary the speed of the rallies and not being afraid to approach the net to finish points off.
Ultimately, Pennetta’s greater firepower means that the match is on her racquet. If she plays her best tennis, then she will be too strong. If the pressure gets to her, however, then Vinci has the experience and self-belief to capitalise. I think Pennetta will get there, but not without one hell of a fight. Pennetta in 3.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.