Tennis

Tennis: Tokyo Olympic champs Zverev, Bencic advance at US Open

NEW YORK (AFP) – Tokyo Olympic champions Alexander Zverev and Belinda Bencic advanced to the US Open quarter-finals on Monday (Sept 6) with straight-set triumphs.

German fourth seed Zverev stretched his win streak to 15 matches by beating Italian 13th seed Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) and Swiss 11th seed Bencic eliminated Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek, last year’s French Open champion, 7-6 (14/12), 6-3.

Zverev, last year’s US Open runner-up, reached his seventh career Slam quarter-final and fourth in the past five Slams.

“Was a very high-level match from the start to the end, a lot of hard hitting,” Zverev said. “I’m happy to be through to the quarter-finals and we’ll see where it goes.” Sinner missed his chances with two set points on Zverev’s serve in the 12th game of the third set and three more foiled in the tie-breaker before Zverev won when Sinner netted a forehand after two hours and 25 minutes.

“That’s the last few months for me,” Zverev said. “Players with confidence know what to do in these situations. I’m happy to get through in straight sets.” Zverev said his Olympic gold medal is with him as inspiration and to snuggle.

“I cuddle with it at night,” he said. “I don’t have a girlfriend so the gold medal sleeps next to me.

“It’s with me here, a little reminder of what happened last month to give me some energy here.”

Zverev will next face the winner of a later match between American 22nd seed Reilly Opelka and 46th-ranked Lloyd Harris of South Africa.

Swiatek beat Bencic in their only prior meeting in February’s Adelaide final, but the Swiss hasn’t dropped a set this week and has been broken only three times.

“I’ve improved my game a lot,” Bencic said. “I’m glad to turn it around and get through.”

A key was taking the last three points in a 23-minute tie-breaker.

“In the tie-breaker, it’s always a little bit about luck,” she said. “I started the second set a little more relaxed.”

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Djokovic chases Slam

Early action set the stage for Novak Djokovic in the night feature, where the 34-year-old Serbian star attempts to move within three matches of completing the first men’s singles calendar-year Grand Slam in 52 years.

World number one Djokovic will face 99th-ranked Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old American wildcard, for a berth in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic would become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to sweep all four major titles in the same year by capturing his fourth career US Open crown.

He is also going for a men’s singles record 21st Slam trophy, which would boost him one ahead of “Big Three” rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent with injuries.

Djokovic is on a 20-match win streak against Americans entering his first meeting with Brooksby, who would be the lowest-ranked player to beat a top-ranked rival at the US Open since the rankings began in 1973.

If Djokovic advances to the last eight, his quarter-final could be a rematch of the Wimbledon final, where he defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.

Sixth-seeded Berrettini faces 144th-ranked German qualifier Oscar Otte in a fourth-round matchup. The Italian beat Otte in the first round at this year’s French Open.

Otte would be the lowest-ranked man in the US Open’s last eight since 174th-ranked Jimmy Connors in 1991 and together with Dutchman Botic Van de Zandschulp become the first pair of qualifiers in a Slam quarter-final in the Open era (since 1968).

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Raducanu faces Rogers

British 18-year-old qualifier Emma Raducanu, a 150th-ranked US Open debutante, was to face 43rd-ranked American Shelby Rogers, who ousted world number one Ashleigh Barty, for a spot against Bencic.

Raducanu would be only the third qualifier into the US Open women’s quarter-finals after Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in 2017 and American Barbara Gerken in 1981.

Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, the Wimbledon runner-up to Barty in July, seeks a last-eight berth against Russian 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

The last women’s fourth-round match has 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, the sixth seed from Canada, facing Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari. Andreescu is 10-0 at the US Open, having skipped last year’s event.

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