STANFORD, CA, USA - What better place for an American breakthrough than in the first tournament of the American summer hardcourt season? Coco Vandeweghe powered into her first WTA semifinal Friday, getting some good ol' fashioned revenge against Urszula Radwanska in the quarterfinals.
Vandeweghe, who was a lucky loser into the draw, had lost to Radwanska in their only previous meeting, just a month ago in the final of an ITF Women's Circuit tournament on grass in Nottingham, England. But this time she held her ground far better, getting past the Polish rising star in straight sets, 64 64.
"I was pretty mad about losing in the last round in qualifying," Vandeweghe said. "I had the match on my racquet and didn't play well on that day - of course you can't play well every day. But I seem to be doing a pretty good job of picking myself back up and putting a lot of good matches together these days.
"I've been putting a lot of hard work in, on and off the court, and I knew it would translate into my matches sometime. And I'm glad it's here in Stanford."
Vandeweghe had been to three WTA quarterfinals but never further - San Diego and Tokyo in 2010 and at Memphis last year. She is the first lucky loser into a Premier semifinal since Sam Stosur achieved the feat at New Haven in 2006.
Along the way Vandeweghe's victims have included No.4 seed Jelena Jankovic, a very special win for her. "I was definitely happy to finally beat Jelena. A memory I definitely keep is when I was 16, my first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, opening night, she was No.1 in the world, it was just a huge experience. I remember the first serve I hit I aced her out wide and I was totally aiming up the T. I was thinking, 'I have no idea where this serve's going.' I was just so nervous. So to beat her two nights ago, I was so happy about that."
Vandeweghe actually had one of the funnier moments of the Wimbledon fortnight - playing Sara Errani in the first round, the match was stopped a 61 53 and match point due to rain. The pair came back the next day and Errani didn't even have to hit a ball, as Vandeweghe double faulted on the first point.
"What are you gonna do besides laugh!" Vandeweghe said. "Jan-Michael and I had a laugh about it, he's like, 'When I warmed you up this morning I didn't think you'd just go out there and double!' I was just like, 'Gee thanks, I didn't think so either!' But what are you gonna do with a double fault like that but laugh?
"I'm not gonna go and smash every racquet in my bag."
Next up for Vandeweghe is No.5 seed Yanina Wickmayer, who pulled off a 63 62 upset over No.2 seed Marion Bartoli. Wickmayer scored her third Top 10 win, having beaten Agnieszka Radwanska in 2010 and Li Na in 2011.
"It wasn't easy - I played some of my best tennis to beat her," Wickmayer said. "I'm very happy to be back on my favorite surface. I like grass a lot, but clay is not my favorite surface. I'm really happy to be back on the fast surfaces. I'm going to lose some and I'm going to win some, but I like this time of the year."
Wickmayer and Vandeweghe will be playing each other for the first time.
"When she's confident and feeling good, she can play some amazing tennis," Wickmayer said of Vandeweghe. "I haven't seen her play here this week, but looking at the scores and looking at the people she has been beating here, it looks like she's playing really well. I need to be prepared and focused."
The other semifinal will pit No.1 seed Serena Williams against No.9 seed Sorana Cirstea. Cirstea was the first to advance, dropping the first set but then rolling against No.3 seed Dominika Cibulkova, 67(5) 62 60, and Williams followed at night with a 64 60 victory over No.6 seed Chanelle Scheepers.
Williams and Cirstea will be playing each other for the first time too.