New York | Murray & Skupski lose doubles semi-final
Jamie Murray & Neal Skupski were beaten by top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah in the semi-finals of the men’s doubles at the US Open on Thursday in tiebreak sets, in a 7-6(5) 7-6(8).
It's frustrating to be that close to the final, losing by such a close margin, but it's been a good tournament. We played some good tennis, 5 good matches, so it bodes well for us going forward Jamie Murray
The Colombian pair won the Wimbledon title earlier this year.
The match featured just 3 break opportunities that neither team could convert, while Murray & Skupski made just 6 total unforced errors…and still lost the match.
“It was a close match, no breaks of serve, not many break points either,” said Murray. “I guess we just didn’t make enough good returns at the right time and ended up losing.
“It’s frustrating to be that close to the final, losing by such a close margin, but it’s been a good tournament.
“We played some good tennis, 5 good matches, so it bodes well for us going forward.”
Farah said on court after his match: ”You’re playing against the best in the world here. Jamie [Murray] has won this tournament before, so he knows the way.
“So you have to bring your best to beat these teams, and you gotta give your 100 percent. Thankfully everything went our way this time.”
The Colombian team have had a blistering year at the majors, making it to the French Open semi-finals, in addition to their Wimbledon victory in July.
They were also US Open semi-finalists in 2018, losing to eventual champions Mike Bryan & Jack Sock in 3 sets.
This will be the first Grand Slam final for Zeballos and third for Granollers, who has previously made the French Open and US Open finals in 2014 with then-partner Marc Lopez.
“We are really enjoying this moment, one of the best moments of our career,” Zeballos said after the match. “I don’t want to wake up.”
Jamie Murray’s tournament is not over yet, though, as he still has the mixed doubles final to play alongside American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The defending champions face top seeds Chan Hao-ching & Michael Venus on Saturday.
In the other semi-final, No 8 seeds Marcel Granollers & Horacio Zeballos defeated the reigning French Open men’s doubles champions, No 12 seeds and German pairing Andreas Mies & Kevin Krawietz, to advance after a match that featured just one break point opportunity, which the German team was not able to convert.
On the women’s side, things shook out a little differently.
Victoria Azarenka & Ashleigh Barty put on a dominant performance in their semi-final match to defeat Aliaksandra Sasnovich & Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-0 6-1 in just 56 minutes.
In the second point of the second set, Sasnovich & Kuzmova looked in total control and kept pounding balls toward Azarenka at the net, pushing the Belarusian back to the baseline, but then hit a short ball to her, and the Belarusian charged forward to return it for a winner.
“Vika [Azarenka] is such a champion,” Barty said after the match. “I’m glad she’s on my side of the court.”
For Azarenka, the win was particularly satisfying.
“Every year is different,” she said, when asked if the team relied on their previous Grand Slam titles – Azarenka has 2 Australian Open singles titles, and Barty won the French Open earlier this year, plus the doubles title at the US Open last year with CoCo Vandeweghe – to propel them to victory.
“Every step in our careers is different. For me, it’s gonna be my first Grand Slam final as a mom, so it’s extra special.”
Meanwhile, Barty has been fending off armchair critics who question her motives in playing doubles at all.
Already guaranteed to regain her world No 1 singles ranking after the US Open and eyeing rare back-to-back doubles crowns in New York, Barty hit back at social media trolls and tennis experts who questioned her decision to compete in doubles at the season’s final major while being a serious singles contender.
“You love that Ash Barty plays doubles (with @vika7 no less)….you love less that she is the No 2 seed and is spending her ‘off’ day winning a 2x (second-round) match that just ended 12-10 in a third-set tiebreaker,” Tennis Channel analyst Jon Wertheim tweeted after her fourth-round singles exit.
Barty offered short shrift after taking a giant stride towards becoming the first woman since Nathalie Dechy in 2006-07 to successfully defend her US Open doubles title.
“There are a lot of experts out in the world. There are a lot of people who think they know my team and my body and my decision and my thinking,” Barty told AAP.
“But, at the end of the day, it’s my career and I certainly don’t really take notice of that. They’re not people I’m worried about.
“I’m here enjoying my time playing singles and doubles – I don’t do it every week – but the weeks that we do, I think we’ve certainly made the most of it.”
Azarenka, also a former World No 1 but chasing a first grand slam doubles trophy, also leapt to Barty’s defence.
“That’s why they’re called trolls,” the Belarusian said.
Champion last year with Coco Vandeweghe, Barty said it was ‘really cool’ to earn another crack at Grand Slam glory.
“The best part of this fortnight is Vika and I have played some really good tennis at times and it’s only going to help our singles as well,” she said.
“I feel like I’m in a great place off the court and enjoying myself on the court.”
in Sunday’s final, Barty & Azarenka will meet either Elise Mertens & Aryna Sabalenka or Vania King & Caroline Dolehide, who play their semi on Friday.
It will be Barty’s 3rd doubles final at Flushing Meadows after she lost the 2013 showpiece with fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua.
Barty, who will reclaim the top singles ranking on Monday from Naomi Osaka, is also poised to become the only player to qualify for this year’s season-ending championships in both disciplines.
Already the first, and to date, only player to seal her singles entry, 23-year-old Barty & Azarenka will also climb into the top 8 in the 2019 Race to Shenzhen in doubles if they win the US Open.
The No 8 seeds dropped justthe one game against Kuzmova & Sasnovich, dominating from the outset, saving all 4 break points faced and combining for 18 winners en route to their victory.
“I think it was certainly, from start to end, really clean,” Barty said in the pair’s post-match press conference.
“I think we got out of some really tricky games early on, and played a great level overall. There wasn’t really anything that we weren’t happy about.
“I mean, Vika was exceptional today,” Barty added with a grin. “I was happy to just sit back there and go along with the ride.”
The pair has been a regular threat in doubles draws all year since joining forces at the Australian Open, and lifted their first trophy together at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
They also made semifinal runs at Miami and Toronto.
At the US Open, the pair needed a couple of matches to find their feet in their opening two rounds, coming back from a set down to oust Monica Niculescu & Margarita Gasparian, 4-6 6-1 6-1 in their opener and then escaping in a third-set tiebreak against Nadiia Kichenok & Abigail Spears, 6-3 3-6 7-6(10).
They found another level to oust the rising American duo of Coco Gauff & Caty McNally, 6-0 6-1 in the round of 16, before facing down their biggest test of the tournament to defeat No 1 seeds Kristina Mladenovic & Timea Babos, 2-6 7-5 6-1.
With both players’ singles campaigns over – Barty fell to an on-fire Wang Qiang in straight sets in the fourth round, while Azarenka lost out to countrywoman Aryna Sabalenka in her opening match – the pair have been able to focus all of their attention on the doubles, a move that Barty said will improve their singles game.
“Obviously, coming in where singles is the priority, being able to do really well in doubles as well and enjoy our time, play some really good tennis – I think has been the best part about this fortnight,” Barty said.
“Vika and I have played some really good tennis at times, and it’s only going to help our singles as well.”
For Azarenka, Sunday’s final will give her a chance to earn a first Grand Slam women’s doubles title after previously taking home trophies in singles and mixed, as well as her first Grand Slam title since becoming a mom in 2016.
“I haven’t had a title in doubles yet, a Grand Slam title. So it’s very cool for me and amazing opportunity,” she acknowledged.
“This whole almost two weeks I’ve been having a lot of fun on the court, and I feel like with every match we’re getting better and better.
“I mean, you can’t ever underestimate being in a Grand Slam final. I think as a tennis player, that’s what you dream of. If it’s singles, of course, it’s always a priority but being in a doubles final is extra special. I feel very lucky to do that.”