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Game-by-game: Aryna Sabalenka beat Karolina Pliskova 6-1, 7-6 (4) but who will make it through to the semi-finals in the men’s singles? Join Niall McVeigh.
That crunch Alcaraz v Sinner match is coming up in the evening session, after Iga Swiatek takes on Jessica Pegula. That’s some prime-time tennis, right there – and you can follow it with us, live!
Frances Tiafoe speaks to James Blake: “Coming back from the biggest win of my life [against Nadal] was tough, and Andrey is such a great player … I find a way somehow on this court! Let’s enjoy this guys, we got two more [matches] …”
Tiafoe will face Carlos Alcaraz or Jannik Sinner in the semi-final. “Hope it’s a late night!” he jokes. “I’ll be watching with my feet up.” He’s the first American to reach the men’s US Open semis since Roddick, some 16 years ago – and celebrates by having a dance on court.
Now, Tiafoe has a word with Greg Rusedski. “It’s the mental side, just backing myself. Winning matches consistently, trusting the process. I got a lot of tools in the tool bag, Wayne [Ferreira] helps me to exploit my opponents’ weaknesses.”
Does he believe he can win the tournament? “Yes I do. We’re all first timers [left in the draw] so anyone can win it.”
Frances Tiafoe beats Andrey Rublev 7-6 (4), 7-6 (0), 6-4!
Rublev gets a look at the Tiafoe second serve, but sends his return a mile long. He’s in a full tail spin now, two more (admittedly narrow) misses handing Tiafoe three match points. He converts the first with a booming ace down the middle! Nerves? What nerves?
Third set: Rublev 6-7, 6-7, 4-5 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Rublev has to clear the red mist somehow, and make Tiafoe at least serve this out. At 30-all, Tiafoe snatches at a half-chance, and whips a forehand beyond the baseline. Rublev holds – now it’s time for Tiafoe to get the job done.
Third set: Rublev 6-7, 6-7, *3-5 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Perhaps it’s not all over – a couple of nervous shots present Rublev with the chance to break straight back. Tiafoe floats his second serve on to the line, Rublev misses the return and hurls his racket to the ground.
He gets another chance as Tiafoe gets long, though. Second serve – and Tiafoe produces another pinpoint drop-volley! You can see the self-belief draining from Rublev, and an ace seals the hold.
Third set: Rublev 6-7, 6-7, 3-4 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Tiafoe’s first-serve percentage is well below-par – seven of 17 landing in during this set – but Rublev can’t punish him. Tiafoe has done a better job on second serve, and he slides into the net to move 15-30 up.
Rublev digs in again, outlasting his opponent in the next rally – but a dismal forehand into the net brings up break point. And this time he takes it – his volley is a little loose, but Rublev could not steer his passing shot inside the line.
Third set: *Rublev 6-7, 6-7, 3-3 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) A good start here, opening up on the forehand on his way to 30-all. Second serve, wafted back into the net by Rublev, who drops to his knees. Another loose shot just misses the line, and we stay on serve.
Third set: Rublev 6-7, 6-7, 3-2 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Rublev fires down another pair of aces in a hold to love. But can he get anything going on the Tiafoe serve?
Third set: *Rublev 6-7, 6-7, 2-2 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Rublev is in frequent conversation with his coaches, but is mainly complaining that his opponent has had all the luck so far. You could surmise that from the scoreboard, but you could also argue Rublev is lucky not to be further behind.
Tiafoe canters to a 40-15 lead then hits a stumbling block with three faults in succession. On second serve, Rublev angles his return across court, but Tiafoe gets across to send a winner up the line.
Third set: Rublev 6-7, 6-7, 2-1 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Tiafoe has stuck with the tactics that saw him dominate the tie break, and he races on to Rublev’s second serve to set up two break points …
Rublev saves one with a fine serve out wide, before a pair of nervy unforced errors from Tiafoe let Rublev off the hook. A missed chance for the American, but credit to his opponent for digging out the hold.
Third set: Rublev 6-7, 6-7, 1-0 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Rublev returns after eight minutes off court; he hasn’t dropped his serve yet, but is in a deep hole now at two sets down. He cranks through the opening game here as we approach the two-hour mark.
Rublev leaves the court for a break, looking completely discombobulated. He won’t give in yet, but it’s hard to envisage a five-set comeback against a player on home turf, and in the form of his life.
Tiafoe wins the second set 7-6 (7-0), leads 2-0! The players change ends, and on second serve, Tiafoe smashes the cross-court return away. That was extraordinary – I can’t recall a more dominant tie-break performance than that.
Second-set tie-break: Rublev 0-6 Tiafoe Frances Tiafoe is yet to lose a tie-break in this tournament; now is not the time to start. An attacking cross-court backhand helps him go 2-0 up, and a quite brilliant drop shot puts him in total control!
Tiafoe crashes in another two aces, and Rublev is cracking his racket against his knee in frustration. Another exquisitive half-volley, and that’s six set points for Tiafoe!
Second set: Rublev 6-7, 6-6 Tiafoe Rublev strikes with a lovely serve-forehand combo, but can do nothing about Tiafoe’s ferocious return on the next point. Tiafoe fluffs a couple of chances to do more damage, though, and it’s tie-break No 2!
Second set: *Rublev 6-7, 5-6 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Rublev mistimes his return off the Tiafoe second serve, and from then on it’s never in doubt, a crunching forehand and cross-court volley keeping Tiafoe in front.
Second set: Rublev 6-7, 5-5 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Tiafoe has seemed reluctant to go into the net in this set, staying back here to try an over-ambitious passing shot that is well wide. Rublev is still doing enough on his serve to keep his opponent at arm’s length.
Second set: *Rublev 6-7, 4-5 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) What’s interesting about the dominant serve so far is that neither player is getting a huge amount of first serves in (Rublev 55%, Tiafoe 51%). But when they do, they’re winning the points – and both are doing well on second serve, too.
At 30-all, a rare half-chance for Rublev here, and despite a 134mph ace, the Russian wins the next rally. Another ace, out wide this time, and Tiafoe holds on as Rublev loops a forehand long.
Second set: Rublev 6-7, 4-4 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) It’s … a Rublev hold.
Second set: *Rublev 6-7, 3-4 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) The last American man to win the US Open, Andy Roddick, is also in attendance. If Tiafoe is feeling any pressure, he doesn’t show it here – holding with minimal fuss.
Second set: Rublev 6-7, 3-3 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Tiafoe steps into the Rublev serve here, and gets some joy, with a punchy return winner helping him to 30-all. But Rublev lashes a couple of big serves down the middle, and the chance has gone.
Second set: *Rublev 6-7, 2-3 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Tiafoe still controlling the longer points, another crafty cross-court winner the highlight of another comfortable hold. Only one point won against the serve in this set so far – Rublev in the third game.
The legendary Neil Sedaka is watching on from the stands – here’s a classic of his, from 1959!
Second set: Rublev 6-7, 2-2* Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Rublev is yet to find a way to consistently trouble Tiafoe on serve – if the American can make any in-roads, he could take control of the match. It’s not happening here, though, a couple of over-eager returns landing in the net.
Second set: *Rublev 6-7, 1-2 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Both players have something of a weakness on second serve, and Rublev pounces on a slow Tiafoe effort to punch a winner away. That’s about as good as it gets for him, though, as Tiafoe keeps mixing it up nicely. He holds to 15.
Second set: Rublev 6-7, 1-1 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Rublev is still not enjoying himself out there, but he powers through this game to get on the board in the second set.
Second set: *Rublev 6-7, 0-1 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Tiafoe absolutely took that tie-break away from his opponent, and follows up with a crunching hold to love.
First-set tie-break: Rublev 2-4 Tiafoe Rublev’s slow second serve is eaten up by Tiafoe, and the Russian lets out a yell of frustration as his opponent picks up the next point. Rublev adjusts to a net cord well to pick a winner down the line, but Tiafoe’s topspin-heavy forehand keeps him two clear at the change of ends.
First set: Rublev 6-6 Tiafoe Tiafoe’s turn to feel the pressure now, a couple of cheap mistakes leaving him in trouble at 30-all. On second serve, Rublev is able to unload, big forehands earning set point.
A stinging cross-court shot from Tiafoe saves it, and he follows up with an ace. Rublev sends a forehand wide, and we go to a tie-break!
First set: Rublev 6-5 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Tiafoe warms up the crowd with more finesse at the net, but he misses a backhand chance on Rublev’s second serve. An ace, but then another readable second serve dispatched by Tiafoe.
Break point – but an ambitious cross-court effort hits the net, and Tiafoe’s hands let him down as a volley loops wide. Rublev’s second serve delivers when he needs it, and an ace seals the hold. A missed opportunity for Tiafoe.
First set: *Rublev 5-5 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) The more Tiafoe can engage Rublev at the net, the better for him – although he follows up a silky drop shot with a thunderous ace. A tie-break surely awaits.
Tumaini Carayol was courtside as Aryna Sabalenka powered into the semi-finals:
First set: *Rublev 4-4 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) A morale-boosting service hold for Tiafoe, capped with an elegant cross-court volley. The American allows himself a smile.
First set: *Rublev 4-3 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) As we saw earlier, a game can stay on serve without being particularly even – and Rublev is eager to maintain his edge in this first set with a quick service hold. He gets it, pounding down a pair of aces to do so.
First set: *Rublev 3-3 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) It’s been an interesting run for Rublev in this tournament – two absolute marathons, against Laslo Djere and Denis Shapovalov, and two quickfire three-set wins over Cam Norrie and Kwon Soon-woo.
He gets a first glimpse of a chance at deuce on the Tiafoe serve, his opponent wafting a shot into the net – the American’s unforced error count creeping up to nine. There’s then a moment of confusion as the umpire declares a break point to Rublev – but Tiafoe’s volley clipped the line. In the end, an ace keeps us on serve.
First set: Rublev 3-2 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Rublev leaves far too big a gap down the line for Tiafoe to land a backhand winner, but an ace out wide gets the Russian back in the game. Tiafoe almost sweeps his next return inside the baseline, before a forehand down the line from Rublev keeps us on serve.
First set: Rublev 2-1 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Tiafoe has settled quicker, and he meets Rublev’s serve on the rise, steering it back across court to go 0-30 up. A half-chance to break – but Rublev closes the door quickly, firing in first serves to turn the game around.
First set: *Rublev 1-1 Tiafoe (*denotes next server) Tiafor cruises to 40-0, before a double fault stalls his momentum and Rublev gets the better of the next rally. Tiafoe then follows in his first serve smartly to get his first game on the board.
First set: Rublev 1-0 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server) Rublev to open things up, and Tiafoe gets a half-chance at 30-all, but can’t steer his shot clear of the net cord.
Second set: *Pliskova 1-6, 5-6 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Pliskova is curiously unwilling to cover the middle of the court, where Sabalenka has sent 80% of her first serves so far. When she does, Sabalenka produces a fine, dipping cross-court volley. A hold to 15 – are we heading for a tie-break here?
Both players are out warming up – but there’s going to be a delay while the roof is closed. Tiafoe heads off for a brief moment, while Rublev practises his serve.
The roof closing, and the atmosphere building, has to be a positive for Tiafoe – and Greg Rusedski is backing the American to win. Tim Henman, on the other hand, is backing Rublev. But what do you think?
Aryna Sabalenka beats Karolina Pliskova 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)!
When the last American man to win a grand slam, Andy Roddick, lifted the US Open in 2003, Frances Tiafoe’s family were living in a tiny converted office at a tennis centre in Washington DC. It’s been an incredible journey for the home hopeful, as Bryan Graham reports.
After a thoroughly entertaining first act, it’s time for part two – Andrey Rublev v Frances Tiafoe, coming up very soon.
Pliskova will look back and rue making such a poor start – she was growing into the match, but ran out of chances. As for Sabalenka, she looks a real contender for the title.
“The first set, I put a lot of pressure on her – I expected her to come back in the second. I’m very happy to win, and play at that level. On second serves, I was going for it. I have to trust myself. The semi-final will be tough, but I’m ready for it and I’ll do my best.”
Sabalenka speaks! “I was expecting a really tough match, and I just tried to stay in it, she played really well.” Gracious, but not entirely accurate. She also talks about how her retooled serve has helped her, and is ready for “a great battle” against either Iga Swiatek or Jessica Pegula.
The No 6 seed also thanks the crowd on Ashe, who she credits for helping her produce her longest winning streak since last year’s tournament. She was the highest seed in the semi-finals in 2021 – but we all know what happened next.
Second set tie-break: Pliskova 3-6 Sabalenka Sabalenka pounds a return down the line, then finishes the point with a delicate drop shot. She’s two service points away – but Pliskova claws one back after winning a rare net battle. On second serve, she dominates the point, a forehand winner earning three match points …
Second set tie-break: Pliskova 2-4 Sabalenka Both of these players have winning tie-break records this year, but Sabalenka makes the better start here, taking the first two points. Pliskova hits back with a big first serve, and levels things up when Sabalenka gets underneath a backhand. On second serve, Sabalenka smashes a 103mph ace out wide (!) and leads at the changeover as Pliskova fails to steer a backhand into the corner.
Second set: Pliskova 1-6, 6-6 Sabalenka Oof, Pliskova comes to the net on the first point, and is caught cold by a pinpoint lob. Another ferocious Sabalenka return makes it 30-all, but Pliskova pulls off a risky, cross-court slice and then prevails in the next rally. Tie-break time!
Second set: Pliskova 1-6, 5-5 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server) So, both players battle back to hold serve, in what’s been a far more competitive second set. Pliskova is now serving to stay in the match, but you wouldn’t know it. She cruises through it, clinical first serves forcing her opponent to take a few wild swings.
First set: *Pliskova 1-5 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Sabalenka has suffered issues with her serve in the past, but when it’s firing – as it certainly is so far today – it’s hard to stop. She powers through this service hold, and the first set is in sight.
Second set: *Pliskova 1-6, 4-5 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Pliskova has shown grit under pressure on serve, but is yet to even create a break point – and Sabalenka quickly moves 40-15 ahead here. But two consecutive mistimed forehands hint at nerves, and we go to deuce. A mighty second serve, then a drilled forehand, get the job done.
Second set: Pliskova 1-6, 4-4 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server) Worrying moments for Pliskova as she slips 0-30 down – and Sabalenka misses a chance to bury a winner down the line. Pliskova rallies to 30-all, but a weak second serve is punished mercilessly. Break point – but Pliskova finds her service accuracy again when she really needs it, and digs out the hold as Azarenka sends a backhand long!
Second set: *Pliskova 1-6, 3-4 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Pliskova has hung on gamely in this set, and now she applies pressure of her own, returning a second serve with interest to move 0-30 ahead. Sabalenka finds a 117mph ace, then switches things up and goes wide – it gets the job done, and she sees off the threat.
Second set: *Pliskova 1-6, 2-3 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Aside from one spectacular mishit that flies into the upper tiers, this is plain sailing for Sabalenka, and she finishes the game off with a clinical, crouching backhand into the corner.
Second set: Pliskova 1-6, 2-2 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server) Pliskova races to 40-0, but then produces a sixth double fault of the match, and a weary backhand finds only the net. But just as Sabalenka senses an opportunity to dial up the hurt, she nets a backhand of her own.
Second set: *Pliskova 1-6, 1-2 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Sabalenka’s shot placement has been excellent so far – close to the baseline, she’s giving Pliskova no room to manoeuvre. When Pliskova can keep the ball in play, she’s hitting it short, allowing her opponent the time and space to hit winners.
Second set: Pliskova 1-6, 1-1 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server) Pliskova has to dig in here, and she makes a much better start to this set, serving out to love.
Second set: *Pliskova 1-6, 0-1 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Sabalenka fires down two aces on her way to an opening hold. Pliskova yet to make any real in-roads on her opponent’s serve.
First set: *Pliskova 0-4 Sabalenka (*denotes next server) Sabalenka cranks up the volume as she powers down a serve, then despatches a volleyed winner on the way to a 4-0 lead. Pliskova has no winners, and 10 unforced errors, so far.
First set: Pliskova 0-3 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server) Karolina Pliskova in early trouble, then – but she’s come from a set down in her last two matches, against Victoria Azarenka and Belinda Bencic. She is having real trouble getting her serve going – a third double of the match, and a slow second serve, hand Sabalenka another two break points. On the second, she squeezes her return over the net and Pliskova puts her volley wide. Double break!
First set: Pliskova 0-1 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server) The ideal start for Aryna Sabalenka, as Pliskova double-faults on the first point of an error-strewn opening service game.
Tok! Tok! Tok! Our first two quarter-finalists are out on court and warming up.
Pliskova and Sabalenka should be on court any minute now – we’re just taking a look at Rublev and Tiafoe, who were out practising on Ashe at the same time earlier on. Is that usually how it’s done? Seems unusual to be so close to your opponent.
I stayed up far too late to watch the end of this match last night, as Karen Khachanov booked his first grand slam semi-final. If he can play like this more consistently, there will surely be many more:
Hello. It’s been a terrific, wildly unpredictable US Open so far and today’s quarter-final line-up promises more of the same. The late session sees Iga Swiatek take on Jessica Pegula, and Carlos Alcaraz square up to Jannik Sinner – but first, another pair of match-ups that look impossible to call.
Frances Tiafoe, conqueror of Rafa Nadal, is bidding to maintain his new-found momentum against Andrey Rublev, who ended Cam Norrie’s hopes with ominous ease in the last round. Both players have the talent to go all the way to the final; neither has ever reached the semi-final at a grand slam.
Before that, it’s Karolina Pliskova v Aryna Sabalenka – two mainstays at the very top of the women’s game, somehow still without a grand slam title between them. Both players fought from a set down in the fourth round; their head-to-head record stands at 2-2. There’s no point trying to predict the outcome, but it should be fun finding out.