Although Isner and Kohlschreiber continue to play into the small hours of Monday morning, we bring you the best and worst of the Day 7 action that finished on Sunday.
Djokovic: In his first match against a reasonably talented opponent of the US Open, the defending champion wasted little more time than he had in the two previous rounds. Djokovic surrendered just seven games to the aging Benneteau, who nearly toppled Federer at Wimbledon. Despite a modest performance from the service notch, he never faced a break point or any serious pressure.
Roddick: Since he announced his retirement this week, the former champion has not lost any of his customary purposefulness to bask in a nostalgic glow. While his four-set triumph over Fognini featured more tense moments than it would have in his prime, he delighted the crowd with forms of brilliance familiar (thunderous aces) and some less familiar (crisply executed volleys and lobs). Fittingly into the second week at his last major, Roddick has accumulated valuable momentum prior to a marquee match against fellow US Open champion Del Potro, where he will enter as an underdog but not as a hopeless underdog.
National #2s: Usually forgotten men behind the top three, Wawrinka, Tipsarevic, and Ferrer all acquitted themselves creditably on Sunday. While the first two advanced in straight sets, the third mustered his signature courage to outlast the determined challenge of Lleyton Hewitt, yet another former champion. An elongated first-set tiebreak showcased Ferrer at his most resilient, staving off set points of his opponent while recovering immediately after each opportunity of his that he squandered. In an emphatic victory over the higher-ranked Dolgopolov, Wawrinka built upon his impetus from a Cincinnati semifinal to reach the second week. Nor should one neglect the accomplishment of second-ranked Frenchman Gasquet in surviving until the same stage, although he enjoyed a far more comfortable route in defeating multiple American wildcards during the first week.
Bartoli: Into the first US Open quarterfinal of her career, the idiosyncratic double-fister weathered a disastrous first set against Kvitova to reverse the momentum in stunning fashion. Undeterred by a lopsided defeat to last year’s Wimbledon champion this summer, she fiercely pumped her fist after each sparkling return and well-placed serve in the middle of the second set. By the final set, the fist pumps proliferated as she struck nearly every shot to perfection against a baffled fifth seed, even including lobs and sharply angled volleys. These fast courts suit Bartoli’s first-strike game more than any other surface, and she must feel vindicated to have progressed so far in the wake of her controversial Olympics absence, perhaps aided by the additional practice on hard courts after all.
Azarenka: Confirming her supremacy as the top seed, Vika has dropped no more than four games in any of her first four matches and only ten games total en route to the quarterfinals. Like Bartoli, she has found herself at that stage for the first time, a surprising fact considering how long she has excelled on hard courts. Never having lost to Stosur before, the world #1 eyes an intriguing test against the defending champion that she might not pass as easily as those before.
Del Potro: Not unduly troubled by compatriot Leonardo Mayer, the 2009 US Open champion has looked more threatening than he did in the earlier rounds. Up next is a fascinating duel with fellow one-time major titlist Roddick, which will test the mental strength that Del Potro appeared to have heightened this summer after struggling in that department for most of his comeback from wrist surgery.
Stosur: Able to solve the riddle of Laura Robson, who had befuddled Clijsters and Li in the previous two rounds, the defending champion reached the quarterfinals without dropping a set and while losing more than four games in only one set. Although she struggled to hold serve more than she would prefer, Stosur managed to win the critical points throughout the first set and a half in a clean display of timely tennis. Then, the match grew complicated. Leading 5-2 in the second set, eight match points came and went over the next three games before the Australian finally converted her ninth. Such generosity when the match hangs in the balance will not go unpunished against Azarenka.
Sharapova: In a match of dizzying momentum shifts and violent oscillations in quality, she preserved her undefeated three-set record this year and bolstered her record in that area over the last two years to a staggering 23-1. For most of the first set, however, this match did not look likely feature much drama at all as the 2006 champion served a fifth straight breadstick to an opponent whose shoulders slumped almost immediately. Early in the second set, Sharapova lost the range on her groundstrokes almost entirely, fought back to erase a double-break deficit, failed to convert a break point at 4-4, and soon thereafter saw the set slip away. When Petrova won the first eight points of the final set, the third seed’s prospects looked grim. Fortunately for her, the sky looked grimmer, and the protracted rain delay that ensued allowed Sharapova to tighten her focus and reassemble her steeliness. She never found her best tennis ever after the intermission, a few massive serves aside, but the sheer weight of her will bore down remorselessly on her challenger until she crumbled.
Petrova: Unable to repeat Bartoli’s feat of rallying to victory after eating a first-set breadstick, she nevertheless could not have dreamed of a more impressive US Open. Not losing a set in her first three matches, she may have built upon that momentum to stay positive when the second set began and exploit Sharapova’s lulls. More consistent than she has looked for most of her late career, Petrova won her share of the longer rallies and suffocated the WTA’s best returner with many of her first serves. Even when the balance tipped inexorably against her after the rain delay, she found the spirit to keep the third set as tight as possible, forcing Sharapova to serve out the match on a difficult night for the task. For once, Petrova’s self-reassuring fist pumps outweighed her mutters and racket tosses.
Emirates Airlines: As the US Open Series unfolded, its new title sponsor might have felt secretly relieved to see such streaky, unreliable competitors as Kvitova, Li, and Cibulkova qualify for possible bonus prize money in New York. After those three women all exited before the quarterfinals at the US Open, Emirates owes them a total of $100,000 instead of a potential seven-digit sum. Less auspicious for the airline is Djokovic’s sizzling form through the first week. The Serb won the US Open Series and would collect the largest individual paycheck in the sport if he sustains that form.
Huber/Raymond: The top seeds fell to a curious hybrid duo of Chinese Taipei, represented by Hsieh Su-Wei, and Spain, represented by Medina Garrigues. The Sino-Spanish Alliance brought plenty of doubles experience and talent to the court, but the fast surface should have favored Huber and Raymond against this team, as should have the home-court advantage created by enthusiastic New York fans.
Kvitova: Notorious for blowing hot and cold, she imploded against Bartoli after a first set in which she had resembled a genuine title contender. Last year’s Wimbledon champion won just one of the last thirteen games in the match that sealed her Slam-lessness for 2012, dropping serve an astonishing six consecutive times, which never should happen for a shot-maker of her quality. On the bright side, Kvitova managed to avoid Sharapova, who had halted her at two majors earlier this year.