Photo: Paul ZimmerDavid Ferrer (ESP)
After a week of shocks in the women’s draw, a first male casualty closed the curtain on a dramatic first week of the 2014 US Open.
Fourth seed David Ferrer was stunned by Gilles Simon 63 36 61 63 in tough conditions on Louis Armstrong Stadium. The two-time semifinalist had looked to have got the match under control after levelling proceedings at one set all but it was his French opponent who thrived in the scorching heat to take command in the third set and move through to the fourth round after sealing the victory in four sets.
Ferrer, usually known for his relentlessly high work rate, criticised his physical performance but paid tribute to his opponent.
“It was tough match today," admitted the Spaniard. "There is a lot of humidity, very sun[ny], and it was not easy for me. I was not good with my fitness. Nothing else, no? He was better.”
After his surprising win, Simon echoed Ferrer’s views.
"It was really, really difficult to play today," he said. "I feel it was one of the hardest days for me on the court because it was hot and it was so humid. I never sweat like this in the last 10 years.”
The Frenchman moves into a fourth round clash with Marin Cilic, who defeated Kevin Anderson 63 36 63 64, in what now has to be considered the most open quarter of the men’s draw.
The incessant eliminations of the top-ranked women continued with the departures of Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic.
Sharapova could not come back from a set down, as she has so many times this year, against Wozniacki who managed to weather a second set barrage to emerge victorious 64 26 62.
The 2009 finalist shut out Sharapova in the third set with percentage tennis, offering up no break point opportunities for her opponent who struggled to successfully break through the Dane’s defences.
The Roland Garros champion was full of praise for her opponent who now finds herself as the highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw.
“I thought she played really well," said Sharapova. "She made me hit a lot of balls. That's always been her strength. But she did extremely well today. She's a great retriever, especially in these types of conditions. I just felt like I maybe went for a little too much.”
Wozniacki was very pleased with her level as she moved into the quarterfinals for the first time in three years. “I'm serving well, I'm running well, I'm staying aggressive when I have to, and I make the right decisions at the right moment. And I enjoy playing," summised the Dane.
Switzerland have plenty of reasons to be positive at this year’s event and none more so than the emergence of 17-year-old Belinda Bencic.
Competing in her first US Open, the 58th-ranked youngster backed up her win over sixth seed Angelique Kerber by taking the scalp of another top ten seed. Bencic broke former finalist Jankovic’s serve twice to force the first set to a tiebreak which she took 76(6) and never looked back as she booked her place in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal courtesy of a 63 second set.
Bencic became the youngest player to make the quarterfinals of the tournament since compatriot Martina Hingis in 1997 and will fancy her chances of going further in the draw when she plays unseeded Peng Shuai for a place in the semifinals.
The Swiss fans were also treated to another display of excellence from their most reliable source; Roger Federer. Returning to the court 2-5 down after flash flood warnings had called a halt to play in the day session, Federer opened a reshuffled night session in staggering fashion. Despite losing the first set, the five-time champion won 20 out of 24 games after the restart to crush Marcel Granollers under the lights and advance 46 61 61 61.
After pinpointing a clear drop in wind upon the resumption of the match, Federer noted his delight at his performances so far, “I think especially now it's been really excellent the last three matches here at the US Open. I feel very explosive, quick. Like you say, the coordination is there, as well. I feel like I've gotten used to the hard courts by now. It's really working well. I'm very pleased.”
Grigor Dimitrov moved one step closer to a quarterfinal showdown with Federer after overcoming a very slow start to defeat in-form Belgian David Goffin. After being moved from the night session on Ashe to Grandstand, the Wimbledon semifinalist hit just two winners to 11 unforced errors in the first set as Goffin continued his red hot summer of success with a 60 first set.
The upset would not materialise however as Dimitrov won 90% of his first serve points over the next three sets to post a 06 63 64 61 win and book a blockbuster fourth round meeting with Gael Monfils who had earlier beaten countryman Richard Gasquet 64 62 62.
The men’s draw also saw Tomas Berdych prevail in straight sets 63 62 64 over Teymuraz Gabashvili, and Dominic Thiem upset 19th seed Feliciano Lopez 64 62 63.
Also making it through to the quarterfinals on the women’s side were Sara Errani who ended Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s run 63 26 60 and the earlier mentioned Peng Shuai who took out 14th seed Lucie Safarova 63 64.