Novak Djokovic Ties Pete Sampras with 14 Grand Slams
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The big three for more than the past decade are well on their way to ensuring they finish as the three greatest players of all time, now that Novak Djokovic has tied Pete Sampras with 14 Grand Slams. Djokovic claimed his second Grand Slam of 2018 with a 6-3 7-6 6-3 victory in the US Open final over Juan Martin Del Potro. It’s also the third US Open for Djokovic and his first since 2015.
Djokovic had to battle for the final despite the routine scoreline, Del Potro’s forehand was troublesome and a highly partisan crowd tried to carry him to a win. Del Potro came up just short in the second set tiebreak and in the third set he was simply exhausted, a fitter Djokovic covering the court with ease and winning all the clutch points.
Djokovic will now be racing to reclaim the world #1 ranking after a confident week in New York that started slow, but finished with glory. The 31 year old Djokovic dropped sets against Marton Fucsovics and Tennys Sandgren, but then rolled through Richard Gasquet, Joao Sousa, John Millman, and Kei Nishikori. They all battled, but Djokovic had an answer for everything they threw at him. Millman reaching the quarterfinals after stunning a horribly out of form Roger Federer in the 4th round, Federer wilting in the humidity as Millman claimed the win of his life.
Del Potro, back in a slam final for the first time in nearly a decade, deserved all the praise he got. The Argentine dropped just one set prior to the final as Donald Young, Denis Kudla, Fernando Verdasco, Borna Coric, John Isner, and an injured Rafael Nadal all fell before him. Nadal’s knees gave way in their semifinal and he was forced to retire after two sets, in a match he was surely going to lose retirement or not. A second Grand Slam still escapes Del Potro.
In the doubles final Jack Sock and Mike Bryan won their second straight slam, defeating Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo. Bryan hasn’t missed a step since brother Bob suffered a hip injury.Embed from Getty Images
Former NCAA Doubles Champion Francesca DiLorenzo now has another record, and it’s a unique place in US Open history. She’s the only player who’s ever had a kiss planted on them by a fan. At least the only one I ever witnessed. I did the math and I’ve been to 16 US Opens since 2001, and I have never seen or heard of a random fan stealing a kiss from a competitor. If you’ve been here, you know that security is pretty tight. If you don’t believe me, try getting to the lower level of Arthur Ashe with an upper level ticket. But that’s exactly what happened to DiLorenzo after her first round win on Tuesday in New York. A much older guy asked for a photo and gave her a peck on the cheek before DiLorenzo knew what was happening.
“That was very weird for me,” she told me today after a second round match. “I took a picture with the guy and then he then he literally came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I mean, maybe if it was somebody younger, like more my type. Maybe he’s Italian, but I don’t know. Pretty strange. Definitely one of those strange encounters. He was a little bit older. I didn’t know what to do. I was very shocked. I just took the picture and left. Yeah, too bad he wasn’t younger or anything.”
The bandit is still at large. If you have any information on this man, please contact his grown children.
—Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Aliaksandra Sasnovich wants you to know that reaching the third round of the US Open is not her biggest win yet. “I don’t think so,” the 24-year-old from Belarus said today after her match. “I have a lot of good matches. This is one of them but it’s not my biggest and I think my biggest is in front of me.” Sasnovich was speaking about her win over Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 6-2, 7-6(3) win on the Grandstand.
And it didn’t feel as easy as the score suggests. “It was 1:34 but it feels like we played three hours,” she said, “because a lot of points, a lot of you have to move, and Dasha’s a really good player. She’s 11 in the world. It was difficult for my mentality so I’m really happy with this win. It was difficult conditions for both. Probably I want to win more today. ”
She credited a change in her style for causing havoc to Kasatkina today.
“I started not to play 2-3 shots, I started to play 5, 6, 7, 8 or more (shots),” she said. “I have to play, you know, not just ‘boom boom’. I have a good tactic against her because we’ve played a lot of matches and I know what I need to know.”
“My concentration was very good today.”
She won’t dwell on the victory for a minute.
“It feels really good, but I’m moving forward,” Sasnovich said. “I have the next match. #31 is not a goal for me, you know? I have to improve like all the players who want a better ranking. I improved some part of my game, for example to compare with last year and this year, I think I’m totally another player…better forehand, better serve. I think I’m a better player than last year. I don’t want to compare with someone else, I want to compare with myself.”
What is it about Belarus and three third rounders at the US Open?
“Of course, three girls top 32, so I’m really proud of the girls for our country, but I think after Fed Cup, when they played the finals, quarterfinals, and semifinals in Minsk, a lot of people were coming to see our match and some of them, they didn’t know what is tennis, and when they saw tennis in life, they’d probably seen it on TV, in life, it was good popularization and they took their child on the court and they wanted to play them professional. They want my country to be more improving in tennis, and they think we can have more good players.”
“I wish luck on all the other Belarusian players that we can go on to the next round for popularization of tennis in our country.”
Next up is Naomi Osaka, another tough ask for any player on the tour and one that can’t be forgotten for coming back from a 0-5 deficit in the second set.
“Yeah, it was a good match, it was good conditions (Tokyo 2016), I remember we played inside. It was very humid. I lost 6-3 the first set, and I was 5-0 up in the second set and I lost the set, but it was two years ago. It was so, so long time ago. She was different, I was different.”
And here’s a twist: She’s a fondue junkie who wants a Melting Pot in Minsk.
“I really love the Melting Pot, in America. Fondue. I want to open one and it’s no joke. I really wanted to open the fondue in my country, but it was a small secret. Now it’s not secret anymore. But I want to open the cheese fondue and chocolate fondue, with milk chocolate and white chocolate with strawberry, banana, fruits, some marshmallows.”
She’ll have a day to relax before preparing for Osaka. In the downtime, she’ll eat and be a tourist.
“So I really like to eat. Probably I will go to Central Park today or the Empire State Building. My coach will give me one or two hours. I will probably go to cinema to see a movie. To relax, to be out of the tennis for evening and night.”
She’s happy to hear that the scorching conditions are about to let up.
“It’s better for us, for all the players. because it’s better to play when it’s 25 or 26, degrees than when it’s 35. It feels like 41. So I’m happy for all the girls who are going to play in that condition.”
She’s one win away from tying her best grand slam result at Wimbledon this year. It’s been a pleasure to watch this player progress through the years and now I’ve got to take care of my Fondue craving as soon as I get out of Queens.
—Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Early play at the US Open in New York on Thursday found one upset, as Aliaksandra Sasnovich, a perennial qualifier in Premier tournaments and slams, upset the Russian, 6-2, 7-6. For Sasnovich, whose high water mark was this year’s fourth round at Wimbledon, she will try to keep her US Open magic alive when she meets Naomi Osaka on Saturday.
Osaka was efficient in the morning heat, needing just 50 minutes on court to dismantle an injured Julia Glushko. In press, she talked about the fine line of deciding to go aggressive or play it safe with each shot.
“You win more if you play safe,” she said. “I would say it’s fun to take the chances when you’re feeling good, like, when you know it’s not 50/50, more like 70/30. So I sort of have to hold myself back on the days I don’t feel good. That’s a little bit hard for me.”
Aryna Sabalenka has been called out for dead–“hit the wall”–by the commentators on US Open Radio in both matches she’s played here. The first time was when she lost the second set to Danielle Collins and today they were at it again in the second set when the Belarusian made a couple of unforced errors. The commies were wrong both times. Sabalenka beat 2010 Flushing Meadows finalist Vera Zvonareva, 6-2, 7-6 to earn a date with Petra Kvitova, and probably her first distinguished court assignment.
It’s funny, because I thought this was going to be a tournament of upsets on the women’s side after Simona Halep went out in the first 90 minutes of the tournament on Monday. Since then, other than Kasatkina today and Muguruza last night, things are shaping up nicely with many marquee players into the weekend. Kerber’s currently in a battle with Johanna Larsson, but there’s plenty of stars left to produce a great second week of women’s tennis.
Stan the Man Struggles But Advances, Tsitsipas Stunned by Medvedev
Steve Fogleman in New York
Stan Wawrinka came out to an appreciative crowd at the US Open Grandstand this afternoon, and after the win, he stuck around in the oppressive conditions to greet the fans. Ugo Humbert, in the US Open main draw for the first time, was vanquished by the Man, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3,7-5.
“Yeah, it was tough conditions today,” he said after the match and a cooldown. “Quite hot and humid last few days, already yesterday. But a battle to play a player that never played before (Humbert), young player. He’s been playing really well this summer, recently: qualifier, won a match, lefty, doesn’t give you a lot of rhythm. Playing a great game.”
Milos Raonic will be his next test on Friday. “Big match, that’s for sure,” he said. “He’s playing well. Also he had some injuries, had some struggles. But I think he’s playing great tennis. He’s always been a tough opponent to play. Serving big, putting a lot of pressure, going for it. Don’t get a lot of chance to break him, but you need to take them.”
One of this summer’s hottest stars on the ATP Tour was bested by another streaking young ATP star as Daniil Medvedev proved the better player than Stefanos Tsitsipas. Medvedev advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win. After the match, Tsitsipas had a lot to say about the heat and made a prediction on our 2018 US Open Men’s Singles champ.
“Well, yeah, oh, my God, it was so tough to play outside there,” he said. “I could feel it every single time I went to serve/return. I could feel all this heat coming into my face. I don’t know if I’m red. I didn’t check myself on the mirror, but I feel like my face is, like, burning right now.”
“Well, you know, yeah, it’s mental, because you don’t have fresh air to breathe. You breathe this heat that’s coming, the moisture that’s in the air. So you feel like you’re empty. You’re not breathing out, breathing in, breathing out, so it feels really awkward to be playing like this. There is no fresh air. It’s like you feel like you’re playing in the desert, really. I don’t know if the desert is that humid, but it feels — mentally, yeah, I believe that the one that’s gonna win this tournament is going to be the one that mentally is prepared for long matches in the heat and knows that he’s gonna have to overcome the difficulties of the heat. So that’s the guy who’s gonna win the tournament.”
“Most possibly I believe it’s Nadal. Yeah, he played well last year, so I believe he can do it well this year, as well.”
You heard it here first, folks.
Sloane Stephens didn’t look happy when she took the court on Arthur Ashe Stadium at noon today for her second round US Open match in New York. That look got worse as she dropped four of the first five games to Anhelina Kalinina. After a bathroom break to start the second set, Stephens play improved somewhat, and she tenuously won the second set 7-5. In the third, Kalinina’s play fell flat and Stephens was clearly in the groove for the 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 match that lasted two hours and forty five minutes on the blazing courts.
Stephens plays Vika Azarenka in the third round on Friday.
Meanwhile, Venus Williams was battling Camila Giorgi and was able to finish off the Italian in two sets to get off of Armstrong so she can prepare for her third round match ton Friday, likely against little sister Serena. The final was 6-4, 7-5.
After the match, Venus waxed poetic about playing on the new stadium. “It’s great to play out here on Louis Armstrong, the court is named after a legend,” she said. “I’m really pumped to win here today against an inspired opponent.”
She doesn’t check the draw, but she didn’t have to, since it’s all the buzz in New York.
“I don’t know, you gotta play who you have to play. When you’re in the draw, all you think about is winning your match.”
That said, she recalled her last meeting with Serena at the 2017 Australian Open. “Last time, it was two on one, so at least this time it’ll be fair,” she said.