Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are only one match away from a blockbuster quarter final showdown after both registered straight sets wins on Day Six at the Flushing Meadows in New York. Defending champion Rafael Nadal was made to toil hard for a four set win by the GenNext star Karen Khachanov of Russia, while the 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro looks on course for a possible encore nine years after winning his only major title, just days before turning 21 years of age.
Three time champion in 2010, 2013 and 2017, the top ranked Spaniard looked in grave danger of going two sets down as the 22 year old Khachanov finally took a set of Nadal, his first in five meetings after losing nine consecutive sets in previous four meetings, which include a three sets win at Wimbledon 2017. The inexperience of the 27th seeded Russian was exploited to the full by Nadal who after breaking back for 5-5 in the second set made Khachanov pay dearly in the 12th game of the second set where he double faulted twice. The remaining two sets were as close as any and the top seed booked a place in the last sixteen after a 5-7,7-5,7-6(7),7-6(3) win in four hours and twenty three minutes. He goes on to play the Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili who was a 6-3,6-4,1-6,7-6(4) winner over the Argentine left hander Guido Pella in a battle of unseeded players.
The 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro, consolidates his status as world number three after beating the 31st seeded Fernando Verdasco, conqueror of 2012 champion Andy Murray. In the night session on Friday, the third seeded Del Potro advanced with a 7-5,7-6(6),6-3 win which was his third consecutive straight sets win in the tournament. The Tower of Tandil, next faces the 20th seeded Borna Coric of Croatia who had a surprisingly easy 6-3,7-5,6-2 win over another Russian GenNext star Daniil Medvedev who was the winner of the Winston Salem Open last week.
The French Open runner up, Dominic Thiem, seeded ninth and who has had miserable results on hard courts in 2018, finally justifies his seeding at a non clay grand slam after coming from a set down to beat the American Taylor Fritz 3-6,6-3,7-6(5),6-4. His opponent in the round of sixteen will be last year’s runner up and fifth seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa who came through his second five set match in the tournament against the talented teenager Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 4-6,6-3,6-4,4-6,6-4. Another Canadian, 25th seeded Milos Raonic ended the run of the 2016 champion, Stanislas Wawrinka, a wildcard entry, 7-6(6),6-4,6-3 and next faces fellow big server John Isner of the U.S.A., who was a 7-6(8),6-7(6),6-3,7-5 winner over the Serbian Davis Cup player Dusan Lajovic.
On Saturday, in an eagerly anticipated matchup, the five time former champion, Roger Federer, seeded second ruthlessly dismissed the challenge of the 30th seeded Australian Nick Kyrgios, 6-4,6-1,7-5 in the day session on Arthur Ashe stadium. In their three previous meetings of which the Swiss claimed two, eight out of nine sets have been decided on a tie-break, but this time Federer outaced his younger opponent 16-13. He broke the dangerous Kyrgios four times, including twice in the second set. His next opponent is another Aussie, the hardworking John Millman, who crafted a 6-4,4-6,6-1,6-3 win on Grandstand against Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin.
The 21st seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, the 2014 runner up (loss to Cilic) reaches the fourth round after beating the higher ranked Diego Schwartzman of Argentina whom he beat 6-4,6-4,5-7,6-1. He plays the German veteran Phillip Kohlschreiber who produced the biggest upset of the tournament so far after coming from a set down against the 21 year Alexander Zverev of Germany, seeded fourth, winning 6-7(1),6-4,6-1,6-3. That rounds up a disappointing year for the German in grand slams this year where he has failed to justify his seeding. Maybe with his newly appointed coach, the legendary Ivan Lendl he should breakthrough in 2019.
Novak Djokovic, winner in 2011 and 2015, continued his mastery of the 32 year old Frenchman Richard Gasquet after recording a surprisingly easy 6-2,6-3,6-3 win in the evening session on Arthur Ashe stadium. He now plays Joao Sousa of Portugal, who beat another Frenchman Lucas Pouille, seeded 17th, 7-6(5),4-6,7-6(4),7-6(5). The French players can now prepare for the Davis Cup semi final at home against Spain between September 14-16. The 10th seeded David Goffin of Belgium ended the run of the German doubles specialist Jan Lennard Struff as he won 6-4,6-1,7-6(4).
In a match that finished at 2:23AM local time, the 2014 champion Marin Cilic of Croatia, rallied from a two set deficit to outlast the gallant 19 year old Australian Alex de Minaur, coached by former world number One Lleyton Hewitt. The Aussie saved match points at 2-5 down on his own serve and at 3-5 on Cilic’s serve before finally succumbing 7-5 in the fifth set before going down against the giant Croat. Cilic who won 4-6,3-6,6-3,6-4,7-5. He will now play the Belgian David Goffin on Labor Day.
Following is the line up for the Round of Sixteen matches with my pick mentioned first :-
Rafael Nadal (2) v. Nikoloz Basilashvili (-)
Dominic Thiem (5) v. Kevin Anderson (9)
Milos Raonic (25) v. John Isner (11)
Juan Martin Del Potro (3) v. Borna Coric (20)
On Labor Day Monday:
Marin Cilic (7) v. David Goffin (10)
Kei Nishikori (21) v. Philipp Kohlschreiber (-)
Novak Djokovic (6) v. Joao Sousa (-)
Roger Federer (2) v. John Millman (-)
In the women’s section of the draw, in an all Williams match up, Serena Williams, seeded seventeen, beat sister Venus Williams, seeded sixteen, 6-1,6-2, while the highest ranked women left in the draw, third seeded defending champion Sloane Stephens beat the former world number One Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-3,6-4. Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, seeded seventh, 15th seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium, 19th seeded Anastasija Sevatsova of Latvia, last year’s beaten finalist Madison Keys, seeded 14th, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, seeded eighth, Ashley Barty, eighteenth seed from Australia and the giant killer Kaia Kanepi of Estonia advanced as expected to the round of sixteen.
An equally popular winner was the Russian Maria Sharapova. The former champion, now seeded 22nd, handed a 6-3,6-2 drubbing to the Latvian 10th seed Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion. The 20th seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan double bageled the hapless Belarusian Anastasia Sasnovich 6-0,6-0. 26th seeded Arnya Sabalenka upset the fifth seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, seeded fifth, 7-5,6-1. In another upset, the fourth seeded Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber lost 3-6,6-3,6-3 to 29th seeded Dominica Cibulkova of the Slovak Republic. Estonian Lesia Tsurenko was a 6-4,6-0 winner over Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic. The upsets continued in the ladies section as the veteran Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, seeded 30th, beat sixth seeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 5-7,6-4,7-6(4). Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic beat the 13th seeded Kiki Bertens of Netherlands, 7-6(4),2-6,7-6(1).
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]