The Western and Southern Open owes a debt to the weather gods today as the start of play was delayed only briefly, allowing for the completion of all the round of 16 matches during the day session. Yesterday, we wrote how the rain wreaked havoc on the proceedings, leaving the majority of the field needing to win two singles matches today in order to proceed to the semifinals. The quarterfinal matchups should have been decided after yesterday’s play, but the consistent rain delays resulted in 9 of the 16 would-be quarterfinalists needing to win two matches today to advance to the semifinals.
Del Potro and Kyrgios started the day on the Grandstand. In a match full of blazing serves and unreachable forehands, the two men split tiebreak sets before Del Potro ran away with the third set and the match. Although Kyrgios was defending runner-up points here, a tight loss to Del Potro is nothing be ashamed of. The Aussie seemed more engaged and willing to scramble compared to his first two matches here. It’s remarkable just how much the crowd gives to Kyrgios. On such an intimate court, you can hear and feel the Cincinnati fans pulling hard for Nick to recover from mental lapses. It’s a collective therapy session. It’s obvious that something sets Nick apart from nearly every other player in tennis, and I think it has something to do with his vulnerability and openness, which he often veils with anger and indifference. It’s clear that the crowd is fascinated by him.
While Kyrgios and del Potro got things started on the Grandstand, Simona Halep opened Center Court play against Ash Barty. After being on the losing end of a tight first set, one where she was able to trouble the world number one, Barty broke for 2-0 lead in the 2nd set. But, just like the first set when she broke for an early 3-1 lead, Barty gave the break right back to Halep, and never recovered. Halep, not so fresh off her win in Montreal last week, advanced 7-5 6-4 to the quarterfinals, where she will play Lesia Tsurenko later today.
Stan Wawrinka followed Kyrgios and del Potro on the Grandstand, taking on and taking out Marton Fucsovics in straight sets. Wawrinka, vanquisher of Schwartzman in the first round and Nishikori easily in the second, looks well on his way back to top form after struggling in his return from knee surgery. Fucsovics displayed a variety of crisp, aesthetically pleasing shots in the match, but never really threatened to push Wawrinka outside his comfort zone. With Federer’s 6-1 7-6 win over Leonardo Mayer, the Mason, Ohio faithful will be treated to a 24th all-Swiss meeting between Federer and Wawrinka. The fact that both men will be playing their second match of the day might mitigate the lopsided 20-3 head-to-head in Federer’s favour.
Djokovic and Dimitrov continued their suspended match from the previous night with Djokovic leading 2-1 in the third set. Djokovic had been error-prone through the first half of the match last night, and Dimitrov’s fluid hitting was able to control the match. However, down a break point in set 2, Dimitrov hit the overhead shank heard ‘round the grounds, a veritable Djokosmash directly into the net. Djokovic had scrambled, and he was rewarded. It’s been repeated a hundred times here in Cincinnati, but it turned out to be true: that key error gave Djokovic control of that match and he never let go.
On the tiny Court 4, flanked by a few rows of bleachers on each side, the dream pairing of Konta and Ostapenko battled with doubles perennials Lucie Hradecka and Kate Makarova. Kontapenko is a dynamic and fascinating team to watch; they might lack the advanced tactics of their competitors, but with Ostapenko drilling groundstrokes from the backcourt and Konta nailing volleys, the two are a feast for the eyes. Ostapenko’s famous facial expressions and gestures are on clear display on such a small court; her face betrays every single emotion, but generally was in great spirits throughout the match. After flying through the first set 6-1, Kontapenko lost five straight games and then won five straight games. After losing the second set tiebreak, Hradecka and Makarova imposed their superior doubles skill in the match tiebreak.
One takeaway from that match: the no-ad and match-tiebreak scoring system in doubles clearly favors the more consistent team. When Makarova was in the forecourt, there was very little anyone could do. She pummeled volleys and overheads at will. Small lapses in shot selection or court positioning made such a huge difference here. Fail to convert a tricky volley at net, or hit even one double fault, and Makarova/Hradecka was ready to command control of the entire match.
(10) Djokovic vs Raonic
(13) Carreno Busta vs (7) Cilic
(11) Goffin vs (4) Del Potro
(2) Federer vs Wawrinka
(1) Halep vs Tsurenko
(13) Keys vs Sabalenka
(8) Kvitova vs (15) Mertens
(5) Svitolina vs Bertens