Tuesday, September 5, 2017

USA dominates U.S. Open quarterfinals

Of the eight women left in the U.S. Open singles draw, for are from the United States. Venus Williams, still riding her wave of success after playing in the Wimbledon final, is there, as are CoCo Vandeweghe, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, the comeback wonder.

I didn't expect Keys to make it to the quarterfinals, partly because of the grueling night schedule she's been forced to keep in Flushing Meadows, but also because I expected Elina Svitolina to get the best of her. But Keys--playing in yet another night match and down a break in the third set of her round of 16 match, overcame the Ukrainian star 7-6, 1-6, 6-4. Keys and her mighty forehand are due some rest!

CoCo Vandeweghe has never before gotten past the second round in New York, so this is a big occasion for her. As for Stephens, I have to keep reminding myself that she was out for about a year with an injury. She returned to the tour in such a seamless fashion, it's easy to forget she was ever away. Her comeback performance has been superb, and now here she is in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

But there are other stories. Anastasija Sevastova, who retired from tennis because of chronic injuries, then came back like a whirlwind and made it to the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year, is right back there this year. Sevastova, whose game, in my opinion, is one of the most pleasurable to watch on the entire tour, took out Maria Sharapova in the round of 16. The match went to three sets, which was pretty much the end of the line for the not yet match-toughened Sharapova. Sevastova (who is sort of a Radwanska without the mirrors) put on a magnificent show for the crowd.

Then there's Kaia Kanepi, who used to lurk around majors and upset big players, while reaching major quarterfinals. Unfortunately, she also suffered with shakiness in the consistency department. Kanepi, once ranked as high as 15 in the world, was off of the tour for a couple of years because of injury and illness issues. She's currently ranked number 418, and her quarterfinal appearance is probably something no one saw coming.


However, as far as surprises go, you really can't beat this one: Petra Kvitova has reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. She's done it before, yes. But she generally struggles in New York because the humid atmosphere triggers her asthma. Oh, and her left hand was almost destroyed when she was attacked last December.

The Barking Czech didn't know if she'd ever play again, yet she wound up returning to the tour a couple of months before anyone expected her to. That in itself was amazing, but then she went one better and won Birmingham. And now she's in the final eight in Flushing Meadows. To get there, she defeated Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, the main favorite to win the U.S. Open.

Oh, and did I mention that Kvitova still doesn't have all the feeling back in her left hand?

So far, Kvitova has shown us Scary Petra in every round. If the weather stays cool next week, she could get even scarier. Fingers crossed.

And speaking of Czechs, the last of the eight is world number 1 Karolina Pliskova, who has looked uncomfortable since the tournament began--until today, that is. Today, she put Jennifer Brady out of her misery in just 46 minutes. The Long Tall Cool One is back.

Thee was a big upset today in doubles. Top seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina were defeated 6-4, 6-4 by 14th seeds Andrja Klepac and veteran trickster Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th seeds are still in the draw, as the 5th, 7th and 9th seeds, and one unseeded team.

Here is the singles quarterfinal draw:

Karolina Pliskova (1) vs. CoCo Vandeweghe (20)
Madison Keys (15) vs. Kaia Kanepi (Q)
Venus Williams (9) vs. Petra Kvitova (13)
Sloane Stephens vs. Anastasija Sevastova (16)

Williams is the only remaining player who has won the U.S. Open. She won it in 2000 and 2001. Pliskova was the runner-up in 2016.

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