Crunch time at Flushing Meadows
The US Open has been thrilling this year, with shock results galore in both the men’s and women’s competitions. In this article, Alex Bowmer looks ahead to the quarter-final contests.
Novak Djokovic v Feliciano Lopez
The Serbian has had an incredible year, claiming six titles so far this year: Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the prestigious Masters 1000 events in Rome, Monte Carlo, Miami and Indian Wells. Djokovic has claimed the US Open title only once, and is looking good so far, having dropped just one set in the opening four rounds.
His opponent Lopez has achieved his best-ever performance at the tournament by getting this far, having reached the fourth round in 2007 and 2010. He has not yet won a tour title this year, but reached the final in a tournament in Quito, Ecuador, which was played on clay. The Spaniard had a scare against Mardy Fish before prevailing in five sets in round two, and then surprisingly defeated tenth seed Milos Raonic in his third round encounter.
Head-to-head: Djokovic 5-0 Lopez
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Marin Cilic
The Frenchman is playing in only his second US Open quarter-final, but has endured a stop-start year, with his best result so far this season coming in his home Grand Slam, where he reached the semi-finals. Tsonga has been imperious so far in these championships, having not dropped a set in getting to this stage.
By contrast, defending champion Marin Cilic’s route to the last eight has been decidedly. After coming through his first two matches with no issues, he was pushed all the way by the world number 56 Mikhail Kukushkin, before needing four sets to see off Tsonga’s countryman Jeremy Chardy. The Croatian won four titles in 2014, but has yet to get off the mark this year. There would not be a more appropriate place to break that duck.
Head-to-head: Tsonga 1-4 Cilic
Stan Wawrinka v Kevin Anderson
The Swiss number two has enjoyed a stellar 2015, winning the second Grand Slam of his career, this time at the French Open, as well as securing titles in Rotterdam and Chennai. His performance in New York was in 2013, when he reached the semi-finals. The only slight blip in his run so far was the set that he lost to Donald Young. Otherwise, he is looking strong.
Kevin Anderson is the least experienced of the eight men when it comes to playing in the latter stages of a Slam, with this match being his first ever Major quarter-final. The fifteenth seed is no doubt in high spirits, having just won his first tournament of the year, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His confidence will also have been bolstered by an impressive victory over Andy Murray.
Head-to-head: Wawrinka 3-4 Anderson
Richard Gasquet v Roger Federer
Gasquet is making his maiden quarter-final appearance at Flushing Meadows, but he will have wanted to face someone other than Federer, an opponent who has dominated him in the past. However, his confidence will have rarely been higher, having picked up titles in Estoril and Montpellier, as well as reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals. The 29-year-old survived a scare against Australian hotshot Thanasi Kokkinakis, and overcame Robin Haase in a tough encounter, before comfortably seeing off Bernard Tomic, and, then, after dropping the opening set, Tomas Berdych
Federer is a player who needs little introduction. He has taken five titles this year, the biggest of those being Cincinnati, where he defeated Djokovic in the final. Five is also the number of times he has been US Open champion, equalling the figure set by Pete Sampras in the Open Era. Federer, along with Tsonga, is the only other player not to have dropped a set so far this tournament.
Head-to-head: Gasquet 2-14 Federer
Serena Williams v Venus Williams
Once a great rivalry between the most dominant siblings in world sport, this match does hold the same magic that it once did, as Venus has had to battle back from Sjögren’s Syndrome, which she was diagnosed with in 2011. Serena has won the title for the last years, while her older sister claimed the crown in 2000 and 2001.
Serena has her eyes on the calendar slam, which was last achieved in 1988 by Steffi Graf. Although she was pushed hard in both the French Open and Wimbledon finals by Lucie Safarova and Garbiñe Muguruza, nobody has managed to topple her when it matters. She did drop a set against her compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round, but then defeated exciting youngster Madison Keys to get to the last eight.
Venus won her opening tournament of the year in Auckland, but has been unable to add to that tally. She dropped a set in the opening two matches, before defeating future Grand Slam champion Belinda Bencic and then Estonian Anett Kontaveit. Although her chances are fairly slim, Venus has been more successful than pretty much anyone else against the world number one.
Head-to-head: S Williams 15-11 V Williams
Kristina Mladenovic v Roberta Vinci
The surprise match of the quarter-finals without a doubt, with both players being unseeded.
Mladenovic, the world number 40, is playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, with her previous best display at a major being the third round. The 22-year-old is also the youngest player still in the main draw on either the men’s and women’s sides. She has not won a title yet in 2015, but she did reach the final in Strasbourg, where she lost to Sam Stosur. Despite her low(ish) ranking, she has only dropped one set, and has defeated seeded players Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ekaterina Makarova to reach this stage
Vinci, three places lower than Mladenovic in the world rankings, certainly has more pedigree at the Majors. Flushing Meadows has historically been an enjoyable Grand Slam for her, with two quarter-final appearances, in 2012 and 2013. Her best result of the year was in Nürnberg where she reached the final, only to be defeated by Karin Knapp. Vinci has managed to avoid a seeded player to get to this stage, after her prospective Eugenie Bouchard dropped out through injury.
Head-to-head: Have never faced each other
Petra Kvitova v Flavia Pennetta
For Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, this is surprisingly the first time she has reached the quarter-final stage of the final Grand Slam of the year. On the tour, she has enjoyed a successful year, picking up titles in Sydney, Madrid and Paris, but this form has not translated itself into the Majors. She is in ominous form though, and she is the only woman who has yet to drop a set leading into this stage, with her latest victory coming against plucky Brit Johanna Konta.
Like her fellow countrywoman Vinci, Pennetta seems to produce her best tennis at Flushing Meadows, having produced four quarter-final performances and one semi-final showing. She has not been in the best of form this year on the tour, with her best performances being quarter-final showings in Indian Wells and Miami. However, her performances in this tournament suggest that she has returned ‘home’, having dropped two sets up to this point and defeated Sam Stosur.
Head-to-head: Kvitova 3-3 Pennetta
Victoria Azarenka v Simona Halep
Azarenka has experienced a difficult few years on and off the court, but is showing signs of getting back to her best. She reached the final in Doha in late February, and, although she has not won a tour title since August 2013, her past form at the US Open suggests that she pose a serious threat to Halep the second seed. Azarenka has twice been a runner-up in this event (both times to Serena Williams), and there is a chance that she can reach the final for a third time. The highlight of her tournament so far was beating Angelique Kerber in the third round.
Halep is yet another player who has never before reached the quarter-final stage in New York, despite her lofty second seeding. Despite failing to reach the heady heights of 2014 – where she reached the final of the French Open and the semi-final of Wimbledon – she has still managed to secure titles in Shenzhen, Indian Wells and Miami this calendar year. Her run to this stage has been relatively comfortable, with the only set dropped coming against the big-hitting German Sabine Lisicki.
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