The top seeds in the boy’s doubles tournament tumbled out of the draw today as Brazil’s Guilherme Clezar and Tiago Fernandes fended off the comeback attempt of Marton Fucsovics and Mate Zsiga in a spirited 6-3 6-7(6) 1-0(4) showdown that left none of the crowd disappointed that drifted from the main attractions and came out to Court 6. Fucsovics and Fernandes are both also still alive in boy’s singles, a possible rematch alone against one another in the semifinals looming — as the #2 (Fucsovics) and #3 (Fernandes) seeds, no less…
2010 U.S. OPEN BRACKETS
But the main attraction naturally is the men’s and women’s draws, so where precisely are we in the scheme of things?
The men finished the bottom two pairings in the quarterfinals draw of singles, with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic setting up their own 2-3 showdown just like Fucsovics and Fernandes soon could in the junior ranks. Federer needed less than two hours to run Robin Soderling, his recent nemesis, off the court at Arthur Ashe. Hitting 18 aces and playing solid tennis, the Swissman only had six break-point opportunities in the match — which was actually the same number Soderling earned, though he only converted two to Roger’s five. The result: a clinical straight-sets 6-4 6-4 7-5 victory for the man whose not missed the finals at Flushing Meadows for over half a decade.
Djokovic, meanwhile, took care of Gael Monfils earlier in the day. By comparison to the later men’s quarterfinal, Djokovic earned three times as many break point chances and converted just seven. It was enough to win 7-6(2) 6-1 6-2, but it will definitely not be enough to beat Federer at this point. 50 unforced errors should have rightfully done in Djokovic, and a stronger player than Monfils would’ve exploited them. It’s great seeing the Serb reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam once again, but just like he needed a little magic to survive the draw in Melbourne on his path toward winning the 2008 Australian Open he’s also going to need that magic now…
On the women’s side, meanwhile, the semifinals are set after Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva ended the runs of the last two players who were anomalies amongst the seeding. Whereas every other top-eight seed reached the quarterfinals, the section of the draw where #31 Kaia Kanepi and unseeded Dominika Cibulkova came through had seen #4 Jelena Jankovic and #8 Na Li take early pink slips from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. They are there no longer, as Wozniacki and Zvonareva can sit back and focus on survival against one another after the victories.
The performances to advance to the semifinals were damn near identical. The Russian went first, playing Kanepi and cruising to a 6-3 7-5 victory in less than two hours. In getting the win Zvonareva hit less than half as many unforced errors (28 to 60) as her Estonian opponent, gained three aces, and had a break-point conversion rate equal that of Djokovic. She reached her first-ever Grand Slam championship match at Wimbledon; could she go one further and win it all at the U.S. Open?
In the semifinal she’ll face the top seed after needing eight fewer minutes to finish off Cibulkova in the quarterfinals 6-2 7-5. Wozniacki has been chastised for her top seeding, but the USTA uses the WTA and ATP world rankings as their basis for seeding players and there was little that could be done besides reward the Dane for her consistency. And as we’ve seen so far this tournament, there’s no reason not to reward the way she’s played over the past year with a top seed. The Zvonareva-Wozniacki semifinal will be just as thrilling as the star power exhibited in the matchup of former winner Venus Williams and defending champ Kim Clijsters on the other side of the draw.
The doubles bracket for the women is also at the semifinal stage, with Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova still alive and facing a tough draw against Cara Black and Anastasia Rodionova. Black has added incentive to win the match, though, having won with Liezel Huber two years ago here and lost in the final together two years ago. Her former partner, now teamed up with Nadia Petrova, is the favorite to emerge from the other semifinal contest against the Taiwanese/Chinese pair of Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng. It is an unusual partnership between citizens of two countries that have less-than-normalized relations, to say the least…
… but the culture clash didn’t stop at the two countries borne of a feud over who would rule China. The Indian/Pakistani pair of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi first hit my radar two days ago when they upset #2 seed Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. Then, yesterday, they got the break of a lifetime when they knocked off Dick Norman and Wesley Moodie… and the unseeded pair of Horacio Zaballos and Eduardo Schwank upset #5 seed Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach to claim the other semifinal spot opposite Bopanna and Qureshi.
Today they turned that good luck into a spot opposite Mike and Bob Bryan in the men’s doubles final at the U.S. Open. Playing the smooth, steady game that lulled more accomplished men than the Argentinians into a false hope, Bopanna and Qureshi were superb when they needed to be and consistent all the way in taking the first-set tiebreak and getting the service break they needed to prevail 7-6(5) 6-4.
It’ll be quite the David-and-Goliath tale, the Bryan brothers battling for their eleventh Grand Slam title while Bopanna and Qureshi contest their first. But while the American siblings bring their own feel-good story to the table, the rise of the Indian and the Pakistani in partnership is a powerful talisman for the potential these once-unified cultures can bring to the table together. Sure, it’s just tennis… but even sports can carry significance far greater than merely the contest at hand…