Day 5 – LIVE from the US Open. A day on the Arthur Ashe. Serena, Sloane, Rafa, Delpo plus Raonic/Stan.

That was a long day I have to say. I think it totalled about 13 hours all in all. Early phone problems needed to be sorted before I went and it was a mad dash to Flushing Meadows in an Uber by this time.

It was all about Serena v Venus but I was pretty happy with the order of play. I couldn’t have picked it better myself. Sloane v Vika followed by Rafa v Khachanov and then in the evening session Rena v Venus and Delpo v Verdasco to finish the day off.

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I will start with Serena. What a performance. One I don’t take any pleasure from, how can I when it is against Venus? This was one way though. There was an early scare when she rolled her ankle but after a quick visit from the trainer, it was business as usual. She served really well and her return game and movement was looking very, very sharp. The 6/1 6/2 scoreline was as comprehensive as it looks, with both players saying it was her best match since her return from having little Alexis. The night session crowd tried as they might to rally round Venus but Rena was having none of it last night. The competitive edge that burns within her was summed up as she gave a swivel and fist pump when bombing down a big first serve when serving it out. It was as if she had forgotten who she playing. This just comes naturally to her. It was an honour and privilege to see these two share the court and the memories and the atmosphere on the Ashe are worth the trip to NYC alone. I just really hope she continues to step this up now, as she has done 23 times before. Nothing is a given and we know that, but all she can do is keep playing the way she knows. Kaia Kanepi, conqueror of Simona Halep is next up on Sunday, she beat Rebecca Peterson in straights.

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Thanks to Samsung and some very strict rules on ‘baggage size’ I missed the first set of Sloane v Vika to open proceedings for the day. The standard off the ground was superb from the pair of them though, if the serving wasn’t as consistent. Vika looks to be heading the right way finally and this was a high-quality contest and one she will probably take a lot from. She fought back from 1/3* in the second to lead *4/3 but the roof had to be closed and when they came back there was another momentum shift. Sloane is looking in the zone again now and as I always say, she is a genuine contender when she gets in the mood.

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The first Men’s match I witnessed of the day was an absolute cracker between Rafa Nadal and Karen Khachanov. It wasn’t great for the nerves of my outright bet on Nadal, especially as I am a big fan of Khachanov and this match has done him no harm in the longterm view of that. Khachanov was superb, playing lights out tennis for most of the match. In the first set, Rafa got it back on level terms having trailed by a break but he wasn’t quite taking his chances as usual. It was a culmination of the Russian playing so well and Nadal being slightly off. Khachanov served for the second set twice, did he get tight?? Possibly a little but I think he had to go for it and as a result, errors will come. After taking the second you expected Nadal to run away with it, but he didn’t. This was NOT aimless ball bashing from Khachanov but consistently good hitting. Going into the fourth surely Rafa would step it up and after getting the early break it looked likely. A poor service game serving for the match followed and the Russian almost turned the match on its head as he had a set point on the Nadal serve. Rafa survived though and will now face Nikoloz Basilashvili, who is making his first appearance at this stage of a Slam. The noise on the Ashe for this was deafening at times, it wasn’t only me that enjoyed this high-quality contest. Expect Khachanov to rise and rise though.

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The evening for me finished on Delpo against Fernando Verdasco. Del Potro is playing well, the forehand is firing and the backhand is solid and he’s hitting a few winners from it. I said at the start of the event I thought he was the only player in this half that could beat Nadal and his performances would suggest that this is more than just a possibility, should they meet. He broke early in each set yesterday but Verdasco fought back. There was a point where he nearly lost it having been broken back in the second set. There was a call from the crowd during break point, he went over and sat down and talked with the perpetrator. It didn’t look like he was going to let it go but he managed to shake it off and then take the second set breaker, playing the bigger points better and with more controlled aggression than the Spaniard. Borna Coric will be a good test if the Croat plays to his ability in the next round. Another three set win for Delpo though.

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Elsewhere around the courts in the Women’s event saw wins for Elise Mertens (I didn’t even need to look at Mrs Consistency) as she beat Barbora Strycova in two and now faces Sloane in the fourth round. Karolina Pliskova is sneaking through after a straight sets win over Sofia Kenin, she will face Ash Barty after the Aussie made her first Last 16 of a Slam. Barty took out the ‘Muguruza slayer’ in Karolina Muchova. The last matchup in this half will see Elina Svitolina play Anastasija Sevastova after wins over Qiang Wang and Ekaterina Makarova respectively. Wang said she was feeling tired after her efforts in Nanchang as Sevastova worked out the formula to beat a misfiring Russian.

In the Men’s, Dominic Thiem just about beat Taylor Fritz in four sets and Kevin Anderson won a thriller against the well supported Denis Shapovalov in five, they will meet on Sunday. Anderson goes in a slight favourite and it will be interesting to see what goes on in this one. John Isner beat Dusan Lajovic in four and makes the fourth round for the first time in three years in NYC. An even big hitting affair than Thiem/Anderson will take place when Isner faces Raonic next. I saw the end of his straights sets win on the Louis Armstrong over Stan Wawrinka and he looked to be trading very comfortably with Stan, no mean feat winning in three at the end of the day. Apparently, Stan had a sitter on set point in the first set breaker and never recovered. Good stuff from Milos though.

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I will be going to the night session on the Armstrong tonight and I’m looking forward to it. Obviously. We go again.

Andy Del Potro

 

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