Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams cruised into the U.S. Open quarterfinals without dropping a set in the first week of play in New York, while Japan’s Kei Nishikori advanced in a match ending at 2:26 a.m.
For Djokovic, it’s the 22nd straight time he’s reached the final eight at one of the sport’s four Grand Slam tournaments. Williams, a 17-time major champion, is in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time this year.
“I never thought it would be so exciting,” Williams, a five-time U.S. Open winner, said after beating Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 6-3 yesterday in hot, humid conditions at the National Tennis Center in New York. “Obviously I don’t want this to end. But I’m just happy that I’m able to be performing a little better at the end of the year.”
Djokovic was a 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 winner against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, who had been the last man to deny the Serb a spot in a Grand Slam quarterfinal with a third-round upset at the 2009 French Open.
“It’s great that I have been playing some really good tennis, really high quality so far,” said Djokovic, the 2011 U.S. Open winner. “But it’s normal to expect that I’m going to have tougher opponents as the tournament goes on.”
Djokovic next faces 2012 winner Andy Murray, who beat ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-5, 7-5, 6-4, winning all three sets on service breaks in the final game. Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka and No. 10 Nishikori also reached the final eight with wins yesterday.
2:26 a.m. Ending
Nishikori, who became the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals in New York since Zenzo Shimidzu in 1922, defeated No. 5 Milos Raonic of Canada in a match that tied a U.S. Open record for lateness.
The five-set match, which lasted four hours, 19 minutes, was the third match to end at 2:26 -- joining men’s matches from 2012 and 1993 that also finished at exactly that time.
The other four spots in the men’s quarterfinals will be filled today, as five-time champion Roger Federer is in action along with three players in the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time. Federer, the No. 2 seed from Switzerland, plays No. 17 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in tonight’s first match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Like Agut, seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria is in the round of 16 for the first time at the U.S. Open and plays Gael Monfils, the No. 20 seed from France. Dominic Thiem of Austria, the lone unseeded player left in the men’s draw and another player making his fourth-round debut at the U.S. Open, faces No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Marin Cilic, the 14th seed from Croatia, plays No. 26 Gilles Simon of France.
Williams, who failed to reach the quarterfinals in any of the three previous majors this season -- the Australian and French opens, and Wimbledon -- is the lone top-nine seed left in the women’s draw after No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard was upset by No. 17 Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 yesterday.
Bouchard, 20, had reached at least the semifinals in each of the three previous Grand Slam tournaments this year.
With the temperature hitting 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and the humidity at 64 percent, Bouchard took a medical timeout when the players were on serve at 3-2 in the second set, having her legs iced while her blood pressure was taken. She was then broken in two of her next three service games, including the final game of the match.
“I was feeling very light headed and dizzy on the court,” Bouchard said. “The middle of the first set I started not feeling great. I have had a few late, tough matches here, and I don’t think I fully recovered from those.”
Makarova advances to face No. 16 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the U.S. Open runner-up the past two years. Azarenka rallied for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win against 21-year-old Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic.
Williams next will face No. 11 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy, who beat No. 29 Casey Dellacqua of Australia 7-5, 6-2.
The first two women’s quarterfinal matches are scheduled for today, as No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark faces No. 13 Sara Errani of Italy, and 17-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland meets Peng Shuai of China. Bencic is the youngest U.S. Open quarterfinalist since Martina Hingis, who was three weeks shy of her 17th birthday when she won the 1997 title.
Wawrinka, 29, advanced to the quarterfinals for the fourth time in the past five majors by beating No. 16 seed Tommy Robredo 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2. Wawrinka had lost six of eight previous matches against the Spaniard, though one win came in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open en route to his first Grand Slam title.
Wawrinka next faces Nishikori, who won 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-4 against Raonic, who had 35 aces and 10 double faults.
Murray was able to rally from down a break in both the second and third sets against Tsonga. Murray has been on the court for a total of 10 hours and four minutes through the first four rounds -- more then 3 1/2 hours longer than Djokovic.
“I feel like I’m playing well. I’m going to have to play extremely well to win the event or even just to get through the next match,” Murray said. “You never know what can happen in a couple of days.”