They said she hadn’t beaten anyone of note but now she has. Emma Raducanu has taken out the Olympic Gold Medalist and eleventh seeded, Belinda Bencic in straights sets. If you are being extra critical you could say that this victory for Raducanu says as much about her brilliance as it does about Bencic’s flaws. To an extent, that may be true but most players have flaws and these were exposed with good movement and precision play from the Brit. For Bencic it was a case of scratch the surface and she what she was made of and she came up well short. She looked like the player with all the expectations on her and in these scenarios, it can quite often be the ‘unknown quantity’ who can hit freely and that was true after the slow start from Raducanu when she trailed 3-1. The Brit has this knack of being able to redirect balls during the point and with her taking the ball early opponents are finding this very tricky indeed. Emma will play Maria Sakkari in the semis tonight after she beat Karolina Pliskova 6/4 6/4. The Czech had said she wasn’t right after her victory in the last eight but she didn’t elaborate on the point and it may well have had a say in her below-par performance here. Sakkari was saying how mentally she feels she has improved from where she was a year ago and that as I always say is half the battle. She was pretty much untroubled on serve all match and will go in as a slight favourite at 4/6 (1.67) tonight for a place in the final.
Novak Djokovic dropped the first set for the third time in New York this year but once again it was the catalyst for a much-improved display from there on in against Matteo Berrettini. I think I read he only committed 10 unforced errors in the last three sets. It had to be better and unsurprisingly it was from Nole after the early nerves subsided. He was talking to the press about how he tries to work equally on different aspects of his fitness and how he has tried to perfect his game to have few very flaws. “Every player has some weaknesses but there is always something to improve and I want an all-around game as I possibly can. So I can adjust on any surface, I can come up with different styles of play, tactically implement the game I need for that match. I want my opponents to feel I can get any ball, play comfortably from the back of the court, serving and returning”. A great little insight into the thoughts of a champion. It will get harder once more in the semis against Alexander Zverev. The German should have lost the first set against Lloyd Harris, who was playing out of his nut again early on. Having let the German back in and missing set points though he went to the changeover and threw his drink at the chair/bags in frustration but missed. It resulted in his energy drinks flying all over the court and staff and players getting the towels out to dry it up, causing himself a fair bit of embarrassment. It certainly seemed like Harris dropped his level from there until he was a double breakdown in the third before he made one last attempt to get back into the match but it was too little too late. On a side note, Zverev seemed to be having a few issues with his lower back. I hope it isn’t a huge problem though as I am looking forward to this semi. On the one hand, you have a player going for the calendar slam and on the other side, you have a player that stopped his opponent potentially winning the golden slam, won the Olympics and is undefeated since. Something has to give. Djokovic is 2/5 (1.4) with the bookies at the moment.
Onto the Women’s semis tonight.
Al Davies (Andy Del Potro).