US Open – quarterfinals

This year’s US Open was extremely predictable until quarterfinals. All highest seeded players advanced to the last eight, except Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but attendance of former Top 10’er instead – Marin Cilic, who had won 24 out of 29 matches since Queens Club, couldn’t be treated as a surprise. US Open quarterfinals are separated: two on Wednesday (top half of the draw), two on Thursday (bottom half).

 4th quarterfinal:

(2)Novak Djokovic d. (7)Juan M. del Potro      6-2, 7-6(3), 6-4             [3:06 h]

Djokovic’s physical preparation to the US Open 2012 is phenomenal, I assume he might win next two matches in straight sets as well. Del Potro played his best tennis in the 2nd set, striking the ball with tremendous depth and accuracy but Djokovic’s defense was exceptional – there were rallies when he was operating 4-5 meters behind the baseline to win points; two rallies of this type occurred at 4:5* (30-all) with DelPo two points away from tying the match. The highlight of the match came in the 12th, 17-minute game of that set as Del Potro with brave attitude saved three set points and took an 8-deuce game. Djokovic was in such a positive mood though, that unlucky game didn’t distract him – on the contrary – he focused even more to get very important breaker 7 points to 3 with excellent down the line backhand winner. Two separated sets were just decent. The Serb quickly obtained a break and held majority of service games quite convincingly. He improves their H2H record to 6-2. I count on many confrontations of them in the future because it’s a great match-up and would be very nice to see their four- or five-setters kept on this level of intensity.

3rd quarterfinal:

(4)David Ferrer d. (8)Janko Tipsarevic           6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)        [4:31 h]

Perhaps it was a lifetime opportunity for Tipsarevic to get a Grand Slam semifinal because nowadays it’s really tough to avoid at this stage one of “big four” guys. This quarterfinal will be remembered as one of the most memorable matches of this year’s tournament but the level of play in the first two sets was average, and Ferrer was going to grab a routine, boring 3-set victory. He lost opening two games, since then had a full control of the match though, his serve was working exceptionally well, he was more solid during longer rallies based on whipping in the middle of the court. However, Tipsy saved four mini-set points, made two stunning backhands in the tie-break on Ferrer’s serve, and converted his third set point with a risky inside-out forehand winner. Ferrer had five game points at 2-all in the 3rd set, when the inspired Tipsarevic got three amazing points in a row (all backhand winners). Henceforth the level of play was risen because the Serb had been found himself in a trance about 15 minutes, thus Ferrer was forced to increase his tennis to stop that trance at the beginning of the 4th set. He broke the Serbian player in the 8th game of that set to level at two sets apiece. Tipsarevic survived first tight three games of the decider, and when he led 4:1 (30/0), his pretty wife Biljana smiled with relief… too early. Ferrer caught the line with his second serve then, and won the game as Tipsarevic tumbled probably bruising left hip a bit. That fall somehow affected Tipsarevic’s mind, Ferrer broke back and had a double mini-match point at 4-all when the Serb took medical time-out (right groin pain), soon he came back on court winning four consecutive points. 5:4 (30/15) for him, two points away from semifinal, an attack to the net and backhand-volley error, if he was a volley specialist it could have been a double M.P. Both short guys received a standing ovation before the deciding tie-break. There was one mini-break which gave Ferrer a 5:3 lead after his most reliable action – penetrating forehand cross-court enhanced with an inside-out forehand taking the ball on the rise. The Spaniard got a double match point after a rally in which his strokes hit lines three times whilst Tipsarevic’s clipped the net-cord twice! On the first match point Tipsarevic netted backhand, and Ferrer could celebrate his return to the US Open semifinals (loss to Djokovic in 2007) on his knees.

5-set barometer: 17-9 David Ferrer, 15-8 Janko Tipsarevic

 2nd quarterfinal:

(6)Tomas Berdych d. (1)Roger Federer          7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3      [2:42 h]

6-4 7-6 3:3, advantage on serve… It was a partial scoreline of a fourth round match at the Australian Open three years ago, in which Berdych blew that 2-0 lead and lost to Federer in five. When he wasted a 3:1* lead in the 3rd set today, a copy of that bitter loss hung in the air, however, they both are currently different players than in 2009. Berdych confirmed it beautifully when he slipped and fell on the ground at 2-all in the 4th set, but escaped from 0/30 getting four points in a  row. Federer, powerfully supported by 23.000 crowd, played arguably the best point of the match as he won a rally with a stretch-drop-volley at 3:4 (30-all). Who expected it would be his last point won this year in New York? That magnificent point was followed up by his casual forehand error and Berdych’s stunning forehand cross-court winner. Break. The Czech serving to move further,  delivered four hard serves and there was no play at all. It’s Berdych’s first victory on Arthur Ashe stadium (lost four previous matches here) in his first ever match on this court during night session. He improves his record against Federer to 5-11, including two extraordinary wins – when Berdych beat Federer at Wimbledon ’10 in four sets (quarterfinal), it was Federer’s first loss in London before the final in seven years; today’s knock out means Federer won’t play a US Open semifinal for the first time in eight years!  “I cannot count on beating Roger in straight sets and not getting in any trouble,” said Berdych. “I was always careful that anything could happen. Actually, it happened in the third set that he came strongly back. But for that, I’m even more happy with the way that I was able to hold his pressure and then add something extra for the fourth set.” It’s very important moment of the season, because probably this outcome decides that Djokovic is going to finish second straight year as the best player in the world. If the Serb doesn’t lose to Del Potro on Thursday, I really don’t see him losing to either Ferrer or Tipsarevic in semis, and obviously his chances to defend the title are huge then (especially if Berdych will be a final opponent).

1st quarterfinal:

(3)Andy Murray d. (12)Marin Cilic             3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-0       [3:00 h]

This match was shifted from Arthur Ashe to Louis Armstrong stadium because of rain-interruption at the beginning of the day. Murray had played two matches before quarters in day session (with a cap), and two in night session (without a cap). He began  the meeting with Cilic  under the sunlight, but appeared without a cap, perhaps it was a reason of his irritation and sluggish display. Cilic won first nine points of the match to establish a quick 3:0 lead. The Scot wore a cap (afterwards took it off), but couldn’t find his rhythm. Cilic was rock-solid from the back of the court – 7-0 in forehand winners in the 1st set, and less orientated spectators could sense an upset when he led with a double break in the 2nd set. Yet Murray never gives up, especially against mentally unstable opponents like the Croat (in the past Murray won almost all their tight sets). The Scot changed a bit his tactics (more attacks to the net), changed emotions too, from negative to positive ones, and Cilic started to lose his self-confidence. Murray saved a set point in the 8th game on return, and managed to improve the scoreline from *1:5 (15/30) to 6:5* (30/15)! Cilic got to the tie-break where led *4:2, approached the net with a shaky forehand, Murray passed him and didn’t slip away an opportunity to take the breaker. Cilic tried to forget about the unfortunate set, he even led 2:1* (30-all) in the 3rd set, but Murray was already in a different mood feeling the blood of his victim. Errors crept into Cilic’s game, he was showing more and more indifferent demeanor as the match progressed under the floodlights, and ultimately he completely fell apart – Murray won the last eleven games, finishing the contest with a cross-court backhand winner: “I have always found that court tricky to play on. I have had a lot of tough matches on it. It took me a while to get used to it. I think when the conditions slowed down a bit and started to get a bit darker, that helped me.”

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