Sunday, September 02, 2018

US Open Day 6: Rafa Avoids Russian Conspiracy Theory Scare

Hi All. Galileo here.

We had quite the day at the US Open on Saturday. Rafa Nadal almost went out, but survived a young Russian's execution attempt. He edged a thrilling third set breaker at 9-7 and advanced. Karen Khachanov served for the second set at 5-4 but lost three games in a row. He had a set point in the third set and could not convert that, either.

Nadal won 5-7, 7-5, 7-6[7], 7-6[3] but paid a heavy price.

The almost four and a half hour clash was a tense thriller that had the Arthur Ashe crowd on their feet. The Spaniard needs to keep his matches short, especially early on. But it was always going to be tough playing against an opponent looking for his third 4th round appearance at a slam this year. Rain fell at 5-3 and Nadal held at love then broke to level the second set. If not for the rain who knows what could have happened? Khachanov went 66-55 on the winners count and Rafa 49-38. Both men broke five times and the Spaniard won just six more total points. The difference? Nadal won 62 per cent of second serve points, while the youngster won 48 per cent. Rafa’s next match will not be easy, either - on paper Niko Basilashvili looks to be an easy matchup. But the Georgian is the world number 37 and he has the upset of Jack Sock to draw inspiration from. He was pushed to five in his first round match and went four sets against both Sock and Guido Pella. He will be tired but when you’re a top 40 player with nothing to lose you are dangerous.

MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova [25] d. Sorribes Tormo [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA

...It’s 3-3 in the first set. Roger Federer falters and is down 15-40 but gets it back to deuce. Nick Kyrgios forces two more break points but misses them both. There is a long and tense deuce. The Swiss takes it and drops just two more games on the way to a 6-4, 6-1 lead. The Aussie came back in the final set, losing 7-5, but it didn't matter. Fedex was too majestic, too strong, too dominant. On every stat but one, win percentage on second serves, Federer came out on top. He hit 16 aces to 13. He hit 51 winners and just 24 errors. Kyrgios wasn’t awful, he just got swept away by Federer’s sheer brilliance. John Millman, appearing in his first round of 16 match at slam level, will be next. If Fed can keep doing this...

He will be fine.

...Alex Zverev is up on 34 year old Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6[1], 4-4. The veteran holds, and after that Zverev capitulates. He loses his serve at 4-5 to love and then blows up, losing the last three sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. 7 doubles and 8 breaks of his serve. Kohl won 45 percent of his receiving points. It is yet another choke on the big stage from the world number four. He played a good match for two sets but his ability to implode so suddenly is probably the reason he has not made a run at the top ranking yet. What more can we say? This is every Zverev slam loss we have seen. 21st seeded Kei Nishikori is next and the German will love being the underdog in that. Zverev must go and do some soul searching now.

...Was there ever a more disappointing player than Richard Gasquet? He had the talent to win slams but never capitalised on it. He seemed content to eke out a solid top ten career instead of hitting the highs we know he could have achieved. One of the big reasons his trophy cabinet contains no slams is that he could never handle the big three. He could on occasion beat Andy Murray, but the Scot isn’t in the same league as the big three. Novak Djokovic handled him in the third round, winning 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Ritchie blasted 10 aces and won 86 percent of net points so at least his tactic was clear. But he couldn’t execute, as he hit 47 unforced errors. This match was a mirror image of every other match Gasquet has played against the big four. Joao Sousa is next for Djokovic.

...Marin Cilic survives, winning 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Let’s start with this clip.

Forget the match for a moment. This 19 year old has made two slam third rounds this year, both while unseeded, and has made two finals too. He started the year at 208. He entered the US Open ranked 43rd. He will be world number 37 in two Monday's time. This is an exceptional year, the kind of year teenagers don’t really have anymore. He is the story of the year on the ATP Tour, the ultimate fresh face. Cilic was up 5-2 in the 5th but the Aussie saved 6 match points to draw level at 5-5. He saved another one in the final game before the Croat finally triumphed in a minute short of four hours. It finished at 2:26 AM, four minutes short of equaling the record for the latest ever finish. De Minaur had 13 break chances and took seven. His opponent broke the same amount of times but had 27 breakpoints. 27!! The Aussie was a very tidy 37-36 on the winners ratio, while forcing Cilic into a 60-70 mark. On average he covered 10 feet more ground in a point and over the course of the match it was over 3000 total. This kid is one of the best retrievers around today. He is Lleyton Hewitt 2.0 and he should have a bright future ahead of him. Cilic must now face 10th seed David Goffin. If that goes five it is hard to see how he is going to win.

...Diego Schwartzman will not have a significant drop in the rankings despite not defending last year’s QF points. In Kei Nishikori’s comeback slam he has been awesome. It feels like a renaissance from the Japanese star. It took him three hours to grind out the Argentine, but he did it 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. Schwartzman gave everything he had just to sneak the third set and had nothing left to give in the fourth. Kei won despite going 49-63 on the winners ratio. With 12 breaks and 14 double faults this was not a match for the spectator. It was a messy, error strewn match with neither man able to assert dominance until the final set. Nishikori will play Kohl and then either Cilic or David Goffin. His path to the semi-final is doable.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN.

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