The field at the Western & Southern Open is now down to the final two. Our reporter Karen Helf was right there to follow the semifinal action and give us a detailed account of the matches. Our photographer Omar Boraby was also there and he has already posted his Saturday’s gallery featuring semifinalists Serena Williams, Elina Svitolina, Jelena Jankovic and Simona Halep. Enjoy Karen’s report from Cincinnati!
Saturday is a San Diego like day and I feel right at home. During the morning session I attended the men’s semis, which did not disappoint.
Fan Etiquette – During the men’s opening match, umpire Carlos Bernardes called out chatty fans on mic stating, “Please you are disturbing the whole match. People are her to watch tennis, not listen to you.” The big screen identified the offenders and the crowd erupted with applause. Be warned fans, mind your manners with silence during play.
This evening two former Western & Southern Open champions take on younger players in the semis deciding the final two. Serena Williams versus Elina Svitolina and Jelena Jankovic versus Simona Halep.
First up Williams played Svitolina.
In the first set, Svitolina started well finding the lines, breaking Serena and holding serve to go up 0-2. Serena made an early racquet change.
Her next service game did not come easy, but she held even with a lost challenge, deuce and inconsistent serves ranging 79-113MPH. With the score at 1-2, she began playing more aggressive, blasting returns and stepping in.
Svitolina held serve again to go up 1-3 hitting an ace at 100MPH and a pace changing serve of 64MPH which Serena returned in the net. The crowd engaged, “Come on Serena.”
Serena went on to take the next three games to 4-3. She was applying more pressure and stepping into her groundstrokes. She hit four aces finding the 120MPH range. The crowd responded. Her games were also more vocal.
Svitolina’s next service game was long, with both players making shots and errors. Svitolina found an effective crosscourt angle to 30-40. Serena hit a decisive shot deep to the corner, but Svitolina came up with a winner.
There was an exchange of trick shots and finally Serena hit long. Advantage went to Svitolina, who next found the line and 4-4.
Back on serve, Serena held delivering slower serves, including a second serve at 65MPH. She had help from Svitolina who was hitting with more power, but her shots found the net and sailed long to 5-4.
Serena went on attacking Svitolina’s serve, taking all points in the final game, 6-4. Serena had the momentum.
The second set took 39 minutes. While Serena’s second service game was difficult with four deuce points, she also had a 121MPH ace and held celebrating loudly. Pumping herself up, she took the break early to 3-1. She was serving more frequently in the 110-117MPH range than the first set.
Svitolina was hitting low hard shots, but with not enough consistency. Serena then gave away the break to 3-2. It was a rare combination of two aces, 105 & 124MPH, followed by three double faults.
The next two games went quickly to Serena now up 5-2. Svitolina held on to her service game avoiding deuce when Serena netted to 5-3. With Serena now serving for the match, she was efficient dropping no points and finishing with a 116MPH ace, 6-4, 6-3.
Post match, Serena spoke to concerns about the state of her serve. She acknowledged that since the French Open she has been plagued by injuries which have interrupted her serve practice hence the rust.
This was an apropos reminder that success comes from hard work. It is never a given for anyone no matter the record. She also stated she stays confident knowing her weapon of great returns is solid.
Next up #3 played #25. Jelena may have had an advantage if she could get Simona on the run.
With Jelena serving first, Halep immediately broke her. Simona gave back the break hitting wide and double-faulting to 1-1. From that point on Simona stepped up her game taking the next 5 games despite delivering significantly slower serves.
Halep had the only ace of the set. Jelena fought to hold off set point extending her game deuce a few times and fourteen points, but Halep eventually closed, 6-1.
I missed the start of set two, attending Serena’s press conference. I returned to find Halep already up a break at 3-2. Jelena hit line and overhead winners in her next service game which was twelve points long. But Halep held strong breaking to 4-2.
Halep’s next service game was clean, except for a double. Lady Luck arrived with the ball catching the net to land on Jelena’s side at game point, 5-2.
The final game began with the crowd chatting Simona! Simona! as fireworks lit the sky from a nearby amusement park. Simona captured the game and match allowing Jelena only two points. Final, 6-1, 6-2.
Simona and Serena will square off again in the Western & Southern Open women’s singles final following the men, not before 3PM. While Serena owns their head-to-head record, every day brings new opportunity for both.