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Tennis

The Williams Sisters Headline Day 9 at the U.S. Open

Day 8 Recap

-Andy Murray suffered a stunning loss at the hands of Kevin Anderson, falling 6-7 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (0). Both reversed their quarterfinal fortunes, as Murray hadn’t lost at a major prior to said round in five rounds, snapping a streak of 18 consecutive quarterfinals (he missed the 2013 French Open due to injury), while Anderson had been 0-7 in the fourth round at majors. The only time Anderson had even been close to winning one of those seven matches -and only three of them were against members of the Big Four- was a couple months at Wimbledon when he squandered a two set lead against Novak Djokovic.

Anderson played at his peak level for a good portion of the match and deserves all credit for coming through in a big match (a rarity in his career), but in the macro, this is all about Murray. As touched on in the tournament preview, his losses are often excusable because his opponent played at a high level, except he doesn’t really have that gear himself. The main thing that separates Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic from Murray is their forehands are much more explosive weapons. Against Anderson, Murray’s forehand was particularly cold, as he went nearly two sets before notching his first forehand winner, a downright shocking stat considering Anderson is a towering player who doesn’t exactly play sideline-to-sideline defense.

Murray grinded his way back into the match, yet even if he pulled off another comeback, it’s difficult to believe he’d have had enough in the tank after a five hour match to get past a gauntlet of potential opponents for the title.

-Murray’s loss robbed fans of the first Murray-Wawrinka meeting in two years, as Stan the Man ended the run of Donald Young, coming through in four sets. Wawrinka has been shaky and inconsistent, but he tends to play his best in big matches, so the fact that he got to the latter rounds without much fuss bodes well for his chances.

-Roger Federer swept John Isner, who had his share of chances. Isner should have been up a double break in the second set tiebreaker, but didn’t put away a simple volley. He ended up dropping the breaker and Federer finally managed to break him at the end of the third for a 7-6 (0), 7-6 (6), 7-5 victory.

-He’ll meet Richard Gasquet, due to the Frenchman handling Tomas Berdych in four sets. This was an upset only in seeding, as Gasquet has been the stronger player for some time now. Though Berdych will rejoin the top five thanks to Kei Nishikori’s 2014 finalist points dropping off, this was a real chance for him to make a run for a long-awaited second major final. Instead, Gasquet’s career resurgence at 29 continues.

-On the women’s side, Simona Halep overcame a thigh injury to outlast an erratic Sabine Lisicki in three sets. At times appearing as if she should throw in the towel, Halep showed resilience and hung in long enough for Lisicki to self combust. While not a pretty match, Halep displayed the kind of grit that has been lacking for her this year at the majors. Hopefully it’s a step forward as Halep learns to cope with the pressure of expectations on the sport’s grandest stages.

-Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and Flavia Pennetta all advanced in straight sets. Pennetta continued her domination over Sam Stosur (the 2011 U.S. Open champ has never beaten the Italian), while Azarenka got by Varvara Lepchenko despite being below her best due to her exhausting win over Angie Kerber. Kvitova again was impressive, this time against Great Britain’s Johanna Konta. It’s her first quarterfinal in New York, and though Azarenka is getting the headlines, it could very well be Kvitova who has the best chance to keep Serena from the Calendar Slam.

Day 9 Matchups

-Serena Williams (1) vs Venus Williams (23)

Venus is in a tough spot here. Surely she wants to see her sister become part of history and complete the Calendar Slam, but at 35 years old, it’s not as if she can be giving away bites at the Grand Slam apple. Their matches are always uncomfortable regardless of whether you root for them or not, though that hasn’t been too much of a problem this decade, as they’ve only met three times since 2009. Last year, Venus put an exclamation point on an excellent run to the Montreal final by beating Serena in the semis, but it was Serena who routined Venus at Wimbledon this summer. The swing point of this matchup feels like the second serve of the elder Williams, as Serena makes a living out of hitting winners off of subpar serves.

Prediction: Serena in two sets

-Novak Djokovic (1) vs Feliciano Lopez (18)

The second career of Lopez, almost 34 years old, continues to play out, as he’s in his first ever major quarterfinal outside of Wimbledon. Atypical of the average Spaniard, Lopez thrives on quicker courts and getting to net, as opposed to battling from the baseline. This figures to be a bad matchup for him, as he faces the best returner on the planet, and potentially the greatest returner ever. Djokovic has been below his best lately, and was pushed much harder than anyone could have expected by Roberto Bautista Agut, but he should be able to find the Lopez backhand with enough frequency to make this a straightforward affair.

Prediction: Djokovic in no more than four sets

-Kiki Mladenovic vs Roberta Vinci

By far the toughest quarterfinal to predict, this matchup pits two of the game’s top doubles players against each other for a first career major semifinal for the winner. Mladenovic, just 22, has a big game, but is an extremely consistent player. She demonstrated an encouraging amount of poise during her three-set win over Ekaterina Makarova. Across the net from her will be Vinci, 33, playing in her third Slam quarterfinal, which have all come at the U.S. Open and since turning 30.

Prediction: Mladenovic’s power game clicks long enough to win in three sets

-Marin Cilic (9) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (19)

Both these players have flown under the radar, which speaks to Cilic’s lack of success in the year following his shocking run to the title in New York. Though Cilic has done enough to respectably back up that maiden Slam victory, Tsonga (yet to drop serve in the tournament) is simply in stronger form. While Tsonga is prone to letdowns, he’s also shown the ability to make deep runs at majors before and can be expected to hold his form to book a semifinal ticket against Djokovic.

Prediction: Tsonga in four sets

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