Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic inched closer to a hotly-anticipated Wednesday quarterfinal at the US Open. Today, it was Federer playing during the day and Djokovic at night. With temperatures still hovering in the 90s, Federer had no problem knocking out the zany Benoit Paire in straight sets 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
“I think it was a bit sort of up and down,” said Federer. “I think it’s always tricky against Benoit, because there’s a lot of tactics going on. Never quite the same point. Sometimes he plays very deep in the court, then he plays up in the court. That’s maybe why you draw errors out of each other rather than winners at the end. The match maybe doesn’t look at good. Plus he covers the court very well. Sometimes you have a tendency to overplay, as well. But overall I’m happy. I think it was not a bad performance by any means by me. I can be pleased, so it’s all good.”
In the evening, Djokovic was in total control of Tennys Sandgren up a match point in the third, but let it slip and with it the set, but regain the lead in the fourth to win 6-1, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2.
“It’s a work in progress still. We are working daily on trying to perfect the game and put it together. Obviously last couple months have been really, really good in terms of results,” Djokovic said. “That’s what’s exciting about this sport and about my game in general, is that I still feel there are certain elements in my game that need some betterment. That’s why you hit the practice courts daily and try to perfect the game.”
Two more former champions also got through. Juan Martin del Potro continues to look ominous cruising past Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(4).
And Marin Cilic dropped just two games in a 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 blowout over Hurbert Hurkacz.
Alexander Zverev how no problems facing a second lucky loser in a comfortable win over Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
“This was always the Grand Slam that I didn’t play my best ever. Not even that I lost, but just game-wise. Game-wise, I never felt comfortable here. Finally I do,” said Zverev. “I feel like I’m playing well. I feel like today, was a tough opponent. He had a few matches here already.”
Controversy continues to follow Nick Kyrgios. The Australian won going away against Pierre Hugues-Herbert 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-0. Down a set and 3-0, umpire Mohammed Lahyani came down from the chair to encourage Kyrgios who looked disinterested. And it worked. Kyrgios found a spark, played better while his French foe felt the nerves and folded.
Kyrgios won the second set after a pep talk from the chair umpire Mo Lahyani.
A USTA rep told me it is already looking into Lahyani's conduct in this match.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 30, 2018
“I’m not sure it was encouragement,” Kyrgios commented. “He said he liked me. I’m not sure if that was encouragement. He just said that it’s not a good look. I wasn’t feeling good. I know what I was doing out there wasn’t good. I wasn’t really listening to him, but I knew it wasn’t a good look. It didn’t help me at all.”
The USTA sided with the umpire saying he did nothing wrong, but in their statement they didn’t reference Lahyani coaching-up Kyrgios.
Said Hugues-Herbert once he watched the tape, “I’m even more upset against the statement of the USTA that is clearly taking us for fools.”
Kyrgios will now face Federer on Saturday.
Two other Australians also won. Alex De Minaur ousted American Frances Tiafoe in four sets and John Millman reached his second straight third round at the US Open beating Fabio Fognini also in four sets.
“I’ve known Frances for a very long time,” De Minaur said. “Coming up in the juniors, all that. Obviously I’m a year younger than him. When I was playing the juniors, he was pretty much already playing seniors. But we’ve always been close. He’s one of the nicest guys out there. Nothing but respect for him.”
David Goffin, Lucas Pouille and Kei Nishikori also won. Nishikori advanced when Gael Monfils injured his right wrist trying to a hit a volley back in the second set.
“I thought I started really well, played very aggressive,” said Nishikori. “I thought I was dominating from the baseline. Everything worked well. In the second, he started pretty good. Unfortunately it finished for him. We always battle, play great matches all the time. It’s always fun to play against him. It’s sad to finish like that. But so happy to go through.”
And Jan Lennard Struff put an end to Julien Benneteau’s Grand Slam career.
“I don’t really realize it,” said Benneteau. “Some guys told me in the locker room, ‘Now you know that you’re not going to play ever, it must be a really strange feeling’. But I have to say that for the moment I don’t feel this way. Maybe it’s a little bit too early. Maybe it will take some time to absorb it and to have more emotions, some more feelings.
On Friday, Rafael Nadal is back putting his 9-match US Open win streak on the line against big Russian Karen Khachanov. Juan Martin del Potro get the evening ticket against Nadal’s countryman Fernando Verdasco.
2017 finalist Kevin Anderson meets Denis Shapovalov and Stan Wawrinka battles Milos Raonic.
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