Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Raducanu, 18, beats gold medalist to make Open history

Emma Raducanu, 18, of Great Britain plays in last month's Mubadala Silicon
Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif. Photo by Mal Taam
   Emma Raducanu, 18, of Great Britain defeated No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4 today to become the first qualifier, female or male, to reach the U.S. Open semifinals.
   Bencic, 24, won the gold medal in women's singles in the Tokyo Olympics last month.
   Raducanu has not lost a set in her eight matches in the tournament. Only once, in the second round of qualifying, has she dropped as many as five games in a set. 
   In July, Raducanu became the youngest British woman to advance to the round of 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era, which began in 1968. Under massive pressure in her home country, she retired while trailing Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 0-3 because of difficulty breathing.
   As a wild card in San Jose last month, Raducanu lost to Zhang Shuai of China in the opening round.
   Raducanu, ranked No. 150, is scheduled to face No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece for the first time on Thursday. Sakkari, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal in the French Open in June, beat No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova, the runner-up in the 2016 U.S. Open and at Wimbledon in July, 6-4, 6-4.
   The 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) Sakkari, a finalist in the inaugural (2018) Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, won 24 of 26 points (92 percent) on her serve, including 22 in a row.
   Pliskova advanced to the final of the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   In Thursday's first semifinal at 4 p.m. PDT (ESPN), No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, the San Jose runner-up in 2019, is set to meet Leylah Fernandez, an 18-year-old left-hander from Canada, for the first time.
   On the men's side, No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany extended his winning streak to 16 matches with a 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-4 victory over unseeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa.
   Zverev earned the gold medal in men's singles in the Tokyo Olympics, ending Novak Djokovic's bid for a Golden Slam in the semifinals, and won Cincinnati last month. Zverev also advanced to last year's U.S. Open final, losing to Dominic Thiem after leading two sets to none.
   Zverev, who has denied allegations of domestic abuse, is set to play the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday's semifinals. Djokovic defeated No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in a rematch of this year's Wimbledon final, which the 34-year-old Serb won 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
   For the third consecutive match in the U.S. Open, Djokovic lost the first set and surrendered no more than three games in a set the rest of the way.
   Djokovic needs two more victories to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969 and break the record of 20 Grand Slam men's singles titles he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is 6-3 against Zverev, 24.
   In Friday's other men's semifinal, No. 2 seed and 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev, 25, of Russia is scheduled to meet No. 12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 21-year-old Canadian.
   Medvedev edged Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) in the second round in Montreal in 2018 in their only previous meeting.
   Mixed doubles — Giuliana Olmos, an Austria native who grew up in Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area and represents Mexico, and Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador topped Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine and Max Purcell of Australia 4-6, 6-4 [10-6] in a battle of unseeded teams to reach the final.
   Olmos and Arevalo, who have survived three consecutive match tiebreakers, are slated to play either No. 2 seeds Desirae Krawczyk, a native of Palm Desert, Calif., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain or unseeded Americans Jessica Pegula and Austin Krajicek
   Boys doubles — Wild cards Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., surprised No. 5 seeds Gonzalo Bueno of Peru and Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.
   Godsick's parents are Mary Joe Fernandez, a former top-five player in singles and doubles who now works as an ESPN commentator, and Tony Godsick, Federer's agent.

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