US Open Day 10: Djokovic sets up Zverev semi, Raducanu continues run
US Open Day 10: Djokovic sets up Zverev semi, Raducanu continues run
Novak Djokovic is tantalisingly close to tennis history after beating Matteo Berrettini in four sets in the US Open quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
The world No.1 is now just two wins away from completing an historic calendar-year Grand Slam sweep, and earning a men's record 21st major singles title.
But standing in his way is in-form No.4 seed Alexander Zverev, who recently beat Djokovic from a set and a break down in the Tokyo Olympics semifinals and who earlier dismissed Lloyd Harris in straight sets.
Meanwhile, British teenager Emma Raducanu has become the first female qualifier in Open Era history to reach the US Open semifinals after stunning Belinda Bencic in straight sets.
Raducanu beat the Olympic gold medallist 6-3 6-4 in a comprehensive display and next faces 17th seed Maria Sakkari, who served Wimbledon finalist Karolina off the court in a 6-4 6-4 triumph.
Djokovic v Zverev set for US Open semis
Berrettini overcame Djokovic in a physical, 70-minute first set under lights at Ashe, marking the third straight match the top seed had dropped the first set.
But from there, Djokovic elevated his game to a place the Italian could not follow, producing 29 winners against just 11 unforced errors in a majestic display across the next three sets to storm a 5-7 6-2 6-2 6-3 triumph.
It is Djokovic's third consecutive Grand Slam win over Berrettini, after also winning their Wimbledon final and Roland Garros quarterfinal.
He next meets Zverev, who stretched his winning streak to 16 matches after beating Harris in a touch over two hours.
The Olympic gold medallist and Cincinnati champion came through a tough first set – during which he trailed 5-3 and later saved a set point in the tiebreak – before mostly controlling the next two.
Continuing to play assertive, purposeful tennis, Zverev struck 43 winners to Harris’ 34; 21 of those winners were aces for Zverev, who won 82 per cent of first-serve points and faced only break three points throughout.
Zverev has not lost a match since falling to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
He will look to extend his streak to 17 – and equal his run to the 2020 US Open final – against Djokovic on Friday.
Raducanu rolls on, Sakkari awaits
Raducanu was playing her eighth match in New York having come through the qualifying rounds, but showed few signs of fatigue against 11th seed Bencic.
Despite falling behind 3-1, the Brit – as has become customary at this tournament – went on a tear, reeling off five straight games to take the opening set on Ashe.
She then broke Bencic in the fifth game of the second set, and maintained that advantage for the rest of the match.
She sealed victory in a tidy one hour, 22 minutes, completing the contest with six aces among 23 winners and just 12 unforced errors.
Currently ranked 150th, Raducanu is expected to vault to the brink of the top 50 – and even higher if she progresses to the final.
But to advance further she must go through Sakkari, who advanced to her second major semifinal of 2021 with a supreme serving performance to beat Pliskova.
The Greek dropped only eight points on serve for the entire match, winning 92 per cent of first-serve points and not allowing Pliskova to earn a single break point.
At one stage, she won 22 consecutive points on serve, and she finished the match with only 12 unforced errors.
It was an astonishingly good display, especially given how well she rebounded from her punishing three-and-a-half-hour epic against Bianca Andreescu in the previous round.
Sakkari also appeared in the semifinals at Roland Garros in June, and came within a point of the final before losing to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova.
Maria Sakkari said on court after her third-round match that she lost sleep for four days after falling to Barbora Krejcikova in the RG semis.— Blair Henley (@BlairHenley) September 9, 2021
So awesome for her to get another shot at that stage of a major. Didn't take long at all. #USOpen
She will hope to go one better when she returns to Arthur Ashe Stadium to battle Raducanu tomorrow night.
Stat of the day
After a 15-month absence from the game, Raducanu only resumed competing in June this year and built an extremely impressive 20-6 win-loss record prior to her US Open quarterfinal.
However, there was a caveat; she had not faced any players ranked in the top 40 during that sparkling run.
That changed when she faced Bencic, the world No.12 who had won 13 of her 14 matches since Wimbledon – and Raducanu dismissed the Swiss in much the same way as she has seen off all opponents in New York.
It is by far the biggest win of the Brit’s career; her previous best victory, by ranking, came against 41st-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo earlier in the tournament.
Doubles: Gauff & McNally upset No.1 seeds
American teenagers Coco Gauff and Caty McNally beat No.1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens to advance to the women’s doubles semifinals.
Gauff and McNally, who in their short careers have already won three WTA doubles titles together, advanced to their first Grand Slam doubles semifinal after reaching quarterfinals at the past two Australian Opens.
Their win over the reigning Wimbledon champions on Wednesday – which improves their 2021 record to 19-6 – sets up a semifinal clash with fifth seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani, the recent Montreal champions and Cincinnati finalists.
Also advancing were No.7 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi Mathison, who will face Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai for a place in the final.
Quotes of the day
"Best three sets I've played - second, third and fourth - in the tournament so far. I think I managed to raise the level of my tennis. When I dropped the first set, I just went to a different level and I stayed there till the last point. That's something that definitely encourages me and gives me a lot of confidence prior to semifinals."
- Novak Djokovic
"After reaching my first Grand Slam semifinal at the French, I felt like I can do it again. It was not luck because I beat all these good players. Now I think I had one of the toughest draws... Kostyuk, Siniakova, Kvitova, Andreescu, Pliskova, all are players I don't want to play in the first rounds. I had to play really well to be here."
- Maria Sakkari, who backed up her Roland Garros semifinal run earlier this year with a trip to the same stage of the US Open.
“I think to compare yourself and your results against anyone is probably like the thief of happiness, and everyone is doing their own thing. I mean, I didn't compete for 18 months, but here I am, and it just shows that if you believe in yourself, then anything is possible.”
- Emma Raducanu
“Securing a medal for Germany was very special to me. I feel like I was the first player to beat (Djokovic) in a very big match this year. That does give you something. I think it was very important for me to back it up in the finals, back it up in Cincinnati. Hopefully I can continue this streak.”
- Alexander Zverev on his gold medal-winning run in Tokyo
“I think there's definitely a shift. For me, I always knew it was going to come. I'm glad. I'm so happy for Leylah and Emma. I've known both of them for a long time. They're both super nice girls, and I'm always cheering for them. Hope we get a teenager final.”
- Coco Gauff, the 17-year-old American who is through to the women’s doubles semifinals with Caty McNally.
Tweets of the day
Congratulations to Emma Raducanu c’mon— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) September 8, 2021
💙🤍🇬🇷💙🤍 https://t.co/hJqb5M4g6d— Maria Sakkari (@mariasakkari) September 9, 2021
Ahhh final four feeling!! I can’t believe it. 😳— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) September 8, 2021
Thank you all, see you out there tomorrow under the lights🌃 pic.twitter.com/AkHshFgrxH
Day 11: Ones to watch
It’s women’s semifinal night on Thursday in New York, with a pair of seeds taking on two teenagers – and all four players competing for a place in their first Grand Slam final.
First, No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka takes on giant-killer Leylah Fernandez, who in her past three matches has upstaged Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina.
Then, Raducanu faces Sakkari in a match-up that, like Sabalenka v Fernandez, will be a first-time meeting.
Wheelchair action also gets underway on Day 11, with both Dylan Alcott and Diede de Groot emulating Djokovic as they aim for a calendar-year Grand Slam.
Alcott and De Groot, who open against Brian Barten and Angelica Bernal respectively, were also gold medallists at the Paralympics, and are thus on track for an incredible Golden Grand Slam.