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Sunday, September 19, 2021

US Open 2021: Djokovic eyes calendar slam, Sabalenka aims maiden major

At the Arthur Ashe Stadium, a lot of experienced faces have fallen by the wayside this year as the young guns seem hellbent on proving that they are here to stay.

By: Sports Desk |
September 8, 2021 3:56:47 pm
The US Open ends on September 12 this year. (AP/USA Today)

Novak Djokovic is the only titan who is holding down the fort as a change of guard creeps ever so closer as the US Open races towards its conclusion. Two teenagers have risen through relative obscurity to take the whole tournament by storm. As the era of the Federer and Nadal slowly inches towards its conclusion, Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez and Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz have shown that the future is in safe hands. A lot of experienced faces have fallen by the wayside as the young guns seem hellbent on proving that they are here to stay.

On that note, let’s look at how the top-seeded players (both men’s and women’s) have performed so far —

Men’s Singles:

#10 Hubert Hurkacz (Poland): The 24-year-old Hurkacz lost to veteran Andreas Seppi 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 in the second round, bringing an end to his US Open singles journey.

#9 Pablo Carreno Busta (Spain): Two-time US Open semifinalist Busta, was knocked out by USA’s Maxime Cressy 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 in an upset on the second day of the US Open.

#8 Casper Ruud (Norway): Casper Ruud was in for a rude shock when he lost to a challenger ranked more than 100 spots below him, Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands in the second. He lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

#7 Denis Shapovalov (Canada): Shapovalov was ousted by South African Lloyd Harris, who reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time with a 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory over the Canadian.

#6 Matteo Berrettini (Italy): Berrettini was made to work hard at the US Open as he battled past qualifier Oscar Otte 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for a second time. In the last eight, he has to face the challenge of Novak Djokovic, his Wimbledon final opponent and this time, he’ll be hoping for a vastly different result.

#5 Andrey Rublev (Russia): Rublev’s journey was cut short by Frances Tiafoe who made a stunning comeback to beat the Russian in the third round of the US Open. American Tiafoe, 23, won 4-6 6-3 7-6(6) 4-6 6-1 after almost four hours.

#4 Alexander Zverev (Germany): Zverev beat Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7) for his 15th straight victory in the Flushing Meadows. The fourth seed from Germany started that run in Japan, carried it through a title in Cincinnati and then kept right on going at the U.S. Open, where he was the runner-up to Dominic Thiem last year. He’ll be facing South African Lloyd Harris, who is himself having a breakthrough season, in the quarter-finals.

#3 Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece): Tsitsipas was beaten by Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, who bagged the biggest win of his career at the US Open, upsetting world number three 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(5) in a third round clash to become the youngest player to reach the fourth round at a major since 1992.

#2 Daniil Medvedev (Russia): Medvedev ended qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp’s battling run to reach the US Open semi-finals and keep his bid for a maiden Grand Slam trophy alive. The Russian raced through to a two-set lead but Van de Zandschulp, despite looking exhausted, hit back. The Dutchman, 25, saved a match point in the fourth set but could not prevent Medvedev from winning 6-3 6-0 4-6 7-5. Medvedev will face Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last four.

#1 Novak Djokovic (Serbia): As predicted, in a tournament bereft of Roger Federer and Nadal, Djokovic is the only one of the big three left standing. Chasing a 21st major that would seal a calendar-year Grand Slam, the Serb had difficulty getting into gear in his last-16 contest against the 99th ranked Jenson Brooksby but scraped his way to a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over American.

Women’s Singles:

#10 Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic): Maria Sakkari’s stellar season continued at the US Open, where she recorded a confident upset over Kvitova in straight sets to advance to the fourth round. Sakkari, who is ranked at a career-high World No. 17, outhit the two-time Grand Slam winner from the baseline, effectively neutralizing Kvitova’s booming lefty game. The Greek player hadn’t recorded a victory over Kvitova since 2019, but she flipped the script at Arthur Ashe Stadium to win 6-4, 6-3.

#9 Garbine Muguruza (Spain): Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova held off a spirited comeback from former No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza, defeating the Spaniard 6-3, 7-6(4) to advance to her first US Open quarter-final.

#8 Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic): After toppling ninth-seeded Muguruza in the round of 16, Krejcikova lost to No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 6-4 in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

#7 Iga Swiatek (Poland): Swiatek was defeated by No.11 seed Belinda Bencic who saved four set points in the first set before defeating the Polish player by 7-6(12), 6-3. The thrilling 84-minute opening set culminated in the longest tiebreak (by points played) of the US Open so far, outdoing Simona Halep’s 7-6(11), 4-6, 6-3 third-round scoreline against Elena Rybakina.

#6 Bianca Andreescu (Canada): 2019 US Open champion Andreescu’s 10-match unbeaten streak in New York was snapped by world No.18 Maria Sakkari who won 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-3 to advance to her second major quarter-final of the season. She will now face fourth seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarters.

#5 Elina Svitolina (Ukraine): Svitolina became the latest casualty to teenage sensation Leylah Fernandez, who produced another fearless performance to beat the Ukrainian and set up a US Open semi-final with Aryna Sabalenka. Canada’s Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, showed all of her devastating power to win a tense tie-break 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, (7-5) in New York.

#4 Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic): Pliskova returned to the US Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2018 by moving past No.14 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 7-5, 6-4.  The 2016 US Open runner-up reached the elite eight in New York for the fourth time in her career with her 95-minute win over this year’s Roland Garros runner-up Pavlyuchenkova.

#3 Naomi Osaka (Japan): Before Svitolina, it was Naomi Osaka who was left bamboozled by the new kid on the block, Leylah Fernandez. Her title defence was cut short as she fell in the third round to a stunning performance by the Canadian wonderkid. The 18-year-old capitalised as Osaka lost her cool to craft a remarkable 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory.

#2 Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus): Sabalenka breezed into her second Grand Slam semi-final in a row by bulldozing past eighth seed Krejcikova 6-1, 6-4 under lights at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Next up is the semi-finals where she will now face giant killer Leylah Fernandez, who has already toppled former champion Osaka and Svitolina, with the hope of halting the Canadian’s dream run.

#1 Ashleigh Barty (Australia): Barty had a rather underwhelming tournament as she fell in the third round after Shelby Rogers produced a superb comeback in front of a raucous New York crowd. The Wimbledon champion held a 5-2 lead in the final set and twice served for the match but home favourite Rogers battled her way back into contention. The world number 43 then came through the resulting tie-break to stun the top seed 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5).

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