Dominic Thiem finally cleared the fourth round hurdle at a Grand Slam not played on clay to become the first Austrian man to reach the US Open quarter-finals since Thomas Muster in 1996.
The ninth-seeded Thiem had lost all six of his previous Grand Slam fourth rounds on any surface other than clay prior to his impressive 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (2) over Kevin Anderson at the US Open on Sunday.
Thiem entered the contest carrying a poor 1-6 record against the fifth-seeded Anderson, who was a finalist at the US Open last year.
The 24-year-old faced zero break points on his own serve despite landing just 49 per cent of his first serves in. Thiem dropped a mere total of four points on his first serve and hit 42 winners against just 13 unforced errors.
“First of all I served really, really well today, not the best percentage but I almost made every point when the first serve came. I changed my return position on his serve. It’s a huge court, that made a difference because I could go far back like I do on clay,” explained Thiem.
Last year, Thiem lost in the US Open fourth round after leading Juan Martin del Potro by two-sets-to-love. The Argentine looked ill and on the verge of retiring but somehow turned things around, delivering a heartbreaking loss to Thiem.
“It was not on my mind, but I was pretty close last year. It was very painful,” said Thiem on Sunday.
“So I’m happy that I made it, and it was an amazing victory over one of the best players right now. Also first time quarter-finals outside Paris, but most of all, I’m happy with the performance.”
Anderson, who made the Wimbledon final in July, was broken three times during the two hour 37 minute showdown.
Dominic Thiem REFUSED to lose this rally 👏 pic.twitter.com/qyKKEMsNJY
— ESPN (@espn) September 2, 2018
“I definitely felt he played a great match, he made life pretty difficult for me. He defended amazingly. He hit some unbelievable passing shots. I think overall, I didn’t feel like I played poorly today. Hats off to him, he was definitely the better player today,” Anderson said of Thiem.
Despite making the finals in New York last year, none of his matches were scheduled on the main Arthur Ashe stadium. The US Open’s second show court, Louis Armstrong stadium was renovated ad inaugurated this year, and it has witnessed a slew of upsets, already gaining the nickname ‘Graveyard of Champions’. Did Anderson find any trouble playing on Louis Armstrong on Sunday?
“No not at all. I thought it was a great atmosphere a few days ago when I played Denis [Shapovalov], it was one of the most exciting atmospheres I’ve ever been part of. It’s definitely pretty loud out there, constant noise, but as long as it’s constant, I don’t mind that too much.
“It is what it is. Playing on Armstrong is great, it’s a pretty big stadium. I understand the guys out on Ashe, they’re superstars of our sport, they get people watching.”
Anderson’s ranking is expected to dip from No. 5 to No. 9 after his fourth-round exit but he’s already looking ahead to the Asian swing.
“Of course it’s very disappointing. I wanted to be here right until the end. It was definitely Dom’s day today. I’ll keep my head up, look objectively and see where I can improve,” said the 32-year-old South African.
The past six days at the US Open felt like the most eventful opening weeks of a Grand Slam this year, with so much drama unfolding both on the court and off it.
The tournament is as wild as the city it’s located in and it’s been non-stop action since the first ball was served into play last Monday.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights – and lowlights – from week one at the Open.
This didn’t necessarily happen at the US Open but the comments made by French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli regarding Serena Williams’ catsuit were a hot topic during the first few days in New York. Giudicelli said Serena’s outfit at this year’s French Open disrespected the sport and he said it would be banned in the future. Roland Garros tournament director Guy Forget then said there might be a dress code at the event in the future. Here in the United States, it felt like every single news outlet, celebrity, and TV station came to the fore to defend Serena, her catsuit and women’s rights. Maybe that was Giudicelli’s goal all along? Probably not!
The weather hasn’t been kind in Queens, New York during opening week which meant that the US Open whipped up a last-minute Extreme Heat Policy for the men’s event for the first time in tournament history. The women always had a well-defined extreme heat rule but the men, for some reason, never did. With temperatures nearing 40 degrees, humidity close to 50 per cent, and on-court readings exceeding 50 degrees, the conditions were brutal which resulted in five heat-related retirements on Tuesday alone. Several players hit out at the tournament for forcing them to play in what they felt were dangerous conditions.
Other players complained about poor organisation surrounding the new rule as Cameron Norrie got a time violation because the watch on the referee who escorted him during the 10-minute break was not synchronised with the watch of the chair umpire and he was misled into believing he was on time when he was not. Timea Bacsinszky recounted a terrible experience where she was taken by the referee to a public bathroom and was mobbed by fans asking for autographs mid-match and was yelled at by a cleaning personnel for trying to find a place to change inside the bathroom.
Ice bath drama
The Extreme Heat Policy was in effect on Wednesday as well and the rules dictate that players are not allowed to speak to their coaches or members of their team when they take the 10-minute off-court break after the third set. Andy Murray was furious during his match against Fernando Verdasco because he claims he walked into the locker room and saw the Spaniard talking to his coach and another player who was sitting in his box. Murray went and told the umpire and supervisor and was angry for being put in the position to have to try and enforce rules in the middle of a Grand Slam match. Verdasco later denied Murray’s claims, saying he was talking to Marcos Baghdatis and his coach in the ice bath. Murray then posted on his Instagram a picture with the hash-tag ‘#liarliarpantsonfire’. Baghdatis added fuel to the fire by saying Verdasco was seen indeed talking to his coach in the locker room. The plot continues to thicken!
Bye bye New York😔 Was nice to be back out there competing in a slam again. Gave it my best effort but it wasn’t enough. Thanks to everyone for the support and messages last few days 👍 I’m off to get a health check as apparently I’ve started imagining things. #liarliarpantsonfire🔥
A post shared by Andy Murray (@andymurray) on
Alize Cornet returned from the 10-minute break during her first round against Johanna Larsson with her shirt accidentally worn the wrong way. On court, behind the baseline, with her back to the net, Cornet quickly took off her top – she was wearing a sports bra – turned it around and put it on the right way. She then received a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct from the umpire which outraged both the Frenchwoman and everyone else watching. Why can a man change his shirt on court but a woman can’t? The US Open released a statement the next day amending their Change of Attire policy.
French player Alize Cornet handed a court violation @ #USOpen for briefly removing & adjusting her shirt in blistering heat, while Djokovic can sit topless with no penalty!
The disparity between male & female players sometimes is unbelievable.#USOpen2018pic.twitter.com/JoXz0yV6Zn
— AlexCam (@followalexcam) August 29, 2018
Chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani raised many eyebrows when he got off his perch and went down to give Nick Kyrgios a pep talk during the Aussie’s second round against Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Kyrgios was down a set and 0-3 and Lahyani intended to warn him about tanking. Instead, the umpire was heard giving encouraging words to Kyrgios, who went on to win the match, raising his level considerably. Herbert understandably was unhappy with the umpire’s actions, Roger Federer agreed that it wasn’t the umpire’s role to do that and public opinion mostly concurred. Lahyani wasn’t sanctioned by the USTA due to his strong track record but the tournament referee admitted the Swede’s actions went beyond protocol. His matches will be monitored moving forward. Not sure how the players feel about this considering their track record is never taken into consideration if they make a mistake!
Kyrgios won the second set after a pep talk from the chair umpire Mo Lahyani.
A USTA rep told me it is already looking into Lahyani’s conduct in this match.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 30, 2018
Muchova bt. Muguruza 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, second round
The 22-year-old Karolina Muchova took out 12th-seeded Garbine Muguruza in a late-night match on Louis Armstrong Stadium. The Czech qualifier, ranked 212 in the world, was playing a top-50 player for the just the second time in her entire career.
Kanepi bt. Halep 6-2, 6-4, first round
This is not necessarily a huge surprise considering Kaia Kanepi reached the quarter-finals twice at the US Open, including last year, but still, she took out the world No. 1 in straight sets, which is the first time in the Open Era that a women’s US Open top seed crashes out in the opening round.
Cilic bt. De Minaur 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, third round
In a match that ended at 2:22am, 2014 champion Marin Cilic made a gritty comeback from two-sets-to-love down against 19-year-old Alex de Minaur, who played his heart out before succumbing in five sets. With incredible speed, variety, and fighting spirit, De Minaur saved seven match points and broke back when Cilic was serving for the win but the No. 7 seed ultimately proved too strong. That fifth set was the most exciting stretch of tennis of the week, no doubt!
Nadal bt. Khachanov 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(7), 7-6(3), third round
This was arguably the best match of the opening week with some stunning display from both Karen Khachanov and Rafael Nadal. At some point, it looked like Nadal was about to go down two sets to love but the Spaniard pulled off his signature Houdini act to survive.
Venus Williams bt. Kuznetsova 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, first round
An opening round between two former US Open champions, the two veterans gave us an unforgettable showdown on day one of the tournament.
Federer v Kyrgios
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) September 1, 2018
Barty v Muchova
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) September 1, 2018
Anabel Medina Garrigues
The Spanish former world No. 16, who turned pro 20 years ago, played her final tournament here at the US Open, losing her doubles first round alongside Arantxa Parra Santonja. Medina Garrigues was ranked No. 3 in doubles, won two French Open doubles titles and an Olympic silver medal. The 36-year-old is Spain’s current Fed Cup captain, and coached Jelena Ostapenko to the Roland Garros crowd last year.
The Ukrainian hung up her racquets at the US Open following a 14-year-career, playing doubles with her compatriot Elina Svitolina in New York this fortnight. She is a three-time doubles titlist and represented Ukraine in both Fed Cup and the Olympics.
The Spanish ex-world No. 3 played the last Grand Slam of his career at the US Open, retiring from his first round against Rafael Nadal. The former Roland Garros runner-up will play his last tournament at either Barcelona or Madrid next year.
El año que viene me despedire con mi gente. Ayer fue una lastima para mi no poder terminar el partido pero me quedo con lo bueno de poder jugar en la pista central de Us Open ante un jugador como Rafa y despedirme asi de mi Ultimo Grand Slam. Es tiempo de descansar en Xabia pic.twitter.com/5Ncyl8PZyP
— David Ferrer (@DavidFerrer87) August 28, 2018
The Russian’s Grand Slam career came to an end in New York when he walked off the court with cramps, forced to retire in the fourth set of his opener against Marcos Baghdatis. The former world No. 8 is set to retire at the St. Petersburg tournament later this month.
The 36-year-old French veteran played the last match of his career against Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round at the US Open. Benneteau is an Olympic bronze medallist and Davis Cup champion with France. He won the French Open doubles title in 2014 and was ranked a career-high of 25 in singles and was No. 5 in doubles.
The 34-year-old German was sent into retirement by Borna Coric in the US Open first round. Mayer peaked at No. 18 in the world in 2011 and won two ATP titles in Bucharest in 2011 and Halle in 2016.
The Canadian doubles legend is set to retire after his nation’s Davis Cup tie with the Netherlands this month and bid farewell to his Grand Slam career with a first round doubles loss to the Harrison brothers in New York, alongside his partner Bradley Klahn. Nestor is the first doubles player on the men’s tour to reach 1,000 wins and the first in doubles to hold a sweep of all of the Grand Slams, Masters 1000 events and Olympic gold.
9⃣1⃣ tour-level titles
2⃣9⃣ years on tour
1⃣ night he’ll never forget
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) August 7, 2018
Alexander Zverev suffered yet another Grand Slam first-week exit, this time at the hands of fellow German Philipp Kohlschreiber in the US Open third round on Saturday.
The world No. 4 lost 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 to Kohlschreiber to become yet another high-seeded casualty on the new Louis Armstrong stadium that is shaping up to be a graveyard court for the top guns this tournament.
Zverev, who has reached just one Grand Slam quarter-final so far in his young career, continues to perform better at tour events than at the majors and he brought in Ivan Lendl prior to this event to help him step up on the big stage.
But with their partnership barely two weeks old, Zverev wasn’t expecting a miracle a this US Open and is eyeing progress under Lendl’s tutelage next season at the Slams.
“It’s a process. It’s a process of developing. I took him [Lendl] to do well at Slams. But this is a process. You can’t expect to kind of immediately see the results. I think the results will come hopefully next year,” said the 21-year-old.
“He’s very straightforward. He said that it’s a process of getting there. It’s a process of playing well at Slams. He told me before the tournament started that, ‘Hopefully you’ll do very well at the US Open, but we’re more looking towards next year’. We’re more looking towards being at latter stages, competing for Slams next year.
“I understand it. I still want to win, obviously. I wanted to win today, then playing [Kei] Nishikori next, who I just played in Washington. I feel like it would have been a pretty okay match-up for me, as well. I wanted to go far. But, you know, wishes don’t always come true.”
Zverev has won three Masters 1000 trophies over the past two seasons, and retained his Washington title earlier this summer. He is 35-10 win-loss at tour events in 2018 but just 10-4 at the majors.
He entered the contest with Kohlscreiber with a 2-2 head-to-head record against his compatriot but had won their last two meetings without dropping a set. Yet on Saturday, Zverev converted just 3/13 break points against the world No. 34 and committed 53 unforced errors. He also squandered 3-0 lead in the fourth set before succumbing.
“Look, I mean, sure, he knows me. Last few times we played, I won fairly easy. But today was different. I mean, as I said, he played a good match, played a smart match. He mixed it up well, didn’t give me a lot of opportunities,” said Zverev.
“On the other hand, I also did over 50 unforced errors, which the last few matches I didn’t do. It was a mixture of both.”
Referring to his early losses at the majors, the young German added: “I mean, at tour events I lose, as well. There’s just more tour events. You probably recognise it less. I lost to Robin Haase last week in Cincinnati. I lost to Tsitsipas in Toronto. Those are not that great losses for me either.
“There’s a lot of focus on the Grand Slams. I’ve obviously done well in Paris, but not at the other Grand Slams this year maybe for different reasons. I mean, Australia, I played against Chung, who played very well. Wimbledon I was still recovering from an injury. Here I played a good opponent. Just couldn’t find my best game today.”