US Open quest at quarter-final test

Eight enticing encounters, 16 players, a thrilling US Open is drawing towards the business end.

Felix Auger-Aliassime / US Open 2021©Darren Carroll / USTA
 - Alex Sharp

It’s all happening in New York.

Beneath the baking sunshine or under the lights, drama, brilliance and countless stories keep stealing our attention.

What a memorable US Open already, but now the trophies are in sight. Let’s take a look at the singles quarter-final line-ups.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs Matteo Berrettini (6)

A couple of Next Gen prodigies (Holger Rune and Jenson Brooksby) have stolen a set off the history-chasing world No.1. Novak Djokovic. Kei Nishikori also took the opener against the Serbian.

However, as Andy Roddick tweeted, “First he takes your legs …Then he takes your soul.”

In four matches the 20-time Grand Slam champion has been posed plenty of questions but keeps coming up with the answers. Over to Matteo Berrettini – who Djokovic has prevailed past in four sets at Roland-Garros and in the Wimbledon final in 2021.

“Hammer of tennis. Next to del Potro, probably the hardest hitter of serve and forehand. He's got the lethal-serve-plus-one game,” stated Djokovic. “Look, if he serves well, which is his biggest weapon, he's tough.”

Can the Calendar Grand Slam dream stay intact?

Alexander Zverev (4) vs Lloyd Harris

Building on from his Tokyo 2020 heroics, Alexander Zverev is edging towards a re-match with Djokovic.

Well, the German will need to be fully prepared for the soaring South African Lloyd Harris. The 24-year-old continues to break new ground having dismissed Karen Khachanov, Denis Shapovalov and Reily Opelka this fortnight.

Since March Harris has enlisted former world No.19 Xavier Malisse into his camp.

“He's been in these situations many times. He was obviously a phenomenal player. Now he can help me with my transition becoming a better player,” stated the 24-year-old, falling to Zverev 7-6(3), 6-2 last month in Cincinnati.

Can Malisse mastermind a huge shock for his South African charge?

Felix Auger-Aliassime (12) vs Carlos Alcaraz

The future of tennis is now. Just take a look at this match-up.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, fulfilling his major potential in a second consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final (his four-set victory over Frances Tiafoe was a cracker) taking on a Spanish teenage sensation.

The Carlos Alcaraz’s US Open debut whirlwind has been quite a ride and Auger-Aliassime is wary of the weaponry possessed by the 18-year-old record-breaker.

“Carlos is a great player. Great person also. He deserves to be in that position. He's going to be top of the game I think for many years in the future,” stated the Canadian. “I have to prepare myself for the best of him.”

Botic van de Zandschulp (Q) vs Daniil Medvedev (2)

Against anyone right now, Daniil Medvedev is a daunting prospect.

The world No.2 put on a clinic to swat aside Dan Evans in straight sets and the 2019 finalist is yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows.

On the other side will be Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp, who had never been to the United States prior to the US Open. He’s qualified or been main draw at all four Grand Slams in 2021 but the resilience of Medvedev should be too much to take over five sets.

Emma Raducanu (Q) vs Belinda Bencic (11)

Qualifier Emma Raducanu breezed past world No.1 Ash Barty’s conqueror Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-1, becoming just the third qualifier to reach the women’s quarter-finals in the Open Era.

Just 15 games surrendered, the lowest in the women’s draw since Serena Williams in 2013, it’s no surprise the world No.150 is causing a stir Stateside. Playing with such composure and freedom, the Brit is gaining quite the following.

The in-form Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Belinda Bencic awaits. The Swiss remains the favourite (sizzling in a 7-6(12), 6-3 win over Iga Swiatek), however Raducanu’s instinctive tennis, backed by a raucous crowd could close the gap.

Karolina Pliskova (4) vs Maria Sakkari (17)

Talk about being up for the fight. Greek taliswoman Maria Sakkari edged 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-3 in a three hour, 30 minute marathon. Finishing post 2am in New York.

The world No.14 will need to recover swiftly to tackle 2016 finalist and recent Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova, who has struck a mind-boggling 58 aces across four matches thus far.

She’s served lights out,” added Sakkari, 1-1 in their record from two clay duels in Rome. “She has played final here, more experience than me. But I'm just going to stick to what I'm doing best, try to return as good as I can, because that's I think the most important thing against Karolina. Just keep fighting, that's it.”

Leylah Fernandez vs Elina Svitolina (5)

Down a set and a break to defending champion Naomi Osaka, not a problem. Down a set and a break to three-time major champion Angelique Kerber, not a problem.

18-year-old Leylah Fernandez is bringing electric tennis to her Grand Slam breakout. World No.5 Elina Svitolina is the next to face the teenager with confidence coursing through her body.

It will be fascinating to see how Svitolina, on a nine-match winning streak, approaches the rallies. Anything short or passive and Fernandez will be unleashing. Like in her triumph over Simona Halep, controlled aggression will be the key for Svitolina.

Barbora Krejcikova (8) vs Aryna Sabalenka (2)

Roland-Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova continues to go about her business head down, very efficient. A tense straight sets passage past Garbine Muguruza illustrated the task ahead for the second seed.

Aryna Sabalenka, with her slingshot power, claimed a captivating three-set win over the Czech in Linz last Autumn. At lot has changed for both since then.

A Grand Slam charge at Wimbledon (semi-finals) and enlisting a sports psychologist

has appeared to ease Sabalenka’s major struggles.

If both bring their A game, we’re in for a treat.