Medvedev back in US Open semis; Canadian teen Fernandez outlasts Svitolina

Update 1: Adds Sabalenka update

New York, Sep 7 (EFE).- Russian world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev has secured a place in the US Open semifinals for the third straight year, dropping his first set of the tournament but still earning a convincing 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5 last-eight victory Tuesday over surprise quarterfinalist Botic van de Zandschulp.

In the other afternoon match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, 73rd-ranked Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez booked her maiden berth in the final four of a Grand Slam event by edging Ukrainian world No. 5 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).

With Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of an extremely rare calendar-year Grand Slam and Spanish 18-year-old sensation Carlos Alcaraz’s eye-popping performances capturing much of the media attention, Medvedev has quietly eased his way through the draw and put himself just two wins away from a first-ever major title.

The 25-year-old Russian was coolly efficient in the first two sets against the 117th-ranked Van de Zandschulp, who surprised 11th-ranked Casper Ruud and 14th-ranked Argentine Diego Schwartzman earlier in the tournament but was outclassed early on by Medvedev.

The Dutch underdog was bamboozled in particular by the world No. 2’s court positioning on the return of serve, with the 1.98-meter (6-foot-6) Medvedev standing far behind the baseline and comfortably reaching all of his opponent’s best deliveries and sending them back with interest.

After striking 53 aces in his first four matches, Van de Zandschulp failed to hit any in the first two sets against the Russian and had his serve broken on six occasions during that stretch.

The situation looked particularly bleak when the Dutchman was serving down 3-6, 0-6, 0-1, 0-30, although to his credit he started showing more patience in the rallies and being more selective about going on the attack or drawing Medvedev forward.

That tactical shift triggered a comeback that saw Medvedev drop his first set of the tournament and struggle to put away his opponent in the fourth set, with the players staying on serve through the first 11 games.

But the Russian’s defensive wizardry struck just before a potential tiebreaker as he reeled off the final four points of the match to break Van de Zandschulp’s serve one final time.

“First two sets he was missing and I was controlling the game. But then he started missing less and hit with more power and played more aggressively. The break point he won he hit a forehand winner, so it became a lot tougher,” Medvedev said in a post-match interview.

“Then at 6-5 (in the fourth set) he got a little bit tight, and I managed to do it without the tiebreak, which is helpful.”

Next up for the Russian in the semifinals will be either the 55th-ranked Alcaraz or 21-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, the world No. 15, neither of whom have reached that stage of a Grand Slam tournament to this point in their young careers.

Over the next few days, Medvedev will be looking to bolster an already remarkable resume at Flushing Meadows that includes a runner-up finish in 2019 and a semifinal berth last year.

In women’s singles, Fernandez showed she belongs at the top of the tennis world by backing up her upsets of Japanese world No. 2 and four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka in the third round and German three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the round of 16 with an impressive performance against Svitolina, a perennial top-10 player.

The Canadian southpaw, who turned 19 on Monday, shrugged off the loss of the second set and continued to execute her rock-solid baseline game to the end of the two-hour, 24-minute contest.

Virtually nothing separated the two competitors, with Svitolina rallying from 5-2 down in the fifth set and a 4-1 deficit in the final tiebreaker and finishing the match with a slight overall edge in points won (99-97).

But the Canadian captured the two most important points, earning a match point with a forehand that clipped the top of the net before zipping past the net-rushing Ukrainian and then finishing off the victory when Svitolina sent a backhand return of serve over the baseline.

Second-seeded Belarusian tennis player Aryna Sabalenka reached the semifinals of the US Open for the first time by defeating eighth seed Barbora Krejcikova 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday.

Sabalenka, 23, who was also a semifinalist at Wimbledon this year and is playing at the Open for the fourth time, will have Fernandez as her next opponent.

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