Simona Halep vs. Flavia Pennetta
Simona Halep is the #2 seed who entered the US Open with some momentum due to back-to-back runner-up finishes in Toronto and Cincinnati. Halep is nowhere near the favorite that Serena Williams is in the first semifinal, but make no mistake Simona Halep is favored to win this match. Halep beat Sabine Lisicki despite health issues. She overcame a determined Victoria Azarenka as well. Halep is proving that she is worthy of her #2 ranking. Can she do what she is supposed to do on paper and beat Flavia Pennetta?
First: The Why Nots
Flavia Pennetta has spent less energy getting to the semifinal round than Simona. Flavia has also flown under the radar and has far less pressure than Simona does. Simona may not be 100% physically and is having to play her 3rd match in 4 days. Flavia has nothing to lose and a solid all-around game. Lisicki and Azarenka both had more pressure on themselves when facing Simona. Pennetta leads their head-to-head series 3-1, and this series includes a straight set 2013 victory at the US Open for Pennetta over Halep. Flavia is also a top 25 player who can seize the moment and reach for the brass ring in this match.
Second: The Whys
Simona Halep is an incredible mover and plays some of the most tenacious tennis in the world. Simona’s style of play lets her hit plenty of balls and work through any nerves or pressure that might be part of this match. Simona’s 3 losses to Pennetta all came before her great leap forward in 2014. Simona won their most recent match in straight sets this year in Miami. Over a long match, Simona’s consistency will likely breakdown Pennetta’s game. Finally, Pennetta’s serve is not big enough to allow the Italian to dictate play often enough. Pennetta will struggle in what is likely to be a war of attrition.
What I think Will Happen
I expect a lot of long points. I think so long as Simona is not spent from her previous two long matches she will eventually take control of this match and win in either two tight sets or pull away in the 3rd set after splitting the first two sets. Grinding players tend to play better when they have played a lot and Halep has played a lot this summer. Also, Halep cleared a mental hurdle in beating Lisicki when struggling with her leg. This all points to a big win for the Romanian.
My Prediction: Simona Halep d. Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 6-4, 6-2