Peng Shuai's spectacular run to the U.S. Open semifinals has been built around one of the best serving performances of her career.
Peng defeated Belinda Bencic, 6-2, 6-1, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, winning 71 percent of all her service points to not drop serve once in a dominant performance on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It all started for Peng with her first serve where she made a solid 64 percent - 10 percent better than her younger, Swiss opponent. Peng backed her accurate serve up with great court position for the first shot after the serve and punished everything short with her two-handed groundstroke assault off both sides.
Peng won 73 percent (22/30) of her first serve points and 65 percent (11/17) of second serve points by hitting her spots with good power. She hit an ace in five of her eight service games to only face two break points for the match.
Peng was down a double break point early at 1-1, 15-40, in the opening set, and served a 95-mph ace out wide in the deuce court, and followed it up on the next point with a 104-mph service winner down the middle in the ad court. Once she averted that early crisis, Peng never looked back.
Peng made 30 first serves for the match, mixing exactly 10 out wide, 10 at the body and 10 down the middle of the court. Bencic never knew where the next one was headed.
Peng started her service game at 4-2 with a 100-mph ace down the middle and backed it up with three groundstroke winners to wrestle complete control of the opening set. Points in the match were very much first-strike tennis, with 61% (55/90) of all points not lasting longer than four shots.
The problem for Bencic was that she was a little off in the match and Peng was really on. Only six points for the entire match lasted at least nine shots as Peng stepped into every ball she could attack to take Bencic's time away.
Once the point developed, Peng won 34 baseline rallies to Bencic's 21, and the young Swiss prodigy didn't fare any better at the net, only winning 35 percent (5/14) coming forward.
The story of the match and of the tournament so far has really been the explosive serving of Peng. The Chinese star currently leads the tournament in three serving categories, which all stood tall against Bencic in the quarterfinal.
Peng has only been broken three times in five matches and leads service games won at 94 percent - with 44 of 47 games held.
Peng is also a runaway leader with points won on second serves at 62% (74/120), which is 3% higher than her closest rival. Peng is also dominating the tournament with break points saved at 82% (14/17), which is 6% higher than the closest competitor.
Bencic exits the tournament leading with points won against first serves at 48%, but that dropped massively to 27% (8/30) against the strong-serving Peng.
The power differential at the back of the court was easily discovered in the winner's column, with Peng crushing 24, including five off her more dominant backhand wing, to Bencic's 12.
Craig O'Shannessy (@BrainGameTennis) is the leading analyst for wtatennis.com throughout the 2014 season, utilizing SAP Data & Insights to uncover the patterns and percentages that dominate the game. Visit Craig's website at www.braingametennis.com for more expert strategy analysis.