Serena Williams vs Karolina Pliskova – 2016 US Open

The semifinals are set and Thursday’s firstย match will feature the World No. 1 against a Grand Slam late-round match newcomer.

Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova both advanced on Wednesday. The World No. 1 defeated Simona Halep in strenuous three sets in the late match. Earlier in the day Pliskova defeated teenager Ana Konjuh. That now sets up a semifinal on the top half of the draw between Williams and Pliskova, a match up that the American will surely be favored to win.

Williams enters the semifinal with a very-limited head-to-head series against Pliskova. The two players met over two years ago at Stanford 2014, a match the American won 7-5, 6-2. However, at that time Pliskova had not ascended to her best tennis.

With her play in New York the Czech national has shown that her victory from Cincinnati a few weeks back was not a fluke. In making the semifinal at Flushing Meadows, Pliskova has also bucked her trend of doing poorly in majors. Whether her momentum will carry over to the semifinals remains to be seen. Certainly Williams will bring so much more experience to the table when the two players meet on Thursday evening.

However, this is the point in the season when everything went wrong for Williams in 2015. The American entered the Flushing Meadow semifinals as a huge favorite to beat Roberta Vinci last year. However, that matchย didn’t go Williams’ way in what was the most shocking result of 2015’s Grand Slam season. The US Open semifinals was also the last match that the American played in 2015, so maybe Williams is getting toward the end of her physical capabilities at this point in her year.

As the semifinals approach, the World No. 1 ranking hangs in the balance. Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki will meet in the other semifinal, with the former zeroing in on top spot on tour. Should Kerber or Williams win the 2016 US Open, that player would be ranked No. 1 on Monday. If neither of those players win then things get a little tricky.

However the following statements are true:

  1. If Williams loses to Pliskova then Kerber will be the No. 1 no matter how she does from this point onward.
  2. If Kerber loses in the semifinal then Serena will be the No. 1 only if she wins her own semifinal.

The remaining days of the women’s draw promise to be historical. We could see Serena’s reign ended and we could see Kerber get to top spot. Wozniacki is also in the mix for her first Grand Slam title, while Pliskova could really make a name for herself by knocking off Serena and maybe ultimately winning the US Open.

Both semifinals go on Thursday, while the women’s championship match will run on Saturday.

Shane Lambert