September 9, 2013
Rafael Nadal is the 2013 US Open men’s singles champion, the Spaniard collecting his second US Open crown and the thirteenth career Grand Slam of his incredible career with a hard-fought 4 set win over world number one Novak Djokovic.
Day 15 Recap
Nadal was by far the better player in the opening set, breaking the top seed twice and committing just 4 unforced errors compared to Djokovic’s 14 as the second seed raced through the set, 6-2.
Djokovic awoke from his slumber in the second set, serving better and starting to find his range on his groundstrokes. The Serb smacked 15 winners for the set and broke Nadal twice – an impressive feat considering Nadal had lost serve just once in 6 previous matches in the tournament – to take the set, 6-3, and level the match at a set apiece.
Early in the third set it seemed as though Djokovic was gaining the ascendency, the 2011 US Open champion moving better and staring to dictate play from the back of the court. But Nadal refused to go away, recovering from an early deficit to level at 3-all and then holding firm in the critical ninth game, where he came back from 0-40 down on serve to hold serve for a 5-4 lead. The Spaniard then broke Djokovic’s serve in the very next game to claim the third set in 61 minutes, 6-4.
Losing the third set seemed to deflate Djokovic, in much the same way as losing the second set of the women’s final deflated Azarenka the day before, the Serb seeing his unforced error count for the match climb to 53 (compared to just 20 for Nadal) as the Spaniard broke serve twice to cruise to the finish line, eventually collecting a 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1 victory in 3 hours and 21 minutes.
For Nadal, the win represents a miraculous comeback after injury kept him out of last year’s US Open and there was speculation that his career might be over. The second seed, who improved to 22-0 on hard-courts this year with Monday’s win, now has 13 Grand Slams, ranking him third on the men’s all-time list behind Federer and Sampras. If Nadal can remain healthy for the next few years, he’s got a realistic chance of reeling both Sampras and Federer in and staking a strong claim to being the greatest of all-time.
For Djokovic, it was a disappointing loss after his heroic victory over Wawrinka in the semi-finals, and the top seed has now lost 4 of the 5 US Open finals in which he has played. The Serb remains world number one, but will know deep down that Nadal has been the best player in the world this year. I expect Djokovic to bounce back strongly in next year’s Grand Slams, starting with his favoured Australian Open, where he is a 4-time champion. As always, there seems to be plenty to look forward to in the men’s game.
That’s it for this year’s coverage of the US Open. I hope you have enjoyed the coverage. I’ll be back for the Australian Open in January next year. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
September 9, 2013
Serena Williams is the 2013 US Open ladies’ singles champion, the American superstar capturing her fifth US Open crown and the seventeenth major of her illustrious career with a hard-fought 3 set win over second seed Victoria Azarenka.
Today, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet for the third time in the final of the US Open. Each man has claimed one title in New York – who will capture his second title today and lay claim to being the world’s best player at present? Read on for my predictions for the men’s final.
Day 14 Recap
Little separated the top two seeds in the first set of the women’s final, games going on serve after an early exchange of breaks as the players eased into the match and looked to get into their respective rhythms.
There was danger for Williams in the tenth game of the set, as Azarenka earned a pair of break points, but the world number one got herself out of trouble and then broke Azarenka in the eleventh game to take a 6-5 lead. Williams duly converted the break to take the first set, 7-5, after 58 minutes.
Williams continued her run in the second set, racing out to a 4-1 lead courtesy of some big serves by the American and some sloppy play from her opponent. But Azarenka wasn’t done with yet, breaking the 16-time Grand Slam champion twice to get back to 5-all as the crowd sensed that Williams was tensing up.
Having been unable to serve out the match at 5-3 in the second set, another break to Williams in the eleventh game gave the top seed a second chance to serve for the match. Again, Azarenka held firm, scoring the break back after Williams double-faulted on break point to send the second set to a tiebreaker. Azarenka capped off her tremendous second set comeback, edging past Williams in the tiebreaker, 8 points to 6, to send the match to a deciding third set.
Azarenka’s incredible comeback in the second set seemed to exhaust all of the Belarusian’s energy, with Williams composing herself and continuing to stay on the aggressive. Azarenka’s inability to convert 3 game points in the fourth game proved costly, Williams eventually breaking to open up a 3-1 lead. From there, Williams was never threatened, breaking again as she eventually claimed the championship with a 7-5 6-7(6) 6-1 win in 2 hours and 45 minutes – the longest US Open women’s final since 1980.
For Williams, it was a deserved victory after being the dominant player on the WTA Tour for the vast majority of the year. At 31, Williams still looks incredibly fit and strong, and looks certain to be at or near the top of the women’s game for several years to come.
For Azarenka, it was another gutsy performance. The Belarusian was unable to match Williams in the winners stakes, hitting just 17 to Williams’ 36, but most importantly needs to improve her serve if she is to gain the edge over Williams in future matches. At just 24, however, Azarenka can look forward to plenty of future opportunities to capture Grand Slams.
Match of the Day – Day 15
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal
The final that everyone wanted to see, this match-up was close to a non-event when Djokovic trailed Wawrinka by 2 sets to 1 in their semi-final clash. It was a patchy performance by the world number one, but I think that had more to do with the particular match-up with Wawrinka, which seems to trouble Djokovic, than it does with the top seed’s form.
Djokovic’s semi-final was a gruelling affair, but the Serb’s legendary powers of recovery, combined with the fact that the players had a day off yesterday, mean that fitness shouldn’t really be a factor in this clash. Both players are incredibly fit and, as evidenced in their epic French Open semi-final earlier this year, are prepared to go the distance to claim the win.
Nadal leads Djokovic 21-15 in their career meetings, with the Spaniard having won 5 of their last 6 encounters. Nadal has been in sensational form this year, compiling a stellar 59-3 record and capturing 9 titles for the season to date. Djokovic can, however, take confidence from the fact that he leads Nadal 11-6 in terms of matches played on hard-courts and that he has beaten Nadal in their last two major finals on hard-courts, the 2011 US Open and the 2012 Australian Open.
Having endured a miserable run against Djokovic in 2011, Nadal looks to have made some minor tweaks to his game to give himself an edge against the world number one. In recent matches against the Serb, Nadal has varied his serve more than previously, has hit down the line more than usual, and has generally looked to be more aggressive. Now it’s time for Djokovic to readjust his game in response to Nadal’s changes.
I backed Djokovic for the title at the start of the tournament, but I’ve been mightily impressed by Nadal’s form in the last fortnight. The Spaniard is serving extremely well – something that was critical to his win in New York in 2010 – and has simply overwhelmed each of his opponents to date. Djokovic will have his chances to win this match, as he always does, but Nadal, in his current form, has to start the match as a slight favourite. Nadal in 5.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow to review the men’s final. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
September 8, 2013
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka meet in today’s women’s singles final, with the American superstar going for her fifth US Open crown and the second-seeded Belarusian looking to capture her first ever title in New York.
Monday will see Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic square off for the men’s singles crown after Nadal eased past Richard Gasquet in straight sets and Djokovic scraped past a gallant Stanislas Wawrinka in a 5 set marathon.
Day 13 Recap
Djokovic looked out of sorts early on against Wawrinka, the top seed slow on his feet and uncharacteristically making a bundle of unforced errors. The ninth seeded Wawrinka showed no signs of nerves in his first major semi-final, breaking the Serb three times in the first set as he collected it, 6-2.
The world number one tightened up his game in the second set, cutting down on his unforced errors and serving better, but Wawrinka was still swinging freely and broke the 2011 US Open champion to open up a 4-2 lead. Djokovic forced the break back and pushed the set to a tiebreaker, where a couple of loose shots proved Wawrinka’s undoing, the Serb taking it 7 points to 4 and levelling the match at a set apiece.
Games went with serve in the third set until the eighth game, where Wawrinka capitalised on 3 unforced errors from the top seed and then managed to convert the break to claim the set 6-3 and regain the ascendency. Djokovic, however, was not done with yet, breaking at the start of the fourth set and maintaining his advantage to take it, 6-3, and send the match into a decider.
After 4 sets, the world’s best returner had finally got his eye in, and Wawrinka was under constant pressure to hold serve in the fifth set. After getting out of trouble in his first couple of service games, Wawrinka finally buckled in the fifth game of the fifth set, a backhand long given Djokovic the break. From there, the top seed stayed in front of his tiring opponent, keeping his advantage to claim the win, 2-6 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 6-4, in 4 hours and 9 minutes.
For Wawrinka, it was a gallant but ultimately disappointing performance, with the Swiss star unable to make the most of a golden opportunity to make his first Grand Slam final. Nonetheless, Wawrinka has to be considered a true contender for next year’s majors. For Djokovic, it will be a major relief to be through to the final after a decidedly patchy performance. The top seed will need to recover well and be significantly sharper on Monday if he is to match it with Rafael Nadal.
Whilst Nadal came through his semi-final against Frenchman Richard Gasquet in straight sets, it was a tougher match than the score-line indicated. A shaky Gasquet was broken at the start of the match, but otherwise stood toe-to-toe with Nadal, the Spaniard merely retaining his initial advantage to claim the first set, 6-4.
The second set saw Gasquet again get broken early, but the eighth seed broke back – the first break of the Nadal serve all tournament – and had opportunities in the ninth game to break Nadal once more. But Gasquet was unable to convert his chances and was forced to regret squandering his opportunities as Nadal dominated the second set tiebreaker for the loss of just one point.
The third set saw Gasquet again presented with chances to break the Nadal serve, but no one is better at holding firm on break points against his serve than the second seed, the man from Mallorca again denying Gasquet the break. That proved to be Gasquet’s last hurrah, as Nadal broke twice en route to victory in 2 hours and 21 minutes, 6-4 7-6(1) 6-2.
For Gasquet, it was a terrific tournament and he can walk away very proud of his performance. Ultimately, it was his poor conversion rate on break points (the Frenchman won just one of 6 break point opportunities) that proved the difference, as Nadal converted all 4 of his break point opportunities. For Nadal, it was another solid performance and the Spaniard must head into Monday’s final as a slight favourite.
Match of the Day – Day 14
Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka
Both Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka can look forward to today’s final with plenty of confidence. The American has been in scintillating form all tournament, with no opponent to date being able to match it with Williams for more than a set. Williams has been the best player in the world this season, although the top seed only has one Grand Slam to show for it. She’ll be desperate to double the year’s haul of Grand Slam trophies with a win in this clash, but she faces a very tough opponent in Azarenka.
Azarenka may have won just 3 of 15 career matches against Williams, but all 3 of those wins have come on hard-courts and 2 of those wins were recorded earlier this year, including a 3 set win in Cincinnati in the lead-up to the US Open. Azarenka is at her best on hard-courts and the Belarusian has the power to match Williams from the back of the court.
Azarenka’s biggest problem in this tournament to date has been her inability to consistently hold serve – a problem masked by her tremendous abilities on the return of serve. With Williams serving strongly all tournament, Azarenka will need to turn in a particularly good serving performance if she is to capture her third Grand Slam title.
Not much separates this pair, but Serena’s form in the tournament to date, combined with the support of the home crowd and Azarenka’s vulnerability on serve, make me think that Serena will be hoisting Grand Slam trophy number 17 this evening. Williams in 3.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
September 7, 2013
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka will meet in Sunday’s women’s singles final, a rematch of last year’s US Open decider, after the top 2 seeds in the women’s draw posted straight sets victories over Li Na and Flavia Pennetta respectively.
Today sees the final 4 in the men’s semi-finals square off for places in Monday’s men’s singles final. Will Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet in a repeat of their 2010 and 2011 US Open finals? Read on for my match previews and predictions.
Day 12 Recap
Second seed Azarenka was the first player to book her place in Sunday’s final, the Belarusian seeing off the unseeded veteran Pennetta in an entertaining affair. As with so many of Azarenka’s matches in this tournament, the match was full of breaks of serve – 13 of them in total.
The first set saw 5 consecutive breaks of serve before Azarenka was finally able to hold serve and close out the opening set, 6-4, although the two-time Australian Open champion needed 6 set points to wrap up the set.
A former junior US Open champion, Azarenka gained the ascendency early in the second set as Pennetta, playing in her first ever Grand Slam semi-final, was unable to control her own service games, capturing a miserable 22 percent of points on her second serve. After 94 minutes it was all over, Azarenka returning to the final at Flushing Meadows with a 6-4 6-2 victory.
Top seed Serena Williams had destroyed all before her in her run to the semi-finals, but it was expected that Chinese star Li Na would give her a sterner test in their semi-final clash. Unfortunately for fans of the former French Open champion, it took the fifth set a set and a half to compose herself inside the enormous Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams blitzing through the first set without the loss of a single game.
Li Na put up more resistance in the second set, but was unable to put much pressure on her opponent, the Chinese star converting only one of her 4 break point opportunities for the match. With Williams winning 76 percent on points on first serve and thumping 19 winners to Li Na’s 8, it was only a matter of time before the world number one booked her place in the tournament decider. Williams wrapped up the win, 6-0 6-3, on her seventh match point after 1 hour and 27 minutes, to give herself a chance to claim the fifth US Open crown of her glittering career.
Matches of the Day – Day 13
1. Novak Djokovic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
This should be a fantastic duel between the world’s top-ranked player and one of the best players of the season. After pushing Djokovic to the brink at Melbourne Park, losing 12-10 in the fifth set after a pulsating 5 hour encounter, and having dismissed defending champion Andy Murray in straight sets in the quarter-finals, Wawrinka should have the confidence to believe he can win this encounter.
Just as Djokovic took a big leap forward in 2011 after several years of playing second fiddle to Messrs. Federer and Nadal, so has Wawrinka taken a giant stride forward in 2013 after being in the shadows of his compatriot Federer for the majority of his career. Wawrinka is an impressive 7-7 in matches against top 1o players this season (compared to a career record, coming into 2013, of 7 wins and 26 losses) and has the firepower to trouble Djokovic, as evidenced by their epic match in January.
Djokovic holds a commanding 11-2 career record against Wawrinka, with both of the Swiss star’s wins coming back in 2006. But Wawrinka is a fitter player this season, is a better mover around the court compared to previous seasons and, critically, has developed the belief that he belongs at the top of the game.
I think this will be a tight affair, with Djokovic’s big match experience and the surface (which is bouncier and faster than the hard-courts at Melbourne Park) giving the Serb the edge. Wawrinka will have his chances, but expect Djokovic to deliver the goods. Djokovic in 4.
2. Rafael Nadal vs. Richard Gasquet
As has been well documented over the past few days, Richard Gasquet has yet to beat Rafael Nadal as a professional but did in fact score a win over the Spanish superstar when the pair were kids playing one another for the first time in France. Gasquet will need to channel the positive feelings generated by that win if he is to have any chance in this one, as his record against Nadal as a professional is an abysmal 0-10.
Like Wawrinka, Gasquet has enjoyed a fine season and has improved his tennis significantly, capturing multiple titles and cementing his place in the top 10. The Frenchman, who has been questioned in the past for a lack of mental toughness and stamina, has shown his fighting qualities with back-to-back 5 set wins over Milos Raonic and fourth seed David Ferrer, but I question whether Gasquet will have the energy to stay with Nadal in this clash.
Nadal has been in incredible form on hard-courts this season, unbeaten on the surface in 2013 after being forced to skip last year’s US Open due to knee problems. The second seed was ruthless in his quarter-final against countryman Tommy Robredo and I think Nadal will simply be too strong and too fit for Gasquet in this semi-final.
While Nadal has been striking his deadly forehand as well as ever in the tournament to date, it’s been his impressive serving display that has allowed him to go through his matches to date with a minimum of fuss. Look for Nadal to climb all over Gasquet’s weak second serve and for the 2010 US Open champion to control the baseline rallies courtesy of his brutal forehand. Nadal in 3.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
September 6, 2013
Defending champion Andy Murray was stunned by Stanislas Wawrinka on Day 11, the third seeded Murray going down in straight sets to the Swiss underdog. Wawrinka will face top seed Novak Djokovic for a place in the final after the Serb saw off Mikhail Youzhny in 4 sets.
Today is ladies’ semi-finals day at Flushing Meadows, with Victoria Azarenka taking on Flavia Pennetta and Serena Williams going head to head with China’s Li Na. Read on for my predictions as to who will make it through to the final.
Day 11 Recap
It was a decidedly lacklustre performance from Murray in his quarter-final against Wawrinka, the Scot struggling to move as well as he normally does around the court and producing an unusually high number of unforced errors.
Games went with serve in the opening set until the tenth game on Murray’s serve, where Wawrinka eventually broke on his sixth set point to claim the opening set. That seemed to give the ninth seed plenty of confidence, with Wawrinka frequently attacking the net and thumping winners off both wings.
After Wawrinka won the second set, a deflated Murray was unable to summon the strength to make a comeback, succumbing easily in the third set to hand the Swiss star a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
For Murray, who hit just 15 winners compared to 30 unforced errors and 45 winners for his opponent, it was a disappointing way for his title defence to end. The Scot was unable to create any break point opportunities, as Wawrinka served strongly and dictated the majority of the baseline rallies. For Wawrinka, it was a superbly controlled and focused performance and an historic win, with the ninth seed through to his first ever Grand Slam semi-final.
Wawrinka will face Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, in what will be a rematch of their 5 set epic at Melbourne Park earlier this year. Despite a third set slip-up, the world number one was generally in control against Youzhny, a two-time semi-finalist in New York, in Thursday’s night session.
Djokovic, who is seeking a second career title at Flushing Meadows, eventually progressed to his fourteenth consecutive Grand Slam semi-final with a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-0 win in 2 hours and 34 minutes.
Matches of the Day – Day 11
1. Victoria Azarenka vs. Flavia Pennetta
The only semi-finalist under the age of 30, two-time Australian Open champion and second seed Victoria Azarenka is looking to go one step further than last year at Flushing Meadows, where she lost to Serena Williams in an extremely close final.
The Belarusian loves playing on hard-courts and is in good form, having beaten Williams in the final at Cincinnati in the lead-up to the US Open. Pennetta’s run to her first ever major semi-final has been one of the stories of the tournament to date, the veteran Italian upsetting a host of seeds en route to the final four, including compatriots Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
These players have played each other twice before, with each player claiming one win. I don’t think those victories will count for too much, with the last of them coming 2 and a half years ago. Pennetta has nothing to lose in this encounter – ranked 83 in the world at the start of this tournament, the Italian has already exceeded all expectations and will simply be looking to continue her fairytale run.
Pennetta’s all-court game will test Azarenka, but the second seed has gained plenty of confidence and experience with her performances in the last couple of years and I think she will be too good in the decisive moments. Azarenka in 2.
2. Li Na vs. Serena Williams
I’m really looking forward to this clash between the two 31 years olds, which I think will be a lot closer than many people predict. After an intense mid-season training block with coach Carlos Rodriguez in Beijing, Li Na looks fitter and more focused than she did earlier in the season, and I think the Chinese star senses that she has just a couple more years to vie for Grand Slam trophies.
The former French Open champion has a poor record against Serena Williams, winning just one of their 9 career meetings, although most of those matches have been close affairs. Williams has swept all before her in the tournament to date, dropping just 13 games across 5 matches. The lack of competitive matches may count against the top seed, although Williams has plenty of experience to draw on in this regard.
I think Li Na will come out swinging in this match and put plenty of pressure on the defending champion. If Williams serves well, as she has done throughout the tournament, then it will be very hard for the Chinese star to stay with Williams. If Li Na can neutralise the Williams serve, then the fifth seed’s heavy groundstrokes should allow her to hold her own in baseline battles with the American. Expect Li Na to claim a set and compete hard as she pushes for the win, but I sense Williams will be too strong down the stretch. Williams in 3.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
September 4, 2013
Flamboyant Frenchman Richard Gasquet is through to his first ever US Open semi-final, the eighth seed upsetting fourth seed David Ferrer in a 5 set epic on Day 10.
Day 10 Recap
Gasquet came out swinging against Ferrer, using his majestic one-handed backhand to maximum effect as he took a commanding 2 sets to love lead. But the tenacious Ferrer fought back, taking the next 2 sets as Gasquet struggled to maintain his level.
There were concerns that the Frenchman would run out of steam in the deciding set after his 5 set win over Milos Raonic in the round of 16, but the eighth seed stayed aggressive in the fifth set, breaking Ferrer’s serve and maintaining the advantage to claim a 6-3 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-3 win in 3 hours and 23 minutes.
Gasquet will play world number 2 Rafael Nadal for a place in Sunday’s final after the Spaniard demolished his countryman Tommy Robredo in straight sets in the night session. Robredo, who had upset Roger Federer in the fourth round, was no match for the second seed, who struck 28 winners and won 15 of his 16 trips to the net. It was all over after 1 hour and 40 minutes, Nadal claiming an emphatic 6-0 6-2 6-2 victory.
In the women’s tournament, second seed Victoria Azarenka moved a step closer to returning to the women’s final after scoring a comfortable 6-2 6-3 victory over Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova. The world number 48 managed to break Azarenka’s serve early in each set, but Hantuchova immediately handed back the advantage on both occasions as Azarenka controlled the majority of the baseline rallies.
Azarenka faces Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals after the 31 year old Italian beat fellow Italian Roberta Vinci to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final. Pennetta, who overcame another Italian, Sara Errani, in the second round, claimed a tense opening set, 6-4, before racing away with the second set, taking it for the loss of just one game.
Matches of the Day – Day 11
1. Andy Murray vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
Having claimed a workmanlike victory over Denis Istomin in the round of 16, defending champion Andy Murray will need to lift his game in this quarter-final clash against the dangerous Stanislas Wawrinka. These players know each other’s game extremely well, having played against one another as juniors and being frequent practice partners. Murray leads 8-5 in their career meetings, although Wawrinka won their most recent match, on clay in Monte Carlo earlier this year.
As Murray acknowledged after his fourth round win, Wawrinka has always been an extremely good player technically, but his success this year has given the Swiss star renewed confidence. Wawrinka pushed Novak Djokovic to the absolute limit at the Australian Open earlier this year and I would not be surprised if he does the same to Murray in this clash.
With all of his big match experience, Murray has to enter this match as the favourite, but Wawrinka will come out swinging and knows that he is capable of winning the match, especially if he plays like he did against Berdych in the round of 16. Murray in 5.
2. Novak Djokovic vs. Mikhail Youzhny
Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny faces an almighty task to defeat world number one and top seed Novak Djokovic and reach his third career semi-final at Flushing Meadows. Youzhny had a gruelling 5-set match against Lleyton Hewitt in the round of 16, whereas Djokovic blitzed Marcel Granollers, losing just 3 games for the entire match.
Youzhny obviously enjoys playing in New York, as his strong record at the US Open suggests, but Djokovic looks to be in stellar form and has yet to be challenged at this year’s tournament. Youzhny has beaten Djokovic in 3 of their 8 career meetings, but the last of those wins came back in 2010, before Djokovic had established himself as the world’s best player.
I think Youzhny will compete strongly and should make at least one or two of the sets very close, but look for the top seeded Serb, who has made the US Open final in each of the last 3 years, to raise his game on the big points. Djokovic in 3.
September 3, 2013
Top seed Serena Williams and former French Open champion Li Na set up a semi-final showdown with contrasting quarter-final victories on Day 9.
Day 9 Recap
Chinese star Li Na took almost 2 and a half hours to overcome the plucky Russian Ekaterina Makarova, the fifth seed crunching 44 winners in a hard-fought 3 set tussle. Williams, by contrast, took just 52 minutes to hand Carla Suarez Navarro the dreaded double bagel. Williams struck 20 winners and won 53 out of 71 points to claim an emphatic victory.
Last year’s US Open finalist, second seed Victoria Azarenka, also remains in the hunt for this year’s title, moving through to the quarter-finals with a fighting 3 set win over Ana Ivanovic in a rain-delayed fourth round encounter. For the second match in a row, Azarenka dropped the opening set, but the Belarusian eventually wore down her Serbian opponent in a match which featured an astonishing 16 breaks of serve.
In the men’s tournament, top seed Novak Djokovic was in devastating form against Marcel Granollers, allowing the Spaniard just 3 games for the match. The world number one won 25 consecutive points on serve at the start of the match, hit 34 winners for the match, and won the last 15 games of the match to move through to the quarter-finals.
Djokovic will face Mikhail Youzhny for a place in the semi-finals after the Russian edged past Lleyton Hewitt in a thrilling 5-setter. The Aussie looked to be on top when he won the second and third sets and led 5-2 in the fifth set, but Youzhny remained calm and eventually took the match 7-5 in the deciding set.
Fifth seed Tomas Berdych is out of the tournament, losing to Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka under lights on Day 9. After the players split the opening 2 sets, the third set tiebreaker proved to be decisive. Wawrinka took it 8 points to 6 and then went on to claim the match in 4 sets, with Berdych’s 45 unforced errors a major factor in his downfall.
Matches of the Day – Day 10
1. Roberta Vinci vs. Flavia Pennetta
Having defeated fellow Italian and fourth seed Sara Errani earlier in the tournament, Flavia Pennetta faces another Italian for a place in the semi-finals, her good friend and former doubles partner Roberta Vinci. Pennetta has risen to the occasion against a variety of quality players in the tournament to date, seeing off Errani, former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and rising star Simona Halep en route to the quarter-finals.
Tenth-seeded Vinci has progressed to the quarter-finals without too much trouble, and is the higher-ranked of the pair, although Pennetta’s recent injury problems mean her current ranking is not really representative of her abilities. I’ll back Pennetta on the basis of her tremendous form in the tournament to date, but this one should be close. Pennetta in 3.
2. Daniela Hantuchova vs. Victoria Azarenka
For the first time since she was a teenager, over a decade ago, Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova is back in the quarter-finals of the US Open. Having been ranked as high as 5 in the world, and having made the semi-finals of the Australian Open in the past, Hantuchova is a fine ball-striker who has the power to trouble the very best players in the world when she is in the zone.
Azarenka has had a couple of tough 3-setters, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing for the second seed. The Belarusian will be match-hardened coming into the business end of the tournament and she will be looking to peak at just the right time. Look for Azarenka to put in a better performance today and progress without too many issues. Azarenka in 2.
3. Tommy Robredo vs. Rafael Nadal
Having finally broken his hoodoo against Roger Federer in the fourth round of the tournament, Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo now tries to win his first ever match against another legend of the sport, his compatriot Rafael Nadal.
Robredo looked very solid against Federer although, as the Swiss star admitted after the match, he self-destructed and in large part handed the ascendency to the Spaniard. Robredo can’t expect Nadal to self-destruct in this encounter – the second seed will enjoy locking horns with Robredo from the back of the court. Robredo’s style of game suits Nadal, and as such I can’t see Nadal having too many problems in advancing to the quarter-finals. Nadal in 3.
4. Richard Gasquet vs. David Ferrer
Since making a surprise run to the 2007 Wimbledon semi-finals, Frenchman Richard Gasquet had made a multitude of fourth round appearances at Grand Slams without being able to move past that stage of the majors. That streak was broken when Gasquet saw off Milos Raonic in a 5 set thriller to finally progress to his first US Open quarter-final.
Gasquet has enjoyed a fine season to date, picking up multiple titles and ensconcing himself in the world’s top 10. But fourth seed David Ferrer is an extremely difficult opponent, and it remains to be seen how Gasquet will pull up from his fourth round epic. Ferrer has won 7 of 8 career meetings with Gasquet, including a routine straight sets win at last year’s US Open, all of which spells trouble for the Frenchman. Ferrer in 4.
September 3, 2013
For the first time since 2002, Roger Federer will not feature in any Grand Slam finals in a calendar year after the Swiss maestro was bundled out of the US Open by Spain’s Tommy Robredo.
Day 8 Recap
Robredo, who had never beaten Federer in 10 previous clashes, edged out the seventh seed in a first set tiebreaker, which seemed to boost the Spaniard’s confidence. A total of 43 unforced errors contributed to Federer’s downfall, as did his inability to convert break points opportunities (Federer converted only 2 of 16 chances). In the end, it was a 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4 victory for the Spaniard, who next faces Rafael Nadal after the second seed saw off a stern challenge from Philipp Kohlschreiber to prevail in 4 sets.
Yet another Spaniard is through to the quarter-finals, with fourth seed David Ferrer blasting 46 winners to scrape past the dangerous Janko Tipsarevic in a tight 4-setter. Ferrer will play Richard Gasquet for a spot in the semi-finals after the Frenchman outlasted Canada’s Milos Raonic in a thrilling 5-setter under lights.
In women’s fourth round action on Day 8, Flavia Pennetta continued her tremendous run, knocking out the red-hot Simona Halep. After Pennetta claimed the first set and went up a break in the second set, Halep finally got going, breaking back and then earning a set point in the second set. A rain delay halted Halep’s momentum however, and Pennetta eventually claimed the second set in a tiebreaker to prevail.
Pennetta will play compatriot Roberta Vinci for a place in the semi-finals after Vinci outclassed yet another Italian, qualifier Camila Giorgi, in straight sets. Also moving through to the quarter-finals on Day 9 was Daniela Hantuchova, who returned to the final 8 in New York for the first time in 11 years courtesy of a 3 set win over American Alison Riske.
Matches of the Day – Day 9
1. Li Na vs. Ekaterina Makarova
Ekaterina Makarova has attained something of a giant-killer status at Grand Slam level, having knocked Serena Williams out of the 2012 Australian Open and having defeated Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki and third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in this year’s US Open. The Russian is very consistent from the back of the court and is a good mover as well.
Li Na is an outside chance for this year’s US Open title in my opinion and, although the Chinese star can sometimes lose matches off her own racquet by committing a rash of unforced errors, Li Na has looked focused and composed on court in this tournament to date. Look for the fifth seed to overwhelm the Russian with her powerful groundstrokes en route to victory. Li Na in 2.
2. Novak Djokovic vs. Marcel Granollers
Former top 20 player Marcel Granollers is, like so many of the Spanish players, a very solid baseline player who is most comfortable on clay (although Granollers is also a good doubles player, and so is more at ease at the net than some of his countrymen). Granollers has survived a trio of 5 set matches to reach the round of 16, so it remains to be seen how much energy the Spaniard has got left for this match.
The world number one has strolled through his opening 3 matches of the tournament with few problems, and I can’t see Granollers, with his steady but unspectactular game, causing too many issues for Djokovic in this encounter. Djokovic in 3.
3. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Tomas Berdych
To my mind, this is the match of the day, pitting two of the most in-form players on the ATP Tour against one another. Fifth seed Tomas Berdych is yet to drop a set in New York this year, and will be looking to go one round deeper than he did last year, when he lost to eventual champion Andy Murray in the semi-finals.
Wawrinka has enjoyed a terrific season, capturing multiple titles and moving back inside the world’s top 10. The Swiss star leads Berdych 6-5 in head-to-head meetings and also won their most recent match, on clay in Madrid earlier this year. This one is practically a toss of the coin, in my opinion, and really depends on who executes their game plan best on the day. I’ll back Berdych by a whisker. Berdych in 5.
4. Mikhail Youzhny vs. Lleyton Hewitt
This battle of the veterans should be an intriguing clash. Former US Open champion and world number one Lleyton Hewitt showed he still had plenty to offer the sport with a thrilling win over Juan Martin Del Potro in round 2, and the Aussie will now be looking to go as deep as possible in this tournament.
Hewitt has performed well against Youzhny in the past, having won 6 of their 7 career meetings. The Russian, who beat Tommy Haas in the previous round, likes playing at Flushing Meadows, where he has twice made the semi-finals, but I favour Hewitt to advance in this one. Hewitt in 4.
5. Serena Williams vs. Carla Suarez Navarro
Having got through her high-profile grudge match with Sloane Stephens without too much trouble, world number one Serena Williams will now be focusing on moving through to Saturday’s final. Her opponent in today’s quarter-final, Carla Suarez Navarro, is a talented Spaniard with a swashbuckling backhand who has beaten Serena’s sister Venus in the past.
Serena has a good record against Suarez Navarro, having won both of their previous meetings, including an easy win in Rome earlier this year. Suarez Navarro will come out swinging, as she has nothing to lose, but Williams should have too much power, especially on serve, for the plucky Spaniard. Williams in 2.
September 2, 2013
Top seed Serena Williams gained revenge for her loss to Sloane Stephens at this year’s Australian Open, outclassing her younger opponent in a high-quality encounter in warm conditions on Day 7.
Day 7 Recap
After a tight first set, which Williams eventually claimed 6-4, Stephens was unable to stay with the world number one in the second set, Williams serving and defending particularly well as she wrapped up the match by taking the second set for the loss of just one game.
Williams will face Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarter-finals after the Spaniard edged out eighth seed Angelique Kerber. Suarez Navarro struck 45 winners as she took the match in a third set tiebreaker after 2 hours and 41 minutes. Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska was the biggest casualty on Day 7, upset by Russian Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. Makarova next faces Li Na, who waltzed past Jelena Jankovic for the loss of just 3 games.
In the men’s tournament, top seed Novak Djokovic was at his ruthless best, blasting Portugal’s Joao Sousa off the court in straight sets. Defending champion Andy Murray also progressed in straight sets, comfortably defeating Florian Mayer after a tight first set. Murray will now play Denis Istomin, who outlasted Italian seed Andrea Seppi in 5 sets.
Other winners on Day 7 included Aussie veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who overcame the Russian Donskoy in 4 sets, Mikhail Youzhny, who upset Germany’s Tommy Haas, and fifth seed Tomas Berdych, who crushed Julien Benneteau in 3 sets. Berdych’s next opponent is Stanislas Wawrinka, who defeated Marcos Baghdatis in a tight 4-setter.
Matches of the Day – Day 8
1. Ana Ivanovic vs. Victoria Azarenka
Second seed Victoria Azarenka was given a scare in the previous round by France’s Alize Cornet, who took the opening set of their encounter. Azarenka remained composed and cut down her unforced error count to ultimately prevail, but the Belarusian will be looking to get off to a better start in this clash.
Former world number one Ivanovic is a quality player but she doesn’t have the power or the variety from the back of the court to match Azarenka, particularly off her weaker backhand wing. Look for Azarenka to attack the Serb’s second serve and race away with this one. Azarenka in 2.
2. Roger Federer vs. Tommy Robredo
The blockbuster quarter-final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is just one round away, but both players face tough fourth round tests that must be overcome before the quarter-final match-up becomes a reality. Robredo is at his best on clay, and made the quarter-finals of this year’s French Open, but the Spaniard still poses a significant threat on hard-courts.
This is Robredo’s eighth appearance in the round of 16 at the US Open, although the nineteenth seed has never progressed beyond this stage of the tournament. Federer has a perfect record against Robredo and, having looked solid in the tournament to date, should be too good once again for the Spaniard. Federer in 4.
3. Rafael Nadal vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
By taking down big-serving John Isner in the third round, Philipp Kohlschreiber signalled that he is a dangerous floater in the draw at this year’s US Open. The German veteran moves well around the court, has a terrific one-handed backhand, and isn’t afraid to move forward to the net if the opportunity presents itself.
Nadal holds a commanding 9-1 career advantage over Kohlschreiber, with the German’s solitary win over the second seed coming on grass at Halle last year – a match that I can’t believe Nadal was taking too seriously, having just won the French Open on clay. Kohlschreiber won’t stop competing in this one, but Nadal has the bigger weaponry and should be too good in the key moments. Nadal in 4.
4. Simona Halep vs. Flavia Pennetta
This is an intriguing match-up between the Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta, who is clearly getting back to her best after injury problems, and one of the players of the moment, rising star Simona Halep. Pennetta seems to have well and truly overcome her wrist injury, taking down fourth seed Sara Errani and former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the last 2 matches. Halep has been no less impressive, annihilating Maria Kirilenko in the third round.
Pennetta has never lost to Halep, and possesses the more rounded game of the pair, but the Romanian’s game has improved dramatically in the last 6 months and she is full of confidence at present. I think this one will be close, but I’ll back Halep to prevail. Halep in 3.
5. Richard Gasquet vs. Milos Raonic
Canada’s Milos Raonic aims to make his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final today when he takes on eighth seed Richard Gasquet. This is a very winnable match for Raonic, who beat Gasquet in their only previous encounter, on hard-courts in Cincinnati last year.
Despite making a myriad of fourth round appearances in majors, especially in the last couple of years, Gasquet has only once progressed past this stage of a major, and that was back in 2007 when he was a surprise semi-finalist at Wimbledon. Gasquet is a wonderfully creative player from the back of the court, but Raonic’s serve is a huge asset for the Canadian, especially on the high-bouncing courts at Flushing Meadows. Raonic in 4.
September 1, 2013
Two big names in the women’s tournament crashed out on Day 6, with former world number one Caroline Wozniacki ousted by Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi and former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova upset by American Alison Riske.
Day 6 Recap
When second seed Victoria Azarenka lost a first set tiebreaker to France’s Alize Cornet, it appeared as though the Belarusian may be joining Wozniacki and Kvitova in departing the tournament, but the two-time Australian Open champion lifted her game and progressed to the round of 16 with a 3 set win.
Joining Azarenka in the fourth round on Day 6 was Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic, Italy’s Roberta Vinci and Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova. The in-form Simona Halep kept her winning streak intact with a demolition of fourteenth seed Maria Kirilenko, the Russian collecting just one game for the match. Halep will next face Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta, who downed fellow veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova.
In the men’s tournament, second seed Rafael Nadal recorded a workmanlike straight sets victory over Ivan Dodig, the Spaniard avenging his 2011 loss to the Croatian. Nadal was joined in the round of 16 by compatriots Tommy Robredo and David Ferrer, each of whom recorded 4 set wins on Day 6.
Richard Gasquet progressed to the second week of the tournament when his opponent Dmitry Tursunov was forced to retire when trailing in the fourth set of their third round match, as Janko Tipsarevic reached the fourth round in New York for the third successive year after seeing off Jack Sock. Canadian tenth seed Milos Raonic is also through, coming back from a set down to defeat Feliciano Lopez in 4 sets.
Matches of the Day – Day 7
1. Andy Murray vs. Florian Mayer
Having defeated Leonardo Mayer in round 3, Andy Murray now faces Florian Mayer (no relation) in round 4 in New York. Murray has a perfect record against the German, having most recently topped Mayer in a tight 2 set match in Madrid earlier this year.
Mayer is a tricky opponent, who can vary his game a lot. The German will benefit from the swirly conditions that are almost always present in Arthur Ashe Stadium, but Mayer is probably better suited to playing heavy-hitting, one-dimensional players whom he can frustrate with his various spins and slices. Murray is a tough opponent for Mayer as the Scot’s game is, in effect, a better quality replica of Mayer’s. Murray in 3
2. Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens
This is the grudge match that tennis fans wanted to see when the women’s singles draw was announced last week. Having upset Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals, where Williams was visibly affected by back problems, and having then made some disparaging comments about the world number one in a magazine interview, Stephens must be braced for a fired-up Williams.
After surviving a scare in round 1, Stephens has improved her play with each successive match in this tournament, but Williams at her best is the best player on the WTA Tour by a noticeable difference. I suspect Williams will be friendly on the outside but fired-up on the inside as she looks to put Stephens in her place. Williams in 2.
3. Jelena Jankovic vs. Li Na
Former world number one and ninth seed Jelena Jankovic is still a good enough counter-puncher and mover around the court to progress to the second week of Grand Slam tournaments. But the Serbian doesn’t have the firepower to really threaten the world’s best players.
Li Na, on the other hand, has plenty of firepower off both wings, and that is what has enabled her to make 3 Grand Slam finals. The Chinese star looks fit and motivated after a mid-season training camp in Beijing and I think she can go deep in this tournament. Li Na in 2.
4. Tommy Haas vs. Mikhail Youzhny
The evergreen Tommy Haas, still going strong at 35 years of age, is enjoying a fantastic season in 2013, highlighted by a win over world number one Novak Djokovic in Miami. Haas is at his best on hard-courts and he will fancy his chances against any of the big names on the surface.
Haas will not be taking his opponent today, Russian Mikhail Youzhny, lightly in their encounter, as the twenty-first seed also loves playing on the bouncy hard-courts of New York. Youzhny is a two-time semi-finalist at Flushing Meadows, but I think Haas will be too strong in this one. Haas in 4.
5. Julien Benneteau vs. Tomas Berdych
With Roger Federer seemingly on the wane, the door is opening for players such as Tomas Berdych to get a better look-in at the business end of the Grand Slams. The fifth-seeded Czech downed Federer in New York last year en route to the semi-finals, and the big-hitting Berdych has to be considered a legitimate contender for this year’s title.
Berdych took a while to get going in his previous match, against the talented Denis Kudla, but no doubt the Czech is looking to peak towards the end of the tournament. Julien Benneteau is a very capable all-court player, but he has never beaten Berdych and I can’t see that statistic changing today. Berdych in 4.
Put your house on: Caroline Wozniacki let me down yesterday, but expect Novak Djokovic to have no problems against Portugal’s Joao Sousa in the round of 32.
Upset alert: Eighth seed Angelique Kerber has been in erratic form so far this tournament, so look for Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro to cause the German plenty of problems in their clash today.
Likely to go the distance: Twentieth seed Andreas Seppi faces a tough match today against Uzbekh Denis Istomin. I expect this one to go the distance, with Seppi ultimately prevailing.