You can never be quite sure how I will react to a Serena loss, there are many levels of analysis my mind goes through. Dissect the what-ifs, replay points over in my head or key moments, ask myself did Serena do what she could? How come she hasn’t won a point since the commentators said that? You know those kinds of things. I am one of life’s great thinkers. My mind may change in the coming days but very rarely do I move away from my initial gut reaction. There have been times where defeats have left me broken and I probably haven’t always been the most pleasant person to be around. This is not one of those occasions. Winning was everything and ultimately still is, but age and mainly fatherhood have made me realise you need to put things into even greater perspective than before.
This defeat doesn’t feel like the ones against Osaka, Andreescu, Halep, Kerber, Kenin, Pliskova and certainly not Qiang Wang. You didn’t feel that with any of these losses she had done herself justice. Yes, we lost last night but it took an absolutely brilliant performance from Vika to get the win. That is no exaggeration. Yes, you can also say Rena tired as the match progressed but we knew coming into the semi-final she had played a lot of tennis in New York. From Sloane, in the third round, she has gone the distance each time and we knew that it may take its toll. It may be another big chance gone but there is enough there to think we are still very close. Time might be running out but it isn’t up quite yet.
The intensity and standard of the match were unsurprisingly fitting of a final. Rena came out on absolute fire, smothering Vika and giving her no time or rhythm to extend the rallies. It was sublime. A missed backhand at breakpoint in the second to go up a break was as close as we got to extending the lead, but Azarenka was always going to be in the match at some stage. To keep that level up would have been astounding but it proves that the level is still there. Sometimes you have to give credit to an opponent for the way they played and acknowledge you weren’t quite good enough on the day. That was the case for me last night. Vika only committed one unforced error all set in the second yesterday and she was going after it. Insane.
The first semi-final of the evening saw Naomi Osaka beat Jennifer Brady in another exceptionally high-quality match. You would never have thought this was Brady’s first appearance in the last four of a major as she went toe-to-toe with Osaka. Naomi just finds a way through these though and held on after getting her only break of the match in the decider. Once again there was some consistently big-hitting here as you would expect.
The final promises to be a cracker with the two form players going at it. I just have a sneaky feeling Vika will take it. For once I will be able to watch the showpiece in New York impartially and think of what may have been.
Andy Del Potro