After most of Monday’s winners progressed relatively efficiently, we discuss the highs and lows of what happened in New York.
Ivanovic: Finally aligned against a player without a towering reputation in the fourth round of a major, Ivanovic seized the opportunity that had dangled just outside her reach for more than four years. With her immensely satisfying victory over Pironkova, she arrived at her first major quarterfinal since winning Roland Garros in 2008 and the first US Open quarterfinal of her career. Although she defeated no rival more notable than Sloane Stephens in those four victories, Ana exuded a justifiable sense of euphoria by casting that drought aside. She should enjoy the feeling as long as she can because she next faces…
Serena: The winner of 20 consecutive games at this tournament, the title favorite recorded the second double bagel of her career at majors and her fifth overall. Serena has lost four or fewer games in eight of her last ten matches, and her anonymous Czech opponent surely brought little belief to the match from the outset. Surrounded by Ivanovic and two Italians, the younger Williams sister looks nearly certain to reach her second straight final in New York without dropping a set.
Berdych: Extended to a first-set tiebreak against Almagro, he settled into the match after the shaky start and earned a second, much less controversial victory over the Spaniard in the fourth round of a hard-court major this year. In each of his last two matches, Berdych has improved with each set in poise and accuracy, a positive trend in one sense but also a slight concern when he faces the famously fast-starting Federer in the quarterfinals. All the same, a first career US Open quarterfinal and consecutive quarterfinals at hard-court majors represents an occasion for celebration without looking too far ahead.
Italian women: Not far away from the home of the New York Mets, talented doubles duo Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci turned a stunning double play on two higher-ranked women of Polish descent. After Errani edged past 2011 semifinalist Kerber in two tight sets, Vinci thrashed Radwanska for her first victory of their five career meetings. The world #2 paid her a fine compliment later by observing how uncomfortable she found playing against this veteran, notwithstanding her own deep bag of tricks When the tournament began, few would have anticipate an all-Italian quarterfinal in a singles draw, but Errani now has reached three major quarterfinals this year and somehow continues to overachieve despite her small size and serve.
Petrova/Kirilenko: Less than 24 hours removed from a three-set loss to Sharapova, Petrova returned with her partner to the Olympic bronze medal to defeat the gold medalists. Venus and Serena never broke serve in a surprisingly decisive victory for the third seeds, who stole the show on Armstrong with smooth teamwork and a refined sense of placement during rallies.
Murray: Yielding only ten games to Raonic, the gold medalist turned a projected thriller under the lights into a deconstruction demonstration built upon keen returning reflexes, baseline consistency, and even some deft touch at the net. Able to break the tournament’s ace leader four times, Murray never faced a break point and rarely lost a rally that extended longer than four or five shots. Raonic’s erratic first serve did not help his cause nearly as much as necessary, but his opponent’s unflappable steadiness probably would have led him to victory anyway. Ahead lies a meeting with Marin Cilic, whom Murray defeated in the last major but who defeated him here in 2009.
Federer twins: Since Papa received a walkover from Mardy Fish, he presumably could spend more time relaxing with his children amidst his leisurely practice sessions and a gourmet meal or two—an ideal way to spend a day midway through a major. To no surprise, Federer has won two of the three previous majors in which he received a walkover.
Bryans: Two points from defeat in a second-set tiebreak, they rallied with a bit of tweener magic to escape an early-round exit on the same day that their gold medalist counterparts lost. The Bryans clearly have begun their descent into a terminal decline, though, increasingly challenged by pedestrian teams in early rounds of majors. A Tuesday match against a French team, including one of silver medalists, will require sturdier serving from the brothers.
Schedule makers: On the bright side, the possible final match of Roddick’s career against fellow US Open champion Del Potro makes perfect sense over the higher-ranked pairing of Djokovic and Wawrinka. But scheduling a doubles match for Primetime on the day of two women’s quarterfinals, featuring three of the four reigning major champions, seemed like a curious choice indeed even considering the weather forecast.
Radwanska: Bringing little momentum to the tournament, she perhaps should count herself fortunate to reach the second week. Just five games won from Vinci, however, represented her third straight lopsided loss (excluding a New Haven retirement) on the North American hard courts and hardly a worthy exit for a world #2.
Vesnina: Bounced in the afternoon from the women’s doubles draw, she lost again under the lights as the partner in mixed doubles of Leander Paes. The Russian had reached the mixed-doubles final with Paes at the Australian Open, so this loss arrived as a modest upset.
Drama: Every match on Monday ended in straight sets, and every day match on Ashe featured at least one bagel. A result in part of high seeds finding their form in the second week, the series of routs on Monday also saw the end of the tournament’s last few truly shocking runs from players like Hlavackova and Klizan.
Fish: Although he almost certainly would not have upset Federer, or even won a set, the recurrence of his health concerns at his home major does not bode well for a player in the twilight of his career.