It is semifinal Saturday here at the inaugural ATX Open and have you seen the lineup? We sure hope so. In the singles draw are four players who have never faced their semifinal opponent. With no experience or history to go on, these first-time matchups will be an exercise in real time problem solving. That spells extra delight for the fans. Unlike the singles draw, the top doubles seeds are still in the mix. In fact, the top three seeds will all be in action on a jam-packed Stadium Court line up.
In the second match on Stadium, Danielle Collins takes on Marta Kostyuk for a spot in Sunday’s final. Collins is looking for her fourth career final and the 20-year-old Kostyuk, her first. In the years the two have been on tour together, they have never met. Ask either of them, and they will tell you that the key to their success is staying aggressive and going after their shots. That raises some obvious questions. What happens when you put two aggressive ball strikers on the same court in an Austin semifinal? Who will back down first? Who will out-impose the other? Will we see a single dropshot? With a season-first final on the line for both players, we cannot wait to see the answer to these questions unfold. Where will you be?
SLIPPERS AND SURPRISES
The second match will feature two players who, for all intents and purposes, should not be here. But we love a Cinderella story. When 22-year-old Varvara Gracheva drew the No.1 seed in her first match, very few…least of all Varya herself, expected she would be among the final four. Add a grand slam champion in Sloane Stephens to her quarter of the draw, and those (perceived) hopes plunged even further. Well, here she is surprising her way into the second WTA semi of her career. On the other side of the net, stands 21-year-old Katie Volynets. Katie rattled off seven straight games to climb out of a 0-5 hole in her second round match. That is so rare, it might as well be a fairytale. And yet, here she is, in the first semifinal of her young career. Bottom line? Both players are surprise semifinalists, and one of them will play for the inaugural ATX Open trophy…which ironically is made of glass and a ball. Volynets and Gracheva have never faced off and will both need to resist any temptation to feel prematurely satisfied by their runs so far. These are the stories we read about and now get to see.