NEW YORK, September 2, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Philipp Kohlschreiber hadn’t beaten his countryman, Alexander Zverev, since the 2015 U.S. Open. However, the 34-year-old German veteran sent the No. 4 seed Zverev, 13 years his junior, to an early third-round departure on Saturday. He did so by stepping up and playing solid-if-not-amazing tennis – cleverly using an occasional drop shot to score critical points – over the course of three hours and nine minutes. Kohlschreiber showed everyone who filled Louis Armstrong Stadium for the final match of the day session that an “old school” player can still teach a #NextGenATP rising star a thing or two in what arguably has been the biggest upset of the U.S. Open so far.
The 34th-ranked Kohlschreiber beat Zverev, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, to advance to the round of 16 for the fifth time in seven years. A few key factors that favored the Augsburg native: He outpointed Zverev by 20 points (84-64) on service points won, controlled the net by winning 24 of 31 opportunities, and won eight of 12 break-point chances Also, Zverev uncharacteristically committed 53 unforced errors and was outpointed 137-115. By the end of the match – Kohlschreiber won the final six games – it all added up to an impressive win for Kohlschreiber, who is ranked 30 places below Zverev in the ATP Rankings.
“I think I have variety in my game. Yeah, it was very good today,” said Kohlschreiber in addressing the media after his win as quoted by the ATP World Tour website. “Was hurting him a lot … (The) difference was, I think, I returned his serve quite well, so I was able to manage all the power and force he had to put many balls back.
“Then I think during the points I played with the right strategy. I played low balls, high balls, lots of angles. I think over the time he got more frustrated. Also, the match was, I think, in my favor getting a little bit more physical. We played a lot of long rallies. I’m very happy how everything worked for me.”
Kohlschreiber’s victory avenged an earlier defeat against Zverev at the BMW Open by FWU final at Munich on clay in April.
Zverev admitted that in Kohlschreiber, he was facing an opponent who knew what to expect from knowing him and his game. “He played a good match, played a smart match,” said Zverev, who was playing in his first Grand Slam with Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl as part of his coaching team. “He mixed it up well, didn’t give me a lot of opportunities. On the other hand, I also did over 50 unforced errors, which the last few matches I didn’t do. I was a mixture of both.”
The disappointed Zverev went on to say that it’s a learning process having Lendl as part of his team. “I took him on to do well at Slams,” said Zverev. “But this is a process. You can’t expect to kid of immediately see the results. I think the results will come hopefully next year.”
Next, Kohlschreiber will face 2014 U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori. The No. 21 seed from Japan defeated No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1, to reach the fourth round in each of the three Grand Slams he’s played in this year.
Kvitova latest graveyard victim on Armstrong
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus upset No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-1, in convincing fashion on Louis Armstrong Stadium Saturday night. Since winning the WTA Connecticut Open in New Haven last week – her first WTA title – the 20th-ranked Sabalenka has gained momentum, round-by-round, at the U.S. Open. She lost just one point during the second set against Kvitova and now has won five consecutive sets going back to the first round.
Sabalenka broke Kvitova’s serve six times during the one hour and 25 minute match and won 42 receiving points. She hit 21 winners and caused Kvitova to hit 35 unforced errors. Now, she’s through to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in young career.
“I’m just so happy with my game at the moment,” Sabalenka was quoted as saying by the WTA website. “Actually, before every match, I’m a little bit nervous. But when I come on the court, I see these people that support me, let’s say. I enjoy it. I enjoy the game. I didn’t have any pressure. Well, I’m just playing every point.”
Since Monday, there have been six Top 15 seeds in the women’s draw who have lost on Louis Armstrong Stadium, including three on Saturday: Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens.
Osaka near perfect in victory
Meanwhile, Sabalenka’s next opponent will be No. 19 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan, who was near perfect in advancing to the round of 16 with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus on the Grandstand. Osaka committed just three unforced errors and lost just nine points on her serve in reaching the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time. Sasnovich was the highest remaining ranked player at No. 33.
Osaka has lost just seven games through her first three matches and has been on court for less than three hours. Her match against Sasnovich lasted just 50 minutes.
• Maria Sharapova of Russia remained undefeated at night in Arthur Ashe Stadium – 22-0 lifetime – after beating No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-3, 6-2. “I just wanted to improve from the second round; I didn’t feel like I played my best tennis,” said Sharapova following her win. In praising Ostapenko, she said, “She’s a phenomenal player and a Grand Slam champion, you know. I can’t come out here and expect it to be easy. I faced a tough opponent and came through, so I’m happy with that.” Next, the No. 22 seed Sharapova faces No. 30 Carla Suárez Navarro.
• Joao Sousa of Portugal, ranked 68th, upset No. 17 seed Lucas Pouille of France, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), and earned a standing ovation from the crowd that packed Court 17 after he put away his victory on his third match-point opportunity. It marked the first time Sousa has advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam after going 0-5 in Grand Slam third round matches. “I’ve been in the third round, I don’t know how many times,” said Sousa. “I was very nervous. In the end, it was perfect.”
Next, Sousa will face No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who garnered his 65th career U.S. Open victory – tying him with Hall of Famer John McEnroe – with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 26 seed Richard Gasquet of France on Arthur Ashe Stadium in a brisk two hours and 11 minutes.
Djokovic hit 32 winners and caused Gasquet to hit 47 unforced errors. He broke the Frenchman five times and saved all five break points he faced on his serve. The two-time U.S. Open champion has reached the round of 16 for the 11th time. “It was a great match from the beginning to the end,” said Djokovic in an on-court interview with Brad Gilbert of ESPN. He said he enjoys the night-time playing atmosphere in Ashe. “The crowd was great the last 20 minutes of the match. … I love the energy, the entertainment, the buzz.”
• No. 10 seed David Goffin of Belgium has reached the round of 16 of the U.S. Open for the second straight year, thanks to beating Jan-Lenard Struff of Germany, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (4). Goffin hit 33 winners and won 26 more receiving points than the 58th-ranked Struff, who committed 49 unforced errors during the two hour and 14 minute match played on Court 17.
• For the second straight day, the U.S. Open set a single-day attendance record – and third time during the 2018 tournament – on Saturday. A total of 71,902 fans came through the turnstiles at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – 43,128 for the day session and 28,774 for the night session. The day session matches featured Madison Keys, Roger Federer, Angelique Kerber and Alexander Zverev while the night session included Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic.