With rain hammering down on the retractable roof on Arthur Ashe making it difficult for the players below to hear the ball on their opponent’s strings, Diego Schwartzman pushed the sixth seeded Alexander Zverev out of the US Open in four sets.
It was tough because I was feeling I had the chance to win this and I had a few break points I could not take. He was up a break and then I recovered really quickly, and I felt great after that. Diego Schwartzman
By the time Rafa Nadal came out on court, the roof was open after the storm which had swept into New York, passed through, much like Nadal himself who dropped a set on his way to eliminating the 2014 US Open champion, Marin Cilic.
The surprise of the day was Schwartzman, the diminutive Argentine who despite standing at 5’7”, can provide his much taller opponents with problems which he duly did when bringing the 6’6” Zverev down.
The 22-year-old German looked to have broken his jinx at Flushing Meadows when he made the fourth round for the first time on his fifth appearance at the Big Apple, strolling through the opening set but then was outplayed by a very determined 20th seeded South American with a big heart, who inflicted a 3-6 6-2 6-4 6-3 defeat on his higher seeded opponent.
Zverev delivered 17 double faults coupled with 65 unforced errors and received a point penalty for swearing as Schwartzman advanced to his second US Open quarter-final in three years.
“Generally my season so far has not been the best,” said Zverev, who has reached just two quarter-finals in 18 Grand Slam appearances revealing he had been suffering with a ‘very swollen’ back and right hip following a fall during his four set third round win against Aljaz Bedene.
“I had a lot of chances which I didn’t use early in the match. He kind of ran away with it,” the young German added.
Zverev lost his serve three times during the second set but appeared to have steadied himself when he moved a break ahead at 3-2 in the third, only for Schwartzman to wrest the momentum back after a lengthy sixth game.
“It was tough because I was feeling I had the chance to win this and I had a few break points I could not take,” Schwartzman said. “He was up a break and then I recovered really quickly, and I felt great after that.”
Nadal, who will face Schwartzman for a semi-final place, commented on their forthcoming match following his own four set win to reach that stage.
“It will be a big challenge. I have to play my best. I’m happy for him. He’s a close friend and I hope to play a great match,” he said of the South American.
Nadal has not been pressed so far having cruised through the first three rounds without dropping a set and receiving a walkover.
The second seed – a three-time winner at Flushing Meadows (2010, 2013 and 2017) – was in brilliant form to end the run of the Croatian 22nd seed Cilic, 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-2 in what was his stiffest challenge so far at this year’s event.
The Mallorcan exchanged the first two sets with Cilic but grasped control by breaking for 3-1 in the third with a series of dazzling winners.
Nadal reeled off nine games in succession across the third and fourth sets and 12 of the final 15 to nail down a 40th Grand Slam quarter-final appearance, nine of which have come at the US Open.
“The emotions I have when I play here are impossible to describe. I love the sport and feel very lucky to still be playing tennis here. Eight years ago I didn’t think that would happen as my body was suffering badly,” Nadal said.
“It’s a huge honour playing in front of all of you and playing in front of Tiger (Woods) is a very special thing. I always say I don’t have big idols, but one idol is him and I always try to follow him.”
And Woods’ support throughout the match was very evident, coming to his feet in admiration following one particular shot which brought up match point and which has been described as ‘insane’.
Cilic appeared to have sewn up the point with a precise backhand volley, but Nadal somehow tracked it down before hitting a forehand around the net from virtually the front row, landing it in the corner of his opponent’s court.
Fans leapt to their feet in a standing ovation.
“It’s easy to describe and difficult to make!” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “I followed the ball and it was a good volley. I ran fast and saw at the last moment a small space and it was the only way to win the point.
“I hit that one well but of course, you need some luck.”
As already mentioned, he can expect a tougher match against Schwartzman as he chases his fourth US Open title for his 19th Grand Slam overall.
“He is playing amazing, nothing new, he’s one of the players with best talent on tour,” the world No.2 said of his upcoming opponent.
The final quarter-final pitches Matteo Berrettini against Gael Monfils.
Berrettini became the second Italian male to progress to the last eight following Corrado Barazzutti’s run to the last four in New York 42 years ago.
Berrettini, the 24th seed, eased to a 6-1 6-4 7-6(6) win over Russia’s 43rd-ranked Andrey Rublev to reach the last eight at a Grand Slam for the first time.
“It’s something really crazy. I cannot believe it right now. I need a few hours to understand what happened,” said the 23-year-old Berrettini, 23 who also reached the last 16 at Wimbledon. “I’m just happy. Seeing my team and family here and crying for me it’s unbelievable.”
Monfils, his next opponent who reached semi-final in 2016, crushed the 33-year-old Spaniard Pablo Andujar who was bidding to become the oldest player in the Open era to reach his first Grand Slam singles quarter-final, 6-1 6-2 6-2.