Monday’s Set Points, US Open 2018 Day 8: Osaka’s first Slam QF, Keys powers past Cibulkova

The quarter-finals are set at the 2018 US Open with just eight women left in the hunt for the final Slam of the year. Monday featured a couple of dramatic matches and confirmation that the bottom half will produce a finalist that has never won a Slam before. Read on for six stories in Monday’s Set Points post from the US Open.

Keys continues dominance over Cibulkova

Madison Keys extended her head-to-head record to 5-0 against Dominika Cibulkova with a routine 6-1 6-3 victory. Keys used the same tactic as she did against Krunic, opting for the kick second serve that was very effective at keeping Cibulkova back behind the baseline on return. Keys was secure in all aspects of her game and was notably strong off the backhand side, hitting a couple of stunners of that wing.

Cibulkova threatened a comeback in the second set as she reeled off three straight games from 0-2 to 3-2. Credit to Keys who didn’t lose her focus and won 12 straight points from 3-3 before breaking for the straight sets victory in 76 minutes.

Keys has made three Slam quarter-finals this year and the only place she didn’t do it was at Wimbledon! This could have been Kerber in the fourth round so the draw did fall her way rather favourably because the German player has always been a tough match-up for Keys. Match-ups are huge on the WTA tour. I just suddenly thought that it’s not far fetched that we could see a repeat of last year’s US Open final again this year…

Osaka’s first Slam QF

In a battle of 20-year-olds aiming to reach their first Slam quarter-final, Naomi Osaka edged a tense and gripping battle to beat Aryna Sabalenka, 6-3 2-6 6-4. Osaka snapped Sabalenka’s eight match winning streak and five consecutive wins in three set matches. I was so excited about this match and i’m so glad that it lived up to expectation. I was quite certain it would be a damp squib and decided in straights! The quality wasn’t always there but it was highly competitive and fascinating from start to finish.

There were many mini battles and momentum swings in this match. Osaka saved a break point at *1-2 in the first set and then went onto win four of the last five games to win the first set. Sabalenka ran away with the second set after claiming her first break of the match at 1-1 in the second set. I thought Sabalenka had the edge at the start of the decider with the early break but she was unable to consolidate. From there on, Osaka was brilliant on serve and dropped just two points in her last three service games.

Sabalenka lived dangerously on serve but went big and bold, and found first serves to get out of trouble. Sabalenka saved three match points at *4-5 *0-40 but this time succumbed to the pressure. Osaka landed her most aggressive return of the game at 40-40 and then Sabalenka double faulted, her 6th of the deciding set, on match point.

Osaka was tearful at the end and it was the most emotion i’ve ever seen from the Japanese player on the court. I’m pretty sure her coach, Sascha Bajin was feeling it at the end too!I was impressed by Osaka’s ability to hold her ground against Sabalenka’s piercing groundstrokes. Sabalenka was understandably mad at the end and flung her racquet, but she gave a very good handshake. No doubt that Sabalenka will be back and contesting the latter stages of Slams many more times. I really wanted both players to win this match 😭.

Tsurenko outlasts Vondrousova for first Slam QF

On the verge of retirement after the first set, Lesia Tsurenko staged an extraordinary comeback to beat Marketa Vondrousova in a dramatic three setter, 6-7(3) 7-5 6-2. It was another brutally hot and humid day in New York. Tsurenko suffered in the heat in the first set and it was pretty painful to watch during the first set tiebreak.

Vondrousova was the better player in the first two sets but she just couldn’t put Tsurenko away. Tsurenko didn’t throw in the towel and kept plugging away. Then it was Vondrousova who seemed to be feeling it more with her leg towards the end of the second set. As the court moved into shade, Tsurenko started to look stronger as Vondrousova’s movement became more and more impeded.

Tsurenko served out the second set at the second time of asking and then eased through the decider with much of the damage done in an erratic three opening games from Vondrousova. Tsurenko served out the match on her third match point. Sounds like Vondrousova wasn’t so happy after the match via Ben Rothenberg on Twitter where she said she thought Tsurenko was acting. That’s very disappointing.

Highlight of the first two sets – a guy in the crowd continually cheering for Lesia with his “who is the best? Lesia’s the best!” chants 😂. I now know what they referring to in Sevastova’s press conference linked below.

While I was sleeping…

Carla Suárez Navarro beat Maria Sharapova, 6-4 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open for the second time in her career and on her 30th birthday! Very happy for Carla who has had a brilliant few weeks 😊.

Sevastova’s press conference

Sevastova is always a good listen in press conferences. I enjoyed her insight of watching matches as a spectator in Ashe.

Tuesday’s QFs

It will be a case of déjà vu as Stephens will play Sevastova in the QFs. S.Williams will play Pliskova in the night session.

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15 thoughts on “Monday’s Set Points, US Open 2018 Day 8: Osaka’s first Slam QF, Keys powers past Cibulkova

  1. It was tears for both, likely bucket loads in the locker room after. One for joy, the other for heartbreak. Sabalenka is going to be hurting for awhile, but a fierce fight from both. Osaka saying she psyched herself by believing that she should fight on even if her legs get broken made my day. Well done to both.

    What about CSN!? As they say it’s the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Goes for Tsurenko as well. Pure mind over matter. Plucky stuff. Looking forward to the quarters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My results for the 4th round (1/8 final) were 6 wins and 2 losses
    Loss #1 -CSN def Sharapova
    Pova’s timing was off on her big power shots, which is her game. She hit 38 UFEs, of which most were power shots. Pova switched to plan B, rallying at 80% top power, but that is CSN’s game. Pova surprised me at how well she played at the lower pace, but she could not beat CSN at CSN’s game.
    Loss #2 – Sevastova def Svitolina
    S and S have similar games, but Sevastova’s game was on and Svit’s was off.

    QF picks
    S Williams
    An all black player Semi-Final
    Final still S Williams vs Osaka
    In the US the number of female black girl tennis players is miniscule compared to the number of white girl tennis players, but the US pro ranks are dominated by black players. Osaka who has a Haitian father has lived in the US since she was about 3 years old and has dual US and Japanese citizenship.


    • Race-thing is not really my thing:) but Keys and Osaka are not technically black, are they? It’s like if somebody is 1/8 Jew and get Noble prize than the Jewish community say that he/she must be a Jew :))


      • Jade, maybe for you… Maybe try to ask their’s mothers if their kids don’t look white or Japanese for them…So you say that the mother means nothing in this equation? Unless the mother is black hahahhaaha… then the kid is of course black and looks black:)


  3. I really enjoyed the match between Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka which was partly because of the result as I was shouting at the tv set for Naomi to win. This is the best that I have seen her play. I wondered if it was her or Salabenka who requested the 10 minute heat break ? I assume it was Naomi as there was a possibilty that the break would upset the momentum of Salabenka who won the 2nd set quite comfortably. I agree with James that Sabalenka will be contesting the latter stages of Slams many more times.

    I underestimated Carla Suárez Navarro again as I did not expect her to beat Sharapova. Maria is determined and states that she can challenge for Grand Slam titles again but I’ll be surprised if she wins another one. She’ll be 32 in April next year and is past her best and there are too many talented young players coming through for her to get another GS in my opinion.


    • It seemed to be Osaka? I believe it only takes one of them to request the heat break for it to happen. I’m not a fan of Sharapova but find the general criticism on social media of her season quite bizarre. She was having some injury concerns before the drugs ban and she’s not had a terrible year IMO considering this. There’s been a handful of superb performances (Pliskova at RG, Kasatkina at Montreal) and she had a solid clay court season. I guess there are high expectations based on what she has achieved during her career? I certainly won’t be writing Sharapova off just yet.


      • The thing with Sharapova for a long time has been the intimidation factor she has had on opponents. Her game hasn’t been it’s best for over a decade now, really. It’s just attack from side to side with big, flat hitting. The problem for her is that nobody fears her anymore. She can win a match when she plays well, but she isn’t able to psych her opponents out anymore and has thus lost what made her such a mental warrior a couple years ago.


      • I’m not a fan of Maria’s but I don’t really understand why she stopped working with Sven (Groenevald) as her coach. I thought she did well with him.

        Anyway, great win from Carla yesterday! I’ll bet the crowd sung “Happy Birthday” to her (the US Open crowd will do that). No preference in her quarterfinal with Madi as I like both players,.


      • Isn’t it partly why the tour is fairly open now, No one is really afraid of anyone anymore. I daresay even Serena.


  4. Very surprised that Sevastova defeated defending champion Stephens 6-2,6-3
    Stephens was playing very well this year and was in the finals of the FO and Montreal where she was beaten by #1 Halep in both events. She won the big Miami tournament.
    I didn’t see the match, but looking at the stats, the item that stands out is the “break points converted” —- 5 of 8 for Sev and only 2 of 9 for Stephens.
    The “2nd serve points won” stat appears to be deceiving as Stephens only won 11%(1/9) while Sev won 59%(19/32). Stephens very high 1st serve rate of 82% meant she only had 9 2nd serves, which she lost 8. Sev had only a 54% 1st serve rate resulting in 32 2nd serves, of which she lost 13 times. Sev lost 5 more 2nd serves than Stephens, but Stephens 2nd serve losses may have come at very critical times.
    Sevastova played very well against Svitolina and Stephens, and has a ranking of #18 ,but gets very little notice, except by the Moo who put her press conference up (See above).


    • It came down to execution. IMO, Sevastova is a classic counter puncher. She plays some of her best tennis at the USOpen. Brought her A-game to the match-up, with some determination and even aggressive charges. She won’t blow you off the court, so has to outsmart you somehow. Sloane, like Vika and others, to me, is more of a baseline player who defaults a lot to defensive play to create attacking opportunities. Maybe the heat might have played a part, but Sevastova had the better counter punching game plan and variety. Even when Sloane tried to get back into the match, Sevastova was able to raise her game to counter. Personally, I think top form Sevastova has the better defensive variety than a top form Stephens. Sloane’s power transitions is what often gives her the advantage. Sadly, she couldn’t even muster enough of that to make it count against Sevastova. The mental edge was mostly with Sevastova. You know these players always find it easier to play outright hard hitters like Sharapova, Keys etc, than against players with some similar style to theirs.
      Ironic maybe, but the supposedly fast USopen hard courts, has in recent years been rather kind to defensive counter-punchers.


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