2018 US Open
(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Ricky Keeler

The 2018 US Open has reached the semifinal stage of the tournament. Which players will advance to this weekend’s championship matches?

At the quarterfinals of the 2018 US Open, there were more great moments and matches. On the men’s side, we had two matches that went the distance, including one match that ended at 2 a.m that involved the defending champ, (1) Rafael Nadal.

On the women’s side, there was one upset as (3) Sloane Stephens won’t be repeating this year after she lost in the quarterfinals. Despite Stephens’ loss, there are still two American women left in the draw.

Starting Thursday night, the semifinals will take place with the women playing on Thursday and the men will play on Friday. While Super Saturday no longer exists at the US Open, this round should provide a lot of drama with the heat and humidity maybe not playing as much of a factor other than Thursday night.

With that being said, let’s take a look at who I think will win all four semifinals matchups, starting with the women’s side.

(19) Anastasija Sevastova vs. (17) Serena Williams – Thursday (7 p.m ET, ESPN)

This is an interesting matchup because coming into this semifinal, these two women have never faced each other on the WTA Tour. Sevastova had a straight-set win over defending champion, (3) Sloane Stephens, in the quarterfinals as the Latvian finally reached her first semifinal.

When you watch Sevastova play, she has a unique variety to her game and she likes to implement the drop shot. In the match against Stephens, she didn’t go to the net that often, but she was 11 of the 12 points where she went forward.

Something to keep an eye on this match is Serena’s serve against the return of Sevastova. Sevastova has the most receiving points on a first serve of any player in the tournament. As for Serena, her serve has been dominant in this tournament as she has 60 aces (31 more than the next female opponent).

It is good to see Sevastova reach the semifinals for the first time in a Slam and she could frustrate Serena in the early portion of the match if she mixes up her shots. However, Serena should get the win here in straight sets and she will get back to the US Open final on Saturday.

(20) Naomi Osaka vs. (14) Madison Keys – Thursday

If you like watching power tennis, then this match is the one for you on Thursday night. While neither player has a top 10 seed, both players are younger than 25, so this is a matchup we could see late in majors for years to come.

Osaka had no problems in her quarterfinal match against Lesia Tsurenko, which she won 6-1, 6-1. The 20-year-old only made 11 errors for the entire match and she only lost two points on her first serve (20-for-22). Plus, spending less than an hour on the court on Wednesday could help her with only a one-day turnaround.

As for Keys, she has played well with the pressure on her after making the final last season. She made a lot of unforced errors in her quarterfinal against (30) Carla Suarez Navarro. However, her serve has been one of the best in the tournament and she has won more second serve points than any player in the tournament (78).

Keys has defeated Osaka in each of their three head-to-head meetings. With that being said, Osaka’s best chance to beat her was in the third round of the 2016 US Open. Osaka had a 5-1 lead in the third set, but Keys found a way to rally and she won the set in the tiebreak.

The major key in this matchup is going to be who handles their nerves well in this match. It is very close, but the home crowd is going to push Keys to a win in three sets.

(3) Juan del Potro vs. (1) Rafael Nadal – Friday 

Out of the four matches that are being played over the next two days, this is my favorite watch and a must-see for any sports fan. These two have given us classic matches over the years and played a great five-setter in the Wimbledon quarterfinals (Nadal was the winner).

For Nadal, that quarterfinal match against Dominic Thiem brought out his competitiveness. He only won seven points in the first set, but still kept fighting on every point and was able to take the crucial points when it mattered.

One thing we saw Nadal do more in the Thiem match than usual was he went to the net more. He was 36-for-54 on net points and he was able to adjust his game as the match went on. Of course, you will also notice that he will play well behind the baseline to try to get the del Potro serve back in play.

As for del Potro, he was able to beat American John Isner in four sets and he was also successful at the net (20-for-22). The Argentine is going to try to end the points quicker while Nadal thrives on the longer rallies. If del Potro can duplicate the 89 percent of first serve points won from his match against Isner, he has a great chance to win.

Both of these players spent a long time on the court on Tuesday in the hot and humid conditions. So, the two days off should do great for both of these guys. Nadal has played two matches of over four hours, so how much does he have left in the tank? With that being said, expect a five-set match, but Nadal finds a way.

However, don’t be surprised if del Potro’s forehand gets him back into the final for the first time since 2009 (beat Nadal in the semis).

(21) Kei Nishikori vs. (6) Novak Djokovic – Friday

It has been great to see Nishikori back in the semifinals at a Grand Slam. He missed last year’s US Open because of a wrist injury and he was able to win a close five-set match against (7) Marin Cilic in a rematch of the 2014 final that Cilic won.

Nishikori isn’t one of the top servers in the game. However, his 124 return points on a first serve are better than anyone in this tournament. The key for him is going to be to get into long rallies and use his backhand, which is his stronger groundstroke.

Despite this success, Nishikori has a tall order ahead of him against Djokovic, who he is 2-14 against in his career (defeated Djokovic in the 2014 US Open semifinals). Djokovic is on his A game at the right time and he avoided having to play Federer in the quarterfinals.

If Nishikori is going to win this match, he needs to replicate 2014 in that if he gets a break point chance, he has to take advantage of it. In that match, he was 9-for-13 on break opportunities. Another thing in his favor is that he is 18-6 in five-set matches in his career.

With that being said, this is a match that Djokovic should win in four sets. He will be challenged by Nishikori more than how he has been challenged in the last three matches. The two-time champ gets back to the final to face Nadal.

I graduated from St. John's University with a degree in sports management. I previously wrote about the Johnnies at Rumble In the Garden.