WASHINGTON, September 6, 2017 (by Michael Dickens)
Pablo Carreño Busta knows he’s had a good draw in this year’s U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow. Maybe, it’s too good to be true. Imagine, though, what it must feel like sailing through the first four rounds of a Grand Slam where every opponent you’ve faced is a qualifier – a first in the Open era dating back to 1968. That is the fate of the 26-year-old Carreño Busta – with victories over Evan King, Cameron Norrie, Nicolas Mahut and Denis Shapovalov – in what has always been his most productive of the four grand slam tournaments.
“Of course I know that I have a good draw here,” said Carreño Busta, ranked No. 19 in the world, who is yet to drop a set this fortnight. “But when you have this draw, you have to do your best to take advantage, so I think that is a really good tournament for me. I know that I didn’t win matches against top players, Top 10 or Top 20 players, but I am very happy with my tournament.”
On Tuesday, the 12th-seeded Spaniard beat Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, on Arthur Ashe Stadium to become the first to advance to the semifinals. He improved his lifetime U.S. Open win-loss record to 10-3 with his win over the 29th-seeded Schwartzman in their first career head-to-head meeting. It ended a great run for the Argentine, who earlier in the tournament knocked out the No. 5 seed Marin Cilic and followed it up with a win over No. 16 Lucas Pouille.
“It’s incredible,” said Carreño Busta, during his on-court interview with ESPN after his win against Schwartzman. “It’s something that I always dreamed of but I never thought I could arrive here. I’m very excited to be in the semifinals in this tournament.
“It was a very good match today. I tried to be focused all the time. Diego is a fighter. You need to play aggressive and try to dominate the points, otherwise for sure Diego will beat you.”
Carreño Busta hit 30 winners against Schwartzman, controlled play at the net, broke his opponent six times in eight tries, and outpointed him, 97-72.
On Sunday, I had the opportunity to watch Carreño Busta’s triple tie-break win over Shapovalov in the fourth round in Arthur Ashe Stadium with the roof closed. A couple of things stood out for me as I observed the match from my seat located high above the south baseline in the third deck of Ashe. First, I was impressed by Carreño Busta’s steady play from the baseline and, second, by his steady demeanor. He maintained his focus throughout each set and during each nail-biting tie-break. Nothing, it seemed, bothered or rattled him. And, on that particular day, the Canadian teen-aged sensation Shapovalov definitely was the crowd favorite among the sellout crowd of over 22,000 fans.
Mind you, Carreño Busta is not one for displaying a tremendous amount of Vamos! like his fellow Spaniard, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, does. Instead, Carreño Busta lets his racquet do his talking – and, so far, it has spoken volumes. It’s been a rewarding year for the Spaniard, which has included winning his third AP World Tour title of his career, on clay in Estoril, and also finally beating a Top 10 player for the first time, when he defeated Milos Raonic in five sets at Roland Garros to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Some have suggested that with other well-known Spaniards like David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro and Feliciano Lopez all being over the age of 30 and facing the twilight of their respective careers – not to mention that Nadal is 31 – Carreño Busta soon could find himself becoming the new face of Spanish tennis. With his successful run at this year’s U.S. Open, he’s on the brink of breaking into the Top 10. I think not only is Carreño Busta ready for the challenge, but he would be a worthy successor to Nadal.
With an outside chance that Carreño Busta and Nadal, the last two Spaniards remaining in the singles draw, could meet in Sunday’s final – something which he said “would be fantastic” – one can only imagine what the impact of a Carreño Busta victory over the No. 1 seed and 15-time Grand Slam champion Nadal might be. I, for one, would like to find out.
About the author:
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.