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Ashleigh Barty, of Australia, returns to Maria Sakkari, of Greece, during the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Ashleigh Barty, of Australia, returns to Maria Sakkari, of Greece, during the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)|Associated Press
Tennis

Western & Southern Saturday women's semis: Abrams picks Ash Barty vs Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sofia Kenin vs Madison Keys

Matches set for 11 am and 3 pm EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Western and Southern Open

Cincinnati, OH

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Women’s Saturday Semifinal picks

Ash Barty over Svetlana Kuznetsova

We are all fortunate that Svetlana Kuznetsova is back. She is such a great tennis personality and such a gifted player that she was sorely missed on the Tour, and was missed by the international tennis family, too. But after her run this week, the 34-year-old Russian looks like she’s gonna be around for a little while longer, much to the delight of all of her fans. This week she had a terrific run, taking out Anastasija Sevastova, Dayana Yastremska, Sloane Stephens, and just yesterday, #3 ranked Karolina Pliskova. Her groundies look like the ones we’ve come to expect from her—strong, deep, and consistent. And her resolve seems to be as acute as it always was. Winning a second set tiebreaker from Pliskova, and then romping to a 6-3 third set victory should give her a big shot of confidence going into this semifinal matchup against world #2, Ash Barty. Barty has not played particularly well this week. She has gotten by matches by sheer force of will, competing with the viciousness that we’ve come to expect from the mild-mannered young warrior from Down Under. Based on what I’ve seen from these two this week, I’d say that Kuzy is playing better tennis, but I’ve gotta believe that she’s just a little bit soft from her extended layoff. Therefore, I expect Barty to prevail, not because she’s playing better than Svetlana, but because she’s just too tough right now.

Sofia Kenin over Madison Keys

Madison Keys rolled over Venus Williams in straight sets to march into the semis here, but her signature win was in the Round of 16 over Simona Halep, where she prevailed 7-5 in the third. In that match she hit out without fear, and served with authority and confidence. If she can continue to play like that she will be a contender for not only the U.S.Open title, but any tournament she enters. Unfortunately, Keys has a habit of tightening up and spraying balls, particularly when she’s playing opponents she is favored to beat. Additionally, she has a habit of double faulting and serving poorly when her serve is most needed, so I’d like to see her break those habits before I become convinced she’s a different player. She’s physically the best, or one of the best, on Tour, but her results are more a function of how her head gets in her way. Sofia Kenin, on the other hand, is hot and getting hotter by the minute. She added Naomi Osaka’s scalp to her list of top players she’s beaten this year by taking out the top-ranked Osaka in the quarters. Kenin’s results keep getting better, and although she probably won’t be seeded in Flushing Meadows, she will be a very dangerous floater, and she’s already shown that she can beat anyone. In this match, I like Kenin, because I think she’s more predictable. If Keys plays like she’s capable of, she’ll win. But it’s hard to think that she’ll do that, and Kenin’s average play is better than Keys’ average play. This should be a good one, but I’m in Kenin’s corner.

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