Two former champions Andy Murray (2012) and Juan Martin Del Potro (2009) who contested the gold medal match at the Rio 2016 Olympics last month have been unceremoniously knocked out of the year’s final grand slam at the Flushing Meadows in New York on Wednesday. The second seeded Murray, who won at Wimbledon this year and was also a finalist at the Australian Open and French Open, was bidding to join Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic among all active players to reach the finals of all four majors in a year, was beaten by the 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori of Japan, while Del Potro was beaten by the 2014 Australian and 2015 French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
Murray fell 0-40 behind in the opening game, but the Japanese No 1. was unable to convert and the second seed made Nishikori pay heavily for the missed chances as he ran away with the first set 6-1 breaking serve twice in the process. The only time Nishikori had beaten Murray was indoors at the O2 arena in London at World Tour Final and mid way through the second set the match had to be played under the roof following a light drizzle.
Nishikori was the first to strike, on resumption, as Murray made two forehand errors in the tenth game to drop the second set 6-4. He regained the upper hand taking the third set 6-4, but after the umpire decided to replay a point due to a loud noise fron the crowd at 1-1, 30-40, with Murray having a break point, the fiery Scott lost seven consecutive games to trail 0-2 in the decider.
In a match with seventeen service breaks, Murray leveled the match at 2-2 and then, again, at 4-4, but Nishikori broke for a third time aided by a double fault to serve for the match at 6-5. He served it out at 15 to claim the three hour fifty seven minute long match 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.
In the semi final to be played on Friday, Nishikori meets the third seeded Swiss Wawrinka who ended the run of the 142nd ranked Argentine 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 ,6-2 in three hours and twelve minutes, the match ending at 1:20am local time. Del Potro quickly established a 3-0 lead to begin the match, but the highest ranked Swiss, carrying his country’s hopes in the absence of five time champion Roger Federer fought back and took the first set in a tie-break after Del Potro tamely hit a forehand into the net at 6-5.
Del Potro got the break in the seventh game of the second set and served it out to claim it 6-4. In the third set Wawrinka would get a decisive break in the eighth game and from 4-3 in the third set claimed the next six games to lead 4-0 in the fourth. The result was never in doubt as the 6ft 6 inch Tower of Tandil had eight double faults in the entire match.
The Argentine supporters chanted Olé, olé, olé soccer style, and momentarily delayed the match at 5-2 with Wawrinka serving for the match. He finished with 53 winners and ten aces. The Swiss had fought fought off a match point in his third round encounter against Britain’s Daniel Evans before winning in five sets.
It was for the first time in the Open Era that three Frenchmen had reached the last eight in a grand slam, but after Tuesday only Gael Monfils remains as he and Novak Djokovic advanced to the semi final without any real problems. Monfils made the most of compatriot Lucas Pouille’s fatigue following three five set wins in previous rounds. While the 22 old Pouille had played 19 sets in the four matches at the Open, the mercurial Monfils had won all his four matches without dropping a set, thus playing only 12 sets.
It was inevitable that Pouille looked flat after his emotional roller coaster against the two time champion Rafael Nadal on Sunday and Monfils ran away with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win. Jo Wilfred Tsonga then retired, trailing, 3-6, 2-6 following a knee injury. Djokovic who had a walkover in the second round against Jiri Vesley and also a retirement by Mikhail Youzhny after just six games, has only played two complete matches heading into the semi final on Friday.
The following is the line up in the men’s singles for the last four with my pick mentioned first:-
Novak Djokovic (1) (55-5) v. Gael Monfils (10) (40-11); Djokovic leads 12-0
Stanislas Wawrinka (3) (37-12) v. Kei Nishikori (6) (51-14); Wawrinka leads 3-2.
The women’s section of the draw is headed for a repeat of the Australian Open final between the two top ranked players Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. Williams bidding for a 23rd grand slam title that would break the tie with Steffi Graf, will also be defending her world number one ranking which she has held for 186 consecutive weeks, another joint record with Graf.
If both reach the final in Saturday, then the American needs to win in order to stay at the top of the rankings. Williams defeated the fifth seeded Simona Halep of Romania in a brillian third set thriller 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the first match of the night session on Arthur Ashe stadium on Wednesday. She next faces the 10th seeded Karina Pliskova of the Czech Republic who ousted the Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh 6-2, 6-2 in just 57 minutes in the day session.
Earlier on Tuesday, Angelique Kerber reeled off 8 consecutive games after being locked at 5-5 in the first set against the seventh seeded Italian Roberta Vinci to emerge a 7-5, 6-0 winner. In the evening session, the two time finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark annihilated Anastasia Sevastova of Latvia winning 6-0, 6-2 in just one hour and four minutes.
The following is the line up for the last four with my pick mentioned first:-
Serena Williams (1) v. Karina Pliskova (10)
Angelique Kerber (2) v. Caroline Wozniacki (-)
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]