.@AngeliqueKerber survives a thriller against Larsson 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 at the @usopen --> https://t.co/SFZSemPFQA pic.twitter.com/OuuSzELZUR— WTA (@WTA) August 30, 2018
It's been quite a week at the U.S. Open, what with the extreme heat and humidity, the exit of the top two seeds in the first two rounds, and the 30th meeting on court of the Williams sisters. There was plenty of the usual uninformed bashing of Maria Sharapova, and a sudden onslaught of nastiness directed at Chris Evert, whose "sin" has been to make sense all week (except for tonight's assertion about Patrick Mouratoglou's having "introduced strategy" to Serena). All the while, people were tearfully lamenting the U.S. Open exit of a man who considers all females stupid, and defending a "nice" umpire who violated any reasonable definition of umpire boundaries.
In other words, everything was normal.
What wasn't "normal" was--as The Backspinner has pointed out--Katerina Siniakova's digging in to an odd groove if ever there were one. At both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Siniakova won her first two rounds against opponents who had served for the match against her. I don't know if something like that has ever happened before.
With not only world number 1 Simona Halep and world number 2 Caroline Wozniacki out, but also two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza, the draw has, as they say, opened. Still with us, at this writing, are Wimbledon champion Angie Kerber, Alona Ostapenko, Madison Keys, defending champion Sloane Stephens (who is looking very much like a champion), Elina Svitolina, Caroline Garcia, Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova--and yes, Kiki Bertens and Elise Mertens.
Svitolina has reached the round of 16 at the U.S. before--last year, in fact. The Ukrainian star has begun to lift her performance at majors, and such a move couldn't come too soon for her, given the remarkable success she's had in other events. Next for her is Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated Ekaterina Makatova today. Sevastova can be tricky; the match could be interesting.
.@serenawilliams downs Venus, 6-1, 6-2 in #VenusSerena30 to advance to the @usopen round of 16!— WTA (@WTA) September 1, 2018
Will face Kanepi for quarterfinal berth--> https://t.co/d6MRJJDhvf pic.twitter.com/cxSWCaCvKk
Also still around is Kaia Kanepi, who began her campaign by upsetting the world's number 1 player, and has survived to reach the round of 16. Her reward? She plays six-time champion Serena Williams, who defeated Venus Williams in straight sets tonight.
Coming up tomorrow (and being played at approximately the same time!) are two don't-miss matches. Two French Open champions, Alona Ostapenko and Maria Sharapova, will face off to see who goes to the quarterfinals.
Neither of them is playing her best tennis. Ostapenko is still the untamed big hitter who hasn't yet learned, as Petra Kvitova did, to try a few safer tactics. On the other hand, her "unsafe" tactics can be deadly. Sharapova looked terrible in her second round match against Sorna Cirstea. The 2006 champion double-faulted ten times (back to that) and made 33 unforced errors in two sets. She also looked really uncomfortable out there--and yet, she wound up keeping her perfect record in playing U.S. Open night matches.
The other match will feature 5th seed Petra Kvitova and upstart Arnya Sabalenka. Lucky for Kvitova, the weather is expected to stay mild all weekend, which--combined with the fast court--could make Sabalenka's life miserable. But, one way or the other, there is going to be some big geometrical hitting!
Another match of great interest should be the one played by Angie Kerber and Dominika Cibulkova. Kerber is 7-5 against Cibulkova, and is 6-3 against her on hard courts. These two have had some knock-down-drag-out contests, and--if fans are lucky--they'll have another one tomorrow. I always enjoy watching them play each other. Kerber will have to move into her best offensive mode against Cibulkova, who can be just as much of a wall as Kerber.
If Karolina Muchova were a more mature player, the match she played tonight against Ash Barty would have been a beautiful thing. Even as it was--with Muchova just not ready to go toe-to-toe with someone like Barty (and their games are quite similar)--it was a thing of interest and much beauty. (Also, Muchova's going from 1-5 to 4-5 in the second set wasn't too trashy). This is the kind of tennis I like to watch, with both players bringing a great variety of guile and a lot of different shots. It was interesting that the commentators were comparing the players with such stylistic and strategic greats as Rosie Casals (Barty) and--one of my all-time favorites--Hana Mandlikova (Muchova).
A shout-out here to Johanna Larsson, who gave Angie Kerber a real run in their second round match. It was a beautifully played thriller.