While all eyes here have been focused on Serena Williams and her march to the completion of a Grand Slam, the men’s side of the U.S. Open tennis tournament is also heading toward some interesting finishes.
Novak Djokovic, top-seeded and in pursuit of a third major title this year (Australian Open and Wimbledon), battled past Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut on Sunday night, winning, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. He had not dropped a set in the tournament until he faced Bautista Agut.
Bautista Agut, seeded 23rd, gave Djokovic a tough battle. The match took 3 hours 3 minutes. Djokovic hit 42 winners and won 130 points, 20 more than Bautista Agut.
The win put Djokovic into the quarterfinals, opposite 33-year-old Feliciano Lopez, the hard-serving, 18th-seeded Spaniard who barely survived his second-rounder against a retiring Mardy Fish and told Fish afterward that he had deserved to win.
Lopez beat the man who had the tournament buzzing after he conquered Rafael Nadal in that late night Friday-to-Saturday marathon. That was Fabio Fognini of Italy, who hit an incredible 70 winners and handed Nadal only his third loss in five years here.
This time, it was Lopez, one of the last remaining serve-and-volleyers, doing the dominating. He beat Fognini, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-1, and was successful on 35 of 43 of his net rushes.
Lopez said he had watched the Fognini-Nadal match and said, “I was thinking about him playing this way against me, and I was scared.”
Against Lopez, Fognini was less scary. He hit 28 winners, but also had 40 unforced errors. The Italian admitted to being a bit drained by his match with Nadal, which ended at 1:26 a.m. Saturday.
“For sure, today I was much more tired than yesterday.…Tonight and this morning, I wake up really, really not bad, but bad sensation. I was feeling my shoulder, my knee, everything, almost,” he said.
Lopez has a good veteran’s perspective on his match against the world’s No. 1.
“When Novak plays good,” he said, “you don’t know what to do, to be honest.”
Also waiting for a semifinal shot is last year’s champion, Marin Cilic of Croatia, who sailed through to another victory.
Cilic made his way into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory over Jeremy Chardy of France. That included a tiebreaker assault that had to bring Chardy to his knees. In that tiebreaker, Cilic hit four of his match-total 23 aces.
“I found really great rhythm on my serve there,” Cilic said, stating the obvious.
He also said that, as defending champion, he is feeling differently than he does in other tournaments. “I just feel more relaxed … just feeling really, really good on the court.”
Cilic will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who had a relatively easy time with fellow Frenchman Benoit Paire. Tsonga, seeded 19th, beat the unseeded Paire, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
That victory put Tsonga in the quarterfinals for the first time here since 2011. His best major finish has been his loss in the 2008 Australian final to Djokovic.
Canada’s 25th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard defaulted out of her fourth-round match with Italy’s Roberta Vinci on Sunday because of a concussion. She had fallen in the locker room Friday and hit her head.… U.S. men’s player Taylor Fritz of Rancho Santa Fe, ranked No. 1 in the world in the boys’ juniors, won his first-round junior tournament match here Sunday, just two weeks after he turned pro. He said he hopes to begin playing Challenger events with wild cards as soon as possible after this, probably his final junior event. He said that had he decided to play a year in college, it would have been at USC.