Friday, 30 September 2016

Petra finding form in China

It's all been happening in China this week with 2 ATP events - Shenzhen and Chengdu - being contested.
However, the major attraction is the Premier 5 WTA Tournament hosted in Wuhan, where all the top twenty ranked players entered the draw except for Serena Williams and Vika Azarenka.  (Vika's pregnancy a fair excuse !)

The women have also had a lower tier event bubbling along in Uzbekistan, giving some players unable to meet the high qualifying standard for Wuhan a chance to maintain competitive fitness.

2 finals from last week threw up interesting results - young gun Alexander Zverev had his biggest win, defeating Stan Wawrinka in the St Petersburg final, breaking the US Open champ's long run of constantly winning finals once in them.
Lucas Pouille delighted his home grown French following by taking out the Metz title with a win over top seed Dominic Thiem.

Wuhan has seen the exit of five of the top eight seeds before the quarter finals, including top seed and reigning US Open Champion Angie Kerber in a fascinating three set struggle against 14th seed Petra Kvitova.
The third round match began with a first set tie break eventually decided in Kerber's favour 12-10.  However the dual Wimbledon title holder fought back hard to win the next two sets 7-5 6-4.
Second seed Garbine Muguruza has continued her problematic run since triumphing at Roland Garros, losing to Jelena Jankovic in the second round, following a first round bye.
Karolina Pliskova (5), Venus Williams (6) and Carla Suarez Navarro (7) all lost third round matches to lower seeded players - Dominika Cibulkova (10), Svetlana Kuznetsova (9) and Johanna Konta (11) respectively.

Simona Halep, fourth seed, is the highest ranked player left at the semi final stage, after her victory over Madison Keys in the one of the quarters, and the loss of third seed Aga Radwanska to Kuznetsova in another.

Halep will play Kvitova in her semi, Petra having disposed of Konta in straight sets.  Kuznetsova's opponent will be Cibulkova who stopped the impressive run of Barbora Strycova in their quarter final, and in doing so preventing the Czech Republic from having two of the semi finalists.

In Shenzhen only one top ten player - Tomas Berdych - and two other top twenty players are in the draw, and the tournament lost one of those straight away.  Second seed David Goffin, who reached the second round after a bye, was dumped by Tunisia's Malek Jaziri in three sets.

Goffin wasn't the only seed to fall in round two.  Sixth seed Benoit Paire lost to Janko Tipsarevic who will play Jaziri in a quarter final, and seventh seeded Italian Fabio Fognini exited thanks to qualifier Mischa Zverev

Berdych (1) , Gasquet (3) and Tomic (4) were seeds that did progress to the quarters, although Bernie did take the full three sets before farewelling Ryan Harrison on his way back to the USA.  Gasquet was far less congenial in his destruction of Australian qualifier Andrew Whittington who left with just one game to add to his collection.

Chengdu has seen one significant departure - second seed Nick Kyrgios defeated by Kevin Anderson in three sets in round two after the first round bye.  Anderson was always going to be a tough proposition and while the loss is not of major proportions, being a set up and only just losing the second set tie break, before dropping away quickly in the decider would be of concern.

One player making his mark on the tournament is tall 20 year old Russian Karen Khachanov, who is ranked 101, and in the quarter finals after knocking out 7th seed Joao Sousa in the opening round and Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the next.  The new assignment is tough - fourth seed Feliciano Lopez - but the way he has been serving he stands an excellent chance of progressing further.

Top seed Thiem and third seed Dimitrov appear the two to beat at this stage - they are drawn to meet in a semi final.

In Tashkent, the semi finalists have been decided, and the names are not the ones usually associated with this stage of WTA tournaments.  

Kateryna Kozlova from the Ukraine, ranked 98, will be playing the Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova, sister of the US Open finalist, and ranked 100.  Pliskova had a good win over fifth seed Kurumi Nara in the second round and is favoured to make the final.

The other semi final sees fourth seed Nao Hibino from Japan up against Denisa Allertova from the Czech Republic.  Hibino is ranked 78 and Allertova 114.
Allertova defeated Kirsten Flipkens, the highest seed (at number 2) left in the tournament, in straight sets in their quarter final.

I predict an all-Czech final.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Wozniacki takes Tokyo

Quite a lot of tennis activity throughout the world in the past week, with ATP tournaments in Russia and France, and WTA events in Japan, China and Korea.

Recently crowned US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, was installed as top seed for the St Petersburg draw, and had little difficulty navigating his way through to the final four. He was joined there by third seed Tomas Berdych, fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and fifth seed Alexander Zverev.  Second seed Milos Raonic had been knocked out early by Russian Mikhail Youzhny, to the joy of locals.

The final will be fought out between Wawrinka and Zverev after Stan's straight sets victory over Roberto and Zverev's two set impressive elimination of Berdych - his latest top ten scalp.

The Metz semi finals were played between the four top seeds.  Top seed Dominic Thiem upset the French crowd when he defeated fourth seed Gilles Simon, after dropping the opening set.  He will meet third seed Lucas Pouille in the final following his successful semi win over second seed David Goffin.  So the Metz crowd will have a French player to cheer for with the title on the line.

In Tokyo, three of the top four seeds failed to make the semi finals - these included US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova and Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza.  Caroline Wozniacki continued her resurgence from New York by not only defeating fourth seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round, but rebounding from a set down against second seed Aga Radwanska in the semi finals to win in three and claim a spot in the final.

The other semi finalists were Elina Svitolina and Naomi Osaka.  The locals were rapt when Osaka won through to the final which featured two unseeded players, but Wozniacki proved too strong, and took home the trophy with her 7-5 6-3 victory.

The Seoul final featured fifth seed Monica Niculescu from Romania against unseeded Spanish player Lara Arruabarrena.  In a strange scoreline, Lara won her second WTA title, her first coming over 4 years ago.  The win was in three sets 6-0 2-6 6-0.

Completing the trio of unseeded champions this week is Guangzhou winner Lesia Tsurenko.  The Ukraine player's second career title came at the expense of tournament second seed Jelena Jankovic in three close sets.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Croatia to host Argentina in Davis Cup final

As tennis followers world wide took a collective deep breath once the final acts were played out at Flushing Meadows, male players from many nations had little time to rest, with Davis Cup commitments to be met the next week.

The semi finals for 2016 were held: Current Cup holders and top seeded Great Britain v sixth seed Argentina, and unseeded Croatia v fifth seed France.

While the ATP Tour took a back seat to these important team events, which were accompanied with World Group playoffs, including Australia v Slovakia and Belgium v Brazil, two WTA tournaments were held, in Japan and Canada.

Great Britain and Argentina opened with a replay of the Olympic Gold Medal match, and it was over five hours of riveting tennis between Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro in front of a keen Glasgow crowd.  Down two sets to one,  the Argentine leading light grafted his way back, taking the final sets and giving his nation the perfect start.

Great Britain was hopeful that its second singles player, Kyle Edmund, would continue his good US Open form and overcome resistance from Guido Pella. He did for one set, edging out his opponent in an opening tie breaker, but Pella outgunned the Brit from that point, and after Day One, Argentina was in a surprising prime position 2-0.

The Murray brothers brought Great Britain back into contention, first with a doubles victory, Andy joining his more renowned doubles playing sibling Jamie to defeat del Potro and Leo Mayer in four sets, and on the final day Andy far too accomplished for Pella, winning in straight.

The deciding singles match saw Mayer chosen ahead of a worn out del Potro to carry Argentina's fortunes, while Dan Evans received the nod instead of Edmund for the hosts.
Evans put his team ahead with a first set success, but it was the final joy for Great Britain, and with his four set victory, Leonardo Mayer became the hero of Argentina, propelling it into the Davis Cup final.

Argentina will face Croatia in an away final following Croatia's elimination of France 3-2 in the other semi final.
France was unable to call on Gael Monfils or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga due to injury, but Lucas Pouille and Richard Gasquet filled the opening day singles, illustrating the current depth of French tennis, especially on the men's tour.

Gasquet gave France the ideal start, convincingly defeating Borna Coric in straight sets.  Marin Cilic then placed his stamp on the semi final, levelling the tie with a win over Pouille, before teaming with Ivan Dodig on the second day to knock over favoured French doubles pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who happen to be ranked the world's best.

Leading 2-1, Croatia wrapped up the semi final in front of a rapturous home crowd, with Cilic finishing it off via a straight sets triumph over Gasquet.

The final match was played as a best of three sets affair, due to its result having no bearing on the overall tie.  For the record Lucas Pouille defeated Marin Draganja in two sets.

The 2016 final in Croatia will either be a first ever Davis Cup title for Argentina or the second win for Croatia.  When Croatia broke through for its debut victory in 2005, it was unseeded, as it is again this time round.

The successful nations in the World Group play-offs were: Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Russia, Spain, Germany and Japan. 7 of the 8 were the seeded nations involved.  So players such as Wawrinka, Nishikori, Raonic, Nadal and Federer could potentially be playing for Davis Cup spoils in 2017.

While the cameras were concentrating on Davis Cup, American Christina McHale was achieving a significant personal milestone, winning her first WTA title - the Tokyo International - with her final victory over the Czech Republic's Katerina Siniakova.

Although France lost its Davis Cup semi, 19 year old Oceane Dodin provided her nation with some joy, also winning her first WTA title - in Quebec - defeating American Lauren Davis in the final.  Oceane becomes the first teenager to win a WTA tournament this year, and now is a top 100 ranked player.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Stan Wawrinka wins US Open

Stan Wawrinka has definitively taken over as Switzerland's number one tennis player.  Sadly that has been pronounced by the extended absence of Roger Federer through injury.  However,  apart from Novak Djokovic, no one has won multiple majors over the past three years other than Stan, and he added the 2016 US Open to his trophy cabinet in fine style earlier today Australian time.

Despite the head to head record between Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, which is skewed heavily in Novak's favour, the Swiss ace has proved a big headache for the world number one at Grand Slam level.  En route to his debut major in Melbourne 2014, Stan knocked over Novak in the quarters, and in the Roland Garros final last year Stan cost Novak a chance of a Calendar Year Grand Slam.

In NYC, and on the final day, Novak gained the initial service break and led 3-0 after a solid consolidation.  At 2-5 and 15-40 Stan fought off 2 set points before holding serve with backhand and forehand winners.  In hindsight this could well have been the turning point of the match.
Novak suddenly threw in a brace of errors to be 0-40.  He saved two break points, one with an ace, but a double fault handed the service break to Stan and eventually a tie break was required.

Djokovic raced through to a 7-1 win thanks mainly to a string of Swiss mistakes, and took the set 7-6.

Stan was not as generous for the remainder of the match.
In the fourth game of set two Novak let a 40-15 lead slip, helped by a loose backhand and a double fault.  The break point was converted with a typically destructive Stan backhand.
Novak was clearly under pressure and seeming unlikely to recover, but out of the blue he struck back in the seventh game.  A backhand winner of his own set up a break point which was converted into a 3-4 game score, then 4-4 after a comfortable hold.

That was it for set two as far as Novak was concerned.  At 4-5 he lost serve on the second break point and the sets were one apiece.
14 unforced errors from a normally so tidy Djokovic was a telling second set stat.

Set three saw Stan leading 3-0 pretty smartly following a service break in the second game - a winning forehand set up break point and Novak obliged with another error.
In game 5, Stan hit two backhand winners and a forehand volley winner and had 40-15.
Then a mixture of forced and unforced errors eventually gave Novak a break back point which was converted and 3-3 the score.

At 5-6, Novak led 40-30 and a tie break seemed assured, and appropriate given the evenness of the set.  However the Serb backhand was broken down, losing him the final three points of the game and set.  Stan led 6-7 6-4 7-5.

Novak was suffering in a scarily similar way to Roland Garros 2015 where he won the opening set, only to lose the rest.

Set four was the start of celebrations for Stan as he broke serve in the second game once again.  It was the only service break for the set in which there were 12 crisp winners from the Swiss racquet, and only a handful of hand made errors.
Novak was almost resigned to the result, as he struggled to handle the quality being delivered from the other side of the net.

Stan Wawrinka won the match 6-7 (1) 6-4 7-5 6-3 and joined Andy Murray as a three time major winner.  Novak maintains a fine record of course, although his return from US Open finals is annoying - 2 titles from 7 appearances.

Stan has won his 3 Grand Slam titles from 3 finals.  In fact he is a safe bet whenever he makes any final.
Clearly he is the number three ranked player in the world now, and hopefully he is more consistent on tour following his latest big triumph.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Angie Kerber's US Open Title

The women's singles final at the 2016 US Open was well worth the two week wait as two players at the top of their form, with very different games, clashed in Arthur Ashe Stadium in NYC.

Not surprising was the nervous start from Karolina Pliskova.  The Czech 10th seed, appearing in her first final at this level, was first to serve, and began with a double fault.  A volleying error presented Kerber with two break points - an ace saved one, but a poor forehand gifted the second seed a break of serve straight away.

Pliskova attacked the Kerber forehand, forcing errors and creating a break back point, but the same forehand was responsible for three winners in the game, one which saved the break.  

The next six games went with serve, and not many opportunities were provided for the receiver.  Pliskova had settled and was hitting several winners, while Angie was doing what she does so well, keeping her mistakes to an absolute minimum, while still penetrating with her lethal forehand.

At 3-5 , Karolina needed to at least hold on and force Angie to serve for the set - at 30-30 though she delivered a double fault, the first since the opening point of the match.  Kerber had a set point which she used enthusiastically, belting a typical forehand winner for a 6-3 lead.

Set one was good - not as good as the second where the standard rose, and Karolina Pliskova proved that she belonged in the elite class. The Czech serve was on song, and even Kerber could hardly win a point once the first delivery hit the mark.  No break chances came the German way.
Angie came to the net once without success - Karolina was there 14 times, only once losing the point while visiting.
Two break chances materialised, and in the seventh game, those trips to the net realised dividends, two winners key to the only break of serve in the set.

Pliskova served out a 6-4 gem to level the match, and send a real challenge to Kerber.

The first two games of the decider were comfortable holds of serve, but it was Pliskova who made the first significant move in the third game.  A Czech backhand winner and two forced errors from the German backhand, formed the basis of a service break, coming after the first break point had been saved.  2-1 to Karolina

Angie struck back as most thought she would.  After two relatively simple holds, one by each player, Pliskova at 3-2 could not maintain her advantage. In a game where every point was decided by an errant final shot, the final shot of the game was a Czech mistake, deleting the hard fought early edge.

Kerber seized the situation, and held serve to take the numerical lead 4-3, although the games were on serve.  Pliskova equalised at 4-4 and in her attempt to do likewise for 5-5, she was welcomed with a sizzling Kerber forehand winner.
The rest was a trio of unforced errors from the Pliskova racquet, the final forehand misfire confirming a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory to Angelique Kerber.

The first US Open win for Angie gives her the first and last majors for 2016, and the legitimacy sought by anyone displacing Serena Williams from the number one ranking spot, which will become official on Monday.

Karolina Pliskova performed admirably in her Grand Slam debut final, and with her weapons - the first serve is extremely intimidating, and may well have blown any other player off the court in this final - she is poised to play a major role in Grand Slam tournaments in the future.  This was a huge step forward from someone who had in the past never progressed beyond the third round.

Kerber is the real deal and is intimidated by no one, safe in the knowledge that she has a game which suits all surfaces - clearly hard courts are best, but grass is also ok, as evidenced by the Wimbledon final, lost to Serena Williams but not without a decent contest.

Djokovic v Wawrinka blockbuster awaits

Novak Djokovic played in all four Grand Slam tournament finals in 2015 and in three of them his opponent was Swiss.  He defeated Roger Federer at Wimbledon and in New York, but fell to Stan Wawrinka in Paris.

This year he has waited until New York to be challenged in another major final by Switzerland, and Stan will be the man this time.

Novak opened his semi final against Gael Monfils in workmanlike fashion, which was more than sufficient to leave the French 10th seed floundering at 0-5 and 0-30.  The embarrassment of losing a set to love was avoided in the sixth game thanks to three aces and a couple of winning forehands, one of the aces saving a set point.

The momentum of finally registering on the scoreboard flowed into the next game for Monfils when he broke the Djokovic serve.  Strictly that is incorrect - the top seed did it all himself.  At 40-0 with three set points,  Novak capitulated, mostly thanks to a treble of double faults and his lead was trimmed to 5-2.

A second attempt to serve out set one was more successful for Djokovic, but only after two break points were saved through donations of backhand errors from Monfils.
First set to Djokovic, a shakier version at the end than the sharp one who had begun.

Set two was a chance for Djokovic to stamp his authority on proceedings which is a popular phrase to use but an action never literally undertaken.  Gael assisted by at times contributing possibly the most disinterested, uncompetitive displays of tennis I've witnessed at this stage of a major tournament.

The pressure placed on Djokovic towards the end of set one was released, allowing the Serb to hit 10 winners and hardly make a mistake, while breaking the Monfils serve seemingly at will.  Trailing 6-3 6-2, the apparent lack of 100% effort from Monfils during parts of the set was not lost on the crowd, sections of which voiced the disapproval.

As if shamed into action, the tenth seed played a third set which worried the defending champion, enough to turn a 0-2 deficit into a 5-2 lead.  Djokovic even had to save a set point which would have meant losing six straight games.  
Monfils himself overcame 0-40 when serving for the set, and he won back the crowd, and won 6-3.

In highly humid conditions, Monfils wilted first in set four, but at 3-1 Djokovic failed to consolidate the break, a double fault dissolving any advantage.  However, Monfils was pretty much spent, and the final three games of the set went to Djokovic, errors flowing from the French racquet, not forgetting some sublime stuff from Djokovic in readiness for yet another US Open final.
A win to the top seed 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-2.

Kei Nishikori, the tournament's sixth seed, continued his impressive US Open with a first set consisting of quality ground strokes and a first serve percentage sufficient to prevent the powerful game of third seed Stan Wawrinka from taking control.

There was little between the two, and it was just the fifth game, where a double fault from Wawrinka, plus some effective working over by Nishikori of the Swiss backhand, resulted in the only service break for the set.
At 6-4, the money would have been slightly with Nishikori to reach the final.  That perception was confirmed once Kei broke Stan in the opening game of set two, then held for 2-0.

Enter a new Stan Wawrinka.  Hitting plenty of winners, and taking toll of a far less effective Japanese serve, the Swiss number one broke back immediately, and kept the pressure on Nishikori to play catch up, waiting patiently until the twelfth game to pounce again. Serving to stay alive in the set, Kei was the victim of a winning Wawrinka forehand more than once, and coupled with a few of his own mistakes, he surrendered 5-7.  The match was level.

Stan raced to 4-1 in the third but Kei wasn't done with, fighting back for 4-4.  At 4-5, and as in set two, serving to stay in the set, Nishikori saved one break point, but Wawrinka forced a second volleying error and grabbed a 4-6 7-5 6-4 lead.

That was the tipping point, and Stan motored through what would be the final set, winning almost twice as many points as Kei, and breaking the Nishikori serve three times, while dropping his own just once.  The sixth seed only managed one clean winner for the fourth set, but 12 unforced errors assisted him in his demise.

Stan Wawrinka earned a chance to win his third Grand Slam title and first US Open, winning the semi final 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-2. 
His final against Novak Djokovic promises to be a thriller.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Pliskova to meet Kerber in Final

There will be a new number one in the women's rankings come Monday, and on Saturday a first time winner of the US Open Women's Singles will have been crowned.  It may very well be the same person.

Angelique Kerber will become the latest number one, displacing Serena Williams, and ironically she can thank the very same player who denied her from taking the top spot just a few weeks back in the Cincinnati final.

Yes, Karolina Pliskova defeated Angie in that match, and the Czech big server this time upset Serena Williams and several million Americans by eliminating the 6 time champion at the semi final stage of her home major, just as Roberta Vinci had last year.  A US Open final appearance was the prize for Karolina - the side effect was Kerber's ascent to the top of the tree.

Pliskova has become stronger each match of the tournament, and not even the might of Serena held any fears for the woman who has overtaken Petra Kvitova as the number one tennis star in her country.
Set one of the first semi final in front of an expectant night crowd turned into a nightmare for the favourite - Pliskova hit twice as many winners as Williams, was in complete control of her own serve, not having to save a single break point, and derailed the best serve on tour in the third and seventh games.   Down 6-2, a Serena comeback was required, and for many simply assumed.

The first few games of the second stanza were notable for a slight drop in the standard of Pliskova's tennis and Williams appearing to handle the Czech shots with a degree or two more comfort. Until 2-2 30-15 that is, where a couple of American forehand errors produced a break point, dutifully converted by Karolina, thanks to her forcing an errant Serena backhand.

A Williams backhand winner precipitated a double fault and two forehand clangers from Pliskova and Serena vocalised her joy at the immediate break back.
Serving first in the set, the top seed forced the tenth seed to play catch up, which Karolina did, all the way to a tie break.
Both players had advantages at various stages in the tiebreak, and both served double faults to lose the edge.  4-4, and Serena with a backhand winner was just two points for the set.
Pliskova was donated points on her next two serves with poor shots from Williams and it was match point, but with Serena at the line 5-6.
Sadly a double fault ended the semi final and Karolina Pliskova entered the 2016 US Open Women's Singles Final with a great victory 6-2 7-6.

Safe in the knowledge that she will soon be officially installed as the new world number one, Angie Kerber stepped out next to do battle with Caro Wozniacki in the second semi, this to decide the Pliskova opponent in the Saturday final.

A much different affair than the first semi - instead of two big servers with points often settled quickly, here we had two exquisite shot makers, with a propensity to partake in long rallies, waiting for a mistake from the other end.  Error free, highly watchable tennis, but it could be awhile to determine the winner.

Maybe not, considering the start of this semi final.  Caro was broken to love in the opening game, and didn't register her first success until the fifth game of the match.  There must have been more mistakes made in those four games than Wozniacki had made in total for the whole tournament.
Angie was the one to throw in a few winners here and there to spice up things, but the crowd were hoping for more from the Dane.  She provided one service break before the end of the set, but the lead was too much to drag back, and Angie led 6-4.

If one key area was the difference, it would be return of serve - Angie was winning half the points from the Caro serve in the opener.

The writing was probably already on the wall, but when Wozniacki was broken in the first game of set two after her forehand failed on a second break point, the message was splashed in red paint across all of Queens.  Kerber was steady and Caro could not find a method to break back.

Serve was held for 1-2, but Kerber shattered any remaining hopes in the fifth game with another assault on the Wozniacki delivery,  set up by two German forehand winners and concluded with Danish two backhand failures.

Angie suffered a nervous moment when serving for the match at 5-2, and Caro deserves credit for hanging in there, breaking the second seed to love.
However, the inevitable was delayed by only a game, with Angie Kerber entering her third Grand Slam tournament final of 2016, defeating Caro Wozniacki 6-4 6-3.

Before we experience a unique major women's singles final - one without Serena - there are 2 terrific men's semis to enjoy:

(1) Novak Djokovic v (10) Gael Monfils
(3) Stan Wawrinka v (6) Kei Nishikori 

Of the 4, only Djokovic has won the US Open (2011, 2015) and Nishikori has been a finalist (2014)
Nishikori defeated Djokovic in the semis to reach the 2014 final, and I believe that the two could meet again here, but in the final.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Nishikori ousts Whinging Murray

For someone who had previously never made it past the third round of a Grand Slam tournament in singles, Karolina Pliskova has certainly made up for lost time in this year's US Open, and on Day Ten, she progressed to her first semi final, with a convincing victory over 18 year old Ana Konjuh, who looks every bit a star of the future, a not too distant future.

The 10th seed from the Czech Republic was irresistible as she took under an hour to dismantle the Croatian teenager in their quarter final, hitting as many winners as Ana, but 15 less unforced mistakes.  Karolina won 32 points from the 37 serves that she delivered, making it impossible for Ana to even contemplate a break.  Pliskova had several chances and used four of them in her 6-2 6-2 deposit on a booking with Serena Williams in the last four.

SW found her way into the semi final with Pliskova the long way.  After a dominant first set against Simona Halep, where she punished the 5th seed's first and second serves, and hit a number of aces and other clean winners, Williams was confronted by a far more settled and competent game from the Romanian racquet wielder in set two.

The set lasted twice as long as the opener, and only one break of serve eventuated - that from Halep.  Amazingly Serena could not convert any of the twelve break points that she had on the Halep serve.
Simona served it out 6-4 to level the match - 37 winners for the set, 27 from Williams.

A sloppy early service game in the decider cost Halep dearly.  Williams converted the first break point available to her, and held her own serve for the remainder of the match, winning the entertaining encounter 6-2 4-6 6-3.

Andy Murray survived three early break points against Kei Nishikori, then proceeded to take the sixth seed apart, winning the opening set 6-1.  Ahead in the second set with another service break, Murray appeared assured of sailing into the final four.  He then stumbled.  Nishikori changed his game plan just in time, and Andy blamed everything and everybody but himself for what was to follow.

It is difficult to warm to Angry Andy or Whinging Whining Moaning Murray.  His on court demeanour is unhappy at best, often petulant, the behaviour expected of a spoilt child.  And this is the second best male player in the world.  In a calm measured way, Nishikori broke down the Murray game which until now had been immune to all attempts, conventional and otherwise.

Andy had seduced drooling American commentators into making over the top pronouncements such as him being the current best player in the world, conveniently forgetting the hefty bankroll of credits amassed by a certain Mr Djokovic, whose Wimbledon loss to Sam Querrey apparently was of such proportions to remove his "best in the business" status.

From a break down, Nishikori broke twice to win the second set 6-4.

Angry Andy implored his box of supporters to assist him, but they stopped short of joining him on court to help return the attractive range of Nishikori ground strokes.  Both players had their serves questioned throughout set three, and Nishikori had one less answer, dropping his on three occasions, and handing the match advantage to the screaming Scot, two sets to one.

A five setter was guaranteed once Andy lost the plot completely in the fourth, winning just 10 points from his 23 serves while Kei captured 17 points from his 21.  6-1 was the scoreline, and Nishikori quickly had a 2-0 lead in the deciding fifth set.

To his credit, Murray broke back with Nishikori serving at 4-2 and took the lead 5-4, forcing the sixth seed to hold serve to stay in the tournament.  Nishikori not only held serve, but prevented Murray from winning another game.

The favourite lost, and Kei Nishikori reached the semi finals for the second time in three years 1-6 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-5.

He will play Stan Wawrinka, who took care of Juan Martin del Potro in four sets.  Del Potro started the better, but each time the Argentine crowd favourite gained an advantage, the Swiss number three seed would win the big points, and more, to take over the ascendancy.  The key to the match was the first set tie breaker, and Stan won a close tussle 7 points to 5 to grab the lead.

Although Del Potro secured the only break of set two, and squared the match, it was the eighth game of set three, when serving at 3-4, that cost him dearly.  
He saved three break points, but double faulted on the one game point he had.  Another double fault presented Stan with a fourth break point which the third seed converted with a winning backhand.

Wawrinka raced through the next section of the match, taking the third set 6-3 and leading the fourth 4-0.  The Delpo spirit had been broken.
Serve was held by both players for the last four games, giving Stan Wawrinka the solid victory 7-6 4-6 6-3 6-2.  Twelve Swiss winners highlighted the fourth and final set.

So the semi finals have been determined and first up are the women on Day Eleven:

(1) Serena Williams v (10) Karolina Pliskova 
(2) Angilique Kerber v Caroline Wozniacki 

Of the 4, only Serena has won the US Open (6 of them) and only Caroline Wozniacki of the others has made a US Open final (2 of them)

It could well be the third Williams v Kerber final this year at Grand Slam level.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Wozniacki in US Open semis

Tennis fans who were looking for closely contested singles matches between some of the world's best singles players, should have steered clear of the USTA Billy Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York City on Day Nine of the US Open.

The first quarter final began with 7th seed and finalist from 2015, Roberta Vinci continually breaking the serve of number two seed Angie Kerber, only to have the same done to her in return.  Vinci, despite her inability to kick an opponent while down, ended up serving for set one.  Kerber predictably broke again, and the spirit of the Italian was damaged beyond repair.

In fact Vinci failed to win another game as Kerber struck 14 winners in the second set of her 7-5 6-0 win.  
Her semi final opposition will come in the form of Caroline Wozniacki, who performed rather well in the night match, surrendering just two games in her whitewash of Anastasija Sevastova.
Admittedly Sevastova injured her foot very early, but it shouldn't detract from yet another great exhibition from Caro, who won about 75% of points on her own serve and 60% while receiving.  14 winners and a mere 5 unforced errors were more reasons why Angie should be ready for a tight semi final.

After winning three five setters in a row to to reach his quarter final, Lucas Pouille could not find enough to contend adequately with his fellow French countryman and tenth seed Gael Monfils.  The match was not a typical Monfils exhibition of delightful shot making, but a more mature approach from the popular entertainer (don't get me wrong - not devoid of all colour) whose previous foray into the final four at this level was several years ago at Roland Garros.

Gael was never under pressure on serve, facing no break points the entire match, and hitting 34 clean winners in his 6-4 6-3 6-3 march into a semi final showdown against Novak Djokovic.

The Djoker is definitely the black cat or broken mirror of this year's US Open.  Of his five opponents, one was too injured to play him, another done after six games of their match, and sadly Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could only last two sets of the night time quarter final.

Up until the French knee gave out, Tsonga had been ripped apart on the scoreboard, not so much by Djokovic winners, but by the errors of Jo-Wilfried.  For almost all of the two sets played, Tsonga failed to be himself, take chances and attack the top seed - instead he attempted to out rally Djokovic, a task which is impossible to achieve beyond once in a blue moon, unless you have the same repertoire of tricks and overall racquet mastery as the star Serb.

Time after time long exchanges were concluded with a French shot going wide or net bound.  Novak was patient, and occasionally produced something special to remind those with short memories that he, not Murray, is still the supreme exponent of this craft.  

The Day 10 quarter finals have the potential for closer tennis, and the big hitting match up of Pliskova v Konjuh is especially enthralling due to neither player having been to this point in a major before.
Del Potro will be followed keenly as his comeback to top level tennis gathers greater momentum by the day.  Stan Wawrinka, his opponent, in Grand Slam events can deliver at both ends of the spectrum and luckily this fortnight he is striking the ball with a confidence enough to worry anyone.
SW and Handy Andy face their potentially toughest tests yet in Halep and Nishikori, but if at anywhere near their best should progress.

Aga falls to teenager Konjuh

The remaining US Open quarter finalists in mens and women's singles were decided on Day Eight, and the upset of the day came at night with Aga Radwanska falling to the unseeded 18 year old Ana Konjuh from Croatia.  Ana had managed to roll through the draw without meeting any highly ranked players after a good win in the first round against 20th seed Kiki Bertens.

So no one expected the 92nd ranked player to knock over Aga in straight sets.  The fourth seed had never passed the fourth round at Flushing Meadows and this year seemed set to rid herself of that hurdle.  Not to be unfortunately, as she was witness to 38 winners flowing from the  Konjuh racquet on the way to a 6-4 6-4 Croatian triumph.

Venus Williams will not be in the quarter finals, despite a whirlwind start which put Karolina Pliskova under immense pressure.  At 5-1 and serving for the opening set, the 36 year old suffered the wobbles.  Pliskova broke twice, capitalising on a fragile second serve from Williams, and could have levelled at 5-5.  

However another momentum shift saw VW break, take the set 6-4, then achieve an early advantage in set two.  Pliskova turned it around, delivering some of the best tennis of the match to level at a set all, before advancing to the final eight with success in the third set tie breaker and in the match 4-6 6-4 7-6.
Konjuh will be Pliskova's quarter final opponent.

Simona Halep did what no other player has been able to do this past week or so - take a set off Carla Suarez Navarro.  The fifth seed was quickly out of the blocks, and maintained the form, creating several break points and converting three.  The quality of tennis was high, but the key points were won by Simona who was a set up, 6-2 in 46 minutes.
Set two was more challenging for the Romanian, but despite the best efforts of Suarez Navarro, Halep won through 6-2 7-5.  

The standard of Halep's tennis was impressive, and will need to be at least that good again as her victory set up a quarter final meeting with Serena Williams - the great one swept aside Yaroslava Shvedova as easily as she wanted it to be.  Or it appeared that way.  28 winners and not facing a break point, Serena looked assured from the outset. She now has won more matches at Grand Slam level than any other player, passing the great Roger Federer.

Grigor Dimitrov has under achieved during his career, but this year in NYC had done well to make the round of sixteen, perhaps starting to deliver on his potential again.  But no, only teasing us some more -  his match against Andy Murray promised more than the debacle delivered to a short changed crowd.  Five games was all that the Bulgarian could claim as his own after the three set disaster, and we really can't take much from what was effectively hitting practice for the second seed.

Murray will hit more tennis balls in the quarter final when he faces sixth seed Kei Nishikori.  Japan's big hope cut down giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic to size, the first two sets in his keeping, capturing a single service break in each.  Nishikori hit 26 winners across those two sets with only 3 unforced errors, sensational figures.

The third set was more difficult to traverse, with no service break achieved by either player, but Nishikori deservedly won the tie breaker and the match 6-3 6-4 7-6.  
Kei's 44 winners and 7 unforced errors is a statistical indication of the increased difficulty Murray will face next up.

Juan Martin del Potro was leading 8th seed Dominic Thiem 6-3 3-2 before a knee injury disappointingly forced the Austrian to retire.  Del Potro benefits with a quarter final berth, and despite the less than ideal method of advancing, his form throughout the tournament suggests that he was just as likely to win the match should it have gone the distance.

Next test for Juan Martin will be Stan Wawrinka - the third seed had too much class for Illya Marchenko, and although dropping the third set, Wawrinka at no stage appeared threatened.  Hard to predict a winner from this star laden quarter final but either poses a genuine threat to the winner of Murray v Nishikori.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Rafa Out - French Flag Flying

Day Seven of US Open 2016 was one for the French.  At its conclusion, three of the four confirmed quarter finalists in the men's singles draw were Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Lucas Pouille.
The US, however, lost out with both Jack Sock and Madison Keys exiting from fourth round matches on the first Sunday.  The Williams sisters are the only Americans left, and they play their round of sixteen matches on Day Eight.

The biggest news was the other side of the Pouille success.  The 24th seed ousted 4th seed and dual champion Rafa Nadal, taking over four intriguing hours to complete the huge upset.
Rafa didn't turn up for the opening set, not winning a single point on his second serve while Pouille, despite a poor first serve %, dominated on both first and second deliveries.  
As expected Nadal turned 1-6 into 6-2, belting 14 winners in the second set, but it was insufficient to rid New York of the French pest.  Pouille won the third, leaving Rafa to have to win in five sets.  
Pouille's game became a little ragged in the fourth set, with a few more unforced errors, several points lost at the net.  Rafa achieved an extra service break to level the match, and then took the lead with an early break in the decider.

One more driving response from Lucas saw a break back occur and ultimately a tie break required to determine the quarter finalist from this epic clash.
It was Nadal who fought back from 3 points to 6 down, and he saved three match points.  He couldn't save a fourth and Lucas Pouille reached his second Grand Slam quarter final in succession, winning 6-1 2-6 6-3 4-6 7-6 (6).

Tsonga was responsible for Sock's departure in four sets, and a subsequent dip in his great popularity amongst US fans.  Jo-Wilfried hit 22 more winners than unforced errors, one sure indication of the form he is displaying, and he will need to continue in that vein as his next task is to take down Novak Djokovic.

The top seed has hardly been on court, and he could have been on a practice court for the first two sets against Kyle Edmund, so easy were the games ticking over for him.  Set three was what the crowd was hoping for as the young English player served it up to the world's best, coming from 0-2 behind and breaking the Serb serve twice to lead 3-2.

Snapped out of his lethargy, Djokovic broke back to level, and allowed Edmund just one more game before sealing the win 6-2 6-1 6-4.

There will be at least one French semi finalist because 10th seed Gael Monfils is the quarter final opponent of Lucas Pouille.  Monfils easily accounted for Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets, due in large part to a mountain of errors in the Cypriot game.

Eighth seed Madison Keys yet again promised more than she could deliver at a major, her run cut short in the fourth round by the Caroline Wozniacki revival which continues to roll on.  The Danish Delight dazzled with her speed around the court and while the crowd was disappointed to see another American disappear, it was appreciative of the level of tennis provided by Wozniacki.
Keys attacked - 30 winners to 12 - but Wozniacki was able to defend and draw the mistakes - she committed only 7 unforced errors in the 6-3 6-4 victory, while Keys contributed 33.

In an all unseeded quarter final, Caro will face Anastasija Sevastova.  Sevastova defeated another fancied player, Johanna Konta, the 13th seed, in a match where breaks of serve were common place.  For someone who gave tennis away a few years ago, Sevastova's is a comeback of growing proportions.

The second quarter final which has been decided is that between last year's surprise finalist, 7th seed Roberta Vinci, and 2nd seed Angie Kerber.

Vinci has had a roller coaster year but in this tournament has been rock solid, dropping  just a single set.  Her win against Lesia Tsurenko in the fourth round was anything but easy for one set, which went to a tie break, but once Vinci had won that, the resistance from Lesia seemed to fall away.

Kerber was simply a slight edge better in most departments than Petra Kvitova in the first of the night matches on Day Seven, and winning the first set 6-3 was no surprise. Kvitova raised the stakes in set two, and hit an amazing 25 winners in a great contest for 11 games.  Meanwhile Angie was playing mistake-free tennis on the other side of the net - only 4 winners, but just the same number of unforced errors. (identical to first set stats)
Petra couldn't control her mistakes for the full distance, and sadly at 5-6 30-40 she double faulted and Angie was through to the quarter final 6-3 7-5.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Pliskova fourth round first time

The third round of mens and women's singles is now complete after Day Six and the round of sixteen is set to be played at the 2016 US Open.

All the eight women favoured to win their matches did so with fifth seed Simona Halep being taken the full distance by Hungarian Timea Babos.  Halep dominated the opening set 6-1, but Babos hit 10 winners and Halep's serve fell apart in set two, levelling the match at a set apiece.

Halep held out in a tight decider and won her spot in the fourth round 6-1 2-6 6-4, where she will play 11th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, who has yet to drop a single set in her three matches - Carla's third round victim was Russian 19th seed Elena Vesnina.  11 more unforced errors and an inability to win enough points on her second serve were key factors in Elena's demise. 

Serena won in the day, and her sister won at night, the losing pair Johanna Larsson and  Laura Siegemund respectively.  Not too much respect shown by the sisters when considering the scorelines - Serena 6-2 6-1 and Venus 6-1 6-2. Serena said her goodbyes to Johanna in an hour, while Venus spent about twenty minutes longer on court.  

Next cab off the rank for Serena is unseeded Yaroslava Shvedova, the Russian born Kazakhstan player who removed China's Shuai Zhang with far more effective serving and 24 winners.

Venus must deal with the potentially much tougher proposition of 10th seed Karolina Pliskova.  The Czech player is using this year's event to begin correcting a poor record in majors - the one glaring gap in a glowing record.  Karolina has not dropped a set in reaching her first round of sixteen at Grand Slam level, and her match with VW promises plenty.

Against most other players, the third round performance of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova would have been a winning one, but Pliskova was scintillating around the court, managing to fire off 31 winners in her 6-2 6-4 win.

The final fourth round women's singles match will feature 4th seed Aga Radwanska, who found 25th seed Caroline Garcia easier opposition than had been Natalie Broady two days previous.  The straight sets win highlighted the incredible patience and accuracy of Radwanska who only hit 9 winners to Garcia's 14, but in a 93 point match committed a paltry 5 unforced errors - Garcia 34.

Aga will play unseeded Ana Konjuh in the fourth round, thanks to the 92nd ranked Croatian player's three set win over similarly unseeded American Varvara Lepchenko.

Of the men's third round clashes, the most disappointing was the night match.  Sad because the finish was determined by an injury to Nick Kyrgios.  The Australian had won the opening set, but was being kept honest by Ukranian Illya Marchenko.  Injury occurred when attempting a forehand late in the second set and that enabled Marchenko to capitalise and level the match.

Despite treatment, Kyrgios was never capable of resuming to a competitive capacity, and he bravely fought to the end of the third set before retiring,  Marchenko into the round of sixteen 4-6 6-4 6-1 (ret).  Hopefully the recovery will be quick for Nick.

Meanwhile Illya has a date with 3rd seed Stan Wawrinka, and for much of his third round match, the Swiss star must have been considering flight plans back home.  Unseeded Englishman Dan Evans was leading two sets to one, and actually had a match point in set four before Stan managed to take it 10 points to 8 in a tie break.
Experience and class told in the fifth and Wawrinka remains, winning 4-6 6-3 6-7 7-6 6-2.
Between the pair 100 winners were hit during the four hours they were on court.

Second seed Andy Murray is another through to the fourth round, but in the opening two sets against Paolo Lorenzi, it was the Italian serving for both.  Fortunately for Murray he was able to break at the right time, and eventually win set one.  Lorenzi stood firm to take the second but he couldn't ride the momentum and Murray cruised home 7-6 5-7 6-2 6-3.  
Grigor Dimitrov has been solid in his three matches so far, and should offer Murray his greatest test yet when the pair clash next.  Dimitrov, apart from a slight third set lapse, had far too many weapons for Portugal's Joao Sousa to defend, victorious 6-4 6-1 3-6 6-2.

The winner of Murray / Dimitrov will play the winner of Nishikori / Karlovic in a quarter final.
Ivo Karlovic is in the round of sixteen following a big serving match against 19 year old American qualifier Jared Donaldson in which the 21st seed prevailed 6-4 7-6 6-3.  54 winners from Karlovic and 34 from Donaldson illustrate the quality of tennis on show from these two.
Nishikori dropped another set, the opener this time, to Nicolas Mahut, before destroying the French hopes in this match - the result 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-2.  The sixth seed has won each of his matches in four sets, and for every set he has won, the average games surrendered is a mere touch over 2.  He can't afford the occasional lapse of concentration, leading to the loss of a set, once he encounters serious opposition.

One of the most mouth watering fourth round matches on the menu is that between unseeded but highly fancied Juan Martin del Potro, and Dominic Theim, seeded eight.
Del Potro led 11th seed David Ferrer 2-0 in the first set, lost the next five games, then steadied to win the tie break.  After that it was all Argentina and the 2009 champ won 7-6 6-2 6-3.  Thiem also began shakily, in fact losing the opening set badly to Pablo Carreno Busta.  Then the young Austrian slipped into top gear and showed his talent, edging out the Spaniard 1-6 6-4 6-4 7-5.

Day Seven - half way already ! - and half of the round of sixteen matches are scheduled. 
The 10 players required on Arthur Ashe Stadium during the day and night sessions represent 9 different nations.

The final 16 in the women's singles draw come from 13 different nations.
The final 16 in the men's singles draw come from 13 different nations. (Not the same 13)

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Sock shocks Cilic in NYC

After being given a walkover in his second round match, Novak Djokovic was leading 4-2 in his third round contest when Mikhail Youzhny retired, meaning that the number one seed has reached the round of sixteen without the match practice he was expecting, and that his team was hoping for.

Still, he is there, while some pre tournament threats on his side of the draw are not, and Day Five of the US Open cleared the path of another hurdle in the form of 7th seed Marin Cilic, thumped in straight sets by 26th seeded American Jack Sock, to the delight of the mostly American crowd.

Another seed in Novak's quarter was John Isner, and the 20th seed didn't provide as much joy as Sock for his home audience, dismissed by an increasingly confident Brit, Kyle Edmund, who presents himself as the immediate next challenge for the reigning champion to negotiate.  

So that leaves Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the highest ranked player, apart from Djokovic, remaining in his quarter, after the popular French player removed Kevin Anderson from calculations.  

In the other quarter of the top half of the draw, 4th seed Rafa Nadal continues to fly the Spanish flag, too accomplished for Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.  However, France won the day over Spain in two other third round matches in that section.

24th seed Lucas Pouille outlasted 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets, earning a meeting with Rafa, while 10th seed Gael Monfils needed just three to take out Nicolas Almagro.
Monfils will play Baghdatis in the round of sixteen in what will be guaranteed entertainment for those present.

In one of the finest matches of the tournament to this point, 8th seed Madison Keys was pushed to the limit, and proved she has the mettle to go further in Grand Slam events than she historically has.
Naomi Osaka brought the best out of the American who hit 37 winners in the 7-5 4-6 7-6 victory, a success taking over two hours to complete.

The fourth round encounter will be tough for Keys though because Caroline Wozniacki has rediscovered her very best tennis in the past week.  The twice finalist is a dangerous proposition for anyone left in the field.  Her destruction of Monica Niculescu was clinical.

The other matches in the Keys quarter were won easily by 13th seed Johanna Konta at the expense of 24th seed Belinda Bencic, and Anastasija Sevastova, who followed up her upset of third seed Muguruza with a more expected defeat of unseeded Kateryna Bondarenko.

The upset of Day Five in Women's Singles came courtesy of Ukranian Lesia Tsurenko, who survived a first set deficit to provide the exit directions for 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova.  Ranked 99, Tsurenko has been as high as 33 and she will be anything but easy opposition for 7th seed Roberta Vinci in the round of sixteen.

Vinci began like a house on fire against Germany's Carina Witthoeft, taking the opening set 6-0, but ultimately requiring a third set to win 6-0 5-7 6-3.

The remaining fourth round match in this quarter will be fought between 2nd seed Angie Kerber and 14th seed Petra Kvitova.  Petra avenged her New Haven semi final loss to Elina Svitolina just a week ago with a straight sets win over the 22nd seed.
Kerber wasted 55 minutes and two games in eliminating American qualifier Catherine Bellis.  
The German star won an astonishing 68% of points from the Bellis serve.

The rest of the third round matches are to be played on Day Six and the matches of great interest appear to be Juan Martin Del Potro v David Ferrer and Karolina Pliskova v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  

The locals will be keen to watch the continued progress of American Jared Donaldson.
Ranked 122, he has won through Qualifying (3 matches) and beaten 12th seed David Goffin and Viktor Troicki (a top 40 player) in the first two rounds of the main draw.  His next assignment is Ivo Karlovic.

Friday, 2 September 2016

US Open Day 4 - Rain & Roof

Rain interrupted proceedings on Day four of the US Open and for once at Flushing Meadows there was tennis played despite the weather wanting otherwise.  The dividend from the new roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium began to be paid as, while players scheduled to compete on other courts twiddled their thumbs, Simona Halep battled with Lucie Safarova on the protected Centre Court.

Thankfully, the rain delays were brief enough to allow the completion of the full singles programme, including the impressive victory of fifth seed Halep in straight sets.  Many. breaks of serve occurred in the match, but the chances offered Safarova to remain in contention were repeatedly blown and Simona eventually decided that since her generosity was being wasted, she would simply finish off the job and reach the third round 6-3 6-4.

Andy Murray, serving first and with an early break was quickly leading Marcel Granollers 4-1, before a lapse from the number two seed gave the Spanish player some heart.  A number of chances to level at 5-5 came to nought, and Murray ended up breaking for the set 6-4.  That was all she wrote, the rest of the contest not really a contest and Andy handily into round three 6-4 6-1 6-4.
Expecting to play 30th seed Gilles Simon, Andy will instead meet Italian Paolo Lorenzi who took five sets to knock over the Frenchman.

Another of Murray's expected opponents was to be 16th seed Feliciano Lopez in the round of sixteen, but that won't happen either, as Lopez lost his second round match to unseeded Joao Sousa from Portugal.  Not a huge upset, since Sousa is ranked 36 in the world; more of a shock because of Joao's recent form, losing in the opening round of half his tournaments since Roland Garros.

Juan Martin Del Potro defeated 19th seed American Steve Johnson in straight sets and his third round task will be to relieve 11th seed David Ferrer of his singles duties.  Ferrer in his second round encounter took the long route, finally overcoming Fognini in five sets.

Thiem, Wawrinka and Kyrgios all won in straight sets, and could well, given current form, together with Delpo, form the basis of two fantastic fourth round matches.

The Williams sisters both succeeded in their second round matches, each requiring the minimum of fuss, but no more convincing than Karolina Pliskova or Carla Suarez Navarro.  

Carla dumped 2008 finalist Jelena Jankovic 6-1 6-4, surrendering her first games for the tournament, while Pliskova is threatening to actually go beyond the third round in a major for the first time in her career.  She showed no mercy to Paraguayan qualifier Montserrat Gonzalez in the first set, sealing it 6-1 and although she eased up to win 6-1 7-5, Pliskova is primed for her next match, a ripper against 18th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

No big name casualties like we saw on Day three, although another former US Open champion left the tournament.  16th seed Samantha Stosur, the.2011 winner, was no match for Shuai Zhang, bowing out to the unseeded Chinese player 6-3 6-3.

England's Naomi Broady caused Aga Radwanska some anxious first set moments forcing the fourth seed to a tie breaker which Aga eventually won 11-9, and then the match 7-6 6-3.

Day Five sees the first of the third round singles matches and potential for some great contests - Kvitova v Svitolina, Tsonga v Anderson, Konta v Bencic and Pouille v Bautista Agut  are just some to savour.

Garbine and Milos depart US Open

Winning Roland Garros hasn't exactly been the driver for wonderful subsequent experiences for Garbine Muguruza.  
Her first match after the major triumph on clay was a loss on grass to 61st ranked Kirsten Flipkens.  She followed this with a second round exit at Wimbledon to 124th ranked Jana Cepelova.

A third round loss at the Olympics preceded Garbine's return to some form in Cincinnati where she made the semi finals losing to eventual winner Karolina Pliskova.
Included among her Cincinnati wins was Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 18 and the only top 20 player successfully negotiated by Muguruza since the French Open.

The US Open continued the woes for the Venezuelan-born Spanish star, seeded number three.  She was dumped in two sets by Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.

In a day and night of the biggest upsets so far this tournament, American Ryan Harrison, who was the nation's great young hope a few years back, injected much hope and even more delight into the crowd with his excellent win over fifth seed and Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic.
Ryan is smiling, but also happy is Nadal who would have been preparing to face the Canadian. In the last eight.

Womens number nine seed and 2004 champion here, Svetlana Kuznetsova, fell to twice runner-up Caroline Wozniacki.  The Danish delight has been out of form for most of this year, and for the rest of the time she has been injured.  The former world number one has fallen in the rankings to 74, and when trailing 0-4 appeared set to fall further.  

However her sparkling display against Sveta, winning the next seven games, reminded us of the talent Wozniacki possesses.  Her constant attack and blinding pace worried the Russian into too many errors, and apart from a stumble when serving for the match at 6-4 5-3, Caro flew sweetly into the third round 6-4 6-4.

Rafa Nadal thrashed Andreas Seppi in sets one and three, and won a tighter middle complete his progress.
Other Spanish success came through the victory achieved by Roberto Bautista Agut,  who dismissed Argentine Federico Delbonis in four sets.

It didn't make up for the Muguruza disaster, which was compounded somewhat by 31st seed Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas losing his match. 
Other seeds not surviving the second round were Pablo Cuevas (18) and Benoit Paire (32).

Novak Djokovic had the easiest path to round three after Jiri Vesely could not contest their match due to injury.  Other not quite so easy but nevertheless destructive displays came from  Cilic, Keys, Monfils, Vinci, Bencic and Sock.