Nate Chura is senior tennis pro at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn and covers the U.S. Open for WNYC.
United States tennis fans will have to pin all their hopes on Venus Williams, the last remaining American singles player in the 2010 U.S. Open.
After defeating British favorite Andy Murray on Sunday, Swiss hatchet man Stanislas Wawrinka chopped down Sam Querrey, the only surviving American male in the field of Flushing Meadows. The two men battled intense winds in Arthur Ashe Stadium throughout a five-set cliffhanger. But in the end, it was Wawrinka who emerged victorious, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, from the 4.5 hour fourth-round match.
“I play a good match,” said Wawrinka. “I think my serve was not really good today, but the rest was quite okay. I try to adapt. With the condition, with the wind, was not easy. But, yeah, I think I play a very good match.”
The two men went into the match on mostly equal footing. Both were ranked in the 20s. Both had dropped just one set in the tournament enroute to the clash. And neither of them had ever made it through to the quarterfinals of a grand slam. Though Wawrinka won their only previous meeting, 10-8 in a tight third-set tiebreaker at Indian Wells last year, there was enough at stake for both players to make them sufficiently nervous. And the winds that have been present for most of the tournament didn’t help matters any.
“[It’s] never easy to play that kind of match when it's windy,” said Wawrinka, “especially against Sam. He's a good player, and I know even if I make a lot of errors, I know I need to attack him and be very, very aggressive.”
As painful as the loss was for Querrey, the Californian was graceful in defeat and optimistic about his future.
“Yeah, it was tough,” he said. “I was pretty sad in the locker room for a little while. I mean, I don't feel that great right now. You know, pretty tired. My body is tired. But, I mean, it was an unbelievable match. Stan played great.”
Next up, Wawrinka will face Russian No. 12 seed Mikhail Youzhny. The Moscow native knocked out Tommy Robredo of Spain earlier this afternoon in four sets.
Youzhny has been struggling of late. He hasn’t been to the quarters of the Open since his semifinal run in 2006. He went out in the first round of the Cincinnati Masters and before that, lost in the second rounds of Toronto and Wimbledon. Still, the Russian always is considered a danger.
Youzhny and Wawrinka have split their past matches. Youzhny won both their hard court encounters, including most recently this spring in Miami; Wawrinka took their two meetings on clay. These paper results indicate Youzhny could be the slight favorite. However, there are other factors that could further tilt the favor toward the Russian. Given the grueling matches he’s had to endure so far, Wawrinka is taking a very sober look at his next opponent.
“Yeah, he's a tough player,” admits Wawrinka. “He's really strong player from the baseline. He have a great backhand. We already play sometimes together. I think we always have a tough match. But it's gonna be difficult for me. I will see how I'm gonna be with my leg and how I can rest for Thursday, but I will be focused more on myself than him.”
Apparently, the Swiss injured his leg slightly while playing Murray.
In the final analysis, the Querrey loss boiled down to two points. A telling statistic was the ‘total points won’ figure. There, the Swiss bested the American by 188 points to 186. Those separating points came, not surprisingly, at the end of the match. It was neck and neck the whole fifth set, but since Wawrinka served first, the American was playing catch up most of the time. And he did a good job of it, but after Wawrinka held comfortably at love to go up 5-4, all at once the entire pressure of the match (and perhaps a nation) fell squarely on the American’s shoulders.
Querry tentatively rushed the net at 30-all and hit a weak, floating volley to the center of the court. Wawrinka responded by spanking a forehand winner clean past the American to earn his first match point.
Facing match point, Querrey’s first serve abandoned him. After hitting a shaky second serve, the Swiss chipped his backhand return and charged the net to try and close it then, but the American threw up a weak lob, which Wawrinka skunked into the bottom of the net.
Moments later, Wawrinka would get another chance.
On match point No. 2, Querrey's first serve betrayed him again. Wawrinka got a good look at Querrey’s second serve this time around and made sure he ended the American’s run then and there.
“I definitely wanted to win and keep the American men, keep the hope going,” said Querrey. “You know, I was close. Hopefully, next year is another year.”
On the brighter side of U.S. tennis, former world No. 1 Venus Williams vanquished the fiery Francesca Schiavone in straight sets and advanced to the semifinals. It took just under two hours for Williams to score the 7-6, 6-4 win over this year’s French Open queen.
Venus will play No. 1 seed Kim Clijsters next for a place in the finals. Clijsters—last year’s U.S. Open champ—continued her march toward another title after besting Samantha Stosur last night, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
Other notable wins yesterday included an epic five-setter between Spanish Davis Cup teammates David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco hit the winning shot, a running lefty forehand around the next post, nearly crashing into the umpire’s chair. He then collapsed on the court when the scoreboard flashed: 5-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6.
Also, the world’s most famous tennis duo, the Bryan Brothers, advanced to the semis of the men’s doubles tournament. Should they win here in New York, the brothers will walk away with career title No. 65, an all-time men's record, and counting…