Tennis: Another brilliantly crazy story at a crazy Open

Coco Vandeweghe has beaten the reigning French Open champion and No. 7 seed Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-0.
Coco Vandeweghe has beaten the reigning French Open champion and No. 7 seed Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-0.PHOTO: EPA

MELBOURNE - Coco Vandeweghe has the name of an aristocrat and the risky spirit of a snowboarder. She must have failed maths as a kid because percentages are not her style. She draws her forehand back like a cocked trigger and then just fires. This Australian Open, everything has been going in.

On a sun-drenched, wind-swept afternoon on Rod Laver Arena the powerful world No. 35 hit 31 winners to her rival's 14 and finds herself in her first Grand Slam semi-finals. She'd just beaten the reigning French Open champion and No. 7 seed Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-0 and she insisted "I wasn't feeling great out there". God help us when she does.

Vandeweghe's mother swam for the United States at the Olympics, her grandfather was a New York Knick and so maybe she understands the virtue of grabbing your moment. This Open she has. She has defeated the No. 15 Roberta Vinci, fended off Eugenie Bouchard and toppled the world No. 1 Angie Kerber. Not bad for a player whose best at this Open was a third round.

Vandeweghe is 185cm and is fun to watch because she's built of aggressive bones. Her average first-serve speed was 18kmh faster than Muguruza's, her forehand is beastly, her backhand slice slithers and she has a doubles player's sharp volley. All of this came into play in the game that tilted the match.

At 3-3 in the first set, Muguruza was broken in a game that took 18 points and six deuces, included two game points for the Spaniard and five break points for the American, and involved a drop-volley winner, a big forehand return, a backhand cross-court winner, all from Vandeweghe.

One player almost had to fold and it was Muguruza with a double fault. She would win only one more game in the match.

"I was surprised," said the Spaniard. "I think she played unbelievable."

As a reward, Vandeweghe gets to play Venus Williams. They are 11 years and seven Grand Slam titles apart. As a kid, Vandeweghe chased Venus for her autograph and eventually got it and now, to be playing her, in a Grand Slam semi-final, is, well "kind of crazy". Which is precisely what this Open continues to be.

rohitb@sph.com.sg