NEW YORK, September 1, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
It was a NextGen showdown at the US Open on Saturday. Not all were successful but for once it seemed as though the youngsters were finally making progress in the biggest tournament of them all.
Rafa Nadal, Marin Cilic set Quarter-final meeting
The 33-year-old Spaniard defeated South Korean youngster Hyeon Chung 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in a minute short of the two-hour mark. The Mallorcan did not face any break points and converted four of the eight break points on Chung’s serve. Winning 89 per cent off his first serves, Nadal finished the match with 88 points. Chung won 57 per cent points behind his first serves and won 63 points for the match.
After the match, Nadal shared, “I’m happy to be in the fourth round one more time. This court is so unique and special with the energy that the crowd brings.” The 18-time Grand Slam champion also credited his opponent, who is making a comeback on the Tour after missing five months this year with a back injury.
“When he’s healthy, he showed how good he is to everyone. He’s had injuries and, from my personal experience, I know how tough it is to be injured. It’s a great event for him and I wish him a healthy career. That’s the most important thing,” Nadal said.
Nadal’s next matchup is against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic. The 30-year-old Croatian ended American hopes as he upset the 14th seed John Isner. The 22nd seed won 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 in three hours and 19 minutes.
This is Cilic’s sixth appearance in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. Nadal, in contrast reached the pre-quarter-finals for the 13th time in his career. The three-time US Open champion leads their head-to-head 6-2.
NextGen Battle Royale
Sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany reached the second week of the US Open for the first time in his career with a win over Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene, who clinched the ATP Challenger title at the Slovenia Open in Portoroz two weeks ago. In what looked to be another merry-go-round, Zverev lost the opening set after leading 5-2. The 22-year-old, however, refused to be distracted by that misstep as he came back to take a 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-3, 7-6(3) victory in three hours and 36 minutes.
Speaking to the press after his win, Zverev downplayed the excitement surrounding his win, a near-milestone. He said, “It’s the first time in the second week. Obviously, it’s a fourth round. I don’t really want to stop here. I want to keep going. I want to keep improving my game. It doesn’t get easier, the opponents don’t get easier, the matches don’t get easier. We’ll see how it goes. But I’m happy for now.”
Zverev will take on 20th seed Diego Schwartzman for a place in the last-eight. The Argentine defeated the last American male in the singles draw, Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
Like Zverev, fellow 22-year-old Andrey Rublev of Russia also reached the second week – of a Major – after his evening-session win. Rublev upset the 28th-seeded Australian Nick Kyrgios 7-6(5), 7-6(5), 6-3 in an hour and 51 minutes.
“In the end, everything was today on my side,” Rublev said.
“In the beginning I was thinking, ‘I hope I can make it to a tie-break and I hope in three sets at least I will win one tie-break and maybe I will have a chance,’
“So when I won the first set in a tie-break I said, ‘Phew, this is already really good.'”
Rublev set up a fourth-round clash against Italian youngster Matteo Berrettini. The 23-year-old Italian reached the second week of a Major for the second time in his career (after 2019 Wimbledon) with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(2) win over the 20-year-old Australian, Alexei Popyrin.
In the last match of the day on Louis Armstrong, Denis Shapovalov and Gael Monfils came up with a three-hour-34-minute thriller. At the end of the match, the French player took a 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-76), 6-3 win over the Canadian. Earlier, the 20-year-old Shapovalov’s gutsy play saw him rally from a double break and match point down in the fourth set before winning it to push the match into the final set.
This is Monfils’ first time in the fourth round at the US Open since reaching the 2016 semi-finals (sixth time overall). He will play Spain’ Pablo Andujar who defeated Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.