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Djokovic rolls on as US Open men's and women's semi-finals are locked in

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Roar Guru
9th September, 2021
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The semi-finals in both the men’s and women’s draws at the US Open have been confirmed, with Emma Raducanu continuing her dream run by knocking off Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic in straight sets in the quarterfinals on Thursday morning.

From starting her journey at Flushing Meadows in qualifying, the Brit has now won eight matches on the bounce, all of them in straight sets, to become the first qualifier in US Open history to reach the final four.

Raducanu fell behind 1-3 early in the opening set, but then rattled off the next five games in a row to take it 6-3. Another break in the second saw her open up a 4-2 lead, which she would not relinquish.

While serving for the match at 5-4, the 18-year-old fell behind 0-30, but would then claim the next three points, the latter with an ace, to bring up match point, which she converted after Bencic netted a forehand.

She is now the youngest woman since Maria Sharapova in 2005 to reach the final four at Flushing Meadows, and is also the first British woman to do so since Jo Durie in 1983.

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain

(Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

Further, she has now won eight of nine Grand Slam main draw matches she has contested in straight sets, and is yet to lose a match in proper fashion, having been forced to retire in her fourth round match against Ajla Tomljanovic at Wimbledon due to a breathing issue.

In the final four, she will face 17th seed Maria Sakkari, who upset fourth seed Karolina Pliskova in straight sets to advance to her second major semi-final this year, and first at the US Open.

A break in the third game was enough for her to claim the opening set 6-4, while it took her until the seventh game to break in the second for a 4-3 lead; from that point on, the Greek starlet did not look back.

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When trying to serve out the match at 5-4, though, she was pegged to deuce on her serve for the only time in the match, before finally converting on her third match point.

Pliskova’s defeat means we will have a new set of major finalists, from which a new champion is guaranteed. It is the second major this year where we will have a brand new winner, after Barbora Krejcikova saluted at the French Open.

It is also the first time since 2014 that we will have eight different major female finalists in a calendar year.

The other two men’s quarterfinals were also contested on Thursday morning, with Alexander Zverev lining up a blockbuster semi-final against Novak Djokovic after the Olympic gold medallist defeated South African Lloyd Harris in straight sets.

Harris had served for the first set at 5-3, but Zverev broke back then claimed it in a tiebreaker. The German dominated the rest of the match thereafter to reach the final four in the Big Apple for the second consecutive year.

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His hopes of becoming the first major men’s champion from his country since Boris Becker at the 1996 Australian Open now rests on whether he can defeat Novak Djokovic in his semi-final, to be played on Saturday morning.

For the second consecutive major, the Djoker dropped the first set against Berrettini in a set that lasted 77 minutes, but hit back to win in four sets and keep alive his chances of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the Grand Slam calendar sweep.

It is a rematch of their semi-final from the Tokyo Olympics, where the German came from a set and break down to progress to the gold medal match, putting the Serb’s gold medal dreams on hold until at least Paris 2024 (at which, by the way, the tennis tournament will be contested at Roland Garros).

It also means Berrettini will end the Grand Slam year with his only three losses being against Djokovic; he was forced to withdraw from a fourth round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open earlier this year due to an abdominal strain.

Both women’s semi-finals will be played at night on Arthur Ashe Stadium; first up is Leylah Fernandez up against Aryna Sabalenka, followed by Raducanu facing Sakkari, who is the oldest woman left remaining in the draw.

Sabalenka has now assumed outright favouritism for the title, following Pliskova’s quarterfinal loss, and surely this is her golden chance to finally claim a maiden major singles title and join Victoria Azarenka as the only major singles title winners from Belarus.

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But should Fernandez and Raducanu win their respective semi-finals, they will set up the youngest major women’s singles final since the 1999 US Open, when a 17-year-old Serena Williams defeated an 18-year-old Martina Hingis for the first of her 23 (and counting) majors.

Since then, only three teenagers – Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2004, Maria Sharapova in 2006 and Bianca Andreescu in 2019 – have saluted in New York. All three were 19 at the time of their victories.

Fresh off winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, Dylan Alcott also begins his bid to complete a golden calendar slam this morning when he comes up against Bryan Barten in his first match in the quad singles.

His match is third on Court 12.

Matches to watch on Day 11

Arthur Ashe Stadium
Night session – play starts at 7pm (9am AEST)
Leylah Fernandez (CAN) vs [2] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
Emma Raducanu (GBR) vs [17] Maria Sakkari (GRE)

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