The 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro has ended the hopes of Roger Federer’s quest for a third grand slam title for the fourth time in a calendar year with a 7-5,3-6,7-6(8),6-4 win in the evening session on Arthur Ashe stadium on Wednesday. He next faces the two time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain who demolished the unseeded Russian 6-1,6-2,6-2 earlier in the day session.
The 24th seeded Del Potro, who had rallied from a two set deficit and also saved two match points in the fourth set enroute to a five set win over the sixth seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria, once again played the important points better than his illustrious opponent whose only win in a grand slam tournament came on the same court in the 2009 final against the Swiss. Del Potro broke serve in the eleventh game of the opening set before serving out the set in the twelveth game. Federer broke in the fourth game of the second set and then levelled the match by winning the second set 6-3.
An early break of serve for Del Potro seemed to have turned the tide in the Argentine’s favour but Federer broke back to force a tie-break. He wasted a set point at 7-6 on his own serve and Del Potro took it eventually 10-8. Del Potro then broke serve in the fifth game of the fourth set and that was all he needed as he closed out the set 6-4 and with it the match.
A Federer win would have set up a first ever clash against arch rival Rafael Nadal, but Del Potro played what he described as some of the best tennis of this year and admitted that he got lucky in the third set tie-breaker which took the sting out of the 36 year old Federer. Eight years ago Del Potro had ended a run of 41 consecutive match wins of the five time champion from 2004-2008 with a five set win then, also handed the third seeded Federer his first defeat in a grand slam in 2017.
The Swiss had triumphed at the Australian Open winning his fifth title in Melbourne and then claimed a record breaking eighth title at Wimbledon. Federer was 18-0 in grand slams this year going into the match, is now 16-6 against the Argentine nicknamed the Tower of Tandill.
The drama of that match completely overshadowed Nadal’s win and it also ensured that the Spaniard will retain his number one ranking at the end of the tournament. Had Federer won it would have ensured that his match against Nadal would be a winner takes number one ranking. The nineteen year old Rublev would make little impression on the top seeded Spaniard. Rublev had upset the Cincinnati champion Grigor Dimitrov and then David Goffin of Belgium in the round of sixteen.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the 12th seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta made short work of the 29th seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-4,6-4,6-2 in just under two hours in the first quarter final in the day session. Schwartzman recovered one break of service in both the opening sets but only converted on two out of the ten break point chances he had against the consistent Spaniard who had 30 winners and an equal number of unforced errors. He also converted on six of eight break point chances, twice in each set to advance to his first semi final in a grand slam. He also reached the quarter final in Roland Garros and is now assured of breaking into the top ten rankings for the first time in his career.
In the evening session, Kevin Anderson of South Africa also entered his maiden semi final of a grand slam after ending the hopes of Sam Querrey, the last American left in the men’s draw. Not surprisingly the match lasting three hours and twenty seven minutes was dominated by big serving. While Querrey had 20 aces, Anderson served 22 aces. There were no break point chances in the first set for either player and the 28th seeded Anderson went one set up as he clinched it 7-5.
The second set too was settled by a tie-break in dramatic fashion as Anderson saved five set points, including four from 2-6 down. At 6-6 he missed a sitter as he hit a smash long, and also failed to convert a set point at 8-7 in the tie-break. Querrey finally clinched it 11-9.
The South African, who had blown a two set lead to the eventual champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2015, re-grouped with a break of serve in the sixth game of third set after saving a break point in the opening game. There were no breaks of serve in the fourth set and it went in to a tie-break. Anderson who hit 67 winners to only 45 unforced errors clinched the tie-break 9-7 on his second match point when the California native Querrey hit a forehand long.
In the women’s section of the draw Americans Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Keys won their quarter final matches and joined compatriots Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens in the last four which ensures that an American would win the title on Saturday.
In the afternoon session, the 20th seeded Vandeweghe, coached by the former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash of Australia, saved a set point against Pliskova at 4-5 down in the opening set before clinching the tie-break at 7-4. She then dominated the Czech who will now be replaced by the Spaniard Garbine Muguruza as the new world number one ranked player when the rankings are announced by the WTA on Monday.
The winning scoreline was 7-6(4),6-3 for Vandeweghe who also won the Olympic mixed doubles gold medal partnering countryman Jack Sock at the Rio Olympics in 2016. The 15th seeded Madison Keys was always in command of her match against the 32 year old Kaia Kanepi of Estonia as she outplayed her opponent 6-3,6-3 in the first match of the evening session on Arthur Ashe stadium. Keys won the opening set in just 29 minutes against the 418th ranked Kanepi and with two breaks of serve in the second set clinched the match in only sixty eight minutes.
Tuesday belonged to the other two American ladies as well, five time champion Venus Williams and the unseeded 24 year old Sloane Stephens. In the day session Stephens upset the 16th seeded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova; the conqueror of 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the round of 16. The pair split the first two sets 6-3 in each set and it was only settled in a tie-break when the American won 7-4. The eventual scoreline for Stephens was 6-3,3-6,7-6(4).
The second quarter final followed the pattern set by the first quarter final as both Williams and Petra Kvitova split the first two sets 6-3 in each set. The 13th seeded Kvitova, a two time Wimbledon champion, had missed the first half of the year after recovering from a stabbing incident at her home last year. It only took a tie-break to separate the two and Venus was not to be denied as she won it 7-2. The match lasted two hours and thirty four minutes, the scoreline was 6-3,3-6,7-6(2) in Venus’s favour.
The following is the semi final line up in both the men’s and women’s singles with my pick mentioned first :-
Rafael Nadal (1) (54-9) v. Juan Martin Del Potro (23-11); Nadal leads 8-5
Kevin Anderson (28) (28-15) v. Pablo Carreno Busta (12) (35-18); Anderson leads 2-0
Madison Keys (15) v. Coco Vandeweghe (20) ; Keys leads 2-0
Venus Williams (9) v. Sloane Stephens (-) ; Stephens leads 1-0
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]