By Michael Stafford-Jones
- Two terrific women’s quarter-finals on Day 10 of US Open 2016
- Serena Williams  vs Simona Halep 
- Karolina Pliskova  vs Ana Konjuh
NEW YORK, USA – Serena Williams faces Simona Halep in a titanic clash, while big-hitters Karolina Pliskova and Ana Konjuh do battle for a place in the semi-finals.
Serena Williams  v Simona Halep  H2H: 7-1
Are you ready for one of the biggest matches of this year’s US Open? Two of the main contenders for the women’s title go head to head on Arthur Ashe in the first match of the night session tomorrow and it could be amazing to watch.
Halep will have to be at her best though to make it a classic match. She has been in superb form recently, winning titles in Bucharest and Montreal to add to her Madrid title earlier in the season. She also produced a top-class display to beat tricky opponent Carla Suárez-Navarro 6-2 7-5 in round four. To beat Serena, the Romanian will have to take a leaf out of Angelique Kerber’s book and drag the American around the court so that she rarely gets a full swing at the ball. Halep should also watch the tape of her incredible victory 6-0 6-2 at the 2014 WTA Finals, which is still the only time she has beaten the world number one.
Serena will simply attempt to do to Halep what she does to so many other opponents: blow her away with her brilliant serve and ferocious groundstrokes. That is why it is Halep who has to try and dictate the pattern of the match. If the Romanian allows Serena to get on top, the American will dominate and it could be a much briefer encounter than many viewers around the world will be hoping to enjoy.
When all is said and done, the mostly likely outcome of this match is a win for Serena. She is in excellent form at US Open 2016 and has not dropped more than three games in any of the sets she has played so far. Given this statistic, Halep’s first task must be to make the world number one work hard for the first set. If the Romanian can do that or, better still, win the opening set, then it really will be game on and anything could happen from there.
Prediction: Serena in three sets
Karolina Pliskova  v Ana Konjuh – First Meeting
If you enjoy watching powerful, clean hitting, then this match is perfect. Both Pliskova and Konjuh have a terrific array of groundstrokes at their disposal and they have been showing them off to devastating effect so far at this year’s US Open.
Pliskova dispatched three opponents, including 17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, in straight sets to reach her first ever Grand Slam fourth round. Then she went one better and beat one of the game’s legends – 36-year-old Venus Williams – in an epic, high-quality match that will be remembered as one of the best matches of the tournament. So she will be full of confidence and will believe she has an excellent of making it to the semi-final.
However, her opponent Konjuh, who is just 18 years old, has an outside chance of becoming the youngest Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. That is still a long way off, but the Croatian has produced superb tennis at US Open 2016. She beat 20th seed Kiki Bertens 6-3 2-6 6-4 in an entertaining first-round clash, then took out 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 6-4 in round four. Consequently, her self-belief is likely to be at its highest-ever level. She is unlikely to fear Pliskova either as she has nothing to lose.
On the other hand, the Czech is expected to win, and that brings a different kind of pressure. She was ice-cool in the difficult moments against Venus, but if Konjuh starts well, Pliskova’s past Grand Slam struggles might start playing on her mind again. She must make this does not happen. If Pliskova plays well, her serve is arguably the second most potent on tour behind Serena’s, and her forehand was spectacular at times against Venus and is a formidable weapon.
Konjuh is strong on both forehand and backhand though, and possesses an excellent serve which she executed brilliantly against Radwanska. This promises to be a fascinating encounter. If both women play well, it is likely to go to three sets.
Prediction: Pliskova in three sets
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