5-STAN WAWRINKA VS. 15-KEVIN ANDERSON
This is a fascinating contest, because the South African Anderson stunned Andy Murray in the fourth round, and of all of a sudden, he looks like the favorite against the two-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka; he has beaten him the last four times they have played, three times on the hard courts. That means that the 6-foot-8 Anderson has a real shot to go far and reach the semis – or better.
The 29-year-old Anderson has been around for a long time but he has yet to go deep in the majors, largely because he was too stiff and wasn’t able to do a lot on his backhand. He can bomb his first serve, he can whip with his forehand and he is pretty efficient at the net, but to be able to take down the elite, he had to add to his game and change up his tactics.
He played brilliantly in upsetting the former US Open champion Murray in four sets. Murray was yelling, he was screaming, he kept yanking him around, but Anderson was very steady. He nailed his forehand and backhand deep and true, he attacked his foe’s second serve and wasn’t afraid to charge in.
However, even though Anderson has handled Wawrinka on the hard courts, they have been close affairs. In 2014, Wawrinka won his first Grand Slam, winning the Australian Open, racing around, spinning his amazing one-handed backhand and flattening his forehand. After he won his first major, though, he was admittedly shaken. Against Anderson, he lost in Indian Wells, at the Rogers Cup and at the Paris Indoors. But he gradually woke up, and in 2015, he began to fly high, winning Roland Garros by outstroking Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – pretty good, huh?
Wawrinka has said that he has played pretty well at the 2015 US Open, but he has yet to put it all together. He has to now, as Anderson is competing well and playing better. Anderson does not want to play long rallies, while Wawrinka would rather try to out-run him. Anderson hits a stronger forehand, Wawrinka rolls his backhand; Anderson has a larger serve, Wawrinka has more variety. Anderson will go to the wall in this one, but in the end, Wawrinka will prevail in entertaining five sets.
2-ROGER FEDERER VS. 12-RICHARD GASQUET
Back in 2005, a young Gasquet upset Federer in Monte Carlo and the Frenchmen looked like someday he would win a major – or perhaps many more. But the now-29-year-old Gasquet has not been able to take down the so-called Big Four (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray) or reach major finals. Like Federer, he has a wonderful one-handed backhand, and he loves heavy topspin and he’s pretty creative. But, at times, he can struggle with his concentration. Federer rarely does.
Federer is 14-2 head to head against Gasquet, and while Gasquet is fun to watch when he is on, the 17-time Grand Slam is better all around. The 34-year-old is more forceful with his forehand, backhand, serve and volley. Gasquet will be thrilled to be out on the big stage in Arthur Ashe Stadium against the legendary Federer, and he will zone in for an hour, but in the end, the Swiss will win in four sets.
2-SIMONA HALEP VS. 20-VICTORIA AZARENKA
Halep is an excellent player, one who always fights hard and doesn't quit. But to beat Azarenka Wednesday afternoon, she has to play much better than she did in edging past Sabine Lisicki in the last round, when her usually deep stokes were floating into the middle of the court. Over the past year, Halep has shown that she can beat just about anyone, but she has dipped on occasion, so if she is going to beat Azarenka, she will have to lock in very soon.
The 26-year-old Vika has been decent this year, but she has not been able to beat the best competitors. She has been close against Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova but with little to show for her efforts. Still, Azarenka can play as well as anyone inside the baseline, hitting as hard as she can off both wings. She has also been excellent at the net, and she has jumped on her returns. What has really hurt her, though, is her serve..
This has the makings of a terrific match, with Azarenka swinging out into the corners and Halep digging from side to side. They will play for two very long sets, with Azarenka knocking out Halep and screaming out her deep lungs “C’mon!”
5-PETRA KVITOVA VS. 26-FLAVIA PENNETTA
This is going three sets, and it will be very close. The two players are 3-3 head to head, and while the Czech Kvitova has been better at the majors, the Italian has been more consistent and more forceful at the US Open. The lefty Kvitova has a substantial first serve, she can twist her forehand and pop her backhand down the line, but Pennetta is faster, she can nail the corners and when she is feeling good, she can charge up and put away her volleys.
This is the first time that Kvitova has made it to the quarters at the US Open, and she is playing more composed tennis than in past years. Pennetta will try to get in her head, because she knows that the Czech can become frustrated and over-hit, but Kvitova has been bashing the ball and showing increased maturity on the court. Kvitova will take the contest, in a tiebreak in the third set.