Action gets underway at the U.S. Open on Wednesday with two men’s and two women’s quarterfinal matches scheduled on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
These are the final days of a torrid and exasperating two-week tournament coming into focus.
It has either been blisteringly hot on court, causing the soles of your tennis shoes to melt, or so windy you needed ankle weights to help hold you on court.
We have watched bewildered as those players we expected and hoped would still be around melted away or got blown off the court in earlier rounds.
Still there are some champions who have survived because that is what they do—learn to survive long enough to be on hand to win tournaments on the last day.
As of the end of action on Tuesday, there were eight men and eight women ready to do battle—to edge their way into the final—for the ladies on Saturday night and for the men on Sunday after the NFL lights up the air waves.
First Up: Kaia Kanepi (31) (Estonia) vs. Vera Zvonareva (7) (Russia)
Kanepi defeated Alize Cornet in three sets during Round 1. In the second round, the Estonian met and defeated Akgul Amanmuradova in two sets—following that up by upending Jelena Jankovic in straight sets in Round 3.
Finally, Kanepi took out the Belgian Yanina Wickmayer in three sets to advance to the quarterfinals. This is Kanepi’s third appearance in a slam quarterfinal.
No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia defeated Zuzana Kucova in Round 1 in two sets. She followed that win by defeating German Sabine Lisicki in two sets in Round 2. In Round 3, the Russian met and defeated Alexandra Dulgheru in straight sets.
Finally Zvonareva took out Andrea Petkovic in two sets which allowed the Russian to advance to the quarterfinals.
To say finding Kaia Kanepi in the women’s quarterfinals is surprising is probably a large understatement at the moment—although quite a few of those advancing to the quarterfinal round are unexpected.
Kanepi has held her nerves and exerted her power from the baseline. The Estonian has earned her way into the final rounds of the U.S. Open by defeating some quality opponents. Her powerful ground strokes are considered to be among the best on tour. Then too, Kanepi’s serve is considered to be one of the strongest on the WTA tour.
The Estonian generally serves for power but often for gaining a superior position on court by keeping her opponent pinned behind the baseline.
The danger is having her serve break down against Zvonareva who moves exceptionally well and counter punches with the best.
Kanepi has been working to improve her volley and to employ a sliced backhand to make her overall game more versatile.
Kanepi will be tested by the veteran Zvonareva who is currently playing some of the best tennis of her career, serving well, seeing the ball well and moving well around the court.
The biggest improvement in Zvonareva’s game has been her mental prowess. She no longer allows her emotions to override her ability to focus on the point at hand.
Zvonareva should win this match without too much difficulty but Kanepi has grown accustomed to winning and may not give in very easily.
Gael Monfils defeated Robert Kendrick in Round 1 in a testy five-setter; then went on to overcome Russian Igor Andreev in three sets in Round 2.
In Round 3 Monfils defeated Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia in four tough sets—following that up with a skirmish with countryman Richard Gasquet which Monfils won in straight sets to find himself in the quarterfinals facing Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic had to work awfully hard in Round 1, on a very hot day to defeat countryman Viktor Troicki in five grueling sets. In Round 2 the Serb faced and defeated Philipp Petzschner of Germany in straight sets.
Djokovic’s third-round opponent was American James Blake who fell in three sets—followed up by another American, Mardy Fish, who also fell in three in the fourth round. Now the Serb finds himself in the quarterfinals to face Monfils
The No. 3 seed Djokovic has met Monfils four times and has never lost. He should not lose on Wednesday because Djokovic has more skill on the tennis court than his more athletically gifted counterpart.
While Monfils possesses a world of ability, he continues to be more of an entertainer on court than a winner. He prefers to lunge at balls dramatically then to stay on his feet and get himself in the proper position to hit a ball.
If the weather stays cool, Djokovic will find himself in the semifinals to face either No. 2 ranked Roger Federer or No. 5 ranked Robin Soderling.
Third Up: Caroline Wozniacki (1) (Denmark) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia)
In Round 1 Caroline Wozniacki defeated Chelsey Gullickson of the US in straight sets; then she dismissed Kai-Chen Chang of Taipei with a double bagel in Round 2.
Next the Dane defeated Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei in the third round in straight sets before taking out Maria Sharapova in Round 4 in two sets. This sends Wozniacki into the quarterfinals where she will face Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.
Cibulkova defeated Stefanie Voegele in three sets in Round 1. In Round 2 she met and defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine in three tough sets.
Cibulkova’s opponent in the third round was Lourdes Dominguez Lino, who went out quietly in two sets. The Slovakian’s next opponent in Round 4 was the No. 11 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. Cibulkova defeated the Russian in two tough sets 7-5, 7-6.
On Wednesday she will face the No. 1 seed Wozniacki for a spot in the semifinals.
Wozniacki is on a mission to secure the world No. 1 ranking and to do it she must win the U.S. Open. She will continue to impose her will upon the field and even though Cibulkova has had a magnificent run, it will be over on Wednesday. No one is playing with more fire and determination than Wozniacki.
Her game in the space of a year, has gotten considerably better and the Slovakian Cibulkova will be on her way home after her match is over.
Fourth Up: Robin Soderling (5)(Sweden) vs. Roger Federer (2) (Switzerland)
Roger Federer defeated Brian Dabul of Argentina in Round 1 in straight sets and next met Andreas Beck of Germany in Round 2, defeating him also in straight sets.
In Round 3, Federer found himself facing Paul-Henri Mathieu of France who also fell in straight sets. Finally the No. 13 seed Jurgen Melzer met Federer in Round 4, where the Swiss dispatched him again in straight sets.
That sends Federer into the quarterfinals to face Robin Soderling of Sweden for a spot in the semifinals.
Stretched to the limit in his opening match, Soderling survived the onslaught by Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria to win in five tense sets. In the second round Soderling defeated American Taylor Dent in straight sets.
The Swede then defeated Thiemo de Baker of the Netherlands in the third round in straight sets. In Round 4 Soderling defeated Albert Montanes of Spain seeded No. 21, coming back in three after dropping the opening set.
The Swede again finds himself in the quarterfinals of a major.
Federer will face his old time foe Soderling in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. The two have met 13 times with Federer winning 12. Soderling, however, won their last match on the clay of Stade Roland Garros, knocking Federer out of the French Open and ending the Swiss' record of reaching grand slam semifinals at 23.
They met at the U.S. Open last year in the quarterfinals with Federer winning that match 6-0, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6. Soderling seemed to be finding his way into the match, but too late to salvage a win. The two have met on hard courts six times with Federer winning them all to date.
That must give the Swiss some degree of confidence and cause some doubt for the Swede. They are playing Wednesday night under the lights where Federer has never lost.
The Swiss will have the crowd behind him in a place where he has only lost once in seven years. Federer will survive into the semifinals once again.
Wednesday promises to be a crucial day as the top seeds begin to bump up against each other. Don’t miss the action.