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Sara Errani vs. Serena Williams – US Open semifinal preview

Today at the US Open is a day of relaxation for women's singles, but a perfect occasion for us to collect our thoughts about the upcoming semifinals. Our contributor Omair is once again up for the challenge, previewing the clash of Sara Errani and Serena Williams. Will Serena continue to brush her opponents aside? Let's see what the stats are saying.

Serena Williams, reigning Wimbledon champion and reigning Olympic gold medalist, will face Sara Errani, reigning Roland Garros runner-up, for a spot in the 2012 US Open final. This promises to be a great match, given the contrasting styles of players. As the only semifinalist yet to win a Grand Slam title, Errani will face an uphill battle against Williams on her home court.

*Read Omair's preview of the 2012 US Open semifinal between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova*

The three-time US Open champion Williams is the only semifinalist who is yet to lose a set, actually, she has lost at most four games in a set so far in the tournament, and that happened only in two of the ten sets. She has lost the fewest games of the semifinalists, just 16!

Let's have a look at the average stats of Errani and Williams in their five matches leading up to the 2012 US Open semis:

The tenth-seeded Errani will have to play the match of her life if she is to beat Williams for the first time. Williams has beaten Errani in all their three prior encounters, however, Errani was never ranked in the Top 30, let alone the Top 10, in those losses.

The Italian is the only player who has hit no aces during the tournament. Her serve is not very powerful, but she makes it up with good placement. Serena has served well during her last five matches, but we all know an off day for Serena comes out of nowhere. She will have to keep her serve intact. Errani has served 25% better than Serena, but Serena made it up by winning 20% more points on her first serve.

Errani has won 48% points when returning the first serve of her opponents, which is only 2% less than Serena, and has won 64% points when returning the second serve, which is 2% more than her semifinal opponent. Errani will have to take every chance, whenever she has a look at the second serve, while Serena will have to try not to give Errani too many looks at the second serve.

Errani has been efficient in net play, winning 81% of such points, 20% more than Serena. Therefore, Errani should try to move Serena towards the net. Serena has the fire power to blow Errani off the court, but Errani will try to use tactics, angles, change of pace, spin and everything in her arsenal to counter Serena's power and stand toe to toe with her.

The fourth-seeded Serena has been playing very clean matches. She has a winners–unforced errors differential of +13, while Errani stands at zero. Errani will have to keep her unforced errors to the minimum, while being aggressive, trying to hit past Serena (though I doubt that she will).

This has been a breakthrough year for Errani, with the final of Roland Garros and now the semifinals of the US Open. She has become the first Italian in the Open Era to make it to the US Open semifinals.

Williams is hungry for another Grand Slam, and she will be at her full power from the start, and I doubt Errani will have enough in her to move past the mountain.

My pick: Serena Williams is straight sets. Who's your favorite in this match-up? (photos: © Neal Trousdale)

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