10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Women’s semis–especially Osaka and Azarenka–deliver the goods on busy Thursday at U.S. Open Tennis

By Ricky Dimon

With some exceptions, the men have been flailing around on the tennis court amidst the pressure of expectations following Novak Djokovic’s stunning fourth-round default. 

To say the quality on the women’s side is not lacking, however, would be a gross understatement. The two semifinals on Thursday night were especially stellar, with Naomi Osaka ending Jennifer Brady’s run 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-3 before Victoria Azarenka battled her way past Serena Williams 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Naomi Osaka serves to Jennifer Brady during their Women’s Semifinal.

Osaka struck more than twice as may winners as unforced errors (35 to 17) and fired nine aces to just one double-fault. Azarenka was plus-eight in the winners-to-errors department. Even in defeat, Brady was plus-10 and Williams was plus-7.

The men’s doubles event came to an end on Thursday afternoon, with Mate Pavic and Brunos Soares triumphing over Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic 7-5, 6-3.

Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands (2R) and Nikola Mektic of Croatia (R) at the net with Mate Pavic of Croatia (2L) and Bruno Soares of Brazil (L) after the men’s doubles final match on the eleventh day of the US Open.

“Feels amazing,” Soares said. “A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. That’s why we practice; that’s why we play. For us, (it’s) amazing. We had a little bit of a rough beginning of the year tennis-wise, some injuries, some tough losses, and then it’s a crazy world.

“But to get back straight on and win a Grand Slam, it feels pretty good now. We put in a lot of work last week. We lost first round (at the Cincinati Masters). I was coming from some tough 15 days of having corona, so I didn’t get much practice before coming here. I wasted my practice for 15 days. So it was good that we could put a lot of work before the slam; pretty special to have this trophy with us now.”

That the wheelchair trophy will be lifted at all is a considerable surprise.

24-time Grand Slam singles champion Shingo Kunieda.

Wheelchair action got underway on Thursday after being one of the biggest stories of the U.S. Open earlier this summer. When the USTA announced that this event would happen despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it also said that there would be no wheelchair competition. Wheelchair participants and able-bodied players alike cried foul to that decision and eventually got it reversed. There would, in fact, be a wheelchair competition.

That is good news for 24-time Grand Slam singles champion Shingo Kunieda, who is back in New York as he bids for a seventh U.S. Open title. That effort got off to a strong start on Thursday, when he bear Nicolas Peifer 6-3, 6-2. 

Other quarterfinal winners were Gustavo Fernandez (the No. 2 seed behind Kunieda), Alfie Hewett, and Casey Ratzlaff.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.