US Open: Of Anderson, Andy, Amelie and Aaron

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KEVIN ADVANCES TO US OPEN QUARTERS

By Bill Simons

Somewhere in France a young mother was worrying. Amelie Mauresmo – on maternity leave from being Andy Murray‘s coach – had to be concerned that Andy’s run in the US Open was again in deep trouble.

The No. 15 seed Kevin Anderson was playing with aggression. Volleying with confidence, regrouping with surprising ease and even winning startling scramble points against the faster Murray, as he raced to a 7-6(5), 6-3 lead.

But not to worry. Hasn’t players coming from two sets down been a snappy theme at this year’s Open?

Donald Young pulled it off twice, and Italian Fabio Fognini did it against Rafa Nadal in the most electric match of this Open.

Plus, Murray is a tenacious fighter who has come back eight times from two sets down to win. He’s had a sublime summer. He sent a message to Novak Djokovic by winning the Canadian Open, and he reached the Cincinnati final.

And we have been to this rodeo before.

Kevin Anderson had an impressive two-set lead against another elite player, Mr. Djokovic, in the fourth round at Wimbledon, only to falter. Seven times the South African had reached the fourth round of a Slam. Each time he had lost. In contrast, Andy had reached 18 straight quarterfinals.

So, as if on cue, Andy counterattacked. Louis Armstrong Stadium rocked loud. This was far from Wimbledon’s oh-so-civil Centre Court, where fans squeal and plead “C’mon Andy.” How sweet. This raucous was New Yawk, New Yawk, baby, at night. Anderson went to the University of Illinois and lives in Florida. But forget it. Americans roared in unison for the Brit: “Let’s go, Andy!”

He did. Striking a backhand winner and taking advantage of a net cord, Murray captured the third set tie-break, 7-2.

Now, certainly the No. 3 seed, who had won two Slams and an Olympic gold, would rally to score a stirring win.

But Anderson didn’t blink. He’d been working intensely on his fitness. He didn’t wilt. One sensed he had learned from that devastating Wimbledon loss to Djokovic. He was focused, and played with conviction. He bent low to hit his volleys and called on his punishing serve time and again.

Still, Murray was fired up, yelling to his box and the adoring crowd. And he served brilliantly to the lines to force a fourth-set tiebreaker.

But tie-breaks are dicey sudden-deaths. Momentum is key, and something went terribly wrong for Murray. He netted a backhand, and a net cord defied him. Anderson hit a brilliant forehand return and a Hawk-Eye call confirmed an ace. Anderson scored point after point – and we got the point. The South African swept to a 7-0 bagel win to prevail 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-7(2), 7-6(0).

The towering South African will now go on to play his first Grand Slam quarterfinal ever – against Stan Wawrinka. Andy Murray will be going back to Scotland where, in eleven days, he’ll be playing in the Davis Cup against Australia, and somewhere in France, Amelie Mauresmo will be going back to something far more important than forehands and backhands: feeding, burping, and cuddling her newbie son Aaron.