The best players in the world will have to prove themselves in an exciting Day 10 at the 2014 U.S. Open.
Wednesday's battles included a number of former major winners and top contenders all competing against each other for a spot in the semifinals in New York City. While the entire tournament has been big on upsets, this is where the best in the sport really need to perform at their best.
Although the schedule only called for two matches each in men's and women's singles, there is more than enough to keep fans interested throughout the day.
Here is a look at what you need to know about Day 10 at the last Grand Slam of the year.
|No. 17 Ekaterina Makarova def. No. 16 Victoria Azarenka||6-4, 6-2|
|No. 3 Stan Wawrinka vs. No. 10 Kei Nishikori||In Progress|
Even after missing a lot of time this year due to injury, Azarenka, a former world No. 1, had fared well in her first four wins this week to get to the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, her run came to an end against the red-hot Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
While Makarova struggled with her accuracy in the first set, she was good enough with her serve to get the necessary 6-4 win. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated questioned Azarenka's energy early on:
Playing as if she’d eaten rancid sushi on her off-day, Azarenka loses first set…..— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) September 3, 2014
The Russian looked even better in the second set, winning 13 of her 15 first-serve points. At the same time, she limited Azarenka to just 10-of-21 in the same category.
As the match came to an end, Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times gave a lot of credit to the eventual winner:
Makarova one game away from what feels like a very overdue first Slam SF, leads Azarenka 6-4, 5-2. Vika made a racket feel her pain. #usopen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 3, 2014
At the same time, Ian Lovett of The New York Times notes what Azarenka's loss means for the tournament going forward:
well, Azarenka is out and there is officially no one left in the USOpen draw who can can even entertain realistic dreams of beating Serena.— Ian Lovett (@iglovett) September 3, 2014
While Makarova has been playing extremely well lately, it is hard to imagine her handling the pure power of Serena Williams. Still, this is a strong performance for the 26-year-old player.
Meanwhile, Azarenka is clearly not playing at the level she needs to in order to compete with top competition.
The morning session continues with a high-profile battle between Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori. Nishikori is coming off a big win over Milos Raonic, although it ended up being a marathon battle that did not end until late, as noted by Christopher Clarey of The New York Times:
Well, it wasn't Australian Open late but it was US Open late. Kudos to the hundreds who stayed 'till 226 am to watch Nishikori-Raonic finish— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 2, 2014
Unfortunately, things only get tougher against one of the top players in the world. It remains to be seen whether Nishikori can take that next step toward being elite, but this will certainly help put him in that category.
|No. 1 Serena Williams vs. No. 11 Flavia Pennetta||7 p.m.|
|No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 8 Andy Murray||After 1st Match|
As Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv points out, Wednesday will feature a highly anticipated night of tennis:
Tonight figures to be another long night at the @usopen with Serena-Pennetta an appetizer for the Murray-Djokovic main event.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) September 3, 2014
Serena Williams has cruised into the quarterfinals with four straight-set wins. Nick Nemeroff of Tennis View Mag points out the rest of the competition has not fared well against her in the past, either:
Serena Williams 19-2 against the other four remaining players. Only losses to Makarova and Wozniacki.— Nick Nemeroff (@NNemeroff) September 3, 2014
However, Flavia Pennetta has the experience necessary to give Williams trouble in the upcoming match. Her key in this tournament has been to avoid beating herself, as she has totaled fewer than 20 unforced errors in any match.
If she can do this against Williams, it will at least create a challenge against the top female player in the world.
In the second match of the night, Novak Djokovic will look to renew his rivalry against Andy Murray, even though the battle will come earlier than usual at Grand Slams. These stars have competed in the finals of three different majors since 2012, with Murray winning two of those contests.
On the other hand, Djokovic has won four of the last five times he has faced the Brit, with each win coming on hard courts. The only loss was on grass at Wimbledon.
However, Murray is prepared for the challenge, explaining that he does not need any added motivation, via Piers Newbery of BBC Sport:
Playing at night against the number one player in the world is exciting. If you aren't getting motivated or pumped for those matches, then that's when there's a problem.
That's what you put the work in for, so that when you come to these events and you do have to play against the best players, you're ready. And as much as it's incredibly tough and challenging - that's what you enjoy.
While there were some concerns about Djokovic's recent play coming into the U.S. Open, the top seed has removed all doubts by winning every set he's played in the tournament.
That being said, Murray is coming off an impressive win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and has closed the gap with the No. 1 player in the world, according to Russell Fuller of BBC Sport:
Djokovic will start a worthy favourite in his QF with Murray but may not enjoy the ride if Murray can play the same way on Wednesday— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) September 1, 2014
This will be an interesting battle to watch, with the winner clearly becoming one of the favorites to win this entire tournament.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.