The hopes of America seeing one of their own reach the US Open final were dashed when their last representative in the men’s draw crashed out at the quarter-final stage in what was a battle between two giants with huge serves.
Kevin Anderson, the 6’8” South African, downed 6’6” local hope Sam Querrey 7-6(5) 6-7(9) 6-3 7-6(7) to reach his first grand slam semi-final where he faces Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, also making his debut at the same stage of a grand slam.
Losing the second set was really tough but I played each point at a time and it paid big dividends for me today, Against him, it's just a couple of points here or there. Kevin Anderson
As the result shows it was battle of servers with the 17th seeded Querrey handing the initiative to Anderson when he dropped the first set tie-breaker by losing five points in a row under the lights of the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
With neither player able to break serve in the first set, the favourite to progress looked set to do just that when he led 5-2 in the tie-breaker only for Anderson to open his shoulders to snatch the set.
There was an early exchange of breaks in the second set only for Querrey to suffer another meltdown when leading 6-1 in the inevitable tie-break but this time picked himself up to level the match on his eighth set point to raise the hopes of the crowd looking to see an American in the last four for the first time since Andy Roddick in 2006.
In the third Anderson regained the initiative gaining a decisive break in the sixth game as Querrey struggled with his first serve. He held that break and finished off the set with a blistering forehand down the line to take a two sets to one lead.
The fourth set was tightly contested and for a third time, a tie-break was required to separate the two players.
Querrey saved a first match point with an ace at 6-5, set up a set point at 7-6, which Anderson held off by forcing his opponent to slice a backhand into the net.
The second match point was good enough for the 31-year-old 28th seeded Anderson, who dominated the rally until Querrey’s forehand sailed long just before 2am Wednesday morning.
After nearly three and a half hours of play, Anderson finished with 22 aces to Querrey’s 20.
“This is incredible, at this stage and playing on one of the most famous courts in the world, it feels absolutely fantastic,” said Anderson, who became the first South African player to reach the last four of the US Open since tennis turned professional in 1968.
“Losing the second set was really tough but I played each point at a time and it paid big dividends for me today,” Anderson, playing his 34th major, said. “Against him, it’s just a couple of points here or there.”
“I’ve put in a lot of work, so it feels good to reach a milestone I haven’t before.”
Remembering his loss to Querrey at Wimbledon last July, he added: “Tonight was my night.”
Anderson will take on 12th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta who earlier in the day was the first to gain a place in the semi-finals following a straightforward 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory over Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, the 29th seed.
The Spaniard’s passage into the last eight had been relatively easy as he faced a qualifier in each of his matches before facing the diminutive Argentine, and in the process never dropped a set. In fact, he became the first player to face four qualifiers at a grand slam in the Open era and kept that record intact in his quarter-final clash.
“It is something that I always dreamed [of],” Carreno Busta said upon reaching his first major final.
“Of course, I know that I have a good draw here,” the Spaniard, who beat Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov in three tiebreakers in round four, added.
“But when you have this draw, you have to do your best to take advantage, so I think that is a really good tournament for me. I know that I didn’t win matches against top players, top-10 or top-20 players, but I am very happy with my tournament.”
This was Carreno Busta’s second appearance at the quarter-finals stage of a grand slam having made the last eight at this year’s Roland Garros where he had to retire with abdominal problems while playing the eventual champion Rafa Nadal. He then missed Wimbledon.
This time he had no problems forcing the play by stepping into the court during rallies keeping Schartzman continually on the defensive well behind the baseline.
The only consolation for a disappointed Schwarzman is that at 5’7” he becomes the shortest quarterfinalist at a grand slam tournament since Jaime Yzaga at the 1994 US Open who was the same height. Had he been successful, the Argentine would have been the shortest semi-finalist in a major since 5’6” Harold Solomon at the 1980 French Open!