US Open Semifinal Preview
Published September 06, 2012 11:59
NEW YORK, NY, USA - Friday afternoon at Flushing Meadows will see all four semifinalists in action. First up are Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, before being followed on court by Sara Errani and three-time champion Serena Williams.
Arthur Ashe Stadium
 Victoria Azarenka (BLR #1) vs.  Maria Sharapova (RUS #3)
Head-to-head: Azarenka leads 5-4
Remarkably, for such an accomplished hardcourt player, at the start of the fortnight Maria Sharapova had not been beyond the fourth round at the US Open since way back in 2006. That year she went on to win the tournament and, after negotiating a rocky path through the draw, the Russian is now within touching distance of reclaiming the title.
But before she can even contemplate this, she must first get past Victoria Azarenka. In recent years, Azarenka has been Sharapova's bête noire on cement, winning each of their past four meetings on the surface in straight sets. The Belarusian has looked superb in New York thus far, cruising into the quarterfinals before passing her first gut check by defeating defending champion Samantha Stosur on a third set tie-break.
Despite her opponent's form and their recent head-to-head record, Sharapova, as ever, will not be short on self belief. With Azarenka appearing in the semifinals in New York for the first time, experience is in Sharapova's favor, and if she can capitalize on any early nerves to make a fast start she is capable of upsetting the World No.1.
 Serena Williams (USA #4) vs.  Sara Errani (ITA #10)
Head-to-head: Williams leads 3-0
Sara Errani is faced with an unenviable task in the second of the semifinals: derailing the Serena Williams juggernaut. In five matches at Flushing Meadows, Williams has dropped just 16 games, with her five wins taking her win-loss record since the start of the summer to 24-1.
Driving this form has been an imperious serving display that has seen the American broken just twice, hitting 41 aces and winning 104 of 129 points on her first delivery. And the daunting statistics do not stop there; in 21 major semifinals, Williams has only ever lost three times, with her conquerors the multiple Grand Slam winning trio of Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and her sister Venus.
However, as Serena admitted earlier this week, Errani is certainly not lacking in fighting spirit. This quality has been on full display in New York, with the Italian defying the odds to reach her second Slam semifinal of 2012. Errani was particularly impressive in upsetting big-hitting No.6 seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, and she will need to put on another counterpunching masterclass if wants to have any hope of repeating the trick against Williams.