As the tournament begins to wind down at the 2014 U.S. Open, the excitement is building in Flushing Meadows. Just a day after another top-10 player on the men's side was ousted, there was a surprising winner in the women's draw on Wednesday.
While Victoria Azarenka has battled injuries this season, she was still considered a contender coming into the U.S. Open. But she was no match for Ekaterina Makarova on Day 10 as she defeated Azarenka in straight sets.
Makarova made it to her first major semifinal while a new face on the men's side fought his way into the semis. Kei Nishikori is two wins away from his first Grand Slam title, but needed a full five sets to down Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka.
Before the exciting evening slate gets started, here's a look at the matches that took place early on Day 10 of the U.S. Open.
|2014 US Open Day 10 Early Results|
|No. 10 Kei Nishikori def. No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka||3-6, 7-5, 7-6(9), 6-7(7), 6-4|
|No. 17 Ekaterina Makarova def. No. 16 Victoria Azarenka||6-4, 6-2|
Makarova Ousts Azarenka to Reach First Grand Slam Semifinal
A great run for Azarenka came to an end on Tuesday, but a new contender emerged in the process.
Makarova has been playing inspired tennis throughout the U.S. Open and rolled through Azarenka on Day 10. Much like Peng Shuai, Makarova advanced in straight sets for her first Grand Slam semifinal in commanding fashion.
The U.S. Open account provides a look at one of the best shots from Makarova on the day:
US Open Tennis @usopen
#Makarova slams a backhand winner to take a 5-4 set lead over @vika7. #usopen @Heineken_US http://t.co/0FKol9kKcL2014-9-3 17:26:20
While the main story was Makarova's triumph, it was apparent something was wrong with Azarenka on the court. After the match, it was revealed that she had food poisoning, per Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times.
But even with the news coming out, Azarenka didn't make any excuses for her poor play, via Lynn Zinser of The New York Times:
I don’t really want to talk about it. I just, you know, want to give credit to my opponent. She played really well today. Am I disappointed? Yes, I’m disappointed. But I feel like I tried my best with whatever I had. I just want to wish her good luck. ...
It just is what it is today. It’s not the end of the world. It’s something I can take positive from this tournament, you know. Two months ago I didn’t even think that I was going to be able to play today.
Azarenka may have been a good match for Makarova, but the true test awaits in the next round.
If Serena Williams can get past Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday night, Makarova will face a familiar foe. But even with a 1-1 record against Williams on the Grand Slam stage, she hasn't defeated her since 2012.
And with the way Williams has been playing in Flushing Meadows, taking her down will be a huge task. But in her first-ever semifinal appearance, Makarova has a lot to be proud of going against the No. 1 player.
Nishikori Keeps Rolling Over Wawrinka
Apparently there was still plenty left in the tank for Kei Nishikori after his lengthy victory in the fourth round over Milos Raonic.
Following a match that tied a U.S. Open record for the latest finish, Nishikori played to a fifth set with Wawrinka just two days later. Ultimately, it would be Nishikori who would finally pull out the win after another lengthy afternoon.
The U.S. Open account passes along a highlight from Nishikori's strong play in the third set:
US Open Tennis @usopen
#Nishikori soars for the backhand volley. Is this going to five sets?#usopen @MBUSA http://t.co/hNTRX2xVgd2014-9-3 21:29:03
It was a historic achievement not only for Nishikori, but also for his country. Sports Illustrated Tennis notes just how great the occurrence was for the Japanese player:
SI Tennis @SI_Tennis
Kei Nishikori becomes the first Japanese man in a Slam semifinal, beats 3rd seed Stan Wawrinka 36 75 76 67 64. Major effort. #usopen2014-9-3 23:29:53
After multiple tiebreaks and another lengthy match, Nishikori finally emerged as the victor. While the two traded back and forth through the sets with both excelling with their serve, it was a match that seemed destined to go the distance.
Chris Fowler of ESPN shared his thoughts on the memorable match:
Chris Fowler @cbfowler
Engaging battle: Stanimal v Nishikori -- @PatrickMcEnroe @darren_cahill @bgtennisnation all over momentum shifts!2014-9-3 21:09:04
While the quarterfinals win was huge, Nishikori still has a daunting task ahead of him. Regardless of who wins in the other quarter, he will have to face off with a member of the Big Four.
As both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic prepare for a huge showdown, the winner will advance to take on Nishikori. Each player has experience on the big stage, with both winning a U.S. Open during their illustrious careers.
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