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Tale of the tape: US Open womenŠ—Ès semi-finals

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Originally published on 05/09/14

Caroline Wozniacki v Peng Shuai
Not before 1.45pm EST / 6.45pm UK; Wozniacki leads the head-to-head 5-1

Seven years have passed since a 17-year-old Wozniacki was bagelled during her three-set defeat by Peng in Toronto. Since then, the Dane has been world No.1 and reached the final of the US Open, and also fallen away from the sharp end of the women’s rankings.

But the summer of 2014 has sparked a resurgence from Wozniacki. Her decision to run the New York Marathon in November has involved a shift in training that has boosted both her court coverage, as she proved to devastating effect against French Open champion Maria Sharapova, and confidence, on display as she destroyed Sara Errani.

“I'm definitely more experienced,” said the No.10 seed. “I know my game much better. I have been in these big matches before, and, you know, I think all the time I improve. I think everybody improves and wants to try and get better. Women's tennis keeps getting stronger. So, you know, I think I keep putting things onto my game.”

Peng’s run to the final four has been one of the feel-good narratives of the tournament. The former doubles world No.1 overcame serious heart surgery as a child to reach the professional ranks; now 28, she had never been beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam in 36 attempts but has reached the semis without dropping a set, including a second-round victory over Agnieszka Radwanska.

“It’s an amazing time for me,” an emotional Peng said after beating Belinda Bencic. “It’s a long time to play, a long time in my career. So many times I thought to give up, to stop playing. But my coach and my parents tell me to keep fighting, to keep playing and never give up, that this day would come.”

 

Serena Williams v Ekaterina Makarova
Not before 3.45pm EST / 8.45pm UK; Williams leads the head-to-head 3-1

Now just two matches from her 18th Grand Slam title, top seed Williams has not conceded more than three games in a set en route to her first Grand Slam semi-final of 2014.

The 32-year-old has been in ominous form to date, storming back from 3-0 down against Flavia Pennetta in the quarters to win 6-3 6-2, playing some of her best tennis of the season.

“It means a lot. It means legal to do some things!” Williams joked of the prospect of clocking up slam No.18. “It also means legendary. Legal and legendary. Nice age.”

With five quarter-final appearances to her name after reaching the last eight at the US Open for a second straight year, Makarova has emerged from a section of the draw that included Eugenie Bouchard and Victoria Azarenka – both beaten by the world No.18 en route to her first Grand Slam semi-final.

Williams has faced two left-handers already in New York, but Makarova has beaten the world No.1 at a major in the past – the Russian beat Williams at the 2012 Australian Open – and is keen to grasp her opportunity.

“I played quarter in Wimbledon and I really believed that at US Open I can do my best result. I felt that I'm ready. I'm feeling good my game, my mentally, you know, and believe in myself. I was feeling that I can do more than quarters.”

 

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