Monday, September 7, 2020

Down to eight--and one of them is Pironkova

Yesterday at the U.S. Open, we saw Shelby Rogers win a three-set-thriller against 6th seed Petra Kvitova, Jen Brady make fast work of 2016 champion Angie Kerber, and Naomi Osaka defeat Anett Kontaveit in straight sets. We also saw Yulia Putintseva, in all her animated glory, win a tough, three-set match against 8th seed Petra Martic.

Shelby Rogers has always been a big-stage player (as was Martic, until recently, when she became more consistent). Also, though it pains me to say it, it's no secret that pushing Kvitova to three sets is a good strategy, especially in a place like New York, where the humidity doesn't agree with her. Kvitova hit 58 winners and wound up winning twelve more points than Rogers, but Rogers held fast in a tense, third-set tiebreak and walked away, after two hours and forty minutes, having saved three match points, with a 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 victory. She will next face 4th seed and 2018 champion Osaka.

Kerber was looking under-the-radar sharp until she had to deal with Brady. Brady has yet to drop a set, and she has lost nineteen games in eight sets. The 25-year-old began the year in a strong position, and picked right up where she left off when she was the MVP at the Charleston exhibition event. She has looked very strong ever since.

Today, six-time champion Serena Williams (who has now won 100 matches on Arthur Ashe) played a red-hot Maria Sakkari, who defeated Williams at the Western & Southenrn Open. Today, Williams prevailed, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in a two-and-a-half hour match. Sakkari's serve was really on today, but some of her shot selections were questionable.

Also today, Elise Mertens handily defeated Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, who was all over the place, obviously unsettled and out of sorts. And Vika Azarenka defeated Karolina Muchova in a highly entertaining match that, unfortunately, included a medical timeout for the Czech player. They went three   sets, there was some great shot-making, and an obviously confident Azarenka emerged the winner, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. The two-time Australian Open champion had a lot of good things to say about her opponent.   

Finally, Tsvetana Pironkova did it yet again. In a match that I found highly entertaining, the Bulgarian Woman of Mystery defeated Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. Pironkova held a match point in the second set. In the past, she would likely have faded after that, but she came back strong in the third set. I'm especially fond of watching both of these players, and I have always enjoyed their personalities. It was tough to see one of them lose.

In doubles, the unseeded team of Asia Muhammed and Taylor Townsend advanced to the semifinals, as did 3rd seeds Nichol Melichar and Xu Yifan,

As always, commentating for this major has been a mixed bag. Commentators continue to mispronounce players' names, and ESPN continues to interview celebrities while there's action taking place on the court. The biggest disappointment for me (so far) is Alexandra Stevenson's response to Novak Djokovic's work toward forming a new player association (or, as some commentator said today, a "new tour"). Stevenson was filled with praise for Djokovic because "he's decided to add women!" She then gushed over how great he was because of that. And at that point, I switched channels.

Here is the singles quarterfinal draw:

Jennifer Brady (28) vs. Yulia Putintseva (23)
Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Shelby Rogers
Tsvetana Pironkova vs. Serena Williams (3)
Victoria Azarenka vs. Elise Mertens (16)

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