New York, Sep 8 (EFE).- German world No. 4 Alexander Zverev secured a berth in the US Open semifinals for the second straight year and notched his 16th consecutive win with a relatively routine 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-4 victory Wednesday over South Africa’s Lloyd Harris.
Earlier on Arthur Ashe Stadium, 18-year-old British rising star Emma Raducanu rolled past Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, the reigning Olympic champion, 6-3, 6-4 to become the first qualifier to reach the semifinals of this Grand Slam event in the Open Era (1968 to the present).
Zverev struggled in the early going against the strong serving of his 46th-ranked opponent, although he bounced back after getting broken in the eight game to force a tiebreaker and then clinched the opener after saving a set point with Harris serving at 6-5.
With those early jitters behind him, the German proceeded to dominate the rest of the contest with his potent first serve, solid returning and outstanding baseline play.
Zverev won both the second and third sets on the strength of early service breaks.
Although Harris rallied from a 4-0 third-set deficit to make the final set competitive, he never posed a serious threat to his heavily favored opponent.
Zverev finished the match with 21 aces, eight more than Harris. He also showcased his improved net game by winning 12 of his 15 net approaches throughout the match.
“He served incredibly in the first set, so I didn’t have a lot of chances. I somehow managed to win the first set and that loosened me up a little bit,” Zverev said.
Next up for the 24-year-old German in Friday’s semifinals will be either big-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini or Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is seeking to capture a record 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title and become the first male player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four of tennis’ biggest tournaments in the same calendar year.
Zverev already stymied Djokovic’s bid to win the so-called Golden Slam when he rallied to defeat the 34-year-old all-time great in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics.
Raducanu earlier Wednesday became the second teenager to reach this year’s US Open women’s singles semifinals, achieving that feat by recording her eighth consecutive straight-set victory (including three wins in this Grand Slam event’s qualifying stage).
After committing numerous unforced errors to fall behind 3-1 in the first set against the 12th-ranked Bencic, the world No. 150 showcased her athleticism and weaponry from the baseline to reel off five consecutive games and claim the opener.
Raducanu, who this fortnight is competing in the main draw of a Grand Slam event for just the second time in her young career, then showed the maturity and poise of a veteran in holding serve five straight times to clinch the second set.
In the last game, she collected herself after falling behind 0-30 and won the last four points of the contest.
“I’m so pleased to have come through that,” Raducanu said afterward. “It took me some adjusting at the beginning to get used to her ball speed. Once I adjusted, I settled in. I didn’t overpress as much. I found a way to win, but it was very difficult to play against someone at such a high level.”
Raducanu will next square off against the winner of Wednesday’s night match between Czech world No. 4 Karolina Pliskova and Greek world No. 18 Maria Sakkari.
Thursday’s other women’s singles semifinal will pit Belarusian world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka against Canadian 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez, the world No. 73, who has defeated two Grand Slam champions (Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber) and two top-five players (Osaka and Elina Svitolina) en route to the tournament’s final four. EFE