US Open 2020, Day 8 Takeaways: Serena turns the tables on Sakkari, Pironkova into the QFs!

Monday’s quartet of fourth rounders produced some terrific matches with three of the four matches going the distance and passing the two hour mark. Also noteworthy is that the three mothers in action all won again! I was just going to write about the day matches but I couldn’t not give a mention to the Azarenka-Muchova match. I’ll be back on Thursday to wrap up the quarter-finals. Read on for my thoughts on day 8 action.

Serena’s most convincing performance of the tournament

Serena Williams turned the tables on Maria Sakkari and rallied from a break down in the third set to win, 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3. This was a much, MUCH better match than their most recent encounter in the Cincy-New York tournament. It was following a similar trend with Sakkari coming from a set down to go up early in the third but this time round, a focused Serena won five of the last six games.

While Sakkari missed some opportunities in the two sets that she didn’t win, there were a lot of positives for the Greek player. Sakkari served more aces than Serena (!) and the much-improved serve is giving her more free points. Sakkari missed a few sitters in the second set but I liked how she rebounded and didn’t let the disappointment of those misses cloud her mind as she came through to win that second set.

I thought Serena’s movement and general ball striking was the most impressive it’s been during the entire tournament. Key to the win was Serena landing meaningful returns deep in the third set. Since the resumption, Serena has gone the distance in seven of her nine matches. I’m debating in my head whether that’s a good thing and I think it is! It’s the most court time she has heading into and at a Slam for a while and she looked the most convincing she has done all tournament against a quality opponent in Sakkari.

Resilient Pironkova surges past Cornet

Another chapter was written in the best story of the 2020 US Open as Tsvetana Pironkova beat Alizé Cornet, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 in a marathon match lasting two hours and 49 minutes. Pironkova missed a match point in the second set, but showed remarkable resilience to recover from a break down in the third set and book her place in the last eight.

The second set was a gripping watch with so many twists and turns and some great, great points. A Pironkova backhand passing shot winner springs to mind, as does a lung-busting 40 shot rally. Cornet wore down a tiring, Pironkova in the long rallies to level the match at one set all. I didn’t see how Pironkova could recover, both mentally and physically, but she surged again midway through the third set with her backhand the star of the show. Pironkova was ultimately rewarded for being more aggressive and going after her shots. Serving for the match for the third time, Pironkova held to love.

I want to chuck superlatives in the direction of Pironkova but it still doesn’t feel enough to do justice for this run. This is Pironkova’s first tournament in three years and she’s reached a Slam quarter-final beating three top 50 players, achieving her best ever result at the US Open 👏👏👏.

Azarenka beats Muchova in three entertaining sets 😍

Victoria Azarenka vs. Karolina Muchova was a gorgeous sounding match-up and it lived up to expectation! Azarenka came back from a set down to beat Muchova, 5-7 6-1 6-4. Muchova was clearly hampered by a leg/hip injury towards the end of the second set but still made life tough for Azarenka in the decider.

The first set was an absolute triumph of all-court tennis. While they were unable to sustain the quality and intensity of the first set, the final two sets were still thoroughly entertaining as a relentless Azarenka booked her spot in the quarter-finals of a Slam for the first time since the 2016 Australian Open.

A few things that made me smile from this match – seeing Azarenka up on the baseline and moving beautifully around the court, Muchova forgetting to take her mask off after her medical time-out and the net exchange at the end of the match where you could hear Azarenka say to Muchova that she had a lot of fun and Muchova wishing Azarenka luck for the next round.

Next up for Vika is Elise Mertens.

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

10 thoughts on “US Open 2020, Day 8 Takeaways: Serena turns the tables on Sakkari, Pironkova into the QFs!

  1. Well I’m shocked to wake up and see that Kenin lost in straight sets! Mertens has been in good form but Kenin does everything just a little bit better…

    The Serena match was so stressful. Another slow start; almost went down a break in the first set to an incredible Sakkari but she clung on and then immediately raised her level. As good as Sakkari was in the second set, I feel like Serena didn’t keep up the intensity from the end of the first set. She started feeling sorry for herself when Maria hit winners, and I feel like she just wasn’t committed enough to being aggressive. It was kind of all on Sakkari’s racket, which isn’t where it should have been…

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  2. Hello James, Andrew. Hope you’re both well. Almost forgot that the tournament was in full swing till I caught news of Djokers exit ( a story for another day) with Timea Babos’ exit as well from the doubles tournament because of her partner. Have been trying to play catch-up.

    A very peculiar tournament to say the least, with most of the girls having varying drives to be there. I do think the ‘bubble’ pressure favours the Americans or America based players by way of familiarity though. So far, I must say all those who have progressed deserve it. Shelby Rogers is looking fitter than I last saw her, between Naomi and Serena, I’m leaning towards Osaka. Vika, suddenly found herself again, seizing each match-up as it comes along. Wonder if this has been the WTA slam tournament with the most mothers playing, counting Kim Clijsters too.

    Muchova is surely one for the future. I hope she doesn’t leave it too late. James, were you able to make time for a predictions draw table for this event?

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    • Hi letsplay, hope you are doing well! I think it’s been a good Slam so far and excited by the players left. Osaka definitely feels like the favourite but Rogers and then potentially Brady to make the final won’t be straightforward. Muchova is fast becoming one of my favourite players – I adore her game!

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    • Hello! I’m well, how are you?

      Interesting perspective on the bubble favouring home players! I can certainly see that being true, although they are also losing that advantage of having the home crowds (which always seems to help US players, unlike Australian/French players…)

      It is quite incredible that we have three mothers in the quarter finals of a Slam though. Surely that is a record?

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    • Thankfully, all is well on my end, at least as well as it can get, given the current events affecting everyone. I was thinking a similar thing might occur at the French Open if it does take place with more European players.They will have a limited crowd assigned to the matches. Really wished Ash Barty was playing but I do understand how per country restrictions complicates everything.

      Not really worried about Shelby against Osaka. It’s Brady! She’s swinging and hitting quite purposefully with an attitude to match. With that combo, She could be difficult to unsettle. I’m actually pleasantly surprised how the latter stages of this tournament has become increasingly competitive.

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  3. I think we’re heading for another Serena-Naomi final, but for me it’d be great if it were Vika instead of one of those (or Tsveta, though I don’t think that’s very likely). I also like Shelby but don’t think she can beat Naomi when the latter is on top of her game (which she seems to be at the moment).

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    • I think Serena is still a ways off the final. If Pironkova is fully fit, I think she could really challenge Serena. She has the variety and athleticism to make it very, very difficult. And then you have Vika and Mertens, who are both at the top of their games right now!

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      • I think Serena will get past Pironkova as that was a bruising match she played vs. Cornet and she looks to be struggling with her leg. Azarenka or Mertens in the SF would be tough.

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      • If there is anyone to be scared of in this half, I think Azarenka is the ‘Bogeyman’ or Bogeywoman in her case. She is in a positive mood and her game style matches up well with any of the players remaining. She tends to relish these encounters with Serena as well, playing some of her best tennis. She shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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