Wednesday, September 6, 2017

CoCo upsets No. 1 Pliskova; it's all-U.S. semis

CoCo Vandeweghe reacts during the recent Bank of
the West Classic final at Stanford. Photo by Mal Taam
   Not long ago, pundits were lamenting the state of U.S. women's tennis after Serena Williams.
   Venus Williams went into a tailspin after being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, a chronic disease that saps energy and causes joint pain, in 2011.
   Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys slumped after reaching the Australian Open semifinals at 19 in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
   CoCo Vandeweghe was volatile and erratic.
   As it turns out, U.S. women's tennis is doing just fine.
   Vandeweghe and Keys, who met in the Bank of the West Classic final at Stanford last month, completed an all-American semifinals with straight-set victories today in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The 20th-seeded Vandeweghe upset top-ranked Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (4), 6-3, and the 15th-seeded Keys dominated qualifier Kaia Kanepi, a former top-15 player from Estonia, 6-3, 6-3.
   Ninth-seeded Venus Williams will face Stephens, a Fresno product, on Thursday at 4 p.m. PDT (ESPN), followed by Keys against Vandeweghe.
   Stephens defeated Williams 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the first round of the 2015 French Open in their only meeting to date. Keys is 2-0 against Vandeweghe, and both matches have come in the last five weeks on hardcourts.
   This is the first time four American women have reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon in 1985 (Chris Evert, Czech-born Martina Navratilova, Zina Garrison and Kathy Rinaldi) and the first time it has happened in the U.S. Open since 1981 (Evert, Navratilova, Tracy Austin and Barbara Potter).
   It's also the first time an American woman other than Serena Williams will capture a Grand Slam singles title since Venus Williams won Wimbledon in 2008. The last U.S. woman other than Venus or Serena Williams to win a major singles crown was Jennifer Capriati at the 2002 Australian Open.
   Serena Williams delivered her first child on Friday. She and her fiance, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, reportedly will move to San Francisco, where the social news website is based, after the wedding.
   The distant future looks bright for U.S. women's tennis, too, with promising teenagers CiCi Bellis (18) from Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sofia Kenin (18), Kayla Day (17), Claire Liu (17), Amanda Anisimova (15) and Cori Gauff (13).
   Vandeweghe, 25, defeated the No. 1 player en route to a Grand Slam semifinal for the second time this year. She knocked off Angelique Kerber in the round of 16 at the Australian Open.
   The loss by Pliskova, last year's runner-up to Kerber at Flushing Meadows, means Garbine Muguruza will ascend to No. 1 for the first time.
   Keys defeated Vandeweghe 7-6 (4), 6-4 for the Stanford title. Vandeweghe also was the runner-up in the 2012 Bank of the West Classic. She lost to Serena Williams after entering the main draw as a lucky loser.
   Pliskova reached the 2015 final at Stanford, falling to Kerber.
   Vandeweghe won the U.S. Open girls singles title at 16 in 2008 and played for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis in 2009 and 2012.
   Venus Williams made her pro debut in the 1994 Bank of the West Classic, when it was held at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, and won the title at Stanford in 2000 and 2002.
   Today's junior matches were postponed by rain until tomorrow. One boy and one girl from Northern California have advanced to the third round in singles.
   Sam Riffice, an 18-year-old Sacramento native now based in Orlando, Fla., will meet Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland. And Katie Volynets, 15, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area will play Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia.

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