Ruthless Serena grabs 100th US Open win as record title nears
NEW YORK: Grigor Dimitrov rallied for a shocking upset of 20-time Grand slam champion Roger Federer at the US Open on Tuesday, the lowest-ranked New York semi-finalist in 28 years advancing to face Daniil Medvedev.
The 78th-ranked Bulgarian, who had dropped all seven prior meetings with Federer, made a dramatic fightback to defeat the Swiss third seed 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium and will face Russian fifth seed Medvedev in Friday’s semis.
“I’m just happy,” Dimitrov said. “The only thing I was telling myself was to stay in the match. Physically I was feeling pretty good. I was hitting some shots against him that were hard to hit.”
Dimitrov reached his first US Open semi-final to match the deepest Slam runs of his career from Wimbledon in 2014 and the 2017 Australian Open.
Not since 174th-ranked Jimmy Connors reached the 1991 quarter-finals had New York seen so lowly a figure on the ATP ratings list reach the last four.
Dimitrov is also the lowest-ranked Slam semi-finalist since 94th-rated Rainer Schuettler of Germany at Wimbledon in 2008. Federer, a five-time US Open champion who has not won at Flushing Meadows since 2008, breezed through the first set in 29 minutes and appeared to have withstood the danger until Dimitrov opened the fourth set with a break.
Federer was denied on five break points in the 10th game of the fourth set and Dimitrov held to force a fifth set.
“I was trying to stay in that game and make him stay on the court as much as possible. After that he started slowing down a little bit,” Dimitrov said.
“It’s a best of five sets. Anything can happen.” Federer went off the court for a private medical timeout to treat his upper back near his neck.
“This is Grigor’s moment, not my body’s moment,” Federer said.
Dimitrov broke Federer twice on the way to a 4-0 lead in the final set and the 38-year-old Swiss star had no effective reply, foiled by 61 unforced errors in falling after three hours and 12 minutes.
“It’s OK. It’s how it goes,” Federer said. “I tried my best. I fought with what I had and that’s it.”
Federer would have become the oldest Slam semi-finalist since Jimmy Connors at age 39 at the 1991 US Open.
Medvedev defeated three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to reach his first major semi-final, shaking off a sore left quadriceps that made him contemplate quitting the match. Now he gets two days of rest.
“That’s huge advantage regarding what happened to my leg,” Medvedev said. “It should be OK.”
Medvedev took a medical timeout, had the area taped and took a painkiller.
“In the fourth set, I started feeling the painkiller and started moving better,” he said. “For sure I hope to be ready for the semis.”
Medvedev, 23, is the youngest US Open semi-finalist since Novak Djokovic in 2010 and Russia’s first Slam semi-finalist since Mikhail Youzhny at the 2010 US Open.
In today’s quarter-finals, Spanish second seed Rafael Nadal, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, faces Argentine 20th seed Diego Schwartzman and French 13th seed Gael Monfils plays Italian 24th seed Matteo Berrettini.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams earned her 100th win at the US Open on Tuesday with a brutal 44-minute demolition of Wang Qiang, firing an ominous warning to rivals in her pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title.
Six-time US Open champion Williams dismantled Chinese 18th seed Wang 6-1, 6-0 in a complete mismatch that was the quickest at this year’s tournament to set up a semi-final clash with Ukrainian trailblazer Elina Svitolina.
Williams brought up a century of US Open wins to move to within one of the all-time leader Chris Evert.
“It’s really unbelievable, literally. From when I first started here, I think I was 16, I didn’t think I would ever get to 100. I didn’t think I would still be out here,” Williams said.
The 37-year-old American is seeking a 24th major title to match Margaret Court’s longstanding record, and smacked 25 winners against first-time Slam quarter-finalist Wang, who failed to hit a single one.
The 27-year-old Wang had not lost a set during her best Slam run that included a defeat of reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty in the last 16, but she was powerless to stop a Williams onslaught at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Fifth seed Svitolina defeated Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-4 to become the first Ukrainian to reach the US Open semi-finals, matching her run to the last four at Wimbledon in July.
“It feels amazing. It was a very, very tough match. We were both striking the ball well. It was quite even,” Svitolina said. “I’m very, very happy the way I handled the pressure.”
Svitolina watched a pair of match points pass her by at 5-3 on her opponent’s serve as Konta gamely fought to stay alive, but the Ukrainian closed out victory in the following game.
Svitolina had already knocked out two-time former champion Venus Williams and 2017 runner-up Madison Keys and is in a class of her own as the only Ukrainian woman to reach this stage at a major.
Konta, who took out third seed and 2016 runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the last 16, was denied in her bid to be the first British woman to make the US Open semis since Jo Durie in 1983.
“She played so well, to be honest. Actually, I didn’t play badly at all,” said Konta, reflecting on a season in which she reached the quarter-finals or better at three Slams.
“It’s the best I have ever done so far in my career. There is a lot to be proud of there. There’s a lot to look back and smile on.”
The US Open is guaranteed a first-time major finalist and there will be four different Grand Slam winners in a season in the Open era for an unprecedented third year in a row.
Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu, who hasn’t lost a completed match since March, takes on Belgian 25th seed Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals.
Swiss 13th seed Belinda Bencic faces good friend Donna Vekic, the 23rd seed from Croatia, in the other last-eight clash. – AFP