With an early flight back to the UK today and a promised shopping trip for my girlfriend I had to miss the evening session last night. I now have very mixed feelings about that.
The one thing I noticed as soon as I walked outside yesterday as someone who doesn’t overly sweat was how humid it was. Just standing in it made you drip with sweat and I actually thought to myself how the hell do the players cope with this? At Just over a year my elder Roger Federer said that “It was very hot tonight, I felt I couldn’t get air” and that “you are all sweaty, the shorts are sweaty, the balls are in there too and you are trying to play.” It sounds like excuses after his four-set loss to John Millman, but I’m sure the Aussie would agree as a pal of the Fed-Express. Even at night, it was exactly the same on a scorching day in NYC. Btw I am in no way comparing my fitness to that of the Fed-Express. Just confirming the conditions. 75% humidity. Ouch.
Federer actually served for a two-set lead as the commentators mentioned how Millman looked like he had just come straight out of the swimming pool. What he did well was he turned this into a physical battle and 47% first serve and 76 unforced errors tell their own story for Federer. In the second set, there was a long first service game for Federer in which he made just 2 out of 21 first serves at one point. Unheard of. Millman grew in confidence as the match wore on and Federer’s form nosedived. It really is a huge upset and one I didn’t see coming under any circumstances. On a final note here, Federer ‘spudding’ Brad Gilbert in the prematch interview did me a bit. Respect.
Novak Djokovic must be secretly buzzing. He got through the heat, not without trouble against Joao Sousa in his straight-sets win, but he ground it out against an opponent who usually struggles for games against the Serb. I am sure he will take the fact he plays Milman next but he won’t want to take the Liverpool fan lightly in the quarters as the warning signs have been signalled. I was very impressed with the Aussies fitness.
The other quarter-final in this half will see Marin Cilic take on Kei Nishikori in a repeat of the 2014 final. Both players came through in straight sets. Cilic beat David Goffin from a break down with the Belgian fading having not closed out the opener. Goffin actually told Cilic and the press after that he was still nursing a shoulder injury from Cincinnati. Nishikori is showing some fine form again. He dominated Philipp Kohlschreiber from beginning to end in their encounter. Moving his opponent around with ease, something Sascha Zverev wasn’t able to do.
In the Women’s event, Carla Suarez Navarro ousted Maria Sharapova in the first match of the night session. CSN continues her good form here after going unnoticed until last night. On TV they kept harping on about how Sharapova had not lost a night session match before. That is no longer applicable. The Spaniard says she is working on her aggression which is needed at this stage of a Slam. 38 unforced errors from the Russians racket aided her in her 6/4 6/3 victory. She will now play Madison Keys for a place in the last four after the American continued her good record against Dominika Cibulkova. The kick serve causing ‘Bulky’ all kinds of problems once again in her 6/1 6/3 loss. I thought this was going to be closer than this but Keys seems to match up pretty well in this encounter. Having admitted to nerves in the last round she will no doubt be very pleased to have eased through here.
Naomi Osaka finally ended the run of the gutsy Aryna Sabalenka, who had her moments in this one. She did momentarily hold a break lead in the final set, having come from a set down in a heavy hitting encounter. One where she probably outhit her opponent. It looks very bright for the future for her though as she seems to have taken her game to the next level. I can officially say now that after Osaka’s comments coming in to the event that she is one hell of a hustler. When she said she was struggling with expectation coming into the Open after Indian Wells she successfully took the pressure off herself, playing a well-balanced match here. I will remember this for future reference Naomi.
Lesia Tsurenko will play Osaka for a place in the semis after coming through the heat and humidity against Marketa Vondrousova. Tsurenko says she was only points away from retiring in the heat under the advice of the physio in the second set. She said she was feeling dizzy. This left a bad taste in the mouth of Vondrousova who was quoted as saying “I don’t think she was struggling so much. She was just acting. She played normally—it was just acting… It’s weird. She’s like 30. Why can you do that? It’s just weird. I don’t get it.” Hmmm, I don’t know what to make of that. Sour grapes or honesty??
Another big day today as I take my flight home. It has been fantastic once again, I absolutely love it over here.
Andy Del Potro.