Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Serena Williams, USA
|Ana Ivanovic, Serbia|
The 13-time major champion, yet to drop a set at the tournament, played a clean match in windy conditions. "It was crazy. I didn't even go for winners at any point," said Williams. "I just tried to get it over because it was so windy. It was like, Wow. It was definitely tough. But you just have to win in all kinds of situations."
Each player started the match off well, with the 28th seeded Williams firing an ace out wide to begin and Ivanovic crushing a cross-court return winner on the second point. But after Williams held, Ivanovic was shaky in her opening service game, hitting two double faults and floating a backhand long to hand the American the break.
The Serbian, however, showed signs of the form that saw her win the French Open and attain the No. 1 ranking in 2008. For a few games, she managed to control her nerves and broke back when trailing 3-1 on her second break point opportunity after Williams netted a backhand. At 30-30 in the following game, Ivanovic unleashed back-to-back first serves to even the set at 3-3.
From there though, Williams took full control of the match. A solid forehand put Williams up 4-3, and she broke the Serbian for a second time after Ivanovic tossed in a double fault. Leading 5-3, 40-15, Williams closed out the set with a strong forehand that the 23-year-old was unable to handle.
The 29-year-old American converted an early break in the second set and maintained her advantage the rest of the way through to notch her third victory in three meetings with the Serbian. Williams was solid in all areas of her game, finishing the match with nine aces, winning 83 percent of her first service points. She also had a positive winners-to-unforced errors ratio of 16 to 12 respectively. While Ivanovic struck 20 winners, she committed 29 unforced errors and also hit eight double faults in the 74-minute defeat.
Williams increased her 2011 undefeated hard-court record to a 16-0 mark, which includes titles at Stanford and Toronto, and advances to her ninth quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows. In the final eight, Williams will take on 17th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The 20-year-old Russian, a former US Open junior champion, upended No. 7 seed Francesca Schiavone 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, USA
|Mardy Fish, USA|
In a match played in extremely complicated, swirling winds in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the top-ranked American surrendered a two-sets-to-one advantage to the athletic and charismatic Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and finally ran out of steam in five long sets, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 3-hour, 45-minute match kept the massive night-session crowd at bay, shut out of Ashe and forced to congregate on the esplanade watching the big screen for more than an hour.
Through three sets, Fish appeared to have the advantage, using a focused and contained game, punctuated by frequent trips to the net to withstand that powerful artillery of the Frenchman. Yet Tsonga kept swinging freely and turned the match around in the fourth set with a crucial service break at 4-4.
Behind tremendous serves that routinely topped 130 mph and forehands that saw Tsonga lift off the ground to pummel the ball, the Frenchman hit through the windy conditions.
“The wind was really hard today,” Tsonga said. “You play against yourself, against your opponent. It’s really difficult.”
This was the first meeting between the two versatile veterans, who are still hoping for that elusive Grand Slam breakthrough. The Frenchman has more big-match experience, having been to the Australian Open final and the semis at Wimbledon.
Tsonga, 26, advanced to his first US Open quarterfinal by crunching 51 winners, including 12 aces. Although not known as a returner, the Frenchman crucially converted on four of six break-point opportunities.
The strong winds may have propelled both players – each of whom is known for his all-court game – toward the net even more than usual. It was an effective ploy for both Tsonga and Fish; together they attacked the net 121 times (with Tsonga winning 63 percent and Fish 69 percent of those points).
Fish began limping noticeably at the end of the fourth, and he was treated on court for a strained knee prior to the start of the final set. Tsonga immediately came out firing and seized the early break after a ricochet net rally that saw Fish push a backhand volley long, followed by a rifled forehand pass.
Tsonga has an excellent record in five-set matches, having now won seven of nine. He has been working with Andre Agassi's former trainer, Gil Reyes, who told him to “trust your legs and make it burn,” Tsonga said.
Appropriately enough on this Labor Day, he did. “Today I make it burn,” he said.