US Open Day 8: Zverev pulls an all-nighter, 'Queenwen' shocks Jabeur

2020 runner-up edges Sinner in 2:00am classic as Zheng reaches maiden Slam quarter-final

Alexander Zverev / Huitièmes de finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

The women's and men's quarter-finals have been set in New York after a thrilling Monday saw two more top-five seeds crash out, a defending champion put on a show, a 20-year-old hit a major milestone, a new world No.1 stamp her authority, and a former finalist survive a marathon.

Here's what you may have missed from Day 8 at the US Open.

Sascha denies Sinner an Alcaraz rematch

At 1:39am, after four hours and 41 minutes of play, Alexander Zverev handed No.6 seed Jannik Sinner a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 defeat to make the US Open quarter-finals for a third time in his last three appearances.

A finalist in New York in 2020, and semi-finalist in 2021, Zverev missed last year’s event due to a gruesome ankle injury he picked up in Paris that kept him sidelined for seven months.

Since returning in January, the 26-year-old German has slowly worked on recovering his form, making the semi-finals at Roland-Garros, winning an ATP 500 title in Hamburg and now finding his way back into the last-eight stage at Flushing Meadows, where he will take on defending champion Carlos Alcaraz.

“I guess I can say I'm back,” said the 12th-seeded Zverev after posting just his second top-10 victory at a Grand Slam from 15 attempts.

“This is exactly what I live for. This is what I love to do... playing at 1:30am, in front of a packed crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium. It doesn't get any better. This is one of the best moments of my career.”

Zverev and Sinner combined to hit 106 winners across five close sets but the Italian’s 67 unforced errors proved costly in the end.

For the 22-year-old Sinner, it was another heartbreaking exit, having departed New York last year with a five-hour quarter-final loss to Alcaraz that ended at 2:50am.

Sinner’s last four out of five Grand Slams have ended in five-set defeats.

Zheng breaks new ground

“I love ‘Queenwen’ this name, come on, it’s queen,” laughed Zheng Qinwen when she was asked by Blair Henley during her on-court interview about the nickname her online followers have given her.

The 20-year-old has fully earned that moniker as she posted the third top-five win of her career by upsetting world No.5 and last year’s finalist Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-4 to secure passage to a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.

“Right now I feel just super happy and excited to play in a big stadium and have a really good performance today. Ons is a fantastic player, really tough to beat, has lots of variation in her game. That was a really impressive win for me today,” said the No.23 seed, who will take on reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka for a spot in the semis.

Qinwen Zheng / Huitièmes de finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Zheng played a clean match, hitting 21 winners against 17 unforced errors in the face of Jabeur’s multiple attempted comebacks.

She was 10/14 at the net and spoke about her coach Wim Fissette always urges her to be aggressive and dictate play.

“I know my game has to be aggressive and there were a couple of times during the match I got a bit too defensive and she got the chance and broke me. So in my mind I kept telling myself, ‘Be an aggressive player, I have to take the match by my own’,” said Zheng, who is the youngest Chinese player in the Open Era to make the last-eight stage at a major.

Qinwen Zheng & Ons Jabeur / Huitièmes de finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

‘Super-focused’ Sabalenka marches on

Sabalenka stepped on court against Daria Kasatkina on Monday knowing she will become the new world No.1 next week, irrespective of her results this fortnight.

Iga Swiatek’s fourth-round exit to Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday night assured Sabalenka will become the 29th woman to occupy the No.1 ranking.

Reaching such a huge goal can understandably be a distraction, but not for Sabalenka, who eased past No.13 seed Kasatkina 6-1, 6-3 in 75 minutes to reach a fifth consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.

During her on-court interview, the 25-year-old said she was almost certain Swiatek would reach the final and she was hoping they would play for the No.1 ranking and the US Open title on championship Saturday.

Aryna Sabalenka / Huitièmes de finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“I really wanted to have this battle and decide everything on court. I was sad that she lost,” admitted Sabalenka.

“But it means a lot to me. All this year I’ve been pushing myself so hard to reach this goal, to become world No.1. It really means a lot for me, it means a lot for my family, it’s just unbelievable, it’s something crazy, I still can’t believe it.

“I was really afraid that I’ll be distracted by this news today so I was super-focused, I didn’t want to lose any point today.”

Sabalenka, a semi-finalist at the US Open the last two years, has been super-focused since the start of this tournament, dropping just 16 games through four rounds in New York.

Alcaraz completes rare hat-trick

Carlos Alcaraz has kept up his habit of always reaching the US Open quarter-finals, advancing to that stage for a third time in as many appearances in New York with a showstopping performance against Italian debutant Matteo Arnaldi.

The defending champion fired 31 winners against just 22 unforced errors during his 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory, breaking Arnaldi’s serve five times and pulling off impossible shots from all corners of the court, much to the delight of the Labor Day Monday crowd that included familiar faces like Jimmy Butler, J Balvin and Ben Stiller.

Alcaraz now owns 40 Grand Slam match-wins in his young career. He played the match with taping around his left thigh but assured it was just precautionary and "nothing serious".

Carlos Alcaraz / Huitièmes de finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“I think I was happy with the intensity from the beginning until the last ball, I played a really solid match, less mistakes, playing my game, trying to go to the net all the time; I’m really happy with the performance in general,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview.

Alcaraz is just the second man in the Open Era to reach three US Open quarter-finals under the age of 21 along with Andre Agassi, who achieved that feat from 1988 to 1990.

The 20-year-old Spaniard is also the first man to reach the quarters or better in his first three US Open appearances since Johan Kriek did that from 1978 to 1980.

Madi’s Keys to success

Letting go of expectations and rediscovering the joy on court has helped Madison Keys reach her first US Open quarter-final since 2018 with an impressive 6-1, 6-3 victory over world No.3 Jessica Pegula on Monday.

The 28-year-old American, a runner-up in New York in 2017, has followed up her quarter-final showing at Wimbledon two months ago, with another stroll to the last eight at her home Slam.

Keys needed just 61 minutes to dismiss an in-form Pegula and she will now take on reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova for a spot in the final four.

“Mental health is definitely a lot better when I'm playing with lower expectations and not putting as much pressure on myself and just kind of having a better approach to the game, having it really just trying to be a lot more fun and focusing on that,” said Keys, who has picked up the 30th US Open match-win of her career.

“After all these years playing, it's kind of the point now where I don't have to be out here anymore. I get to be out here.”

Madison Keys / Huitièmes de finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Marketa backs up Wimbledon run

Vondrousova was tested by 2022 NCAA champion Peyton Stearns before punching her ticket to a maiden US Open quarter-final with a 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-2 victory.

The Czech lefty has now won her last 11 consecutive matches at the Grand Slams.

“It means everything because after Wimby, the first tournaments I was feeling nervous,” confessed Vondrousova.

“I wanted to play good. I wanted to win some back-to-back matches. I actually didn't expect that because I feel like it's a very tough position. It's a lot of pressure also. So, yeah, I'm just very happy that I hold my nerves and everything, and I'm just trying to keep my tennis. I'm just very grateful to be here.”

Marketa Vondrousova / Huitièmes de finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The 21-year-old Stearns was ranked outside the top 300 a year ago and had just turned pro but has since rocketed up the rankings, reaching a first WTA final in Bogota and making the third round at Roland-Garros before her brilliant run to the last 16 at this US Open.

She is projected to crack the top 45 when the new rankings are released next week.

“She started very well. She was just smashing the ball everywhere, making me run so much. I feel like she actually played a great match. So I just had to fight till the very end,” said Vondrousova of Stearns.

“Credit to her for a great match.”

Stats of the day

4 – No.3 seed and 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev has reached his fourth US Open quarter-final in the last five years, thanks to a four-set victory over Alex de Minaur.

7 – Vondrousova is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to follow up a Wimbledon title with a run to the US Open quarter-finals. That’s a seven-year gap since that feat was last accomplished!

9 – Medvedev's next opponent, Andrey Rublev, has reached the ninth Grand Slam quarter-final of his career with a four-set win over British lefty Jack Draper. It is the No.8 seed’s third major quarter-final of the year, and his fourth at the US Open.

32 – Alcaraz is now 32-4 win-loss at the Grand Slams in the last two years, 16-1 in 2023.

Quote of the day

"Coco and I talked about it in doubles. We're like, It's kind of weird because, I mean, Iga still made second week, she's still been going deep in every tournament and doing well. It wasn't enough to keep her there. That's crazy.

"Coco is like, I don't know what more she could have done?

"I was like, I guess win the tournament again. That's it.

"It's hard when Aryna has had good results in all of the Slams and a lot of the big tournaments. I think it's well-deserved. I think she's been knocking on the door for quite a while. It's nice to see that change and see her get rewarded for how well she's been playing, her consistency, especially in the Slams."

– Jessica Pegula weighs in on Aryna Sabalenka replacing Iga Swiatek at the top of the rankings by the end of the US Open.