What Went Wrong for Eliminated Stars at the 2014 US Open?

Will MedlockFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

What Went Wrong for Eliminated Stars at the 2014 US Open?

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    While the U.S. Open has provided the setting for some of the most sensational eliminations of 2014, there has often been a bruised favourite on the receiving end of them.

    David Ferrer was denied the opportunity to add a ninth hard-court title to his collection as Gilles Simon completed a convincing third-round win at the Louis Armstrong Stadium.

    Jelena Jankovic and Dominika Cibulkova will be united in frustration at their teenage tormentors. The duo was sent crashing out by 17-year-old Belinda Bencic and 15-year-old CiCi Bellis respectively.

    Meanwhile, Eugenie Bouchard missed out on a fourth consecutive Grand Slam semi-final when Ekaterina Makarova beat her in straight sets.

    The following slides will highlight exactly what went wrong for the U.S. Open's humbled stars.

     

Eugenie Bouchard Struggles with Heat

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    The warning signs were there to be heeded for Eugenie Bouchard.

    Victories over Petra Kvitova on the hard court at Montreal earlier this month and Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon suggested Ekaterina Makarova would not lie down to the darling of Canada.

    Bouchard would find that out at her expense in an energy-zapping second set.

    The fourth-round match at the Louis Armstrong Stadium began in a bizarre manner. All three of the opening games were won to love, with Bouchard's persistent foul serve culminating in an early break.

    Given her typically spirited recovery to force a tie-break in the first, it was galling for the 20-year-old that she should be subject to a simultaneous opponent she could never break: the searing heat.

    The weather looked close to breaking Bouchard as she called for assistance at 3-2 in the final set. The trainers applied ice vigorously, only for Makarova to maintain her cool and close out the match 6-4.

    Bouchard will know that in spite of the statistical evidence supporting Makarova's win, it was her inability to cope with the most unforgiving and relentless of factors that may have cost her taking the game to at least a third set. 

    According to Zach Schonbrun of The New York Times, Bouchard conceded that "several long and late matches she played during the first week" also contributed to her downfall. 

    Bouchard may want to find a way to make the heat somewhat of a new practice partner if she is to battle one of the few weaknesses in her armoury and progress at next year's tournament. 

David Ferrer Will Look to Unforced Errors and Humidity

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    David Ferrer may well wince when he takes a look at the numbers from his third-round defeat to Gilles Simon.

    Indeed, 52 unforced errors, as recorded by the U.S. Open website, is a statistic that will irk the Spaniard, a quarter-finalist last year.

    The 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 win for Simon, who has never advanced past the fourth-round at Flushing Meadows, was as comprehensive a victory as he is likely to get in the tournament.

    Even first-round opponent Radu Albot, the man who denied Great Britain's James Ward a place in the tournament, recorded only 37 unforced errors against Simon.

    As with Bouchard, the heat caught up with one of the tournament's stars.

    Naila-Jean Meyers of The New York Times wrote that Ferrer is "considered among the fittest players on the tour". However, a moment of brilliance from Simon perfectly encapsulated the fight Ferrer had on his hands, battling the humidity and his French counterpart.

    In the third set, Simon unleashed an outrageous forehand down the line when Ferrer should have put him away. As the ball flashed past the 32-year-old, his head dropped and he staggered back to the base line.

    It would be foolish to jump to conclusions regarding Ferrer's future, particularly when remembering that he has repeatedly reached the quarter-finals or better in 10 of his last 12 Grand Slam appearances.

    However, the fact is that Ferrer didn't take either of the two opportunities he had for break points in the final two sets.

    Simon took four out of five of his potential break points, adding to the theory that the heat took its toll on Ferrer more than his opponent in the last hour and a half.

Small Margins Edge out Milos Raonic

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    If Milos Raonic was to bow out of the U.S. Open, it seems fitting that it was in a clash of such epic proportions.

    The Canadian ranked No. 6 hammered 27 more aces than his opponent late on Monday night, but Kei Nishikori used all his guile to fend him off and win the five-set thriller 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.

    The small hours of Tuesday morning witnessed some custom big hitting from Raonic, but he won only 47 per cent of his second serve points, according to the U.S. Open website.

    Rather tellingly, his second serve weakened dramatically in the deciding fifth set as he took only 38 per cent of his second serve points, as Nishikori claimed 92 per cent of his.

    Nishikori stepped up his energy levels and planted some impressive forehand winners at 4-2 up in the final set, booking a quarter-final against Stanislas Wawrinka in the process.

    It's simple to talk about everything that is right with Raonic's game; his crushing forehand, movement and composure, articulated brilliantly in his second-round win over Peter Gojowczyk, are all to be admired.

    However, Nishikori appeared to edge the energy battle in a game tied for the longest in U.S. Open history.

    Raonic may have hoped for a slightly less challenging opponent in the fourth round, but his reputation continues to rise nonetheless.

Jelena Jankovic Fails to Capitalise on Crucial Moments

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    Nothing makes headlines like a seeded player succumbing to the youthful zeal of an unseeded teenager. 

    Jelena Jankovic was resting up from a routine first-round 6-2, 6-3 win over Bojana Jovanovski when 15-year-old CiCi Bellis derailed the No. 12-seeded Dominika Cibulkova's tournament.

    If that didn't prepare Jankovic for the similarly urgent and determined Belinda Bencic, only two years Bellis' senior, nothing would.

    The Serbian was left reeling.

    Bencic, who reached the third-round at Wimbledon, played like a seasoned veteran. At 4-3 in the final set, Bencic sent a crunching forehand down the middle. Jankovic, rooted to the baseline, stood motionless, as Bencic marched back to try and close out the game.

    The 17-year-old finished the set with her two-handed backhand, clinching the match to a vociferous reception.

    However, events might have turned the other way had Jankovic taken her set point chances in the first. At 5-3, the 29-year-old missed opportunities to claim the set and handed the initiative and a route back in to the match to the relentless Bencic.

    Jankovic also faltered at the net throughout; she made only 64 per cent of her net points compared to Bencic's 93 per cent, including all nine in the first set, according to the U.S. Open website.

    Ultimately, Jankovic's downfall was her uncertainty at the crucial moments.

Maria Sharapova Endures Nightmare Final Set

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    A nine-shot rally ended by a miscue at the net might not sound like a stand-out moment from the contest between Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki. Yet, it encapsulated the effervescent Wozniacki's resolve like no other moment in the match.

    With the match tied at a set apiece, Sharapova was serving in an attempt to fight back from 0-40 to draw level on games with her Danish opponent.

    The Russian pulled Wozniacki left and right. She forced her to scramble from one side of the court to the other. Each time Wozniacki, ranked No. 11, alternated from backhand to forehand to seemingly delay the inevitable. 

    However, Sharapova, perhaps not expecting another return, failed to clear the net when gifted a golden chance. The game was Wozniacki's, as were the hearts of the spectators inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

    It's not inconceivable that Sharapova was affected by the umpire's decision to hit her with a time violation warning prior to the beginning of the third set. 

    A dominant final set from Wozniacki would certainly support that hypothesis.

    Rachel Cohen, writing for Associated Press (h/t news.yahoo.com), said that Wozniacki took advantage by combining "just enough aggression with her signature defense" in order to finish off Sharapova. 

    Whatever the reason, the five-time Grand Slam winner appeared to be fighting a losing battle as Wozniacki reached her fourth U.S. Open quarter-final.