IS IT LEGAL TO DREAM? Serena could win her 24th Slam. She’s the only player left in the draw who has reached a Slam final and is 9-4 against the field. Roger and Rafa could meet in the final, which would be their first battle ever at the Open.
THE AHN-POSSIBLE DREAM IS OVER FOR KRISTIE: Her fans yelled, “C’mahn girl!” At times Kristie’s run was Ahn-describable, but now she will not go Ahn-ward. Almost Ahn the Ahn-iversary of last year’s US Open nightmare, and despite plenty of good Ahn-tensions, the Ahn-possible dream is over: Kristie Ahn went down to Elise Mertens in the fourth round.
“What a show-off.” – John McEnroe on Rafa playing in a black sleeveless shirt
“It’s relentless abuse. It’s like a boxing match where you’re getting hit again and again and again. There’s no letup.” – John Milman on facing Nadal
“I’m not sure why this is important to his overall record.” – John McEnroe on Rafa’s meticulous obsession with having his water bottles aligned just right
“Hit hard to the lines.” – Diego Schwartzman on how he will beat Nadal
“How can Nadal be humble and cocky at the same time?” – John McEnroe
THE TWO GREATEST COMBATANTS? Perhaps the two most intense tennis combatants have been lefties – Nadal and Jimmy Connors. Today, on Jimbo’s 67th birthday, Rafa replicated two of Jimbo’s signature strokes. Rafa hit fantastic shots off of Cilic’s overheads that brought to mind Jimmy’s returns of four Paul Haarhuis overheads during his memorable, operatic run to the ’91 US Open semis. Then Nadal hit a stunning around-the-post forehand that reminded ob servers of a mind-boggling Connors backhand that shocked Open fans decades ago.
“He’s the size of a box.”– ESPN on the hefty Matteo Berrettini
“In Italy, we say you are a good fork.” – Matteo Berrettini on how much he eats
“The science people say before the sleep the memory is working better.” – Diego Schwartzman on studying his opponents before going to bed
“You have a real job right now and you’re doing great at it.” – Pam Shriver to Kristie Ahn when she confided her parents wanted her to get a “real job.”
“People always think I’m a little bit older than I actually am, because I’ve been here since 16, 17.” – Belinda Bencic, 21
A DUBIOUS SLAM RECORD: Djokovic has now completed the career retirement Grand Slam, having pulled out of the Aussie, the French, Wimbledon and the US Open…BTW: Federer has played over 1,500 matches and has never retired.
GO FIGURE: For the second straight year, there will be four different women winners at Slams…The eleven-year gap between Kristie Ahn’s Slam debut in ‘08 and her first Slam win in ‘19 is the longest in Open era history for a woman…Matteo Berrettini is the first Italian man into the quarters at the Open since 1977…Diego Schwartzman is the only non-Euro left in the men’s draw.
YET ANOTHER NEXT GEN FAIL: There are only three top twelve men’s seeds left – Rafa, Roger and Daniil Medvedev. The Russian is the only high-profile, plenty-of-hype Next Gen star left in the draw. Zverev, Tsitsipas, Rublev, Shapovalov, Khachanov, Tiafoe and Auger-Aliassime have all lost.
BARZARENKA SCHOOLS McCOCO: Let’s be clear. The run by Coco Gauff has been just magical. Her fight amazed us. Still, when she came up against elite players we got it that she is only 15. Osaka schooled her the other night and today Barzarenka – that would be Grand Slam winners Vika Azarenka and Ash Barty – crushed the previously undefeated Gauff and Caty McNally. The American kid wonders didn’t hold serve once and fell 6-0, 6-1.
LOVE IS ALIVE AND WELL IN THE BIG APPLE: Both Elina Svitolina and her boyfriend Gael Monfils are through to the quarters.
A SHORT LIST OF SHORT PLAYERS: Tennis has long been filled with David vs Goliath storylines. Here’s a list of some of the ATP’s greatest giant-killers: Olivier Rochus 5’6”, Diego Schwartzman 5’7”, Michael Russell 5’8”, Arnaud Clement 5’8”, David Ferrer 5’9”, Marcelo Rios 5’9”.
FEDERER – “I WAS A SILLY GOOD BOY:” In the context of young Coco Gauff, Federer was asked what he was like as a 15-year-old. He said, “You complain. You shout. You don’t do any media thankfully…I was a silly, good boy. I was an honest kid to my parents. My coaches always liked me because they thought I would improve quickly, but I would sometimes be difficult, but in the right way.
“I always had a good time on the road…It really made me tough. When I left home at 14… I stayed with a family from Monday to Friday for two years. I was incredibly homesick. Those were the two most important years of my life. I really learned how to be independent.
“I really needed to feel I could cope on my own and go on the train, the tram, bus…Coco’s got a support team – [but] at 15 just the way she handles pressure…It’s not routine to be in front of 20,000 people…Could I have handled it? Maybe…I would’ve been playing men with beards. My body was not ready. On the women’s side it’s different, you grow faster, earlier.
“But I’m happy that I lived under the radar so I could grow more as a person. But it would’ve been incredibly exhilarating also, living the life Coco has now, or others…like Tiger, or Hingis. You knew [Hingis] was probably going to be No. 1…when she was 10.
ASSESSING THE BIG THREE: When asked about playing the Big Three, Rafa, Roger and Novak, David Goffin said, “The three are completely different, different games, different mentality. They are better on different surfaces…Against Novak and Rafa, you have balls to hit, but they are so physically tough. And Roger, he just takes positions on the court. He tries to go forward all the time and goes for winners. Then you just don’t play tennis against him.
“They are just mentally really, really strong. They want to win everything. They want to stay there. They want to win the trophy all the time. They are improving all the time. Even if they are more than 30 or 35, they are still there physically. For the moment, I would say Novak is probably the best.”
NEXT GEN CRITIQUE: When asked about the “exciting adventures” of tennis villain du jour Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev offered a full-throated Next Gen critique. “There’s a lot of young guys that do things…that maybe is not the best…I don’t want the next generation to be known for that…A lot of the times Tsitsipas gets over the line with changing his shoes 15 times in a tournament, going to the bathroom in the middle of a set. Stuff like that…
“Let your racquet talk for you…You don’t need to do things to distract the opponent…Medvedev is obviously going over the line…But he’s winning…At the end of the day it all doesn’t matter if you’re winning.”
SAY IT ISN’T SO: Former No. 4 Zverev double-faulted 17 times, or the equivalent of 4.25 games in his loss to Diego Shwartzman. It wasn’t as bad as Cincy, where he double-faulted 20 times. And it wasn’t as horrific a serving nightmare as Anna Kournikova, who double-faulted 31 times in a 1999 Aussie Open match, which she still won.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Kristie Ahn, who reached the fourth round in New York, was born three miles from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Bianca Andreescu lives a couple of miles from the Toronto stadium where she won the Rogers Cup.
DON’T CALL ME CHEESY: At the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, Bethanie Mattek-Sands said smelling cheese sandwiches was the key to her win over Venus, but at the Open Rafa revealed, “I don’t eat cheese. I never eat cheese in all my life. I don’t like…I have nothing against the meat. I prefer fish.”
MOST CREATIVE EXCUSE: After being assessed a warning for verbal abuse, Jelena Ostapenko pleaded, “I was speaking Latvian, not Russian. I shouldn’t have gotten a violation.”