In an unlikely US Open quarter-final, Roberta Vinci and Kristina Mladenovic will both be battling to reach a first ever Grand Slam semi-final when the pair meet in Tuesday’s day session on Ashe. The second quarter of the women’s draw was always going to throw up a surprise with Maria Sharapova pulling out of the tournament and Ana Ivanovic falling in the first round. Mladenovic and Vinci were two of the names being mentioned but it’s still noteworthy that two unseeded players have made it this far.
Mladenovic reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final with her best result of the tournament so far, a 7-6(2) 4-6 6-1 victory over the number 13 seed, Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian player had won their only two previous encounters but Mladenovic turned the tables, powering through an impressive final set that saw her drop just three points on serve.
Vinci is into her third US Open quarter-final having achieved this feat in both 2012 and 2013. The Italian player has had a dream draw to the quarters, not yet having to play someone inside the world’s top 75. Vinci received a walkover into the quarters after Eugenie Bouchard was forced to pull out of their fourth round match due to concussion after suffering a fall in the locker room on Friday. It was such a shame for Genie who was playing arguably the best tennis of her year and had a great opportunity to go deeper in the draw. When the US Open coverage showed Genie arriving, walking very gingerly and with her hoody up, it was a no-brainer that she would be in no fit state to compete.
This will be a first career match-up between Vinci and Mladenovic and the biggest match of their respective careers with never a better opportunity to reach the last four of a Slam. While Vinci’s draw has been favourable, it wasn’t a great surprise to see her competing well after a recent upturn in form since Wimbledon (prior to Wimby she was on a five match losing streak). Vinci reached the quarter-finals of Istanbul and Toronto, not dropping a set in her five match wins, and then coming through qualifying at New Haven to reach the main draw where she held match points against Caroline Wozniacki in the second round before falling in three sets.
Mladenovic has already had a superb doubles career, winning 12 doubles titles with 9 (!) different partners. 2015 has seen her replicate that form in singles with the Frenchwoman already up 41 places from her ranking at the start of the year. Mladenovic will break into the world’s top 30 in next week’s rankings. Her results seemed to turn during the clay court season with a semi-final showing in Marrakech where she defeated the number one seed at that tournament, Garbiñe Muguruza. She reached the final in Strasbourg and had her best tournament of the year in Birmingham where she secured four top 50 wins including taking down the world number three, Simona Halep in the quarter-finals.
This will be a fascinating match… Vinci’s funky game with a mixture of backhand slices and aggressive forehands has the ability to upset the rhythm of many of the bigger hitters on tour. Mladenovic has a decent serve, big groundstrokes and real touch at the net, but is known for her erratic streaks in play and losing concentration. Vinci seems the safe pick in this one, but i’m actually favouring Mladenovic. As long as she can stay close in the scoreline and not let Vinci get out into a big lead, I think Mladenovic will be mentally tougher and pull out the biggest win of her career.
Prediction: Mladenovic d. Vinci in 3 sets