The end of the tennis calendar year is rapidly approaching.
In these final days of competition at the 2016 U.S. Open, everything else—the results of Wimbledon, the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, or the 2016 Rio Olympic tournaments—is put aside as the best of the best compete for a spot in the finals in the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year.
Following some major upsets and heartbreak during the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the women’s and men’s singles tournament, we finally have our final match-ups.
Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic will take on German Angelique Kerber at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 10 and Stan Wawrinka will compete against Novak Djokovic in the men’s final at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 11th.
There is no such thing as a “sure thing” in any sport, but that has been especially true of this year’s U.S. Open brackets.
Andy Murray, currently ranked No. 2 in the world and a three-time Grand Slam title winner, won Wimbledon in July but wasn’t able to hold of Kei Nishikori of Japan during Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
The tournament’s number one seed Serena Williams, who almost didn’t make it out of her quarterfinal match against Simona Halep, suffered an unexpected defeat Thursday night to 10th seed Karolina Pliskova, who served ace after ace to beat Williams 6-2, 7-6(5) and earn entry into her first-ever major final.
Throughout the tournament, Pliskova has overpowered players, eliminating Venus Williams in the fourth round and leading the tour in aces this year. Last night she dominated Williams, hitting a total of 27 unreturned serves, seven of which were aces.
“I don’t think much went well today,” a stunned Williams told reporters after the match. “I made a lot of errors. I didn’t play as well as I’ve been playing.”
After the game, Williams’ Coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told reporters that it was one of her worst matches, period. “I don’t remember having seen her move so slowly ever,” he said. “As soon as she started, it was terrible.”
But not only did Pliskova dominate Williams in their semifinal matchup on Thursday, but Angelique Kerber stole the 34-year-old’s spotlight by becoming the number one ranked tennis player in the world on Thursday night.
While the rankings won’t be official until next week, Kerber is already getting used to her new title: “To be number one in the world sounds amazing,” said second seed Kerber after her match. “For me it’s amazing to be, after Steffi [Graf], the number one player from Germany.”
With her win over former world number one player Carolina Wozniacki, Kerber also became the first German singles player to reach the final round of the U.S. Open since Graf in 1996.
Kerber’s continuation of Graf’s legacy must have hit Williams hard: had Serena won the Open she would have earned her 23rd Grand Slam title—a new record which would surpass Steffi Graf’s 22 titles to earn her the title for most major wins by a tennis player (male or female) in the Open Era (which began in 1968).
But things went as planned on Friday in the men’s singles semifinals, for the most part. Wawrinka beat Nishikori and Djokovic beat Gaël Monfils to advance to the finals, as expected.
Djokovic was the obvious favorite, coming in as the defending champion, having won the U.S. Open in 2015 (and back in 2011). The Serbian player also hadn’t lost a single match in any of the 12 matches he played against Monfils previously.
While Monfils won three games in the first set by slicing the ball back across the net in a manner commentators deemed “unprofessional,” he did not succeed in upsetting the number one seed.
Later, in the beginning of the third set, John McEnroe, one of the commentators, described the afternoon’s match as “one of the greatest lack-of-effort matches in a semifinal of a major that I’ve ever seen.”
But Monfils began to come back in the third set, winning back the favor of the crowd who had grown tired of his less-than-impressive performance in the first two sets. He ultimately fell to Djokovic after four sets, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
The only real doubts about Djokovic before his matchup against Monfils had come from his subpar performance in the 2016 Rio Olympics. In Brazil, the 29-year-old player lost in the first round of the men’s singles tournament, describing the defeat as “one of the toughest losses in my career.” His opponent, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, went on to earn the silver medal after beating Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
And while unseeded in the Open, del Potro continued the comeback performance he exhibited in Rio.
But after a long, grueling match on Wednesday night, Wawrinka— who sat out the Olympics due to a back injury— put a stop to the Argentine’s fairytale winning streak.
Wawrinka went on to beat Nishikori (who upset Andy Murray in the quarterfinals) after four sets in Friday’s match, securing a spot in the final Sunday afternoon.
The match was longer than some anticipated, but in the end the “Stan the Man” came out on top. The final score was 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, with Wawrinka making it through to his first-ever U.S. Open final.
The number three seed in the tournament, Wawrinka seems to be in a good rhythm for the U.S. Open final against Djokovic, but who knows what will happen in the closing matches of the 2016 U.S. Open tournament.
The 2016 U.S. Open Tennis Schedule:
Women’s singles final: No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber v. No. 10 seed Pliskova
4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 10
Men’s singles final: No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic v. No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka
4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 11th.
How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Open Tournament Live Stream (and for Free):
Tickets to the US Open can also be purchased at USOpen.org.