by Kevin Craig
Caroline Wozniacki reached her third US Open semifinal on Tuesday as she defeated an injured Anastasija Sevastova, 6-0, 6-2 to start off a lackluster night session that saw the men’s match between Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga end with the Frenchman retiring.
The Dane, a former world No. 1, reached the only two major finals of her career at the US Open, coming in 2009 and 2014. The win puts her into her first semifinal at a major since that run to the final of the US Open in 2014.
“It’s amazing to be back here. It’s the best feeling ever,” said Wozniacki, currently ranked No. 74.
The former world No. 1 had no issues starting off the match as she was able to break Sevastova to get out to a quick lead. It was just a couple games into the match, though, that the Latvian took a tumble on the baseline and rolled her ankle, essentially killing off any chances she had of winning the match.
“I felt real sorry for her. I kept pushing her back and making her run,” said Wozniacki, who was aware of the injury but did not want to give her opponent any room to get back into the match.
After taking the first set with no trouble whatsoever, it looked like the second set would take a similar path. Wozniacki was able to race out to a 4-0 lead as Sevastova continued to struggle with the ankle injury.
In the fifth game, however, the Latvian was able to finally get on the board as she fought off three break points to hold for the first time in the match. She would hold again in her next service game and looked to finally be in the match, but it was too little too late.
In the next game, Wozniacki held with ease to close out the win, setting up a semifinal with the 2016 Australian Open champion, Angelique Kerber. The German leads the head-to-head record 7-5, but the Dane holds a 5-4 lead in hard court matches.
“She’s had a great year so she will be tough to beat, but I’m going to do my best. That’s all I can ask for myself,” said Wozniacki. “I always believe in myself, no matter what my ranking.”
by Kevin Craig
Karolina Pliskova ended the opportunity of having an all-Williams semifinal at the US Open as she defeated Venus Williams on Monday, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).
“I put everything in there, I’m happy that I won it,” said Pliskova.
The 10th-seeded Pliskova reached her first quarterfinal at a major with the win that saw her battle back from a being down a set and a break in the second set, while she also had to fight off a match point in the third.
In the first, the Czech didn’t have much to offer for the crowd-favorite Williams. The American, currently ranked No. 6 in the world at the age of 36, rolled out to a 3-0 lead in the first set with ease. That lead would expand to 5-1 for Williams, but she would have difficulty closing out the set as Pliskova would break her twice and actually got the set back on serve.
With Pliskova serving at 4-5, though, she quickly fell into a 0-40 hole and was unable to battle out of it as Williams broke on her third chance to close out the set and take a lead.
The second set saw some of that momentum for Pliskova from the end of the first set carry over. Despite going down a break early, the Czech didn’t let it crush her hopes, as she immediately broke in the next game before breaking again two games later, eventually having a 5-3 lead. Serving out the set at 5-4, Pliskova had no troubles levelling the match as she held at 15 to take the match into a decider.
Pliskova, who hit 33 winners in the match, continued to be in charge early on in the third set, pressuring Williams in her first two service games. The pressure paid off as Pliskova broke for a 2-1 lead before fighting off three break points in the next game to go up 3-1. One sloppy game at 4-3, though, would cost Pliskova the lead as Williams broke easily to level up the match.
With Pliskova serving at 4-5, it looked like the opportunity had slipped out of the hands of the 24-year old as Williams had a look at a match point. Pliskova was able to hold her nerve, though, and earn a tough hold for 5-5. That gave the Czech a confidence boost that allowed her to break in the next game and attempt to serve for the match at 6-5.
After quickly going up 40-0, with three match points in hand, it looked like Pliskova had finally sealed the deal. It would never be that easy with Williams, one of the most decorated tennis players of all-time, on the other side of the net. The American was able to save all three of those match points, winning five points in a row to break back and force a final set tiebreak.
“To be honest, it was very difficult after I lost my serve for 6-6. She played a very good game but I was still focused,” said Pliskova.
In the tiebreak, the fight-back from Williams had finally reached its limit. Pliskova was able to race out to a 6-2 lead where the American saved a fourth match point. At 6-3, though, the job was finally completed as the Czech capitalized on her fifth match point to ensure her place in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in her career.
“So far I’m happy that I got my first quarter-final. I’m going to enjoy this moment and prepare for the next match,” said Pliskova, who will take on either the No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwansa or Ana Konjuh in the next round.
by Kevin Craig
Lucas Pouille won the match of the tournament at the US Open on Sunday as he defeated 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal in five sets, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6), in an epic battle lasting longer than four hours.
“My first match on [Arthur Ashe Stadium]…yeah, I could not dream better than this,” said Pouille, who was able to win his third consecutive five-set match at the US Open.
With the win, the 22-year old from France reached the second major quarterfinal of his career and in a row after he reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon earlier this summer.
The first set was dominated by the 24th-seeded Frenchman as he gave Nadal few chances to work his way into the match. Thanks to a break in the Spaniard’s first service game, Pouille was able to relax a bit in the opening set as he felt minimal pressure on serve until the final game of the set.
After grabbing another break for a 5-1 lead, Pouille gave Nadal a look at his first break point of the match, but the 22-year old fought it off before closing out the set.
That late effort from Nadal gave him some momentum in the second set, as the roles were reversed from the first set. Nadal became the aggressor who was able to win the set with a double break advantage to level the match at one set all.
There was a point where Pouille had four break points to get back on serve in the set, but Nadal used his advantage in the experience department to will his way to a hold, eventually grabbing that second break to close out the set.
The third set opened up with a break for Pouille as he proved to Nadal and the tennis world that he wouldn’t back down after dropping the second set. At 2-0, Pouille missed out on a break point in an 18-point game and was unable to go up a double break, but kept his composure as he would only lose four points in his next three service games to close out the set and take a two-sets-to-one lead.
In the fourth, some fatigue began to be apparent in Pouille who had played five-set matches in his previous two rounds. After fighting off a break point at 1-2, the Frenchman would be broken in his next two service games with relative ease, allowing Nadal to even up the match and force a deciding fifth set.
When that deciding set began, Nadal once again was able to break, giving him three consecutive breaks of the Pouille serve. The nine-time French Open champion looked well on his way to the quarterfinals of the US Open as he lost just three points on serve in his first three service games of the set.
In that fourth service game, though, Pouille turned the tables of the match as he earned two break points out of nothing, capitalizing on the second one to get back on serve. In the very next game, the 22-year old saved a break point, and was eventually able to force one of the most dramatic and intense situations in tennis; a fifth set tiebreak.
After giving up a mini-break on the opening point, Pouille would rattle off four points in a row for a 4-1 lead, eventually extending the lead to 6-3. At that point, Pouille looked over to his box and reminded them and himself to stay calm. That’s exactly what he needed to do as Nadal would battle back to level the tiebreak at 6-6, but the Frenchman would not let this opportunity slip.
“At 6-3, I was like ‘Ok, you’re going to win this one. Then at 6-all, it was not the same,” said Pouille, receiving a laugh from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd in his post-match on-court interview.
Up 7-6 in the tiebreak, Pouille battled out an epic baseline rally with Nadal that ended with the Frenchman ripping a forehand winner down the line to close out the match and earn the win.
“It’s just never over until the last point. I was a break down in the fifth. I came back…It’s never done until the last point is over,” said Pouille.
Pouille will now take on fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils, who took out Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets in the round of 16, in the quarterfinals of the US Open on Tuesday.
by Kevin Craig
Simona Halep was able to fight off a valiant effort from the No. 31 seed Timea Babos of Hungary on Saturday at the US Open, solidifying her spot in the fourth round of the US Open with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 win.
“I don’t know how I came back. I felt like I didn’t play my best but I was fighting to the end for every ball,” said Halep.
The 5th seeded had been struggling in 2016, by her standards, but has managed to turn that form around in the past few months. Since May, when her ranking fell to No. 7 after having been ranked No. 2 at the start of the year, Halep has a 29-4 record. During that impressive run of form, the Romanian has racked up three titles, two of which were Premier level events, and had a 13-match win streak.
To no one’s surprise, Halep has continued to play well in New York, not dropping a set in her first two matches. Babos, though, gave Halep her first scare of the tournament, and almost sent her packing.
In the first set on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Halep looked to be in the same form she has been all summer, breaking Babos three times and saving the two break points she faced in the set. She only had difficulty in one of her three service games of the set, as she only dropped one point in the other two games.
Babos looked to have things figured out early on in the second set, as she took Halep to deuce in her first service game of the set before breaking the Romanian the next three times. Those three breaks for Babos were more than enough to level the match at one set each.
In the third, the Hungarian continued to have the momentum on her side as she broke Halep for the fourth time in a row to go up a break in the first game. Serving at 3-2, though, Babos finally cracked and the 2014 French Open runner-up broke back, but almost gave up another break at 4-4 as she had to dig out of a 15-40 hole to hold. In the next game, though, Halep was able to break Babos to close out the nervy three-set victory.
“I was trying to push her back. I was trying to run for every ball. I did everything I could today and I’m really happy I could finish the match in my way,” said Halep.
The 24-year old Halep, who was a point away from letting her opponent serve for the match, is now into the fourth round of a major for the third major in a row and the ninth time in her career. She will take on the No. 11 seed Carla Suarez Navarro for a spot in the quarterfinals.
by Kevin Craig
Madison Keys completed an extraordinary comeback on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday at the US Open, coming back from 1-5 down in the third set to beat Naomi Osaka of Japan, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3).
“For sure. Hands down,” said Keys when asked if this was the best comeback of her career. “The crowd today was amazing, and getting to play at your home slam on Ashe is a feeling like you can’t even describe.”
Keys, the No. 8 seat in this year’s US Open, has been in terrific form this summer, holding a 19-4 record since the French Open. The impressive run she has been on saw her sitting at a career high ranking of No. 9 coming into the event, and with her results in New York, will see her propel to an even higher career high ranking when the new rankings come out.
With a title in Birmingham, a finalist appearance in Montreal, and reaching the medal rounds at the Olympics in Rio, Keys, at 21-years old, was touted as one of the outside favorites at the final major of the year, but received a massive scare from her 18-year old opponent.
Osaka, who has been highly regarded as one of the best prospects on the women’s side of the game in recent times, had an impressive result early in the year as she qualified to get into the Australian Open before reaching the third round. Her ranking as hovered in the 80-120 range in 2016, though, as she has not been able to win more than two matches in a row since her run in Melbourne.
The Japanese looked to make it three wins in a row on Friday as she broke Keys in the opening game of the match and got off to the exact start she needed. Keys, however, was up to the task and broke back just three games later to get back on serve. From the 2-2 game onward, the rest of the first set was very straight forward as neither player had a look at any break points and none of the games went to deuce until the final game of the set.
In the 12th game, Osaka gave Keys, who hit 37 winners in the match, just the smallest window of opportunity at 30-40, and the American took advantage as she broke to close out the first set, 7-5.
The second set was much different as four of the 10 games went to deuce, yet only one break point was converted. That break went to Osaka in the ninth game as she was able to fight off two break points in the early stages before taking the lead late. After converting her first break point of the set for a 5-4 lead, Osaka went on to hold comfortably at 15 to force a decider.
All the momentum looked to be on the side of the 18-year old as she would get within one game of reaching her first fourth round at a major, holding a 5-1 lead. Keys, though, knew how big of an opportunity this was for her and she didn’t let it slip, breaking Osaka as she served for the match, not even allowing the Japanese to have a look at a match point.
“I just knew that if I stayed in the match that I could maybe have a chance to come back and get back in it,” said Keys, and that was exactly the case as she fought herself all the way back to a final set tiebreak.
The unreal comeback from Keys, who won 80 percent of her first serve points in the match, was concluded as all the momentum was on her side at this point. The American was able to jump out to a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak, and there was no looking back from that point as she would close out the match three points later and place herself in the fourth round of the US Open for the second year in a row.
“I think the biggest thing is just…I’m never giving up and I’m fighting to the very end. That’s something to pat myself on the back for. But also definitely going to sit down later and work on some things for the next round because I don’t want to be two points from losing again,” said Keys.
This match-up between Keys and Osaka is surely one that will be seen many times again in the future, and possibly even in the later rounds of major tournaments. For now, though, Keys will focus on her fourth round match with former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki that will take place on Sunday.
The American has bowed out in the fourth round of the first three majors of the year, but will hope to go at least one better here in New York, and possibly match her career best result at a major; reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2015.
by Kevin Craig
American qualifier Jared Donaldson reached the third round of the US Open on Thursday as he defeated Viktor Troicki of Serbia in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3 6-3.
Not only does the win for Donaldson send him into the third round of a major for the first time in just his second appearance, but it will also propel him to a new career high ranking inside the Top 100.
Coming into the US Open, Donaldson was in fine form as he qualified for the tour level events in Washington, D.C. and Toronto, while totaling five tour level main draw wins. Two of those came over Fabio Fognini and Nicolas Almagro, and he was surely expecting to receive a wild card into the US Open.
When the list of wild cards was announced, though, the 19-year old, who is coached by Taylor Dent, was snubbed and was forced to win three matches in the qualifying tournament. With a chip on his shoulder and the feeling that he still had something to prove, he won his three qualifying matches with ease, not dropping a single set and only getting taken beyond 6-3 twice.
After that impressive run in qualifying, the No. 122 player in the world continued to impress as he pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the opening round, beating the No. 12 seed David Goffin in four sets, including a bagel in the fourth set.
With risen expectations on his shoulders, Donaldson, who only has one challenger level title and three futures level titles to his name, showed no signs of extra stress or pressure as he strolled into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and left with a routine win over a perennial Top 40 player in Troicki.
After going down an early break in the first set and staring down a 4-1 deficit, Donaldson started to show off the good form that he had been displaying all summer, winning six of the next eight games, including two breaks, to take the first set.
From the point in the first set when it was 4-1 in Troicki’s favor, Donaldson clearly became the better player as it looked like he was the veteran on the court and Troicki was the teenager. The American quickly found himself up a double break in the second set, breaking the No. 35 player in the world in his first two service games of the set.
Troicki would get one break back, but it did not phase Donaldson as he was able to break back later in the ninth game to close out the set and grab a two sets lead.
In the third set, Troicki kept it much tighter and even had a look at two break points early on. The American was able to fight those off at 1-1, though, and didn’t look back. Donaldson would go on to break for a 4-2 lead before fighting back from a 0-30 whole in each of his next two service games to close out the straight sets win.
Donaldson will either face fellow American Donald Young or Ivo Karlovic in the third round.
At The US Open, Ana Ivanovic Loses Fifth Match In Row, Third Since Marriage To Bastian Schweinsteiger
by Kevin Craig
Former world No. 1 and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic was upset in her first round match at this year’s US Open, losing to Denisa Allertova in straight sets, 7-6(4), 6-1.
“It’s an amazing feeling right now,” said Allertova of the Czech Republic.
The No. 89th ranked player in the world didn’t get to the start she envisioned as Ivanovic was able to break in the opening game of the match. After fighting off multiple break points to hold for 3-1, it looked like the Serb had withstood the fight she would receive from Allertova in the match. Ivanovic’s service games became much easier, that is, until she attempted to serve out the first set.
Serving at 5-4, Ivanovic quickly fell behind 15-40 and lost out on her opportunity to gain a set advantage. She would have another crack at it, though, as she broke Allertova right back. Once again, however, Allertova refused to go away and broke in a lengthy 12th game, saving a set point along the way, to force a tiebreak. It was there that Allertova was able to steal the first set, as well as all of the momentum in the match, taking the tiebreak 7-4.
“I put myself in a position to close out the set…and then I don’t. This is what’s been really frustrating so this is something I really have to re-assess and work on,” said Ivanovic in post-match press conference of her recent struggles.
There was no looking back for the Czech as she broke in the opening game of the second set to essentially finish off the match. Allertova dealt with almost no pressure on her serve in the set, losing just five points in three games with no break points to face. The No. 89 player in the world would break in Ivanovic’s last two service games of the match to seal the deal, taking home the straight set victory.
“I’m so happy. It was a tough match. She’s a great player. But I just focused on every point and tried to play my best,” said Allertova, who improved to 7-1 in first round matches at majors.
Ivanovic, who also lost in the first round at Wimbledon this year and has now lost in the first round of the US Open two years in a row, is currently ranked as low as she has been since October of 2010. She is also in danger of finishing the year with a below .500 record for the first time in her career, as her current record in 2016 sits at 14 wins and 15 losses. Her loss Tuesday was her fifth in a row and the third in a row since her July 12 marriage to German soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger.
“It is very disappointing. Obviously you want to try to do your best at the biggest events and I really felt like I did everything I could,” said Ivanovic. “It’s really disappointing…so I really have to try and stay a little bit positive even if it’s very hard.”
by Kevin Craig
John Isner fought off a valiant effort from fellow American Frances Tiafoe, an 18-year old, to come back from two sets to love down, winning 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(2) in the first men’s match played on the new Grandstand Court at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.
The No. 1 American got off to a more than lackluster start, getting broken at love by the No. 125 player in the world in his opening service game of the match. Even though Isner was able to get a break back later in the set, that first game set the tone for the first two sets as Tiafoe was clearly the better player and Isner had no answer for the young American, who was able to grab another break late in the first set to take a big step towards his first win at a major.
Tiafoe was able to breeze through the second set as he once again broke in Isner’s opening service game before saving the only break point he faced in the set a few games later. The 18-year old playing in just third match at a major was just one set away from earning what would be by far the biggest win of his career and he had the complete support of the crowd behind him.
“Just gotta stay with it…try to keep the match competitive,” said Isner of his strategy heading into a do or die third set.
Tiafoe was able to carry that momentum from the first two sets into the third, earning a break point in Isner’s opening service game again, but was unable to convert as Isner did exactly what he wanted to, keep the match competitive. Later at 2-2, Tiafoe had a look at two more break points, but again the veteran Isner was able to fend those off, and it looked like he had received his much needed wake-up call. From there, Isner was able to get his first real foothold in the match and force a tiebreak where he had to fight back from a 3-1 deficit to steal the third set and extend the match.
In the fourth set, Isner began to really assert himself on the court and was able to play his “big-man” style of tennis for the first time in the match. Dominating on serve, Isner began to apply more pressure on the Tiafoe serve, earning him two breaks and a comfortable 6-2 fourth set win.
It was clear from the first point of the fifth set that it would be up for grabs as both players looked to be at their peak levels of performance. Tiafoe regained his form from the first two sets while Isner was still riding the wave of momentum that had gotten him back even in the match. A few easy holds each way began the set before Tiafoe earned the first real opportunity to close out the match. With Isner serving at 3-4, Tiafoe was able to break and had the match on his racquet, serving at 5-3. Isner was up to the task, however, and quickly raced out to a 0-40 lead before breaking at 30-40 to get the set back on serve before eventually forcing a deciding set tiebreak.
“Just trying to play solid, try to play the right way. I think I played a pretty good game. I think I made every single return. From that point on…it gave me a lot of energy moving forward,” said Isner of his play to break Tiafoe when he served for the match.
Final set tiebreaks had not been Isner’s specialty in 2016 as he had lost six matches in these scenarios, but he was able to put that to the wayside and looked very comfortable. A mini-break in the first point of the tiebreak for Isner, combined with a few Tiafoe errors, including a double fault, allowed the 6’10” American to cruise to a 7-2 tiebreak win and close out the comeback.
Both Isner and Tiafoe were appreciative of the atmosphere that helped make the match as intense as it was.
“It was an absolute pleasure to play out here in front of you fans and an absolute pleasure to play against Frances. He’s a hell of a player and a class act,” said Isner.
“It was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played on in my life…it’s an unbelievable time I had playing tennis today…you guys made this match unbelievably fun for me,” added Tiafoe, who listened to chants of his name ring out throughout the course of the match.
“It hurts. It hurts a lot…but I can’t wait to come back next year and hopefully do damage,” continued a disappointed but hopeful Tiafoe.
Isner will take on Steve Darcis in the second round at the US Open in a section of the draw that completely opened up when Richard Gasquet was upset by Kyle Edmund in straight sets. A potential fourth round match with Novak Djokovic awaits the No. 1 ranked American.
Wilson Sporting Goods announced that it will honor 20-year veteran Advisory Staff Member Serena Williams with an Autograph tennis racket.
The Blade Serena Williams (SW) 104 Autograph racket marks only the 16th time in the brand’s 102-year history, and only the second time in the last 38 years, that it has celebrated an athlete with Autograph racket. Serena will debut her new racket at the start of the 2017 season in Australia.
“I’ve played with Wilson rackets since I was a young girl, and to now hold an Autograph racket of my own is a great moment,” said Serena Williams. “I am just thrilled that players of all ages around the world will be able to play with a Wilson racket that bears my signature. This racket feels like me – it reflects my passion, perseverance and drive – and I hope it energizes and encourages those that play with it to always chase their dreams.”
The 2017Blade SW 104 Autograph racket features the new design DNA for Wilson performance tennis rackets. This design includes a simple, bold, and clean aesthetic that features a specially engineered, high performance paint never used in the tennis industry before called Black Velvet. This matte paint provides a smooth, soft, light-absorbing finish Wilson created to significantly improve the “feel,” or tactile experience, a player has when the racket is in his/her hands. This new dimension of “feel” is a unique innovation in the performance tennis rackets space.
The racket also features strong electric green accents, a signature look from the Blade franchise, at the three and nine o’clock positions on the racket’s frame.
To customize her Autograph racket, Serena William chose to add special gold accents to the design, including her signature, initials and the Blade name in gold chrome letters. The racket features a red Wilson-branded butt cap.
The Blade SW 104 Autograph racket is constructed with the latest racket technology from Wilson LABS, the innovation hub at Wilson, including a revolutionary material called Countervail®. With Countervail in a tennis racket, players feel less fatigue, recover quicker and experience better control – without sacrificing stiffness, feedback, or feel.
By Randy Walker
Vasil Kirkov, the 17-year-old who reached the semifinals as a lucky loser in the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships USTA Futures event earlier this year in Vero Beach, Florida, competed in the qualifying rounds of the 2016 U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center.
Kirkov, however, suffered an early exit, falling 6-2, 7-5 in the first scheduled match of the competition to No. 242-ranked Yannik Reuter of Belgium.
Kirkov, ranked No. 1146, played the match on Court No. 5 – the shadow of the new Arthur Ashe Stadium retractable roof – in front of an audience of about 200 people that included U.S. Olympic men’s tennis coach Jay Berger, former US Davis Cup Captain Tom Gullikson and Hallof Famer – and Vero Beach resident – Ivan Lendl, who works with Kirkov as part of his advisory role with the USTA Player Development program.
Kirkov was awarded a wild card entry into the U.S. Open qualifying tournament by the U.S. Tennis Association after, not only his strong result in Vero Beach, that saw his ATP ranking rise almost 1000 spots, but by reaching the final of the USTA National Boy’s 18 Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he lost to another Vero Beach Futures alumnus Michael Mmoh.
Kirkov is expected to compete in the U.S. Open junior championships in two weeks.