In a US Open that is being seen as a coming of age tournament for American women tennis players, each quarter final match features American content. Hopes are high for the semifinal matches to be an all American affair.
Sloane Stephens was the first of the Americans to make it to the semifinals, defeating Anastasija Svestova in the day session Tuesday. Her opponent in the semifinals was determined in thse evening’s match between Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova.
Williams and Kvitova had played five matches previously, with Kvitova leading the head to head match up 4-1. Their last meeting was at Wimbledon in 2014, a match that was won by Kvitova. But a lot has changed with both players. Williams has struggled with an immune disorder. Kvitova is back playing tennis again after recovering from a knife attack that damaged her left (playing) hand.
Nerves were evident in both players at the beginning of the contest as they both double faulted in their early service games. The first set was primarily composed of short points consisting of less than four shots. But it was Kvitova who seemed to be more susceptible to errors and Williams took advantage winning the first set 6-3.
From the beginning of the second set, Kvitova upped her intensity and cut down on the errors. And even though there was a brief break in the match while the roof was closed, it was clear that Kvitova was determined to take the set and she levelled the match with a 6-3 score.
The third set was destined to be a classic between two power hitters. The intensity increased, the serves increased in velocity, the length of the rallies increased, the outright winners increased and the cheers from the crowd increased in volume.
Kvitova broke the Williams serve early in the set but Williams fought hard and was able to get the break back. With Williams leading 4-3, a determined Kvitova served four perfect deliveries and evened it up at four games all. The third set was about winning aggressive tennis.
And so it all came down to a tiebreaker. The intensity and noise reached a crescendo. Williams held steady and Kvitova made forced errors. A double fault by Kvitova gave match point to Williams and she responded with her own double fault. On the next point Williams sealed the win.
For Kvitova the comeback from her injury can only be considered a huge success. For Williams an amazing year continues and an all American dream semifinal awaits. In the long term what is the significance of this match? To anyone engrossed in the match it was obvious; women’s professional tennis sits at a high level in the athletic entertainment world, even without Serena Williams.