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.