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Elina Svitolina is ready to take down Serena Williams at the US Open
NEW YORK -- For the past nine days, familiar names and exciting new ones have dominated the US Open headlines. From the early exits of defending champions Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic to the rise of teenage sensation Coco Gauff, from the Cinderella runs of Taylor Townsend and Kristie Ahn to the -- er -- antics of Daniil Medvedev and Nick Kyrgios, there has been no shortage of compelling storylines in New York.
So you might have missed Elina Svitolina, who has quietly been playing some of the best, most consistent tennis of the tournament. On Tuesday afternoon, in front of a relatively sparse crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 24-year-old set up a semifinal showdown with
How well has she been playing in the year's final Slam? Ask Venus Williams, whom she beat in the second round, or Madison Keys, who hadn't lost at night in Queens until she faced Svitolina in the round of 16, or even actor Tom Hiddleston, who came to cheer on his fellow Brit in the quarters and left speechless after the defeat. Svitolina has yet to drop a set this fortnight.
"I have played her three times or four, I think," said Konta after the match. "Haven't beat her yet. I do feel that was probably the best I felt her play against me. She played so well, to be honest."
Svitolina doesn't have the fastest serve or the strongest net presence, but she methodically and tactfully wears down her opponents. She won the longest rally of the tournament (including men) thus far in a 40-shot classic with Whitney Osuigwe in the opening round.
Ranked No. 5 in the world, she's been on the cusp of elite status for some time. She has won a tour-high nine titles since 2017, including her biggest title to date, the 2018 WTA Finals in which she beat Sloane Stephens in the title match. Svitolina advanced to her first major semifinals at Wimbledon this summer, where she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep. She became the first Ukrainian woman to ever reach the final four at the US Open with her win on Tuesday.
It was the latest in a string of firsts for Svitolina and her country, and her excitement at each achievement is apparent. After she clinched the win Tuesday, she raised her arms in victory, then brought her fists under her chin, tilted her head back and smiled.
"It's not every day you're playing quarterfinal of the Grand Slam," she said afterward. "And to win that, it's something special. Yeah, just very happy the way I handled the pressure.
"I think all my career I have been going step by step. I was going very slowly. Still, I was quite consistent, I would say, but I had some tough matches round of 16, quarterfinals before I started to win them."
Earlier this year, she and her boyfriend, Gael Monfils, who will be playing a quarterfinal match of his own on Wednesday, went public with their relationship. The revelation has raised her profile off the tennis court, thanks in large part to their joint Instagram account, which documents their travels around the world and life on tour for their nearly 100,000 followers.
He has been a fixture at her matches, cheering her on from her box. She is frequently asked about him in post-match interviews and news conferences -- although Monfils rarely fields such questions. Svitolina gives him some credit for improvements in her game, but she is emphatic he is not the only factor.
"He's hitting pretty strong and very heavy, so I think definitely it helps me to practice with him," she said. "But, you know, I need to find a balance, because if I only practice with him, I'm going to be only in defense most of the time, and that's not so good. So I have to find balance when I'm training with him and also train with my coach to do the attacking shots."
Svitolina will take on Serena Williams, who has beaten her four times but lost at their previous meeting at the 2016 Rio Olympics. While Williams, who is chasing her record-tying 24th Grand Slam title, is a tantalizing opponent in fans' eyes, Svitolina insisted she didn't care who she would be facing when asked before Williams' quarterfinal win on Tuesday.
"Definitely it's a big challenge to play against [Williams], but it doesn't really matter who I'm going to play in semifinal," she said. "[It] is a challenge. [The] person who reaches the semifinal is playing well. You have to bring your best game to beat them."
SERENA WILLIAMS VS. ELINA SVITOLINA
Serena looked unstoppable in her 44-minute win over Qiang Wang in the quarterfinals. Even she hasn’t had many matches where she’s hit 25 winners and her opponent has hit none. But over the course of her most recent comeback, we’ve seen her look unstoppable before, only to be stopped soon after. Last year here, she demolished Anastasija Sevastova in the semis, before losing to Naomi Osaka in the final. At Wimbledon this year, she demolished Barbora Strycova in the semis, before losing to Simona Halep in the final.
Qiang Wang’s steady ground strokes were like batting practice for Serena; they never made her uncomfortable, or made her run. Can Svitolina’s do more damage? Maybe. She hits more aggressively than Qiang Wang, but she’s probably not going to dictate rallies against Serena. These two have played five times; Serena won four of those meetings, while Svitolina took the most recent one, at the 2016 Rio Olympics. If this were a final, Serena might get tight, the way she did at Wimbledon and last year’s Open. But it’s a semi. She’s good at those. Winner: S. Williams
BIANCA ANDREESCU VS. BELINDA BENCIC
The second match on Thursday evening is, in most people’s minds, the undercard. But Andreescu vs. Bencic has a lot of potential. These are two young players who have both been touted, rightfully, as future Grand Slam winners. They’re both passionate about their craft, and excitable when they go about it. They have different strengths and styles. Andreescu can do many things and likes to play in all parts of the court, while Bencic does two things—take time away and redirect pace—very well. They’ll be facing each other for the first time, even as they play their first Grand Slam semifinal. If you’re looking for something brand new under the tennis sun, you should find it here. Winner: Andreescu
Those are my selections in the PDGame.
I've watched Bencic a couple of times. And while some viewers praise her game, I find it boring. I guess we'll agree to disagree.
I like Andreescu's game better. She is very dynamic and has 1000 different shots from all kinds of playgrounds. Maybe some folks like both styles. Why not?
I picked Andreescu 6-3 6-3. But even if she loses a set, I still think she will prevail.
Bencic will feel the pressure of carrying the formidable Swiss flag at GS.
Serena Wimbledon: Final
Next tournament: Toronto: Final
Next tournament: US Open: Final
Some people said she was not going to make finals again that soon. She proved them wrong again.
The lady is a Legend !!!!!!!!!
All she needs to get going is to win one of those finals.. Then she'll start winning them in a row.
Svitolina is already on her way to China to play the new premier Zhengzhou Open after the above-noted, post-match presser. Flight time from NYC to the city is 16 to 18 hours direct. The draw is out and she has a lst round bye, which may have some effect to offset jet lag....
Prize money is 1 mil. Winner gets 267k and change....