Clinical Alcaraz moves into US Open quarter-finals
Medvedev books US Open clash with 'godfather' Rublev: China's Zheng rejoices at 'breakthrough' win over Jabeur: Sabalenka powers into US Open quarter-finals
September 5, 2023 09:41 AM
Carlos Alcaraz stayed firmly on course to defend his US Open title Monday as he reached the quarter-finals with a straight-sets win over Italy's Matteo Arnaldi.
Alcaraz eased past the 61st-ranked Arnaldi 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 under the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium and will face sixth seed Jannik Sinner or 2020 runner-up Alexander Zverev for a place in the semi-finals.
The Spaniard beat Sinner in five sets in last year's quarter-finals in New York in a match which set a record for the latest ever finish at the tournament of 2:50am.
"I think everybody wants that match. I think when the draw came out, everybody wants that potential quarter-final, Jannik against me, because of the matches against him last year," said Alcaraz.
"It was one of the best matches that I've played in my career."
Alcaraz and Sinner have split their six meetings, the Italian winning their most recent in Toronto en route to his maiden Masters 1000 title.
"I think we push to the limits each other when we face each other. We increase our level to the top. I love playing against him. It is a great battle," said Alcaraz.
Alcaraz has a 2-3 record against Zverev, who appears to be regaining his best form after a horror ankle injury at last year's French Open.
"Against Sascha (Zverev), the head-to-head as well is really, really close. We've played great matches."
"He's playing really, really well. This year he's finding his top level again."
- Familiar territory -
Alcaraz is the first man to make the last eight or better in his first three US Open appearances since 1980.
The 20-year-old is bidding to become the first man since Roger Federer in 2008 to successfully defend the US Open after winning the title for the first time last year.
"I put out all the pressure that people put on you, on the defending champions. I just delete it and focus on my own game," said Alcaraz.
He broke midway through the opening set and then twice in the second, stylishly charging into a two-set lead with a delicate forehand on the run past an outstretched Arnaldi.
Arnaldi pounced on his first opportunity to break Alcaraz early in the third set only to see his advantage erased the following game.
Alcaraz ripped a sensational cross-court forehand to bring up three match points on Arnaldi's serve at 4-5 and closed out victory inside two hours.
"I think the intensity from the beginning until the last ball, I played a really solid match, less mistakes," said Alcaraz.
"I'm really happy with the performance in general."
Alcaraz had strapping around his left thigh for the first time in the tournament, but the top seed allayed any fears he was struggling with injury.
"It's really tough playing in a Grand Slam. You play tough matches during two weeks. For me it's normal that some pains came to your body, and you have to take care about it," he said.
"It's nothing serious, it's just for prevention. I mean, I felt a little bit that pain on the left leg, but as I said nothing serious. Just taking care about it."
Medvedev books clash with Rublev
Daniil Medvedev will play Russian compatriot and close friend Andrey Rublev in the US Open quarter-finals after defeating Australian 13th seed Alex de Minaur in four sets on Monday.
Third seed Medvedev fought back from a set down to brush De Minaur aside 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 as he bids to add a second US Open crown following his maiden Grand Slam title in New York two years ago.
"The conditions were some of the most brutal we’ve ever played," Medvedev said of the hot and humid conditions in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
"There was one moment where I thought I'm not going to be able to play until the end, it's so tough.
"But I looked across the net and noticed he was slowing down too, so I thought okay, I can do this."
The 27-year-old Medvedev, a winner of four hard-court titles this season, is through to the last eight of the US Open for the fourth time in five years.
He beat Rublev in straight sets at the same stage of the tournament in 2020 and holds a 5-2 record over his friend who is the godfather of his daughter Alisa, born in October last year.
"We're really close friends," said Medvedev. "Even if on the court we're big competitors... I think nothing is going to come between us to separate us in real life.
"We're really close. I mean, we share a lot of let's call it interests and stuff like this.
"It's great to have someone like this on tour because sometimes can be not easy. You travel, travel, travel. To have a friend like this is great."
Despite their close bond, Medvedev is eager to once more thwart Rublev who lost in each of his past eight Grand Slam quarter-final appearances.
"But again, on the court we both want to win. We not going to be friends in two days."
Zheng rejoices at 'breakthrough' win
Rising Chinese star Zheng Qinwen reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final Monday at the US Open after knocking out last year's runner-up Ons Jabeur, describing it as a "breakthrough" win after enduring her share of frustration this season.
The 20-year-old Zheng's blend of power and precision overwhelmed a weary Jabeur, her 6-2, 6-4 victory sending the 23rd seed through to a meeting with incoming world number one Aryna Sabalenka.
"Honestly the feeling was fantastic, especially in that moment. I feel this is like important win for me. Like you say, it's a breakthrough," said Zheng.
"I always been waiting this moment to happen. Honestly, at beginning of year I'm thinking it's going to happen very fast.
"Because I'm focusing that moment too much about the result and I lost little bit the patience of myself, that's affect a lot to my tennis part."
She earned the WTA newcomer of the year award in 2022, winning her debut at all four majors and making a run to the French Open last 16 before losing in three sets to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.
But Zheng had won just two Grand Slam matches this season before carving out a bit of history in New York, where she and Wang Xinyu became the first two Chinese players to reach the fourth round at the same US Open.
While Wang lost to Roland Garros finalist Karolina Muchova on Sunday, Zheng became only the fourth Chinese woman to make the last eight at Flushing Meadows -- following in the footsteps of Wang Qiang, Peng Shuai and Li Na.
Zheng is one of the "Li Na generation" of young players who took up tennis after the success of China's first Grand Slam singles champion, who won the French Open in 2011 when Zheng was eight.
"When she won the French Open...the first Asian who won a Grand Slam, that give a lot to young kid, especially for me," Zheng reflected.
"In that moment I start to think, 'Oh, as an Asian, we also able to win a Grand Slam at big stage like that.'"
"Before that, tennis isn't so popular in China. I mean, my parents doesn't know what is tennis before I start to play. That's true," said the genial Zheng.
"After Li Na tennis become more popular sport in China. Thanks to her a lot. She also put a dream seed in my heart that I want to become like that."
- 'Things going to happen' -
Li also won the 2014 Australian Open, months after her final US Open ended with a defeat in the semi-finals.
As Zheng closes in on the trailblazing Li's best Flushing Meadows performance, it was clear she strives to emulate and, perhaps, one day surpass the achievements of Asia's first Grand Slam singles champion.
"Of course, I'm super happy to being here, but I will not use the word like 'surprised' because I know what I'm capable to do," said Zheng.
"I know if I can, I have to focus in right moment right here and don't think too far. I don't want to have the same mistake like at beginning of the year."
Standing in her way next is Sabalenka, who will replace outgoing champion Iga Swiatek at the top of the rankings after the tournament, but Zheng is not one to shy away from a challenge.
"I always believe that I'm able to beat everyone if I play the right tennis that I have to play," said Zheng.
"Of course, the opponent will also play good. There is going to be lot of competition. But I believe that if I'm really there fighting for every point, I mean, things going to happen.
"You can never say that, but we will see."
Sabalenka powers into quarter-finals
Aryna Sabalenka celebrated her ascent to the pinnacle of women's tennis by powering into the quarter-finals of the US Open on Monday with a straight sets win over Russian Daria Kasatkina.
Sabalenka, who is guaranteed of becoming the new world number one next week following Iga Swiatek's fourth round exit on Sunday, cruised into the last eight with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over the 13th seed.
The Belarusian will play China's Zheng Qinwen on Wednesday for a place in the last four.
Sabalenka, who lost in the semi-finals of last year's US Open, is targeting her second Grand Slam title of the season after winning the Australian Open in January.
The 25-year-old from Minsk said after her win she was delighted to have secured the No.1 ranking -- but admitted she would have preferred to have beaten Swiatek in the final in New York.
"Honestly I had no doubt she was going to make it to the final -- I really wanted to have this battle with her and decide everything on court," Sabalenka said of outgoing No.1 Swiatek.
"I was sad she lost, but it means a lot to me. I've been pushing myself all this year to reach this goal. It's unbelievable, it's something crazy, I still can't believe it."