It’s the last slam of the season and, for most in this part of the world and the hardest to keep track of. The late nights and 4:30 am matches seldom tempt even the biggest tennis fans. With only two more quarterfinal matches, the two semi finals and the final left, we’ve now approached the business end of the US Open 2015. So, if you’ve been sleeping through the past week, here’s the info you need to be armed with.
The US Open remains consistent in its unpredictability. Last year, Kei Nishikori was a finalist, beating a string of intimidating players (Milos Raonic,Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic) along the way. This year, he didn’t make it past the first round, losing to Frenchman Benoit Paire, making the 4th seeded Japanese player the first casualty of the tournament. Round 3 saw the exit of the 7th seeded David Ferrer at the hands of another Frenchman,Jeremy Chardy, while Milos Raonic received a drubbing from Feliciano Lopez (6-2 7-6(4) 6-3).
The biggest upset of week 1 though was Rafael Nadal’s loss to Fabio Fognini, making a bad year worse for the 14 time grand slam champion. Two sets up, it looked like Rafa would have an easy win over the Italian player. A terrible third set followed, Nadal’s famed mental strength failed him, and he plodded uncomfortably to a fifth set where he attempted a comeback, using all his battling abilities to stay alive. However, sensing his opponent’s weakness, Fognini played an inspired game of tennis, ultimately beating him 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.
The second week has only just begun, but we’ve already lost Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray. After winning the first set comfortably, Berdych was outplayed and eventually, ousted by Richard Gasquet in just four sets. Andy Murray lost to South African Kevin Anderson at the Louis Armstrong Stadium, winning just one set in the four hour 18- minute brawl (the longest of the tournament so far), and failing to make it to the quarterfinals for the first time since the beginning of 2011. In many ways, this has been the biggest upset of the US Open, when one considers Murray’s exceptional form this year.
The tournament has also thrown some surprising winners. A veritable army of Frenchmen have been busily disturbing the draw in the past week. There was Benoit Paire who, after dispatching Kei Nishikori and Tommy Robredo, made it all the way to Round 4 before losing to fellow countrymanJo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Jeremy Chardy (who saw off David Ferrer) who also reached Round 4, where he lost to Marin Cilic. Tsonga made it to the quarterfinals, where he, too, lost to Cilic in a hard-fought 5 setter. The 12th seeded Richard Gasquet still remains in the draw. Though Feliciano Lopezis out of the US Open, the Spaniard deserves a mention. He pulled off a minor upset (against Milos Raonic) and gave Djokovic a hard time in the quarterfinals.
Kevin Anderson has been quietly going about winning his matches, until he booted out Murray. He now faces Stan Wawrinka in Wednesday’s quarterfinal, giving us an unpredictable match-up. The Stanimal now a double grand slam winner, has been wreaking havoc among the Big Four of tennis for a few years and, in his current form, could make it to the semis though Anderson is also capable of creating trouble (Remember this year’sWimbledon match against Djokovic?). The last remaining quarterfinal is between Gasquet and Roger Federer. While the Frenchman is playing the best tennis of his career, an in-form and confident Federer is a fearsome thing. This could be a routine win, or another upset from French brigade.
The first semifinal, played on Thursday, features Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic. Djokovic looks invincible at the moment. But, at this exact juncture last year, the unassuming Nishikori swooped in, and ended Djoko‘s hopes of a US Open title, proving that he can be beaten, even when he looks unbeatable.
The strange thing about the US Open is that, even with the top two seeds still in play, one can’t be guaranteed a final between them. This open has had three first-time champions in five years – Juan Martin del Potro (2009), Andy Murray (2012) and Cilic (2014). To make a prediction, hence seems silly. Will we have another new champion (Anderson, Gasquet) or will previous winners do it again (Federer, Djokovic)? Can Stan win another grand slam or can Cilic retain his title? We will wait, stay up late and watch, won’t we?