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Three to See, US Open Day 9: Title favorites Sabalenka and Krejcikova to battle
Meanwhile, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Carlos Alcaraz promise to put on a show in the youngest major quarterfinal since Nadal defeated Djokovic at the '06 French Open.
Published Sep 07, 2021
Daniil Medvedev vs. Botic Van de Zandschulp
“I don’t think anyone expected me to be in the quarterfinals of the US Open,” Van de Zandschulp said after his fourth-round win over Diego Schwartzman. If anything, that’s an understatement. Many were surprised to see the 25-year-old, 117th-ranked Dutchman in the main draw at all. Since turning pro in 2013, he had reached just three of them, and had won just two matches once he got there. To qualify last week, he had to win three matches from a set down. But Van de Zandschulp has certainly looked like he belongs since then. He out-hit Casper Ruud and out-lasted Diego Schwartzman, and if he can do that, he can certainly play with Medvedev. It’s hard to say how he’ll react to this moment, or how he’ll match up against the No. 2 seed. But the poise, patience, and shot-making skills he showed against Schwartzman were impressive. Still, Medvedev has been razor-sharp in winning his first four matches in straight sets.
Elina Svitolina vs. Leylah Fernandez
Svitolina won the only meeting between these two, last spring on hard courts in Monterrey. But she’ll face a very different, and much better, Fernandez this time, one who is coming off wins over Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber. The 18-year-old Canadian is playing with as much confidence and aggression as anyone in the tournament at the moment; there’s a sense of belief in her face and in her game. Will she be able to maintain that belief against Svitolina, or will the veteran find a way to take her out of her rhythm, to make her hit more balls than she wants to hit? At some point you have to think Fernandez will come down to earth and show us why she’s not ranked higher than No. 73 in the world. But I’m going to say it won’t happen quite yet.
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Barbora Krejcikova
Tuesday’s night session will kick off with a match between two of this year’s top WTA performers. Sabalenka is 42-14 on the season; Krejcikova is 43-12. They’ll also offer an intriguing contrast. Sabalenka will bring the power, Krejcikova will bring the craft. In her last match, Krejcikova defused, and used, the pace of another big-hitting opponent, Garbiñe Muguruza. But she also walked off the court in obvious pain, so we’ll see how well she has recovered. Sabalenka may have the higher ceiling as a player, but Krejcikova is on an extended roll; she’s been extremely tough for anyone to beat since May. Unless she’s physically compromised, I’m thinking it won’t stop tomorrow.
Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Carlos Alcaraz
“Everything is a first for him this week,” the 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime says of the 18-year-old Alcaraz. Which means that, while this is the Spaniard’s first Grand slam quarterfinal, it was also his first fourth round, and his first third round, and he obviously did fine in those. In fact, Alcaraz won those matches like a grizzled veteran, in five tough sets each time. As for FAA, this is right where most of us expected him to be at 21 years old; he’s in his second straight Slam quarterfinal, and he’s playing with a calmer command of the court and his shots than ever. Alcaraz has already caught lightning in a bottle once at the Open, so it’s entirely possible he can do it in his first meeting with Auger-Aliassime. But right now the Canadian seems a little better prepared to go a step farther in this draw.