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Serena vs Svitolina tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Williams could face toughest challenge so far in US Open semifinals

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 5 Sep 2019
  • Serena Williams faces Elina Svitolina in the semifinals of the US Open
  • Williams vs Svitolina is live from the US Open on Thursday at 7pm local/12am BST
Serena Williams (PA Sport)

Serena Williams should face her toughest challenge of the US Open so far against seventh seed Elina Svitolina in the semifinals.

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Serena Williams is closing in on a tenth US Open final as she prepares to face Elina Svitolina in Thursday’s semifinals.

Seventh-seeded Svitolina beat Williams in their last encounter but they haven’t played for three years.

Beating Williams at the US Open is one of the toughest tasks in sport, and she has a 9-3 record in semifinals in New York with her only defeats coming to Kim Clijsters in 2009, Roberta Vinci in 2015 and Karolina Pliskova in 2016.

Williams was on intently focused form in the quarterfinals (PA Sports)
The six-time champion has an extraordinary record at the US Open, where she became just the second woman after Chris Evert to win 100 singles matches on Tuesday night. And of all those 100 matches, few can have been as dominant as the 6-1, 6-0 victory she recorded over Wang Qiang in the quarterfinals.

Williams had rolled her ankle in her previous match against Petra Martic and there was an anxious wait to see how she would pull up in Tuesday’s quarterfinal encounter, especially against a player as quick and consistent as Wang, who had beaten second seed Ashleigh Barty in the previous round. In the event, though, we need not have worried. Williams was at her sharpest since beating Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 to start the tournament, dropping just two points behind her first serve in the entire match and hitting 25 winners to ten unforced errors.

‘It feels good. It feels like, okay, this is what I've been training for. This is how hard I've been working. It feels like, you know, hard work pays off when that happens,’ Williams said.

Perhaps the most damning statistic for Wang – and the most encouraging for those hoping Williams will lift her 24th Grand Slam title – is the fact that Wang did not hit a single winner. That’s partly because she couldn’t handle the pace of the ball that Williams was landing at her feet and rarely got her racquet back in time, but also partly because Williams was moving very well around the court, showing no signs of the ankle roll.

‘I've been working on my speed, getting shots. I didn't give her too many chances in the match,’ Williams said, showing an understatement as masterful as her performance.

‘Yeah, that's a good stat for me. It's good because I want to be able to be able to move around the court.’

It’s true that everybody knows, after the three Grand Slam finals Williams has reached and then lost since returning from maternity leave, that the biggest challenge to her title hopes are her own nerves in the final.

But as semifinal encounters go, Elina Svitolina should pose a decent challenge.

The reigning WTA Finals champion has bounced back superbly from a first half of the season which saw her troubled by a knee injury that kept her off the court from Miami to Madrid and really decimated her clay-court season, a part of the year that should have been amongst her strongest. While she has yet to capture a WTA Tour title this year, she has had the best Grand Slam results of her career – the reverse of the 2015-18 period, which saw her win 11 titles, many prestigious, while only making three Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Elina Svitolina (PA Sports)
Svitolina has now made the quarterfinals or better of three of the year’s four majors and while I thought she had a somewhat fortuitous draw at Wimbledon to make her first Grand Slam semifinal, something that perhaps showed when she got completely trounced in the semifinals by Simona Halep (although Halep, of course, did mete out the same treatment to Williams in the final), she’s handled a much tougher draw superbly here. She is yet to drop a single set at the US Open this year in wins over Whitney Osuigwe, Venus Williams, Dayana Yastremska, Madison Keys and Johanna Konta, and those are not easy opponents.

Svitolina’s 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Konta was a real masterclass in how to beat a player with bigger outright weapons as Svitolina played with maximum efficiency in her own service games, showcasing an improved serve that looks rock solid; chased down and absorbed all Konta’s pace off the ground with her own tremendous defense and took the opportunity to attack whenever she could, most notably playing some searing passing shots at key moments. Admittedly Konta is not really the type of player who has many options in her game to fall back on when plan ‘A’ works, as it spectacularly does not against Svitolina, but the Ukrainian was so quick to react to everything Konta tried to mix things up and although she was broken in both sets after establishing an initial break lead, she had no problems serving out either the first set or the match.

Many of the same qualities will serve her well against Williams, and Svitolina’s opponents in this tournament have been good preparation (if such a thing exists) for facing the American – big servers and powerful hitters like Venus, Yastremska, Keys and Konta.

‘I think I have to run a lot, like all other matches. That's normal. And try to react - I played some big hitters in this tournament, a lot, and I have to just react quickly with my feet and with my shots, as well. Then when I have the opportunity, go for it,’ Svitolina said about playing Williams.

Svitolina will also not be stunned by the pace of the ball coming to her like Wang was, because she has at least played Williams before – and beaten her, although Williams leads the overall head-to-head 3-1. Svitolina pushed Williams to three sets at the Australian Open in 2015, lost their next two matches in straight sets, and beat her 6-4, 6-3 at the Rio Olympics, a tournament that Williams was clearly not really fit to play.

‘Well, she is obviously a fighter. She gets a lot of balls back. She doesn't make a lot of mistakes. She's one of those players that does everything really well. So I have to do everything well, too,’ Williams said.

I wouldn’t read too much into that Rio victory for Svitolina, but I do think the Ukrainian can challenge the American because Svitolina’s biggest strength is that she can make Williams do the thing she hates having to do most – hit a lot of balls. I thought Wang would be able to do that, but she was really just taken out of the match by her lack of outright pace off the ground; that’s something Svitolina also suffers from, but she’s a lot better at finding ways to maximize her game. Svitolina comes into this match fit, focused and seemingly feeling ready to take down the best; I think she can keep the scoreline close and pose the toughest challenge to Williams she’s faced so far, but Williams will still ultimately be the one to go through to the US Open final.

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Serena vs Svitolina tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Williams could face toughest challenge so far in US Open semifinals

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