Everyone loves an underdog. Everyone loves a Cinderella story. It’s why so many rallied behind CiCi Bellis after the 15-year-old won a match as a wild card in the U.S. Open draw or why people got excited when 17-year-old Belinda Bencic upset three seeded players in her first U.S. Open before falling to Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-1 today.
But Peng, the doubles specialist with two-handed groundstrokes who ended Bencic’s run, is another exciting yet less talked about story at the Open this year. Although she’s played at Flushing Meadows nine times before, I don’t think anyone predicted the unseeded player would be one of the final four in this year’s tournament. Peng has never before won a WTA singles title nor has she made it past the fourth round of the U.S. Open, and yet she’s knocked off every opponent in this tournament in straight sets, most impressively no. 4 seed Aga Radwanska 6-3, 6-4.
While the finalist favorites are Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki, wouldn’t it be much more interesting if Peng continued her winning streak? Like many tennis fans I would love to see Serena take another Open title or watch Wozniacki win (especially after she was dumped in a three-minute phone call by fiance Rory McIlroyjust months before their wedding), however, it would also be thrilling to see a virtually unknown player capture the final grand slam of this season.
Peng will face either Sara Errani or Wozniacki in the semifinals. Wozniacki leads 2-1 versus Errani, but the two haven’t played since 2010. Wozniacki pulled an upset over no. 5 seed Maria Sharapova in the last round while Errani had some shaky performances against Venus Williams and unseeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Peng’s career record with Wozniacki is 1-5 and with Errani, 3-3.
Can Peng pull off another win? In a tournament full of surprises anything is bound to happen.