Zverev First German Into US Open Semifinals Since Becker

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

German fortunes in the US Open has been lean for many years. Now, with Alexander Zverev‘s run to the men’s singles semifinals, that’s about to change.

On Tuesday afternoon, the fifth seed Zverev rebounded from a shaky first set and went on to beat 27th seed Borna Coric of Croatia, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-3, in a three-hour and 25-minute quarterfinal match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

By virtue of his victory, Zverev became the first German to advance to the US Open semifinals since Boris Becker accomplished the feat in 1995. One has to go back a year further to 1994 to find a German, Michael Stich, playing for the championship. Becker won the US Open title in 1989.

“I just started playing maybe a little bit more aggressive because if I would have played the way I played, that’s not the level for a quarterfinal match of a Grand Slam,” said Zverev on court after the match. “I had to start playing better and I was a little bit more consistent then as well. My serve got better and I thought to myself, ‘I’m down 6-1, 4-2, I have nothing to lose.'”

Coric has been a thorn in Zverev’s side for years, going back to when he beat the German in the 2013 US Open boys’ singles semifinals. As professionals, Coric brought in a 3-1 head-to-head series lead, including a four-set US Open victory three years ago.

This time, the 23-year-old Zverev did what he had to do to pull out a victory. He finished with 18 aces and 12 doubles faults, won 76 percent of his first serves, saved 11 break points and broke Coric three times. Zverev pounded out 52 winners to 46 unforced errors, while Coric finished with 37 winners and 41 unforced errors. Zverev eked out four more total points 136-132.

Now, Zverev, who is the highest-ranked player remaining in the upper half of the men’s draw, will have a couple of days to rest up for his semifinal match on Friday, against  No. 20 seed Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard fought past 12th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7), 0-6, 6-3, to reach his second US Open semifinal after four hours and nine minutes of battle.

“I’m destroyed, but I’m very, very happy,” said Carreño Busta after the match during an on-court interview. “It’s incredible to be back in the semifinals again.” 

Zverev will be playing in his second consecutive major semifinal after reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open in January.

“I still think that I can play better than I played today, which only gives me confidence because I’m in the semifinals and I still feel like I can improve,” said Zverev.

Brady’s breakthrough summer continues

Jennifer Brady needed just 69 minutes to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal on Tuesday afternoon. In another dominant performance by the 25-year-old Brady, she showed her maturity in beating. 23rd seed Yulia Puntintseva, 6-3, 6-2 in the first women’s quarterfinal match of the day on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

On the sport’s biggest stage, Brady is winning big when it matters most.

A native of Harrisburg, Pa. who now resides in Orlando, Fla., Brady became the first American woman to reach her first major semifinal at the US Open since 1999. She’s also the second former American collegiate tennis player in as many years to reach the women’s singles semifinals at a Grand Slam, joining Danielle Collins, who advanced to the semifinals at the 2019 Australian Open.

In doing so, Brady served six aces and hit 22 winners, which offset her 24 unforced errors. Although Putintseva, from Kazakhstan, only committed nine unforced errors, her seven winners were far too few and she was broken five times by Brady.

“I was just trying to focus within myself and not really look ahead or, you know, think about what position I was in really, you know, playing for the semifinals at a Grand Slam,” said Brady during her virtual press conference.

Putintseva was philosophical in accepting her defeat when she spoke to the media. “Yeah, just not the best day for me, butshe played really good,” she said.

“I’m taking a lot of positive things. It’s been my first quarterfinal on hard court and major, and it’s been a good week. Unfortunately, I will not be able to go further, but that’s okay.

“She played a great match. She deserved to win today. And I hope next time I will take this chance to go semis or further.”

Before the WTA’s mandated five-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Brady had begun a career-best season with a victory over World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty en route to a quarterfinal run in Brisbane and backed it up by reaching the semifinals in Dubai. With both a booming first serve and a dominant heavy ball-striking forehand, Brady has been producing positive results.

Since the relaunch of the WTA Tour, Brady won the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., and has kept the momentum going after a brief burp at the Western & Southern Open, where she lost in the first round to fellow American Jessica Pegula.

During the US Open fortnight, Brady has not dropped a set in her first five matches. She has amassed straight-set wins over Anna Blinkova, CicCi Bellis, Caroline Garcia and 17th seed Angelique Kerber before beating Putintseva. She has lost only 24 games the entire tournament – the fewest of anyone left in the draw – and no more than four games in any given set.

“I would say today I’m just, you know, enjoying every single day. I have a very positive outlook on life. And not even tennis,”said Brady. “Just even off-court, I would say everything that I’m doing daily, and I hope I continue to think like this and, you know, can enjoy each and every single day.”

Osaka dominates Rogers 

Next, Brady will face No. 4 seed Naomi Osaka from Japan, who easily defeated No. 93 Shelby Rogers of the United States, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour an 20 minutes. The win advanced Osaka into her second US Open semifinal in three years. She earned her first major title when she won the 2018 US Open.

The two-time Grand Slam champion Osaka dominated the statistics of her quarterfinal match. She hit seven aces, won 83 percent of her first serves, hit 24 winners and made just eight unforced errors. She also converted three of five break-point opportunities.

Meanwhile, Rogers finished with three aces and two double faults, won 66 percent of her first serve-points but was successful on just 33 percent of her second-serve points. She hit 23 winners but also committed 27 unforced errors – 19 more errors than Osaka, who outpointed Rogers 67-45.

Previously, Osaka was winless against Rogers, going 0-3 although they had not played each other since 2017. “I consider this a little bit of revenge,” Osaka said in her post-match interview.

Then, Osaka was asked to comment on Brady, her next opponent, whom she is 1-1 lifetime. The fourth seed said, “She has the variety that I wish I had. So, I’m a little bit jealous.”

Around the US Open

• Unseeded Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva from Russia advanced to the women’s doubles final with a 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Russian pair Anna Blinkova and Veronika Kudermetova on Louis Armstrong Stadium Tuesday afternoon. They will await the outcome of the other semifinal which takes place on Wednesday between third seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Xu Yifan of China against American duo Asia Muhammad and TaylorTownsend. The women’s doubles final is Friday afternoon.

• In the men’s semifinals, eighth seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic from Croatia upset the third seeds Rajeev Ram from the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, 7-6 (3), 6-4. They will face one of two unseeded teams, either Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania or Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil in Thursday afternoon’s championship match.

By the numbers

Jennifer Brady is a former UCLA Bruin, who is the first former college player to reach the women’s semifinals of the US Open since Lori McNeil (Oklahoma State) in 1987. Should Brady reach the finals, she would be the first former collegiate player to do so since Billie Jean King (Cal State Los Angeles) won her fourth US Open singles title in 1974.

King, Darlene Hard (Pomona College), Althea Gibson (Florida A&M), Shirley Fry (Rollins College) and Doris Hart (University of Miami) are all former collegians who won the US Open or U.S. Championships as it was known before 1968. Each of them is enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“For me, college was a big learning experience on and off the court, just growing as a person, becoming more mature,” Brady told The New York Times this week.

What they’re saying

“Yeah, it’s been amazing… Obviously having your own space, your own little room here on-site – and normally the US Open is the busiest slam. Now this year we kind of have our quiet. We have everything we need. I think it’s different and I think all the top players have been enjoying it.” – Alexander Zverev, on what it’s been like having an individual suite inside Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open.

Tuesday’s results

Wednesday’s order of play