While the rain-delayed men’s quarterfinals finish up, the women’s tournament moves forward with two exciting semifinals, one between the two in-form players of the tournament, the other a re-match of last year’s US Open final.
Simona Halep (1) vs. Garbine Muguruza (3)
The world number one ranking is in the balance as Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza battle for a spot in the final. This match will hinge much more on Muguruza than Halep. Though the Romanian has thrown in a few questionable performances this year, she has been the much more consistent player and, especially on clay, can be counted on to play solid tennis. Muguruza has been more erratic, but if the form she displayed against Maria Sharapova holds, Halep will be hard pressed to remain competitive in the match.
Halep’s game is strong over all, but she lacks the weapons that Muguruza can deploy. Halep’s second serve is the greatest weakness remaining in her game, now that she has worked past the mental barriers that previously hampered her. Muguruza will look to take advantage of her serve with the kind of aggressive returning she showed against Sharapova. Halep’s hope will be that her greatest strength, her movement, can keep her in points long enough that Muguruza is forced to hit extra balls and go for questionable shots in an effort to end lengthy exchanges. Of the two, however, Muguruza will be the fresher since her quarterfinal was much shorter. Halep’s schedule has also been the tightest of any competitor. Her fitness level is unquestionable, however, the fact that she is playing her sixth match in nine days is indicative of how the schedule has worked against her.
Expect Muguruza to win in two sets unless her game goes to pieces. This is not an impossibility against Halep, just not a likelihood.
Sloane Stephens (10) vs. Madison Keys (13)
Sloane Stephens has never lost to Madison Keys. She’s not about to. The efficiency with which Stephens has carved her way through the draw has been awe inspiring. Other than a slight wobble against Camila Giorgi in the third round, she has dismissed her opponents. In her first round, second round, fourth round, and quarterfinal matches, Stephens dropped four games or fewer. In the entire match.
Madison Keys has yet to drop a set, but her overall level has been less convincing. She is not as naturally suited to the clay as Stephens and her game can quickly fall apart because it is based entirely on her ability to depoloy her power. Keys is a skilled enough player to build on her natural skill set, and her power is enough to win against almost any player, however, her lack of a strong plan B when her plan A of hitting through her opponent isn’t working, is often the reason she comes up short in tournaments.
Stephens is the perfect player to soak up Keys’ power. Her movement is exceptional, her groundstrokes stinging, and her confidence high. Stephens will go into this match knowing two things: that she has never lost to Keys and that she has already won a grand slam title. Those two facts will settle her mind and allow her to play her best tennis with a clear head.
Expect Stephens to win in two comfortable sets. If Keys comes out swinging freely, it might go three.