World No. 2 Simona Halep and former No. 1 and No. 20 seed set up a potential blockbuster match when both won on Monday at the US Open.
Halep fought through a leg injury and cramping to outlast No. 24-seeded German Sabine Lisicki 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-2, while Azarenka put on her hard hat for a routine 6-3, 6-4 win over unseeded American Varvara Lepchenko.
“At the beginning, it was, actually [hurting],” Halep said of her leg which was eventually heavily wrapped during the match. “Then I was cramping my back. Then the leg was worst. I feel it. I feel pain. But tomorrow I have day off so I have time to recover. I hope just to be okay to play another match. I know is going to be tough, but I have nothing to lose. Just going there and enjoying.”
The Romanian is in the last eight at the US Open for the first time. Azarenka says she will be the underdog in the match-up.
“I don’t even know how many times I have played Simona,” she said. “She [has] improved so much since the last time we played. She’s definitely a favorite. She’s been in Top 3 for quite a while, winning big matches. So either way I have to focus on my game and try to be aggressive, to be dominant.”
No. 5 Petra Kvitova and No. 26 Flavia Pennetta set up a meeting when the Italian upset No. 22 Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-4, and Kvitova ended the run of Brit qualifier Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-3.
“I was just waiting for some chance, which came twice. She double fault,” Kvitova said. “So she kind of helped me for making the set in both sets. She served very well, for sure. I think she didn’t really miss that much.”
Pennetta said the match will be an uphill battle.
“[To] play Petra is going to be a big challenge because I never beat her before,” Pennetta said. “Also because she’s one of the best.”
In the final men’s match of the night, No. 2 seed Roger Federer masterfully navigated the big-serving ways of No. 13 seed John Isner 7-6(0), 7-6(6), 7-5.
“John has one of the best serves in the game, especially the pace on his second serve, and you just have to hang around,” Federer said in an on-court interview after the match, speaking to ESPN’s Brad Gilbert who donned a strange home-made white headband in an ‘everyone look at me I’m an entertainer’ moment.
Federer navigated the first-set tiebreak easily, and ended the second-set dogfight tiebreak with a ridiculous screaming backhand down the line from outside the court. Isner challenged the call but to no avail. The Swiss broke Isner at 6-5 in the final set, the first time Isner has been broken at the US Open in 100+ service games stretching back to last year.
“Going up against him in the Round of 16 is not easy,” said Isner. ‘But I have a lot to be proud of, for sure. I would certainly still like to be in the tournament. I really would have liked my chances against some other players out there. But he was too good. That’s what I was up against. There’s nothing you can do about that. It was still a good experience, a lot of fun.”
Federer advanced to a Wednesday night quarterfinal against Richard Gasquet. The Frenchman who made the US Open semifinals a few years ago dropped the first set but recovered to beat Tomas Berdych in four sets 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
“I started badly,” said Gasquet. “I was not feeling confident on the court. He was playing great. I think the second set was really important for my confidence. I started to return better, serve much better than the start of the match. It was a great match for me and a big victory. Of course, I’m a little bit tired now, but in two days I will be fresh, no problem.”
No. 5 seed Stanislas Wawrinka and No. 15 Kevin Anderson set a quarterfinal meeting when the Swiss ended the run of American Donald Young 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, and the South African out-served No. 3 seed Andy Murray 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-7(2), 7-6(0).
“Some good moments on the court,” said Wawrinka, who pounded 52 winners and kept the U.S. crowd out of the match for the most part by jumping out to an early lead against Young. “Mentally I was there. It was a good win for me.”
Young had upset Wawrinka four years ago at the US Open.
Young, who has had the physical tools during his career but has struggled mentally, thinks he may have made a breakthrough.
“This was a good step in the right direction for me,” Young said. “I think I’m a little more ready to be a little more consistent. I feel like things are coming around.”
Before Gasquet took the court, Andy Murray and Kevin Anderson played the match of the day. Murray was a 2012 US Open champion and had beaten Anderson in five of six career meetings. But Anderson, who had never beaten a Top 10 player in a Slam nor had ever made a Slam quarterfinal, stormed out to a two set lead.
Murray scrapped back to take the third but couldn’t pull off a second 0-2 comeback falling to the South African
“I was playing against an excellent player. He served extremely well. And I would say, you know, the service game I played at 4-1, I was up 40-Love in the second set, got broken there. Then that was really around the time when I was starting to get the momentum a bit back on my side.
“It was more playing against Kevin on the court of that speed, and with him serving as well as he does, it’s a tricky match. It comes down to a few points in each set. He managed to get them today.”
Anderson had never won a Grand Slam fourth round match was happy to finally break through.
“I felt I played one of the best matches of my career,” said Anderson. “To do it at this stage, at this round, obviously to get through to the quarters the first time in a slam definitely means a lot to me.”
Quarterfinals matches on Tuesday at the US Open are Kristina Mladenovic vs. Roberta Vinci, (19) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. (9) Marin Cilic, and in the titular night matches (1) Serena Williams vs. (23) Venus Williams, and (1) Novak Djokovic vs. (18) Feliciano Lopez.
TUESDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium 12:00 PM Start
Play Begins at 12:00 Noon
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA)
Not Before: 1:30 PM
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Marin Cilic (CRO)
Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 PM Start
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Venus Williams (USA)
Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
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