There were just a pair of singles matches at the U.S. Open on Thursday, but that doesn't mean the excitement was any lower than usual.
The day's first singles match was a tantalizing meeting between two big hard-hitters in Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic, while the nightcap featured five-time Open winner Roger Federer and the red-hot Gael Monfils, who has captivated the Flushing Meadows crowd over the past week.
Let's take a look at how the quarterfinal matchups played out.
Day 11 Results
|No. 14 Marin Cilic defeats No. 6 Tomas Berdych||6-2, 6-4, 7-6(4)|
|No. 2 Roger Federer defeats No. 20 Gael Monfils||4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2|
Note: All scores from Wednesday's action can be found here, courtesy of USOpen.org
Day 11 Recap
For the second night in a row, fans who stayed late at Arthur Ashe were treated to an exhilarating back-and-forth battle.
Monfils looked primed for the upset, taking the first two sets after earning three breaks and holding serve throughout. While the Frenchman looked calm, cool and collected, though, Federer was just as disappointing. He hit 15 winners to 26 unforced errors, and Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim put it simply:
It’s one thing to be defeated….it’s another to be self-defeated. Federer not requiring Monfils to do much...— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) September 5, 2014
Fortunately for Fed-Ex, resiliency is built into his bloodstream, and he was able to grab an early break and take the third set before things got really interesting.
Facing two match points in the fourth, Federer fought back to tie the set at five games apiece, and the crowd erupted into an ovation in what will be one of the most memorable moments of the tournament. The Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur summed up what everyone was thinking at that point:
God, I love that the world produced Roger Federer— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) September 5, 2014
Monfils couldn't recover, as he double-faulted twice to drop the next game, lost the set and had no chance against a dominant Federer in the fifth.
Despite the unbelievable comeback, Federer will have to be better in the semifinals, as Richard Ingham Evans noted:
Federer won that match at the net. His volleying was consistently brilliant; his forehand unreliable. He'll have to cut out errors v Cilic— Richard Ingham Evans (@Ringham7) September 5, 2014
He will face No. 14 seed Cilic, who advanced to just his second-ever major semifinal (2010 Australian Open) with a straight-set victory over Berdych:
In a match between a pair of giants with thumping power (Cilic is 6'6", Berdych is 6'5"), it was the Croatian's serve that proved to be the biggest difference. He smashed 19 aces and got in 63 percent of his first serves.
Berdych, on the other hand, finished at four and 50 percent, respectively, leading to five breaks for Cilic. He talked about the defeat, via USOpen.org:
I started pretty terribly. My serve was horrible from the beginning. Then obviously it was really tough to catch up. And my serve was off. Basically, when you have a game built on a serve, then it's really tough and difficult to reschedule it and do it a bit differently. Yeah, today was not, definitely not the day I wanted to have.
While Berdych struggled through the first two sets, Cilic deserves plenty of credit. When you hit 19 aces and 46 winners to just 36 unforced errors, you're going to be tough to beat no matter the opponent.
This continues a resurgent season for the 25-year-old, who has a pair of titles and is coming off of a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon. The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg predicts a bright future:
He's left out of future stars conversations, but if the over/under on Slams won by Marin Cilic is 0.5, I immediately take the over. #usopen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 4, 2014
That's a long shot in 2014 with likely the top two seeds standing in his way, but if he continues to serve and hammer in backhands like he did Thursday, anything is possible.
Still, Thursday was just more confirmation: A Wimbledon rematch between Federer and Novak Djokovic is forthcoming.