Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were two players who were struggling this summer. But the two former champions advanced Monday in straight sets in the heat over relatively stiff opposition to set up a super showdown Wednesday night in the US Open quarterfinals.
Top seed and tournament favorite Djokovic overwhelmed Phil Kohlschreiber 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 to reach his 22nd straight Grand Slam quarterfinal.
“I’m very glad obviously that I had so many consecutive quarterfinals of Grand Slams,” Djokovic said of the streak. “It says that I do value these tournaments the most and try to always perform my best tennis in them. Obviously motivates me for the future to continue that streak, of course.”
Djokovic acknowledged he did have to work a bit saving a set point in the second.
“If you won that point, won the second set, it’s pretty even,” he said. “So it’s a big point, and tried to get the crowd engaged. Not many matches I have played in the last five years on Armstrong Stadium, which was before Ashe the center court of US Open. A lot of history there. It’s a great court. So I tried to enjoy the experience.”
Murray followed with an equally impressive win over the hot-handed JW Tsonga. In fact arguably his best win since beating Djokovic in the Wimbledon final last year. Tsonga had beaten Murray a few weeks ago en route to his Toronto title, but the Scot took advantage of Tsonga’s inability to hold leads to advance to his 15th straight Slam quarter and earn his first top 10 win in over a year.
“Today was a good match for the most part,” said Murray. “I feel like I’m playing well. I’m going to have to play extremely well to win the event or even just to get through the next match…
“I’ll just try and take the confidence that I gained from a win like this into the next round, and hopefully put on another good performance.”
So the dream quarter is on. Djokovic leads Murray 12-8 winning four of their last five.
“He’s already has been Grand Slam champion, Wimbledon, US Open, Olympic Games,” Djokovic said of the Scot. “So he has a lot of success behind him and a lot of experience behind him. He knows how to play center court US Open where he played some great tennis and we had some great matches. You know, the last one was in finals in 2012 in five sets.”
I’ll have more on that match in the next day or so.
Also on this Labor Day, Stan Wawrinka toughed out Tommy Robredo 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2. Wawrinka has been a beast on hardcourt in Slam play reaching the SFs at the US Open last year and of course winning the Australian earlier this year. Today he was just the stronger, tougher guy in the end. He was the bully.
“I think there were a few moments in the match that made a big difference,” said Wawrinka. “Mentally I was really strong today. I was accepting the fact that I was really down physically in the third set, that I was struggling a lot with cramping and everything. But I wasn’t complaining about that. I stayed positive with that.
“Tried to find a solution how to relax mentally, how to be better, in better shape after and how to fight with him. To find a solution in the game, try to be a little bit more aggressive, try to start again to take my forehand back, not only playing backhand. A few little changes that made a big difference at the end of the match.”
In the late match I just stayed up for, Kei Nishikori edged Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 in a 4-hour, 20-minute that tied for the latest finish to a US Open match at 2:26am.
The oft-injured, frail Nishikori will now have to recover and reset his sleep cycle to play a fresh Stan Wawrinka under the baking sun Wednesday afternoon.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams won her 18th straight match at the US Open taking care of Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3. She’ll play former US Open semifinalist and Indian Wells champ Flavia Pennetta in the quarters Wednesday night. It’s Serena’s first Slam quarter of the season.
WTA dream girl Genie Bouchard succumbed to the heat and humidity in a 7-6(2), 6-4 loss to Russian Ekatarina Makarova.
“I was feeling very light headed and dizzy on the court,” the Wimbledon runner-up said. “You know, just seeing things a little blurry. You know, feeling well physically on the court is very important to me, so when I don’t feel that — I just generally didn’t feel good.”
In the quarters Wednesday afternoon Makarova will now face 2-time US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka who outlasted a very spirited effort from little-known qualifier Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Azarenka raced out to a break lead before Krunic ran off six of seven games to take the opening set. Azarenka got back on track and took the match, but Krunic never really went away fighting till the very end.
“I think she played exceptionally well today,” Azarenka said of the 21-year-old Krunic. “She gave a fight, and she wasn’t afraid to go big on the important moments. I was a little bit surprised that she’s not that tall, and she hits the ball and unleashes her forehand with so much power. So that was quite surprising. But, you know, I think she’s a young player. She has a good future if she keeps going this way.”
As for tomorrow…
Roger Federer v Roberto Bautista Agut
The Spaniard is a very good, underrated player, but I have to think Federer’s experience wins out here. Though this one could get very close, very tight.
A lot will hinge on Federer’s serving ability because I do think Bautista Agut will do damage to the Swiss off the ground. However RBA has never won a match this deep in a Slam.
The pick: Federer in 4
Dominic Thiem v Tomas Berdych
I’d love to see Thiem pull the upset but again experience wins out for Berdych. Plus the conditions are once again expected to be quite hot and the young 20-year-old Thiem has never played this much tennis in a single week, so perhaps some fatigue might set in.
That said, Berdych seems to be very beatable and the Austrian already has a lot in the arsenal.
The pick: Berdych in 3
Gilles Simon v Marin Cilic
Simon has never lost to Cilic in four previous meetings. But I think Cilic breaks that duck here. I just think Marin is playing better tennis and I like him in the heat more than Simon. Though the Frenchman did beat Marin in five under the very hot sun at the Australian this year, so what do I know?
The pick: Cilic in 5
Gael Monfils v Grigor Dimitrov
Maybe I’m bleary-eyed from watching this Raonic-Nishikori finish, but I’m going with my man Monfils in this one. It’s about time for him to make a move and fulfill his potential. And the way he’s been playing – with focus, with intent – this summer he should get through here.
Dimitrov has been playing just as well, but overall few players have the skillset that Monfils has. The question is can the Frenchman control it? I think he can.
And I also am not fully convinced of Dimitrov’s fitness in the heat – though Monfils’s fitness could also be called into question.
So in the match of the day – one that has makings of being the match of the tournament…
The pick: Monfils in 4
The women’s quarters also begin with Belinda Bencic-Peng and in the evening Caroline Wozniacki against Sara Errani.
TUESDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00am Start Time
Scott Lipsky (USA)/Rajeev Ram (USA) vs. Eric Butorac (USA)/Raven Klaasen (RSA)
Not Before: 12:00pm
Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs. Shuai Peng (CHN)
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)
Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00pm Start Time
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs. Roger Federer (SUI)
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)
Louis Armstrong Stadium 12:00pm Start Time
Venus Williams (USA)/Serena Williams (USA) vs. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)/Elena Vesnina (RUS)
Marin Cilic (CRO) vs. Gilles Simon (FRA)
Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Dominic Thiem (AUT)
Not Before: 5:00pm
Bob Bryan (USA)/Mike Bryan (USA) vs. David Marrero (ESP)/ Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
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