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US Open Women's Semifinal Previews: Ons Jabeur vs. Caroline Garcia; Iga Swiatek vs. Aryna Sabalenka
The world No. 1—and winner of two Roland Garros titles—is joined by a trio of players eager to taste their first major victory.
Published Sep 08, 2022
Ons Jabeur vs. Caroline Garcia
“We go way back, from juniors,” Jabeur says of her semifinal opponent. “Honestly, I’m happy for her that’s she back where she belongs.”
That’s not all the Tunisian and the Frenchwoman share. They’re both 28; Garcia’s current coach, Bertrand Perret, used to be Jabeur’s coach; and both women have spent their share of years not quite living up to their sky-high potential. Now, after 10 years on tour, they’re in their first US Open semifinal together, so they must be doing something right.
“It’s great to see players, we’ve been growing up together,” Garcia says of Jabeur. “With a bunch of other ones as well. It’s nice to see that, yeah, we made it to the top and we keep improving.”
Jabeur began her move to the top first, and it nearly took her to a Wimbledon title two months ago. She’s done a good job bouncing back from what must have been a gutting three-set loss to Elena Rybakina in the final. She lost a set to Shelby Rogers in the third round in New York, but she looked sharp, and seemed to have her confidence back, against Ajla Tomljanovic on Tuesday.
Garcia was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 2017, but her current ascent has been meteoric. Even after winning two tournaments in two months, she still had to qualify for Cincinnati—which she also went on to win. If anything, she has only sharpened her attack in New York; even speedy Coco Gauff was overmatched by the Garcia onslaught in the quarters.
“I know she plays really aggressive, and a tough game,” Jabeur says of Garcia. “So whoever is going to be able to impose her game is going to be in better form. So I will try to play my game. I will try to be me.”
Jabeur has won both of their previous matches, and is ranked 12 spots higher. Against Tomljanovic, Jabeur also faced a hot-hitting player, and she had no trouble trading heavy ground strokes with her. Jabeur has a (well-earned) reputation as a finesse artist, but she can also bring the power from the baseline. Perhaps the biggest question is whether Jabeur will have time to create her drop-shot magic against Garcia, who basically gave Gauff no time to do anything.
Unlike Garcia, Jabeur has made it this far at a major before, and she might be the only person who can throw the Frenchwoman off her rhythm at the moment. But Garcia has won 11 straight matches (counting qualifying in Cincy), and she has the game to make it No. 12. Winner: Garcia
Iga Swiatek vs. Aryna Sabalenka
If you’ve faced Swiatek a lot in 2022, you’ve probably lost to her a lot. That’s true for Sabalenka, who has played the world No. 1 three times this year, and hasn’t won more than three games in any set.
“She’s moving well, hitting the ball really well, serving well,” Sabalenka says. “She’s a tough opponent.”
To be fair, those three meetings came when Swiatek was in top, 37-match-win-streak form, and Sabalenka was still trying to find her range after a stuttering start to the year. Considering that this match is a Grand Slam semifinal, it’s fair to say they’re both playing well.
How can Sabalenka turn things around? The theory is that if you can hit hard enough into Swiatek’s long, clay-friendly, Western-grip forehand, you can rush her on this surface and force her into errors. Jessica Pegula had some success with that tactic in the quarterfinals, and Sabalenka can hit a bigger ball than the American.
In truth, Sabalenka’s best hope is simply that her level is higher here than it was earlier in the season. After wins over Kaia Kanepi, Danielle Collins and Karolina Pliskova, it certainly seems to be. But Pegula also raised her game against Swiatek, to the highest it has been at the Open, and the farthest it got her was a tiebreaker. Winner: Swiatek