With no rain interruptions on Friday, the Cincinnati tennis draws were caught up to speed and the men’s and women’s semifinals set for championship weekend. Good thing the rain stayed away too, as Halep, Wawrinka, Federer, Del Potro, Goffin, Cilic, Djokovic, and Svitolina all had to play two matches to get rid of the backlog. Earlier in the day we recapped the remaining Round of 16 matches. Here we will take a look at how those quarterfinal matches panned out.
Aryna Sabalenka stunned Madison Keys and the Cincinnati spectators with her display of all-out power tennis. Sabalenka earned an early break and never once took her foot off the gas. She saved break points with aces, hit a 99 mph second serve ace, and smacked winners at will throughout the match. Keys strikes the ball so beautifully, and hit her fair share of gorgeous groundstrokes, but she struggled to put two or more points together at a time.
The word that comes to mind watching Sabalenka play is audacity: the audacity to attempt such a high and consistent level of baseline power tennis, hitting winners from tough positions, knowing when to pull the trigger, and taking it to an American player so thoroughly on Center Court. And to finally, finally win a match in straight sets. Last night, she told reporters that she would “feel calm and fight, like always, and try to show people my best tennis.” That she certainly did. Tomorrow, she will have to do the same to get past the world number one, Simona Halep, who beat Lesia Tsurenko in straight sets.
Petra Kvitova didn’t exactly steamroll her way into the semifinals, slogging her way through a 2 hour, 42 minute match against Belgian Elise Mertens. This is the same Elise Mertens who caused Sloane Stephens to explode with frustration over relentless defense. Kvitova diagnosed her performance thusly: “I was the second player on the court, which I didn't want. I didn’t really serve well, but luckily, I did have a good second serve.” Kvitova managed to strike her forehand well as the third set wore on, and it earns her a spot in the semis against Kiki Bertens, who took out the fifth seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-3 on the Grandstand.
Milos Raonic put up a fight against Novak Djokovic, snatching the second set on the strength of 10 aces. It feels like Raonic is close to putting it together again after this week, having played a calm, confident match Thursday against Canadian usurper Denis Shapovalov. Raonic strung together good wins at both Indian Wells and Stuttgart, and he’s showing again this week that he is well positioned to beat the best players in the world, even if he blinked against Djokovic in the first and third sets.
Djokovic, for his part, is playing imperfect but professional tennis this week. He hasn’t looked totally comfortable on the hardcourt, but he’s doing what needs to be done, fighting through the errors. Djokovic moves into the semis against Cilic, seeking the only Masters shield he’s failed to win. Although Djokovic leads the career head-to-head 14-2, Cilic has won their last two meetings.
The all-Swiss match-up ended the night session, as unseeded Wawrinka took on (technically) second-seeded Roger Federer. The first set was tight until a slight momentum shift while Stan served 5-6, 15-40 down. Wawrinka saved the first set point with an impeccable forehand down-the-line, and Federer followed with three straight errors to cede the game to Wawrinka. The first-set tiebreak was one-way traffic, with Federer shanking a few backhands and missing a key swinging volley. All this with Wawrinka serving at a pitiable 45 percent through the first set (Federer fared only one percentage point better).
The second set also yielded no breaks of serve, resulting in another tiebreak; again, Federer didn’t face a break point on his serve. In a bit of symmetry with the first set, Federer missed his first two set points in the second set tiebreak. Once Wawrinka evened the tiebreak at 6-6, thunder crashed; Federer managed to win the set before the match was suspended due to lightning. Once the match resumed, the elder Swiss swept through the final set, 6-2, leaving Wawrinka with zero match wins against his compatriot on hardcourts. The head-to-head improves to 21-3.
Elsewhere, David Goffin improved his head-to-head over #4 Juan Martin Del Potro to 3-1. Top seed Simona Halep continues to move on, still not showing many signs of fatigue after winning Montreal. She took out Lesia Tsurenko in straight sets only hours after doing the same to Ashleigh Barty. Finally, Kiki Bertens, a player once known as a clay court specialist, knocks out #5 Elina Svitolina and will face Kvitova in the final four.
2018 Western & Southern Open SFs:
 Halep vs. Sabalenka
 Kvitova vs. Bertens
 Cilic vs  Djokovic
 Federer vs  Goffin