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2021 U.S. Open Tennis Themes of Five-setters, Upsets, and Rising Stars Continue into Quarterfinals

By Ricky Dimon

Did you expect anything different on Sunday?

Based on how the first six days of the U.S. Open went, there was no reason to anticipate anything other than dramatic matches, upsets, and youngsters showing maturity beyond their years. And all of that is exactly what happened as Labor Day Weekend rolled on in New York.

It started with Botic Van de Zandschulp, probably unheard of by the vast majority of U.S. Open fans prior to this tournament, knocking out No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1 in four hours and 20 minutes.

Van de Zandschulp said during his on-court interview that this is the first time he has been in America. Well, he is now living the American dream. When he arrived in New York, the 25-year-old Dutchman’s career earnings stoof at $486,174. He has earned $425,000 alone for reaching the U.S. Open quarterfinals. BVDZ will also soar from a career-high ranking of No. 117 to at least No. 62, allowing him to get in directly to all four Grand Slams in 2022–and into pretty much any other tournament he wants.

“I have to say before I came here, I did pretty good this year,” he said during his post-match press conference, “but you didn’t see it really in the rankings. But right now I’m making so [many] points that now I’m top 100 and (can) kind of play different tournaments.

“I think what I have done, it’s amazing that I beat the No. 11 (seed) here, especially in a match like this. For me, it was the first time in the big stadium. The crowd was amazing here. The next match is maybe going to be on Arthur Ashe, I think. [There’s] gonna be even more people there, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Arthur Ashe Stadium has been home to non-stop drama at this event–never to a greater extent than on Friday. That’s when Carlos Alcaraz and Leylah Fernandez, both 18, pulled off respective upsets of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Naomi Osaka. Both matches were final-set thrillers amidst raucous atmospheres.

No matter than Alcaraz and Fernandez did not make it into Ashe on Sunday. They still played in front of packed houses with the fans firmly in their corners. And, once again, they went the distance. Alcaraz overcame Peter Gojowyczk 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 in the Grandstand, while Fernandez stunned Angelique Kerber 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 from a set and a break down in Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Alcaraz vs. Gojowycz was the 33rd five-setter of the tournament. With seven more days still to go, that is already one away from the all-time record.

“In the first sets I thought that I reached my limit physically and mentally,” Alcaraz admitted. “I think the crowd was really, really important for me in this situation. So I felt the energy of the crowd pushing me up. Yeah, I think without the crowd, it couldn’t be possible to be here.”

Fernandez felt the same way.

“The match was incredible,” the Canadian commented. “I was playing well in the first set; unfortunately I did a few mistakes. As a great player, great champion, she noticed and she took advantage of it. I was able to refocus and fight back for the second. In the third, I was just enjoying every moment of it. Honestly, the crowd has been amazing. Thanks to them I was able to win.”

Fellow 18-year-old Emma Raducanu will try to join Alcaraz and Fernandez in the quarterfinals when she goes up against Shelby Rogers on Monday. Raducanu was probably looking ahead to a matchup with Ashleigh Barty, but Rogers stunned the world No. 1 on Friday night 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5) after trailing by a double-break at 5-2 in the third set.

What will Raducanu vs. Rogers and the rest of Monday’s schedule do for an encore?

I think we already know the answer.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.