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Around the Grounds: Day 10 at the 2016 US Open

It has been a summer of wonder for Juan Martin del Potro, who is close to regaining the form that saw him win the US Open title in 2009. He plays Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals, a man he beat at Wimbledon earlier this summer. (Photo: Robert Cole)
It’s been a summer of wonder for Juan Martin del Potro, who’s close to regaining the form that saw him win the 2009 US Open title. He plays Stan Wawrinka in the quarters, a man Delpo beat at Wimbledon earlier this summer. (Robert Cole)

There comes a time in sports when, figuratively speaking, boys become men and girls become women. In tennis, especially in Grand Slam tournaments, that literally happens!

On Day 10 of the 2016 US Open, two men’s and two women’s semifinals will be played on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with some of the participants going from junior champions to main tour mainstays. In the first match on Ashe, Ana Konjuh of Croatia (pictured on cover), who won the girls’ singles event at the US Open in 2013, will be playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal as she takes on Karolina Pliskova. The second women’s quarterfinal takes place later this evening, as World No. 1 Serena Williams looks to secure her place at the top of the WTA rankings against Simona Halep, who won the French Open junior girls title back in 2008 and has, at one point, been ranked as high as No. 3 in the world.

On the men’s side, the afternoon quarterfinal features Kei Nishikori, who was one half of the 2006 French Open junior doubles champions, takes on Andy Murray, who has won the US Open as a professional (2012) and as a junior (2004). In the evening men’s match, 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro takes on two-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, who also won the 2003 French Open boys’ singles title.

Now why are we mentioning the success of current tour professionals as juniors? On the grounds of the US Open right now, most of the matches being played are those in the boys’ and girls’ junior tournaments. There’s a chance that we might be coming across the next superstar of the ATP and/or WTA Tour when walking around the grounds today. We’ll do our best in trying to locate the supremely talented juniors.

No matter your age, it’s always good to channel your little kid self and have some fun once in a while. We’re going to do that right now. As always, the most recent blog entries are on the top.

 

10:04 PM EST: I love Delpo and Stan the Man, but I have to head out. Another long day tomorrow, so getting the jump on sleep now. Take care, everyone!

9:39 PM EST: Game, set, match Williams! Are we headed for Williams-Kerber, Part III in Grand Slam finals in 2016? Probably so. We’ll see if Pliskova (Serena’s semifinal opponent) or Wozniacki (Kerber’s semifinal opponent) can upset that.

9:37 PM EST: My eyes are now fixated on Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena’s coach. He’s standing and fist-pumping with Serena as she wins the next two points to set up triple match point.

9:36 PM EST: Halep then holds at love. It’s 5-3 for Serena and she’s serving for the match. Forehand winner for Serena and it’s 15-0.

9:33 PM EST: Here’s our view of the match at the moment…

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9:31 PM EST: Simona holds at 30 for 4-2, then Serena holds at love for 5-2.

9:27 PM EST: Out onto the court now, and Serena has taken control. Three consecutive games and she’s up 4-1 over Simona. There’s a lot of chatter here on Ashe as the players are rallying. So disconcerting.

9:13 PM EST: Halep holds. It’s 1-all in the third.

9:12 PM EST: Looks like I’m going to have to go out to Ashe. Halep takes the second set. After that, she has double break point on Williams’ serve to begin the third set, but Williams escapes. It’s now deuce on Halep’s first service game in the final frame.

8:42 PM EST: Took a little break to say goodbye to my friend, eat and then take in a little bit of the Serena-Simona match, which was a one-sided affair in the first set. So much so that I just decided to watch and not talk about it. Now I’m talking about it, because Simona Halep is one game away from forcing a third set. Serena win the first set 6-2, but now Halep has the break and is up 5-3. Now, after a Serena backhand that goes long, Halep is two points away from the set.

7:01 PM EST: Garcia-Lopez dominates that game, and his forehand is too much for Kubot at the net, and the Spaniards win the match and head to the semifinals. They’ll be playing fellow Spaniards Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez, the 2016 French Open doubles champions who defeated the Bryan Brothers yesterday on the final scheduled match at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

6:59 PM EST: Garcia-Lopez gets the luxury of a net cord for a winner, and it’s match point for the Spaniards.

6:59 PM EST: Now 30-30 after a Garcia-Lopez backhand handcuffs Kubot at the net.

6:57 PM EST: Forehand drop winner from Carreño Busta and now it’s 15-15.

6:53 PM EST: Both teams have held in all of their games so far, and it’s 5-4 to Carreño Busta-Garcia Lopez. Kubot serving to keep the No. 12 seed in the tournament. It’s a set apiece, 6-7, 7-6, 4-5.

6:41 PM EST: Now we’re in Court 17, where we’re seeing the last men’s doubles quarterfinal, between Lukasz Kubot and Alexander Peya against the Spanish duo of Pablo Carreño Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. We come in with the Spanish duo up 3-2.

6:25 PM EST: After walking out of Ashe Stadium, Anne and I are at Court 6, where we’re watching a women’s doubles match wrap up now. The setting sun is right in our eyes, but since this match is about to end, we won’t have to worry about that for long.

6:08 PM EST: GAME, SET, MATCH NISHIKORI! Murray backhand goes into the net! Nishikori on to the semifinals! He’ll play winner of del Potro and Wawrinka. We were here two years ago when Kei pulled off an amazing five-setter in the semis against Stan. Could it happen again?!

6:06 PM EST: Kei double faults to start the game, but now has won three straight points. MATCH POINT, NISHIKORI!

6:03 PM EST: OMG!! Kei breaks, and with a forehand stab into the open court! Ashe erupts! Kei now with a chance to serve out the match! I’m exhausted!!

5:59 PM EST: At 30-30, Murray throws in a double fault! Break point again for Kei!

5:59 PM EST: Speaking of drama, it’s 15-30 on Murray’s serve. Nishikori again with a good look on Muzzard’s serve.

5:59 PM EST: At the time of typing this, the match in 3:49 old. I might have aged 10 years in the hour that I’ve been here with all of the drama.

5:55 PM EST: Nishikori serving to stay in the match…and he wins the first two points to go up 30-0. Then classic Nishikori: drop shot lures Murray in, then a lob over Murray for the winner. Murray nets a forehand on the next point and Nishikori holds at love. 5-5!

5:52 PM EST: Big serve from Murray at 40-30 and the Scot is one game away from the match!

5:50 PM EST: Nishikori starting to misfire on his volleys at net. It’s 30-15…now 40-15 after an unreturnable serve.

5:50 PM EST: How did we get so lucky to be here for this?!?!

5:48 PM EST: Murray breaks!! Big return of serve too much for Nishikori on two consecutive points and we’re at 4-4!

5:46 PM EST: DEUCE! Nishikori decides to serve-and-volley, and it’s a great strategy…until he dumps forehand volley into the net with an open court in front of him.

5:46 PM EST: Still five points away form the match, but now it’s 40-30.

5:44 PM EST: Remember when Nishikori’s fitness was, rightfully, called into question for a while? Those days are over! Nishikori up 30-0…now 40-0…five points away from the semifinals.

5:41 PM EST: Similar-looking rally on next point sees Nishikori send a forehand winner into the open court as both are at the net. 40-30. Murray then wins game when Nishikori returns a serve long. Kei still with the break, 4-3.

5:39 PM EST: Loud ovation from Ashe after a long rally sees Murray and Nishikori exchange drop shots, only for Murray to hit forehand winner into open court! Game point, Murray.

5:37 PM EST: Anne just pointed out, very astutely, the symmetry of the sets. Well, at least the first four sets. From Kei’s perspective, it was 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. Murray up 30-0 now down 2-4, but then Nishikori forehand service return winner gets him on the board in this game.

5:37 PM EST: Another return of serve goes long form Murray and Nishikori consolidates the break, 4-2.

5:36 PM EST: Murray forces deuce when a defensive lob from Kei goes long. Then Murray sends a serve return long to set up another game point for Nishikori.

5:32 PM EST: Couple of loose points to start service game has Kei in a 0-30 hole. Followed by three consecutive points for the Japanese, including an exquisite forehand drop shot! Love Kei’s eclectic set of shots! Game point!

5:30 PM EST: From 15-40, Nishikori comes back to break, including a winner on break point in which he stares down his coaches’ box after the shot! Akin to leaving your arm up in the air after hitting a three-pointer. Nishikori with the break, 3-2.

5:23 PM EST: Went to get Anne a Diet Coke and myself a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bar. In that time, Nishikori broke in the opening game, then held for 2-0. Murray held for 2-1 and, as I’m typing this, has broken back for 2-2 after a Nishikori forehand at 15-40 goes long. I think it’s starting to get interesting, you think?!

5:01 PM EST: FIFTH SET TIME!

5:00 PM EST: Here I am with Anne, whom I’ve known since all the way back in 2002! Great friend. Great personality. Great smile.

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4:58 PM EST: Kei does the splits to hit a forehand volley winner at the net! My groins hurt now! Then Murray hits a backhand long and Nishikori is up 5-1.

4:55 PM EST: Murray again in trouble on his serve. Has dumped two short balls into the net in this game, and it’s Advantage: Nishikori. Murray saves the break point. Back to deuce at 1-4.

4:47 PM EST: GREAT ACTION HERE! On game point for Nishikori, both players go back and forth with bludgeoning forehands, with Murray on the ascendency…but Nishikori throws up a defensive lob as Andy approaches the net, and the lob hits the line! Murray chases it down, but can’t return it, and it’s 4-1 to the Japanese. Looks like a fifth set is in the cards here on Ashe!

4:43 PM EST: Interesting last five minutes. At 1-1, Murray has a break point, only for the ensuing point to be stopped because of a sudden blaring staticky sound from the loudspeaker. Point replayed. On replay, Murray commits error. Nishikori holds. On next game, Nishikori breaks, and it’s now 3-1.

4:24 PM EST: Murray was up a break in the third, then Nishikori broke…then Murray broke back. Murray finished off the set on his serve, 6-4.

4:15 PM EST: So I’ve made it to Ashe Stadium, and, literally, I’m almost on top of the stadium. Despite my touch of acrophobia, it is unbelievable that I’m getting to meet a real good friend, Anne Driscoll of CBS News, while here! Sitting now as Murray and Nishikori are battling!

3:40 PM EST: Just checked out a new camera, the Canon EOS 7D. Looks great! Will have to pull up a YouTube video with a tutorial about how to use the camera. Excited, for sure!

3:15 PM EST: Matches have resumed, including on Ashe, where Murray has a 6-1, 2-3 lead on Nishikori. I would go out onto the courts now, but I want to look into those Canon cameras!!

3:00 PM EST: Good news, though. While eating, I met a woman who works at the Canon desk, and we talked about Canon cameras. (I use a Canon minicam when I shoot my videos.) Was told that I can check one of the Canon cameras out for use if I want to. Sheesh! Wish I had known that about a week ago!

2:55 PM EST: So after eating, I’m getting ready to head to the court. What happens next? It starts raining. OF COURSE!

1:40 PM EST: Back in the media room and, on my monitor, I see Jamie’s younger brother, Andy, take the court on Ashe in preparation for his quarterfinals match against Kei Nishikori. I should sit out there for a few games of that! On Court 17, Murray-Soares wrap up the victory, 6-3 in the third set. Off to the semifinals, where they will face the winner of the Mahut-Herbert vs. Lindstedt-Qureshi match. Right now, the Frenchmen lead 6-3, 2-2 on the new Grandstand Food, then Murray-Nishikori. Probably going to wait until later to do an interview.

1:28 PM EST: Murray-Soares hold for 5-2. Time to skedaddle back to the media room.

1:27 PM EST: Noticing for the first time that Jamie Murray stands about a good 12 inches behind the baseline on his serve, then steps into the ball when hitting the serve. Very interesting. Murray has game point at 40-30.

1:24 PM EST: Guccione holds. It’s 4-2 to Murray-Soares, with Jamie Murray serving. If he holds, we might head out, then put in an interview request with Murray and/or Soares in the media room.

1:21 PM EST: As I’m sending work emails, Murray and Soares break Sa for 3-1, then hold for 4-1. Two games away form the semis for the Brit-zilian pair. (Yes, I just made up that term, Brit-zilian.)

1:13 PM EST: Soares whizzes a backhand by Sa for a winner during Jamie’s service game. You can tell Soares and Sa, both Brazilians, are good friends since, long after that point was over, Soares put his hand up to Sa to apologize and Sa, already on the baseline now, smiling back at him. Smiles, everyone!

1:10 PM EST: According to the ATP website, Guccione is 6’7″ (which I totally believe) and 220 pounds (which I totally don’t believe).

1:09 PM EST: Soares goes behind the back to return a groundstroke, but Sa ends up hitting the winner a couple of shots later. Guccione with game point…and he holds. 1-1.

1:07 PM EST: Easy hold for Murray-Soares to start third set. Just looking down on the players and noticing that Chris Guccione is a big man! Looking up his height and weight right now.

1:00 PM EST: Murray-Soares have fought back and have forced deuce. For clarification, Murray-Soares won the first set in a tiebreak, 7-6 (9).

1:02 PM EST: An unreturnable serve from Sa followed by a backhand volley winner from the Brazilian gives he and Guccione the second set, 6-3.

12:58 PM EST: Errand successful, and I’m glad to report that. Now I’m reporting from Court 17, where the team of Murray-Soares is in danger of losing the second set after winning the first against Chris Guccione and Andre Sa It’s 5-2 to Guccione-Sa in the second set, and 40-15 on their serve. About to see a third set here.

12:05 PM EST: Before going out to the courts, I have to head to a little meet-and-greet that’s being held near the entrance to the stadium, as one of ESPN’s on-air personalities is meeting fans. Want to do a favor for a friend, so wish me luck.

11:58 AM EST: Almost ready for play on Ashe, with Ana Konjuh taking on Karolina Pliskova. Before the US Open, Konjuh’s Grand Slam season took on a vert particular pattern: win in the first round, lose in the second round. Let’s see if she can with her fifth US Open match today against the lady (Pliskova) who took out Venus Williams in probably the most thrilling women’s match of the tournament so far.

11:25 AM EST: I’ve arrived at the media room and, for the first time in about a week, am here before the first ball struck today. Of course, after I’ve set up in the media room, some matches have gotten underway. Not sure where to go first, but seeing the fourth-ranked men’s doubles team of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares play in the quarterfinals might be a good start.

 


[Cover photo (Kei Nishikori) courtesy of Robert Cole]

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