Top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain, rebounded after being bageled in the opening set to clinch a dramatic five set win in what was a repeat of the French Open final against the ninth seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria. The match lasted four hours and forty nine minutes in the evening session on Tuesday on Arthur Ashe stadium. Nadal won 0-6,6-4,7-5,6-7(4),7-6(5), the match finished at 2:04AM local time.
The three time champion in 2010, 2013 and 2017, survived an onslaught of 74 winners from the Austrian to reach the semi finals for the seventh time, winning his 12th consecutive match in New York. Nadal threw up a lob that Thiem struck long. While Thiem won 171 points, Nadal won 165, thanks largely to the lopsided first set.
The 32 year old Spaniard is the only man to advance to the last eight stage of all four majors in 2018, next faces familiar foe Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina in what would be rematch of the Semi-finals they contested in 2009 and 2017. Del Potro routed Nadal enroute to his only major title as a 20 year old, but Nadal got his revenge last year at the same stage before claiming a third U.S. Open crown. He leads the Tower of Tandil, as Del Potro is so called by 11-5 in their career meetings till date.
In the afternoon session on Tuesday, the third seeded Del Potro dropped a set for the first time in five matches, but came back strongly to end the hopes of the last American in the men’s draw, 11th seeded John Isner. He fired 49 winners and saved all three break points he faced to edge past Isner in a tight last eight encounter. The 29 year old improves to 34-8 at the Open and 8-4 in his career head to head against the highest ranked American. Del Potro won 6-7(5),6-3,7-6(4),6-2.
Isner had denied Del Potro of a Indian Wells and Miami double by beating the Argentine in the semi final in Miami where he went on to claim his maiden Master’s title. In November 2017, Isner had also won in Paris which enabled compatriot Jack Sock to clinch the last spot at the season ending finale.
In a rematch of the 2014 final, Kei Nishikori of Japan exacted sweet revenge over the seventh seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia as he came from a set and a break down to win 2-6,6-4,7-6(5),4-6,6-4. Cilic had 57 winners but lost his way inexplicably as Nishikori improved his head to head record to 9-6 against the 2014 champion.
From 2-6,2-4 down, the 28 year old Nishikori, won six games in a row and then in the third set tie-break, the Croat served two double faults after going up 4-3 in the tie-break. In the fourth set Cilic broke serve in the seventh game of the fourth set and held his own to force a decider. Nishikori raced to a 4-1 lead and had two points for a 5-2 lead. Cilic broke back and held for 4-4 in the fifth set. The 21st seeded Nishikori then broke in the tenth game to seal the win.
He next plays the two time champion in 2011 and 2015 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in what will be a repeat of the 2014 semi final which Nishikori won in four sets. Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon champion who became the only player in the history of the game to win all nine Master’s titles atleast once when he won the Cincinnati title on August 19th, proved too strong for the Australian John Millman, the conqueror of Roger Federer in the round of sixteen.
The sixth seeded Djokovic makes his 11th consecutive last four appearance (having missed out last year due to injury) in New York after a 6-3,6-4,6-4 win in the evening session on Wednesday. Djokovic only converted four times out of 20 break points in the match, while dropping serve only once in the third set. Djokovic leads Nishikori 14-2 in their career head to head.
Following is the semi final line up with my pick mentioned first :-
Juan Martin Del Potro (3) (42-10) v. Rafael Nadal (1) (45-3) ; Nadal leads 11-5.
Novak Djokovic (6) (38-10) v. Kei Nishikori (21) (28-13); Djokovic leads 14-2.
Serena Williams is now the clear favorite for the women’s title, as she ended the hopes of the eighth seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-4,6-3 on Tuesday in the evening session. The seventh seeded Williams next takes on Anastasija Sevatsova of Belarus who upset the third seeded defending champion Sloane Stephens of the U.S.A., 6-2,6-3 in the afternoon session on Tuesday.
The twentieth seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan annihilated the unseeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-1,6-1. She will play last year’s runner up Madison Keys, seeded 14th after the promising American advanced with a 6-4,6-3 win over the Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, seeded 30th who had earlier beaten the 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the last sixteen to celebrate her 30th birthday with a win.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]