Alcaraz Shows Plenty Of Power In Moving Into US Open Second Week

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 4, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The power of young Carlos Alcaraz‘s game was on display once again at the US Open Saturday on the biggest stage in tennis – Arthur Ashe Stadium. The 19-year-old Spaniard didn’t disappoint.

For the third time in the opening week, the third-seeded Alcaraz played with comfort and confidence – and showed plenty of power as he took out American Jenson Brooksby, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, in their third-round clash.

In the final set, Alcaraz recovered from a 3-0 double-break deficit and won the final six games of the two-hour and 11-minute match to move into the second week of the season’s final Grand Slam event. Like he did in earlier wins over Sebastian Baez and Federico Coria, Alcaraz has yet to lose a set.

Alcaraz struck 46 winners to just 10 for the 43rd-ranked Brooksby and became the youngest male player to reach the fourth round of the US Open in consecutive years since Hall of Famer Pete Sampras in 1989-90.

“I played really, really well,” Alcaraz told ESPN‘s Brad Gilbert during his on-court interview. “High level, high intensity. I knew that it was going to be a tough match. Brooksby is a really tough opponent, but I’m really happy with my performance today and I’m going to keep going.”

Next, Alcaraz will face No. 15 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, who eliminated No. 20 seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain, 7-6 (11), 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-5, in three hours and 59 minutes, behind 26 aces and 74 winners. The 2014 US Open champion Cilic outscored Evans 149-133.

Tiafoe rises to the occasion of the big stage

Saturday afternoon’s featured match in Louis Armstrong Stadium, the second-largest show court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, showcased Frances Tiafoe of the United States. The 22nd-seeded American saved five set points in the opener against 14th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina and went on to win 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.

“I have unbelievable respect for Diego, he’s super, super tough,” Tiafoe said during his on-court interview after becoming the first American man to reach the fourth round at the US Open in three consecutive years since Mardy Fish in 2010-12. “I feel like I’m about to cramp soon, he makes you work so much.

“Huge thanks to the crowd for cheering me through that first set. That first set was everything today. If I hadn’t got that one, it would have been a lot different. We’ve got another week; I hope you guys keep screaming for me. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Tiafoe hit nine aces and struck 45 winners to 34 unforced errors. Schwartzman countered with 33 winners but made 37 unforced errors.

On Monday, Tiafoe will play 22-time major titlist Rafael Nadal. The World No. 3 and second seed from Spain made quick work of France’s Richard Gaquet, 6-0, 6-1, 7-5, on Arthur Ashe Stadium Saturday night to reach his 12th round of 16 at the US Open. It was Nadal’s 18th consecutive victory over Gasquet and three of them have been at the US Open, a tournament he’s won four times.

Unlike Thursday against Fabio Fognini, when Nadal bloodied the bridge of his nose and was tested by the feisty Italian, he came through cleanly against the former World No. 7 Gasquet in two hours and 17 minutes. Nadal won the first nine games of the third-round match before Gasquet finally won a game, thanks to a Nadal return error. By the third set, the Spaniard broke Gasquet for the seventh time to go ahead 6-5 and, soon, served out the victory. Nadal outpointed the 91st-ranked Gasquet 100-71.

“I always say that night sessions here in New York are the best in the world without a doubt,” Nadal said during his on-court interview with ESPN’s James Blake. “I increased a little bit the level today. That’s important for me. When the tournament keeps going, I’m able to rise a little bit. I’m happy for that against a very good friend like Richard.”

With Nadal’s latest victory, he’s now a perfect 22-0 in Grand Slam play this season – which includes winning major titles No. 21 and 22 earlier this year at the Australian Open and French Open. His lone setback came when he withdrew from Wimbledon before the semifinal round with an abdominal tear, which cost him a chance at winning a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Norrie remains perfect in New York

British No. 1 Cameron Norrie maintained his perfect record at this year’s US Open, winning for the third time this week in straight sets, following his 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 28 seed Holger Rune of Denmark on the Grandstand.

The seventh-seeded Norrie, who was consistent in hitting his ground strokes, fired 22 winners against the 19-year-old Dane and advanced in two hours and 13 minutes.

“Holger is not easy,” Norrie said after reaching the fourth round for the first time in New York. “He can go through patches where he is playing pretty passively and then he hits aggressively. So, you have to be ready for anything. He has great hands and defends really well at times. I think I stayed a lot calmer than he did throughout the big moments in the match.”

Next, Norrie, who improved to 3-0 against Rune and has yet to drop a set through the first three rounds, will face ninth seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, who outlasted 19th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 6-4, 2-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (7), in four hours and 10 minutes on the Grandstand. It was the second time that Rublev has been pushed to five sets during the US Open fortnight.

Rublev overcame 23 aces and 76 aces from the 23-year-old Shapovalov by hitting 38 winners of his own. Upon securing match point on his fifth try, Rublev collapsed to the court and buried his face in celebration, then shared a warm hug with Shapovalov at the net. It was the fourth time that Rublev has reached the fourth round in New York.

No. 1 seed Swiatek still player to beat in second week

World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland hit 25 winners and won the last five games of her third-round match against American Lauren Davis to earn a 6-3, 6-4 victory on Louis Armstrong Stadium Saturday evening. The victory was Swiatek’s 53rd of the 2022 season, just four behind the WTA Tour record of 57, set three years ago by Ashleigh Barty, and it advanced the two-time French Open champion into the second week in New York.

“I could not find my rhythm today,” Swiatek, 21, said during her on-court interview after remaining undefeated (15-0) against opponents ranked outside the Top 100 in Grand Slam play. She hit 25 winners and outpointed Davis 84-69. “She played pretty smart. I’m pretty happy at the end that I could put balls in.

“I’m just trying to enjoy any match, even when I’m not perfect,” added Swiatek, who improved to 4-3 in the summer hard-court season.

Next, Swiatek will face 108th-ranked Jule Niemeier of Germany. A surprise quarterfinalist earlier this summer at the Wimbledon Championships, Niemeier struck 22 winners during her 6-4, 7-6 (5) upset win over No. 39 Zheng Qinwen of China on Court 17.

Kvitova reaches US Open fourth round for seventh time

No. 21 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic beat No. 9 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (10), on Louis Armstrong Stadium to advance to the US Open fourth round for the seventh time in her career.

In the two-hour and 38-minute clash between the two former two-time Grand Slam champions – meeting for the seventh time since 2015 – Muguruza served for the match at 5-3 in the third set and held two match points on Kvitova’s serve at 6-5. However, the 32-year-old Kvitova staved off both and eventually won the match on her fourth match point in the 10-point match tie-break.

Kvitova, who overcame 12 double faults by hitting 14 aces and 50 total winners, has gone 15-3 since winning a title in Eastbourne during the grass season. She was a finalist at Cincinnati two weeks ago. Her best US Open performances are a pair of quarterfinals in 2015 and 2017.

Next, Kvitova will play World No. 8 and eighth seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, who advanced with a 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-0 win over 142nd-ranked qualifier Yuan Yue of China in two hours and three minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Pegula, 28, who missed converting a match point during the second-set tie-break, hit 35 winners, won 84 percent of her service points and outpointed her opponent 97-59. Kvitova has beaten Pegula twice, both in straight sets, including a 6-4, 6-3 win during the third round of the 2020 US Open.

Azarenka earns convincing win over Martic

Victoria Azarenka reached the fourth round at the US Open for the seventh time after ousting Petra Martic of Croatia, 6-3, 6-0, on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

The former World No. 1 from Belarus, seeded 26th, needed just an hour and 21 minutes to beat the 54th-ranked Martic, who was looking to reach the fourth round for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Azarenka, a three-time US Open finalist in 2012, 2013 and 2020, won in New York for the 44th time in her career – surpassed among active players in this year’s draw only by Serena Williams and Venus Williams. She hit 22 winners and converted five of 11 break points.

“I felt like I started very solid and I kind of kept my foot on the gas pedal and just really kept raising my intensity, game after game,” Azarenka said, quoted by the WTA Tour website. “I felt that I played really good in also important moments. On break points I really took my chances, was really effective from defense to offense, kind of changing and shifting the game from one, two shots. I think that worked really well.”

Next, Azarenka will face former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. The 22nd seed upset last year’s Olympic champion, No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, in two-and-a-half hours on the Grandstand. Pliskova overcame being down a set and a break to win. 

Koolhof and Skupski advance to doubles third round

Men’s No. 2 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, winners of six ATP tour-level titles this season, advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4 win over Americans Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow. Next, they will face Wimbledon champions Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell, both of Australia, who downed Robert Galloway and Alex Lawson, both of the United States, 6-2, 6-2.

• Women’s doubles No. 1 seeds Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Elise Mertens of Belgium withdrew from the tournament due to a leg injury suffered by Mertens. The top seeds were dominant earlier in the week in defeating Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and Donna Vekic of Croatia, 6-1, 6-2, in their opening match.

Saturday’s US Open results

Sunday’s US Open order of play

Tomljanovic looks back on her momentous win over Serena

Ajla Tomljanovic, 29, was born in Croatia but moved to the United States to train at age 13. She began representing Australia in competitions in 2014, also for training reasons.

Although Tomljanovic has yet to win a title on the WTA Tour, the World No. 46 has reached back-to-back Wimbledon quarterfinals. In arguably the biggest match of her career Friday evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium, before nearly 24,000 spectators, Tomljanovic upset 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1, in what likely was the final match of Serena’s career.

Looking back at her historic victory, Tomljanovic recalled in press, “During the match I was so eager to win. I mean, I wanted to win as much as the next person because I didn’t look at her like, ‘Oh, Serena, her last tournament.’ But then when it ended, it almost didn’t feel right. …

“I had this weird calmness because I felt like if I get broken, I mean, so what? Serena broke me. Wow, I’m just like the next person she broke when she’s down 5-1. I know she comes up with her best tennis when she’s in the most trouble. I didn’t feel like I’m choking it away or something. I thought I was getting outplayed on those match points.

“I just kept calm and actually took a page of her book. I know Serena one time said she only thinks about the next point. If I’m playing her, I might as well use her tactic.”

During her on-court interview with ESPN‘s Mary Joe Fernandez, Tomljanovic showed her unabashed appreciation for Williams.

“I’m feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. And what she’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible. This is a surreal moment for me.

“I just thought she would beat me. … She’s Serena. That’s just who she is: She’s the greatest of all time. Period.”

By the numbers

Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet, born 15 days apart in June 1986, met for the 18th time in a tour-level match Saturday evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Nadal came in 17-0 against Gasquet and had won 31 straight sets in their rivalry since 2008. After Nadal’s 6-0, 6-1, 7-5 victory over the Frenchman, he’s now 18-0 against Gasquet and has won 34 consecutive sets.

“Quotable …”

A day after Serena Williams played her last match at the US Open – at three hours and five minutes, the longest US Open match that Williams had ever played – the tributes began to pour in from her peers in the tennis world as well as some other well-known Americans. Here is a sampling of the congratulations Williams received: