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Wozniacki storms into semis

By Neil Schlecht
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: Caroline Wozniacki, one of just two Top 10 seeds left in the draw (the other is Serena Williams), sailed into the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing of the underpowered 13th seed Sara Errani of Italy. With a chance to reach her second US Open final, the 24-year-old Dane, the 10th seed, advances to play the unexpected, unseeded semifinalist Peng Shuai.

Coming off a confident upset of the fifth seed Maria Sharapova, Wozniacki streaked to a 6-0 first set in just 29 minutes. With the winds swirling inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, it appeared that the Dane was in a hurry to get off court ahead of an incoming storm system – even though nearly every point was a protracted rally of eight or more shots.

“I knew it was going to be really tricky with the wind, but I served really well,” said Wozniacki.

Wozniacki and Errani, two of the game’s best retrievers, had split their two previous tour meetings. But the former world No. 1 thoroughly dominated this encounter, striking 26 winners and committing just 10 unforced errors.

To take a commanding 5-1 lead in the second set, Wozniacki ran the length of the court to retrieve a dipping short ball and crush a running backhand down the line for a winner.  

Wozniacki has worked hard in the last 12 months to generate more offense in her game, and Errani has perhaps the most attackable serve among the elite women. Notably, Wozniacki has beefed up her serve and looked to hit her forehand more aggressively, stepping inside the baseline and looking to end, rather than merely extend, points.

“It means so much to me,” said Wozniacki about returning to the US Open semifinals for the first time since 2011. “It’s been kind of an up-and-down year for me. Definitely, the hard work pays off.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Wozniacki’s last Grand Slam semifinal appearance was here in 2011, and her last quarterfinal was at the 2012 Australian Open. She has won 22 tour titles in her career, but her best performance in a Slam was reaching the final of the 2009 US Open. Wozniacki holds a 5-1 career advantage over Peng, her next opponent.

This quarterfinal showing this year marks the second time Errani has advanced to this stage in Flushing Meadows; she reached the semis in 2012. Her best Slam showing remains reaching the final at the 2012 French Open.

THE QUESTION: Wozniacki’s woes in Slams have usually come against big-hitting opponents. Are the improvements in her game – a better serve, more aggressive court positioning and forehand – enough to carry her to a Slam championship?