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Eight top talents make for a perfect Day 10

By Mark Preston
Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Two men’s quarters and two women’s quarters headline Day 10 of the 2015 US Open, as eight of the game’s top talents look to advance deeper into this Flushing fortnight. Wednesday’s day session features Petra Kvitova taking on Flavia Pennetta, Victoria Azarenka squaring off with Simona Halep, and Stan Wawrinka going head to head with Kevin Anderson. At night, Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet wrap up quarterfinal play under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The best in the sport are now three matches shy of tennis’ toughest title – that’s the formula for a perfect Day 10.

Kvitova, the No. 5 seed, is a two-time Wimbledon champion and also has reached the semis at both the Australian and French Opens. Surprisingly, this quarterfinal appearance marks her best-ever US Open showing; prior to this year, she’d never been beyond the fourth round in seven attempts. This has been a particularly good run for the 25-year-old Czech, who’s had a so-so season at the Slams, losing in the third round of both the Australian and Wimbledon and advancing to the fourth round of the French. But Kvitova rolled into New York on the momentum of winning the Emirates Airline US Open Series event just the week before, notching wins over four Top 20 talents en route, including Caroline Wozniacki in the semis and Lucie Safarova in the final.

This is the seventh time that Pennetta, the No. 26 seed, has reached the quarters of a major – and six of those have come here. The 33-year-old Italian had posted less-than-stellar results at the season’s first three Slams, losing in the first round at both the Australian and Wimbledon and reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros. But on these courts, Pennetta is a different player; she seems more confident in herself and her game. Pennetta was remarkably efficient in her straight-sets dismissal of 2011 US Open champ Samantha Stosur in round 4, winning 85 percent of her first-serve points and staving off the four break points she faced in the match while breaking Stosur twice in a tidy 6-4, 6-4 win.

Stosur and Pennetta are even at 3-all in their career encounters, but they haven’t faced off since meeting at the London Olympics in 2012. Today’s meeting will be all about mettle, not medals. This goes three – and Kvitova goes on.

Like Kvitova, Azarenka knows what it takes to string together seven matches over the course of two weeks – she’s a two-time Australian Open champion. The 26-year-old Belarussian also is a two-time runner-up here, reaching the US Open final in 2012 and 2013. Seeded No. 20, her lowest-ever seeding here, the former No. 1 has had an uneven season, reaching just one tournament final and losing in the fourth round in Australia, the third round of Roland Garros and the quarters of Wimbledon. Azarenka has been hampered this year by a nagging thigh injury but seems to have found her feet in Flushing, reaching this point with the loss of just one set.

Second seed Halep has likewise had a disappointing year at the Slams, following up a quarterfinal run at the Aussie Open with a second-round loss at the French and first-round dismissal at Wimbledon. But the 23-year-old Romanian has posted some solid results outside of the majors in 2015, winning three titles – all on hard courts – and leading all women with a 36 victories (against five losses) on cement this season.

Azarenka has won both of their career meetings, and if she can continue to maintain her level of play, there’s no reason she can’t go three-for-three. Halep will make it tough, but Azarenka will make it through. In three, she’s on to the semis.

Men’s No. 5 seed Wawrinka owns two Grand Slam singles titles; his win at Roland Garros this year backs up his 2014 Australian Open crown. The 30-year-old Swiss is into the quarterfinals here for the third consecutive year, but only once – in 2013 – has he been as far as the semis. His second-round victory here was his 100th career win at a major, certainly a major milestone in itself. But Wawrinka, now 102-40 all time at the Slams, is likely less concerned with reaching the century mark than he is with reaching this event’s second Sunday.

Wawrinka figures to get a good test Wednesday against surprise quarterfinalist Anderson, who toughed out an especially impressive four-set win over third-seeded Andy Murray in the fourth round. The 29-year-old South African is into the quarters of a major for the first time in his career, riding the momentum of his win two weeks ago in Winston-Salem – the third tournament title of his career. Anderson, ranked No. 14 and seeded 15th, has this year reached two other finals – indoors in Memphis and on grass at London’s Queen’s Club.

Anderson holds a 4-3 edge in career meetings with the Swiss, winning the last four in row, including a win this year at Queen’s Club. Granted, this is an altogether different setting, but Anderson is playing like an altogether different player. In four matches, he’s won 83 percent of his first-serve points and has only been broken four times. If the South African can keep up the attack, there’s no reason he can’t keep up his advance. In a tight four, Anderson plays on.

Men’s No. 2 seed Federer is a five-time US Open champion, having strung together consecutive titles here from 2004 through 2008. The all-time men’s leader with 17 career Slam singles crowns, Federer came into this year’s Open on a high note, having reached the final of the last three events he’d played, including Wimbledon, his 25th major final. Federer has cruised into his 46th career major quarterfinal – most among men in the Open era – without the loss of a set, dismantling opponents with the relative ease of a guy out for a weekend hit.

Next up for Federer is the No. 12 seed Gasquet, who rallied back from a set down to oust sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych in an entertaining four-set, fourth-round tussle. The 29-year-old Frenchman has three times reached the semis of a major, twice at Wimbledon (including this year) and here in 2013. In addition to his semifinal run on the lawns of London, Gasquet has this year captured two titles and reached the quarters of three other events.

Federer owns a large 14-2 edge over the Frenchman in their head-to-heads; Gasquet hasn’t been able to dent the former No. 1 since 2011. Taking nothing away from Gasquet’s impressive advance to this point, there’s nothing that suggests that he’ll be able to narrow that wide margin tonight. There’s something special about the way Federer is playing here; from the start, he’s seemed especially determined to finish this year’s US Open holding some hardware. In three, the second seed is on to the semis.