The first of the men’s and the remaining women’s quarter final’s served up varying spectacles in this ever engrossing US Open.
Ekaterina Makarova def Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-2
Azarenka’s reassuring run to the latter stages of a Slam came to a halt yesterday after finally coming up against an opponent playing top ten quality stuff. Makarova has flirted with the last four of majors before – including in Australia and Wimbledon this year – but here, still yet to drop a set in NYC she has gone one step further. A tight first set which saw Azarenka with the initial early break ultimately went the way of the Russian who reeled in her increasingly erratic foe.
The racquet smashing defending runner up Azarenka will now drop out of the top twenty – but on this evidence she will soon be back to the summit.
Serena Williams def Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-2
Make no mistake, this is the best Serena has been playing all year by a long, long way. Even in Australia, before that seemingly sudden exit, the American wasn’t hitting the ball with such power, confidence and smoothness. Her fellow 32 year old Pennetta – making a repeat appearance in the QF’s at Flushing Meadows had the brighter start via some sweet returns off a series of nervy Williams early serves.
But the five-time champ, who leads the pair’s h2h at 5-0 soon turned on her game and was back to her unplayable level of the last two years. Quick, powerful and happy to surge forward and take balls early and aggressively. On this form – and there’s still no guarantee that the American can maintain it – Serena will have something to cheer in 2014 after all.
Kei Nishikori def Stanislas Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(7), 6-7(5), 6-4
In a marathon encounter that lasted 4hrs and 15mins (Nishikori’s second consecutive 4hr+ duel) filled with shot-making and momentum shifts it was the Japanese who edged out the win. All five sets were tight encounters, with both players enjoying waves of momentum and numerous chances to take the match by the horns.
Nishikori becomes the first Japanese player in the Open Era to make a major Semi-Final and will need to recover from nine hours of match-play if he is to have any chance against his next opponent. Wawrinka will be disappointed of course, the Swiss had looked in the groove for the first time since Monte Carlo, and perhaps should’ve taken advantage of the tired Nishikori. It has still been a consistent and career-defining year.
Novak Djokovic def Andy Murray 7-6, 6-7,6-2, 6-4
In this clash of titans, the promised spectacle was delivered time and time again in two remarkable opening sets where each man forced the very best from one another. Murray was a joy to watch once more – confident and on the offensive – a world away from that truly dire Wimbledon exit against Dimitrov.
Unfortunately for the Scot, Djokovic has seemingly saved his best summer hardcourt season form for it’s final act.
It was not a perfect match, with almost identical amounts of errors and winners sprayed off each racquet, but the contest was never anything less than a gruelling, bloody battle. Murray’s body again letting him down come the final two sets as the irrepressible Novak simply charged forward relentlessly to an eighth consecutive semi-final appearance in the Big Apple.