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.

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