Semifinal Thursday. Angelique Kerber will be the new World #1. After Serena’s loss to Karolina Pliskova Thursday night, the top-spot was hers. Undistracted, she dispatched Caroline Wozniacki in just over 90-minutes to reach her third Grand Slam Final of 2016. The Final is set for Saturday Night – a rematch of the Cincinnati Final from 3-weeks-ago: Karolina Pliskova vs. Angelique Kerber.
 Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs  Serena Williams (USA)
Final 6-2, 7-6(5). “To me it’s obvious that she’s injured. I mean we knew she had knee pain yesterday. We hoped it would be OK tonight. Clearly it was not. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen her move so slow.” – Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach.
Or was it the shoulder injury she carried into Wimbledon? Perhaps she lost because she’d only played three matches between her 22nd Grand Slam title and the start of the Open, falling in the third-round of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to Elina Svitolina. Could it be that last year’s Semifinal loss to Roberta Vinci was haunting her through the match? Having only one day of rest couldn’t have been good for her, either – right? Unimportant.
Look, Serena got beat Thursday night. She was healthy enough to make it to her 8th consecutive US Open Semifinal…and she was healthy enough to play. Turns out, she was up against a soon-to-be top-6 player who’s the ace-leader on the WTA Tour. Even at her healthiest – which maybe she wasn’t – this was not a gimmme for Serena. Champions don’t make excuses. We shouldn’t bother trying to fill in the gaps. Pliskova’s got game, and she proved it by earning a win over the World #1 on Thursday night.
The first-set saw Pliskova earn a break before the first changeover. Three first-serves later, she was up 40-0, eventually consolidating the lead with a few second-serve rallies. Clearly, Serena was not serving her best. Pliskova took full advantage. Up 4-2, Pliskova broke Serena at love, then served out the set.
In the second, Pliskova struck first again, earning break #3 to go up 3-2. Serena locked-in, pounded both first and second-serve returns, and found herself up 0-40. She’d level the set with a Pliskova forehand wide. From there both held through the tie-break, Pliskova receiving a warning for “coaching” along the way. In the tie-break, Pliskova earned the first three games, Serena responded with three of her own. The 6-time US Open Champ actually led 5-4, but two unforced errors and a double-fault on match point sent her packing early…ousted in the US Open Semifinals for the second year in a row.
Painful? Yes. With the loss – come Monday, Serena will lose the #1 ranking. Is that as painful as the knee, shoulder, lack of match-play since Wimbledon or memories of a loss to Vinci? Sure. Probably more so. But, no excuses. She played a very tough opponent tonight…and lost. That’s what happens in sport.
Karolina Pliskova has now won 11 consecutive matches, after earning her 6th career WTA singles title in Cincinnati. She took-out three top-10 players en-route to win, including a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Monday’s new World #1, Angelique Kerber in the Final 6-3, 6-1. Something to remember when she plays in her maiden Grand Slam Championship match Saturday night.
KAROLINA PLISKOVA’S ROAD TO THE FINAL:
- SF: def  Serena Williams 6-2, 7-6(5)
- QF: def Ana Konjuh 6-2, 6-2
- 4R: def  Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3)
- 3R: def  Anastasija Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-2, 6-4
- 2R: def Montserrat Gonzalez (PAR) 6-1, 7-5
- 1R: def Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-4, 6-3
— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) September 9, 2016
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs  Angelique Kerber (GER)
Final 6-4, 6-3. Say hello to the new World #1, Angelique Kerber. With Serena’s loss on Thursday night, Kerber’s dream season became the ultimate fairy tale. She won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne, was a Finalist at Wimbledon, earned Olympic Silver in Rio, picked-up her 9th WTA title in Stuttgart, reached her 23rd career final in Cincinnati…and come Monday, she will be the new World #1. Incredible.
But she still had a match to play; on the hunt for her third Grand Slam Final appearance of 2016…
Kerber wasn’t distracted at all by her good fortune – as many have said, Karolina Pliskova kept Kerber from reaching the #1-ranking in Cincinnati; but the Czech power-server gifted Angie with the #1-ranking with her win over Serena on Thursday night. Kerber was locked-in early on against 2-time Finalist Caroline Wozniacki. She found herself up 4-0, with her first set-point just 37-minutes in. After 46-minutes, we were on to set-2.
Angelique broke again to start the second, rag-dolling Wozniacki all over the court. The Dane was simply outplayed; defense not enough to fend off Kerber’s technical precision. Down 2-5, Caroline managed to break the new World #1 at love, but couldn’t hold to keep the match alive. After an hour and 37-minutes, Angelique Kerber was headed to her 3rd Grand Slam Final of 2016, knowing that – whatever the outcome – she will become the first German World #1 since Steffi Graf. Remarkable stuff.
So…Saturday night features a rematch of the Cincinnati Final just three weeks ago. Pliskova only allowed Angelique four games in that match. Can Karolina make it two in a row?
ANGELIQUE KERBER’S ROAD TO THE FINAL:
- SF: def Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 6-4, 6-3
- QF: def  Roberta Vinci (ITA) 7-5, 6-0
- 4R: def  Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-3, 7-5
- 3R: def Cici Bellis (USA) 6-1, 6-1
- 2R: def Marijana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 6-2, 7-6(7)
- 1R: def Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-0, 1-0 RET.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2016
DAY-11 UPSETS AND INTRIGUING RESULTS
Thursday’s Doubles Semifinals on Grandstand were nearly all upsets. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova downed Olympic Gold Medalists and 2014 US Open Champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares took-out Wimbledon Champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. And Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated the 8-seeds Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez. Meanwhile Martina Hingis and Coco Vandeweghe fell to the top-seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.