Samantha Crawford Wins Girls Junior Championship

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 9, 2012 – The United States Tennis Association (USTA) today announced that American Samantha Crawford of Atlanta, Ga., captured the 2012 US Open Girls’ Junior Championship with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 12 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday. Crawford, who currently trains at the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., is the second consecutive American to win the US Open Junior Girls’ title, and the third in the past five years.

“We are extremely proud of Sam and the total team effort of her family, coach Kathy Rinaldi and the entire USTA Player Development team Boca Raton,” said USTA General Manager, Player Development Patrick McEnroe.

Crawford follows Grace Min, in 2011, and CoCo Vandeweghe, in 2008, as Americans to win US Open Junior titles in the last five years. Crawford’s victory also completes an American sweep of the 2012 US Open Junior Girls’ titles after Taylor Townsend, of Jonesboro, Ga., and Gabrielle Andrews, of Pomona, Calif., won the doubles championship on Saturday.

Crawford, a 17-year-old wild card in the 2012 US Open Junior Championship, defeated five of the Top 12 seeds to win her first major girls’ singles title and cap an impressive summer. Crawford, as a wild card, qualified for the US Open singles main draw and took Great Britain’s Laura Robson to a second-set tiebreak in the first round. She also played in the US Open women’s doubles and mixed doubles main draws, earning a wild card entry into the former after winning the USTA Girls’ 18s Nationals doubles title with partner Allie Kiick, of Plantation, Fla.

Crawford was playing in just her fifth ITF world junior circuit event of the year. Prior to the US Open, she played in two USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 events in 2012, reaching the final in Yakima, Wash., and the semifinal in Sacramento.

Sportimes Rally Past Aces, 16-15

NEW YORK — Martina Hingis and Jesse Witten won singles events, both by 5-0 counts, and Hingis won a super-tiebreak over Liezel Huber, 7-6, as the New York SPORTIMES rallied for a 16-15 World TeamTennis victory over the St. Louis Aces at SPORTIME on Randall’s Island tonight.

The SPORTIMES (5-1) trailed the entire match, finally earning a tie on Hingis’s 5-0 victory in the fifth event, women’s singles.  By WTT rules, Hingis’ win over Maria Sanchez (with Huber replacing Sanchez for the final game) narrowed evened the match at 15, extending the match to a super tiebreak.  With the super-tiebreak tied at 6-6, Hingis won the deciding point, coming to the net after a 12-ball rally and stroking the winner.

Jean-Julien Rojer and Roman Borvanov’s opening event men’s doubles win, Huber and Sanchez topped the SPORTIMES’ duo of Hingis and Katie O’Brien, 5-1, to give the Aces (4-2) a commanding 10-3 match lead.  Witten swept a 5-0 third event over Borvanov to pull the hosts to within 10-8.  Huber and Rojer’s 5-2 win extended the Aces’ margin to 15-10 before Hingis’s heroics gave the SPORTIMES their fifth straight win.

New York visits first-place Washington in a battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, while Western Conference-leading St. Louis continues its eastern swing against winless Philadelphia.

World TeamTennis
at New York
N.Y. SPORTIMES 16, St. Louis Aces 15
Men’s Doubles – Roman Borvanov/Jean-Julien Rojer (St. L.) def. Travis Parrott/Jesse Witten, 5-2
Women’s Doubles – Liezel Huber/Maria Sanchez (St. L.) def. Martina Hingis/Katie O’Brien, 5-1
Men’s Singles – Jesse Witten (N.Y.) def. Roman Borvanov, 5-0
Mixed Doubles – Liezel Huber/Jean-Julien Rojer  (St. L.) def. Martina Hingis/Travis Parrott, 5-2
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis def. Maria Sanchez (Liezel Huber replaced Sanchez in Game 5), 5-0
Super Tiebreak – Martina Hingis def. Liezel Huber, 16-15

Witten Tiebreak, Spears Victories Help Sportimes Crown Kastles

Jesse Witten won a super-tiebreak over Bobby Reynolds to give the host New York Sportimes a 21-20 victory over the Washington Kastles in the World TeamTennis opener for both squads at Sportime on Randall’s Island on Monday.

Reynolds had won a tiebreak over Witten, 7-4, to extend the match to overtime.

Abigail Spears won a singles event and teamed with Robert Kendrick to win mixed doubles to pace the Sportimes.

After the Kastles took two of the first three events (sets), Spears defeated Angela Haynes, 5-1, in the fourth frame, putting the Sportimes ahead, 16-13.

Reynolds then won the fifth event, 5-4, to set up the tiebreak and decisive super-tiebreak.

Spears and Kendrick began the night by upsetting reigning Wimbledon mixed doubles champion and former world doubles No. 1 Leander Paes and former women’s world No. 1 Rennae Stubbs, 5-2.

New York (1-0) travels to Albany on Tuesday to face the New York Buzz, then returns home to take on James Blake and the Boston Lobsters on Wednesday on Randall’s Island.

Monday, July 5, 2010
World TeamTennis Results:
New York Sportimes def. Washington Kastles, 21-20
1: Abigail Spears/Robert Kendrick (N.Y.) def. Rennae Stubbs/Leander Paes, 5-2.
2: Rennae Stubbs/Angela Haynes (Wash.) def. Ashley Harkleroad/Abigail Spears, 5-2
3: Bobby Reynolds/Leander Paes (Wash.) def. Robert Kendrick/Jesse Witten, 5-4
4: Abigail Spears (N.Y.) def. Angela Haynes, 5-1
5: Bobby Reynolds (Wash.) def. Jesse Witten, 5-4
Tiebreak: Reynolds d. Witten, 2-0
Super-Tiebreak: Witten d. Reynolds, 7-4

Stepanek Wins Despite 78 Aces Against Him

Somehow, Radek Stepanek won. Despite a record 78 aces coming off the big racket of Ivo Karlovic, the 30 year-old Stepanek prevailed in five extraordinary sets 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (2), 16-14, giving the Czech Republic a 1-0 series lead over Croatia in the Davis Cup semifinal in Porec earlier today.

The match took five hours and 59 minutes to complete. Just a minute shy of reaching the six hour mark. Only three Davis Cup matches have ever gone that far. While Stepanek and Karlovic didn’t quite get there, they did match a record for most total games (82) since the tiebreak was introduced in 1989 to Davis Cup.

Ironically, it was earlier this year in a first round defeat to Lleyton Hewitt at Roland Garros that Karlovic shattered his own record with 55 aces. Apparently, the big Croat would be better off with less considering the heartbreaking end results which again held true with Stepanek saving five match points with three coming in the 10th game and another in the 24th game of the climatic final set.

“I am very happy that I was able to pull it through,” an ecstatic Stepanek expressed afterwards. “The match was going crazy; we were not able to break each other. I was the one who was using more fitness. He had four match points in the fifth set but I stayed mentally strong and it paid off at the end. You can’t live through bigger emotions than Davis Cup and this match just proved it.”

Amazingly, there were no breaks of serve until the 81st game (29th of 5th set) following a brief exhange in the first set which Stepanek dropped in one of four breakers.

“I have no words right now, it was like a lottery and I managed to seize my chances,” the winner added.

“It was a long and exhausting match but when you play for your country it’s worth it. It wouldn’t matter if it lasted for another few hours.”

“It was really close match, it was long and I had match points,” said a drained Karlovic who blew leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the fourth set tiebreak before Stepanek stormed back to take it 8-6, forcing a deciding set. “I could also have won … I don’t know, that’s it.”

In the second match, Tomas Berdych held off U.S. Open quarterfinalist Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 to put the Czech Republic a win away from the Davis Cup final. Spain leads the other semifinal 2-0 over Israel thanks to straight set wins from Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer.

“It was like was going to put you in front of a wall and shoot at you, it was feeling like that,” summed up Stepanek. “I knew he was going to serve incredibly well and I was expecting it but I said to be patient and wait for my chances.”

Nadal Shows Only Love for Gonzo

It was the tennis equivalent of No Mas. A day and a half following the rain, Rafael Nadal finished off Fernando Gonzalez in the continuation of their men’s quarterfinal.

The charismatic 23 year-old from Mallorca took back his No.2 ranking, barely breaking a sweat in a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-0 win advancing to a second consecutive U.S. Open semifinal where he’ll meet a well rested Juan Martin Del Potro tomorrow for a place in the final versus either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.

A competitive quarter which had Nadal in front 7-6, 3-2 in a second set tiebreaker Thursday night suddenly became a tuneup for Nadal, who allowed his wild opponent to wilt under the pressure. In fact, Gonzalez didn’t get another point in the tiebreak dropping both points on his serve with dreadful forehands before Rafa closed the set out.

“When you come back in one situation like today, anything can happen, because it’s a little bit of a lottery depending on the first two points,” Nadal accurately assessed. “The important thing is to be ready to accept everything, and try to arrive there knowing what to do.”

Unfortunately, Gonzalez’ biggest weapon let him down to the tune of more than half his 59 unforced errors. It only got worse as he unraveled in the third set disappointing the Session 23 Ashe spectators who returned hoping for a much better conclusion. After a double fault handed Nadal a break in the opening game, the flustered 29 year-old slammed his racket in disgust.

“I can’t tell you, because I don’t have the answer,” a dejected Gonzalez said.

It wouldn’t get any better as he committed 20 miscues in a set that saw him get bageled with even an injury timeout to remove tape from his ankles unable to stop the bleeding. By comparison, the much more consistent Nadal made only 13 errors all match. The problem for Gonzalez was that he kept going for too much with the ball flying on him in different conditions. So, Rafa was content to keep rallies going allowing his struggling opponent to come undone in an ugly set that had fans feeling sorry for Gonzo.

The lowlights included a sloppy forehand half volley way wide for another break and fittingly ended with another forehand into the net as Nadal got off the court in just 33 minutes.

“Fernando had a few more mistakes than the last day,” Nadal said after pulling within a win of a possible date against Federer with plenty of work still to be done for both. “That helped me a little more.”

That such a promising match turned into a worst nightmare for the poor 11th seeded Chilean who will still move up in the rankings was too bad. He just couldn’t deal with the elements breaking down in front of his Dad who by the end looked down, feeling for what his son experienced.

For Nadal who admitted to CBS’ Mary Joe Fernandez that the extra rest was the best thing for his abdominal strain, it was a best case scenario.

“It was important to have one day off to recover a little better,” he pointed out. “Today, I feel well.”

“I’m OK,” Nadal added. “I have only a little bit of a problem in the abdominal. That’s it.”

Though he’s nursing the injury and faces a tough opponent who beat him last month in Montreal 7-6 (1), 6-1, the feisty Spaniard who’s trying to complete a career grand slam might even be fresh for the rematch on the big stage. However, it should be a much harder test than how today finished.

“He’s [Del Potro] good. I think he’s a complete player, and it’s always the same thing,” Nadal said. “Try to be ready to put one more ball (back) than the rest.”

At the very least, the Open will have a first time finalist in the battle between Spain’s best and Argentina’s which may as well be a Davis Cup match.

Expect a fun atmosphere along with an entertaining brand of tennis.

Nadal/Gonzalez Suspended Along with Fans

A really good men’s quarter between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez was suspended due to incoming rain. The entertaining match to take on previous winner Juan Martin Del Potro in the semis had already been stopped twice and apparently, reports of more rain made it impossible to complete before disappointed Ashe spectators who patiently waited it out.

What they did at least get were two high quality sets in which neither player broke with Nadal leading 7-6 (4), 3-2 in a second set tiebreaker. Despite a visit from the trainer along with a three-minute injury timeout to treat his strained abdominal muscle, the gritty No.3 seeded Spaniard was in front thanks to fighting off two set points in the 12th game of the opening set- getting a little help from Gonzalez who had a soft 92 mph second serve but misfired a return forehand.

The set went to a tiebreak where Nadal proved to be more consistent playing superb defense while Gonzalez self-destructed contributing a few of his 18 unforced errors including a wild forehand to give the six-time grand slam winner the set.

That’s when an ailing Rafa was visited by the trainer before action continued. Neither player changed their strategy much in a gunslinger second set where Gonzalez continued to pound away against the counter punching Nadal whose defense made it increasingly tough for the 11th seeded Chilean to find any momentum.

The first rain delay came at two all lasting exactly an hour. When they returned, it looked like they might get the rest of the set in which included three huge saves by Gonzalez to get out of trouble in the 10th game. He fought off three set points delivering with a pair of service winners and a monstrous forehand into an open court. Two more big forehands down the line allowed him to hold for five all.

Each then held to force another breaker. Unlike the first one which Gonzalez fell behind in 1-4, he and Nadal exchanged mini-breaks thanks to great defense forcing errors to make it 2-3. But with Gonzalez ready to serve, a few drops came making wild conditions which already included swirling winds impossible to continue.

The players first sat in their chairs hopeful it would pass but eventually went back to the locker room thanks to another rain delay.

As the clock struck midnight, returning fans clapped expecting the players to return to a dried court ready to do battle. Unfortunately, veteran chair umpire Pascal Maria delivered the bad news to some jeers and “Ohhhh’s and Awwww’s.”

Who could blame them? If only the USTA had enough common sense to plan ahead. Would it have really hurt to move the two doubles matches to Louis Armstrong?

What they could’ve done was keep the mixed doubles championship on Ashe while asking the Williams sisters to play on Armstrong due to the weather forecast. While that might not have been too popular a decision, at least it would’ve made sense with the popular Serena and Venus Williams playing a women’s doubles semifinal they prevailed in the old stadium so the men could at least get the final quarterfinal in.

Now, the winner will have to play consecutive days and potentially three which could really be a disadvantage the rest of the weekend. Had they been more prepared, it also wouldn’t have been such an inconvenience for fans who paid hard earned money to see a high quality match.

What happens now? They’re screwed because as Maria sadly announced, Session 22 was considered complete. On the official U.S. Open site, the following message reads:

We are currently planning to play the Friday day session # 23 as scheduled. Due to weather, we recommend you continue to check USOpen.org for weather and scheduling updates.

The big question is what does this do to the two women’s semis scheduled for later today with Caroline Wozniacki taking on Yanina Wickmayer while Serena battles Kim Clijsters. Originally, the first match between the ninth seeded Wozniacki and unseeded Wickmayer is supposed to go off at 12:30 today with the battle of champions to follow.

Why not move the ladies back allowing Gonzalez and Nadal to complete their match on Ashe? It all depends on the weather which while not expected to be as bad, could be sketchy with possible rain.

Complicating matters is that the men’s doubles final between fourth seeded Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes and third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles was supposed to be played on Ashe at approximately 3:30 PM.

If you go by the emergency schedule, they list Nadal-Gonzalez not before 2 PM with a possible relocation to Armstrong. Apparently, that option is also available for Wozniacki-Wickmayer and the doubles championship.

It wouldn’t be fair to move the ladies to Armstrong as each has earned their place on center stage at Ashe. Something they’d never consider for Williams-Clijsters.

Shouldn’t the guys get theirs in as early as possible due to having to go on Super Saturday against a more rested Del Potro? One would think so. But that’s the dilemma facing the USTA due to CBS. With three networks covering the final grand slam, this shouldn’t be such an issue. But thanks to CBS who has exclusive rights the rest of the event including the women’s semis and men’s doubles final slotted between 12:30-6 PM, it’s a dicey situation for viewers.

Unless you have high speed internet access, you’re likely to get the shaft in terms of missing either the Nadal-Gonzalez conclusion or Wozniacki-Wickmayer which definitely isn’t fair.

Oh. CBS will do the best job possible moving between venues to update. But it kinda sucks if you’re a hardcore tennis fan.

These two weeks have been kind to New York with last night the first rain interrupted session. You almost never can make it through one slam without at least one of these situations arising.

We just wish the USTA had done a better job planning with the biggest weekend ahead.

Match Notes:

Gonzalez drops first set in tiebreak to Nadal 7-6 (4).

-Gonzalez hit big striking more than double winners (16-7) while also serving 5 aces to keep serve during tight set.

-But Nadal saved 2 set points with one huge Gonzalez forehand return netted on a 92 MPH 2nd serve.

-In tiebreak, Rafa took a 4-1 lead thanks to more consistency. Gonzalez miscues including a wild forehand handed him the set. Nadal made just four errors while Fernando committed 18.

-At end of set, trainer visited Nadal treating his injured abdominal muscle.

2nd Set

-Nadal and Gonzalez on serve 2 all when rain suspends play for first time all tournament.

-1 hour rain delay

-No breaks of serve

-10th game gusts fly up blowing things around and Gonzo stops to watch trying to stay in set. Nadal then plays amazing D getting to possible winners drawing an errant overhead for 0-30. Double hands Nadal 2 set points. 2 service winners save them.

-3rd set point on long backhand in memorable 10th game. On set point after great Gonzo save, tennis ball blows onto court for let. Weird. On let, Gonzo shows heart with forehand winner into open court saving another pumping self up. Gonzalez then wins challenge for forehand winner on line. Another cross court forehand gives him big hold.

-Nadal holds at love for 6-5 putting pressure on Fernando, who holds easily for another breaker.

-Rafa plays great defense forcing long forehand to earn mini-break for 2-1.

-Gonzo comes back drawing Nadal backhand miss to earn mini back for 2-2.

-At 3-2 Nadal, rain drops suspend play again and players go to locker room after waiting to see if it would stop.

-Over an hour delay again as they ready court with tiebreak on serve with Gonzalez to serve 2-3.

-With reports of more rain as the court was dry and ready to go with fans who stayed excited, play is officially suspended ending Session No.22 to the dismay of those who stuck around, throwing a wrinkle into Friday’s Session 23 that includes both women’s semis and the men’s doubles final.

Nole Through to Semis

It was a battle but in the end, Novak Djokovic got through to the semis in four sets by eliminating 10th seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 over on Ashe Stadium this afternoon.

Known by the nickname Nole, the No.4 seeded Serb struggled at times with his forehand spraying more than half his 41 unforced errors. But when push came to shove, the 2007 U.S. Open runner-up was up to the challenge against the dangerous lefty Verdasco- advancing to a third consecutive semi in Flushing where he could meet five-time reigning champ Roger Federer.

“Well, it feels great. I mean, I haven’t done that in the past three Grand Slams this year, so mentally was very important for me to overcome today’s challenge and to be able to win quarterfinals and to get to the semifinals first time in the Grand Slams in 2009,” said a very pleased Djokovic.

“So now that I’ve done it I feel kind of a relief, and I hope I just can continue playing well and challenge eventually Federer if he gets to the semifinal.”

At the outset, both players started slowly with each making uncharacteristic miscues in a weary set which kept the crowd fairly quiet. There were no breaks of serve but Djokovic nearly cracked late when he played a loose game giving Verdasco two break chances. However, the 22 year-old former 2008 Australian champion withstood it to hold.

Predictably, it went to a tiebreaker where Djokovic came to life forcing errors from Verdasco to cruise 7-2 for a set lead.

“Yeah, I don’t think we had a great first set. First set quality of the match wasn’t its best. I’ve made a lot of unforced errors, he’s made a lot of unforced errors, and I was lucky to get through in the tiebreak,” the winner admitted.

Before he could get too comfortable, it was his older 25 year-old opponent who quickly turned it around by picking up the pace in an easy second set that started with a break for 2-1 thanks to consecutive winners from the backhand and forehand.

Suddenly, Djokovic’s game went off as his forehand continued to fail while Verdasco was producing great tennis using his big forehand to open up the court and crack many of his 46 winners. Hitting a cleaner ball, he was able to dictate play even taking advantage by finishing a few points at net.

With the 2009 Australian Open semifinalist on his game, Djokovic struggled mightily having his serve broken three times in the uncompetitive 34-minute set which leveled the match.

“He stepped it in. He played very aggressive, and he deserved that second set,” Nole assessed.

With it hanging in the balance, it setup a seesaw third set which had a bit of everything. A now warmed up Verdasco continued to go for more forcing Djokovic into extended rallies that made for some more entertaining tennis. Pushed even more, the higher seed upped the ante going shot for shot from one side of the court to the other as each played great defense.

Due to how competitive the points were, the players each traded service breaks in the middle of the set. With Djokovic pressing for another break, a feisty Verdasco battled back from Love-30 down, reeling off the next four points thanks to his forehand where he ripped a couple of clean winners down the line holding for 4-3. Obviously frustrated, Nole stared at his box during the changeover muttering to himself.

“The dangerous thing about Verdasco is to let him take over the control of the match, because he’s physically very strong and he’s able to do a lot of things, especially from his forehand side, as we could see today. He improved a lot his backhand, so he stays much closer to the line,” explained Djokovic of why it was so tricky.

Instead of letting the moment get to him, he remained focused turning up a serve which allowed the Serb to save 10 of 14 break points including a few in the pivotal third. Djokovic got plenty of first serves in doing well by winning 71 percent of the points (66 of 93), also mixing in a few timely aces which he doubled up Verdasco in 10-5.

Ultimately, Verdasco tightened up with the 11th game proving costly. Close to holding for 6-5, he missed an easy forehand volley pushing it way out. A pair of double faults and another error donated the crucial game to Djokovic, who pumped his fists letting out a yell to his corner.

He then closed it out to pull within a set of a possible semifinal rematch with Federer pending his quarterfinal versus Robin Soderling later tonight which follows the highly anticipated women’s quarter between American teen sensation Melanie Oudin and ninth seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki.

With momentum, Djokovic continued to play steadier and headier tennis letting his wilting opponent self destruct. Nursing an abdominal strain which he was treated for in the fourth set, Verdasco began trying to end points earlier. But with Nole continuing to play solid D and get balls back drawing wild misses from the flustered Spaniard.

In particular, Fernando’s forehand went off which explained 17 more miscues (58) than the more consistent Djokovic. He also struggled with his serve often missing the first while tossing eight doubles which allowed the No.4 player to gain even more confidence.

“He likes when the ball is coming a bit slower to him so he can, you know, do more things with it. That’s why I tried to mix up the pace, you know, play some high balls and then fast balls to his forehand and try to just get him out of that comfort zone that he got in in the second set. I managed to do that,” Djokovic added.

He finally finished off his ailing opponent breaking twice for a 5-1 cushion. Following a Verdasco hold, Djokovic served it out at love finishing him off at the net as the two exhanged hands.

“I managed to come back, and that’s what it matters. You know, I just tried to focus myself in the third set and work on some things. I returned more balls in on his serves, and I think serving well was as well one of the key elements in today’s win.”

An Excerpt from “Quest for Perfection”

Roger Federer is looking for his sixth straight US Open men’s singles title at the 2009. The first of his five straight titles in New York came in 2004 when he defeated Lleyton Hewitt, his third-round victim in 2009, in the final. Rene Stauffer, the author of the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) details the 2004 US Open final between Federer and Hewitt in his celebrated tome. The brief book excerpt is seen below…

Awaiting him in the final was another of his past nemeses, Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion. The Australian skipped the Olympic Games, but won the two ATP tournaments played concurrently to the Olympics in Washington, D.C. and in Long Island. Entering his match with Federer, he won his last 16 matches and did not surrender a set in his six-match run to the final.

It only took 17 minutes for Federer to hand Hewitt his first lost set of the tournament, losing only five points in a near perfect execution of tennis. When Hewitt won his first game of the match after Federer led 6-0, 2-0, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Federer contin­ued to be the much stronger player, until a lapse of concentration and a run of errors and missed serves allowed Hewitt to win four straight games after trailing 2-5 in the second set.

“If he had managed to win the second set, it would have turned out to be an entirely different match,” Federer said. “I forced myself to keep positive. I said to myself that I only got this break because I was playing against the wind and I was serving with old balls. When I changed sides, everything actually did go easier.”

Federer held serve at 5-6 to force the tiebreak and won that 7-3. The two-set lead broke Hewitt’s resistance and Federer plowed through the final set 6-0 to win his first US Open championship.

“First I was surprised that Lleyton was no longer getting to the ball,” Federer said of his moment of victory. “Then I was suddenly lying on my back, look­ing into the sky at the lights of the stadium. I thought, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Once again I was close to tears.”

Rafa Bulls Past Monfils

Rafael Nadal is from Spain. So, he knows a thing or two about bulls. That was evident in the No.3 seed’s come from behind four set win over frenetic Frenchman Gael Monfils, advancing to a U.S. Open quarterfinal against No.11 Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, who earlier on Day Nine ousted No.7 Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

The 13th seed certainly put on a great show using his athleticism to stay in long rallies entertaining a packed Ashe Stadium but ultimately it was Nadal’s bulllike mentality that allowed him to come away with a 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win in what was a fun match that lasted two hours and  45 minutes.

Early on, Monfils proved why he was so dangerous breaking Nadal early to jump out to a 5-2 lead. However, that didn’t discourage the six-time grand slam winner who after holding broke back and then held suddenly squaring the first set at five all. Fittingly, an ultracompetitive set that saw plenty of action packed rallies with each player pushing the other all over the court needed a tiebreaker.

In it, it was the flying Frenchman who made all the right shots plays pulling out the breaker when he forced an errant Nadal shot, letting out an emphatic scream while pointing to his heart after taking it.

“No, no, I think I came back well in the 5 4 playing very good game to break back. And in the tiebreak he didn’t had any mistake with his serve. He play all first serves, so he beat me the first set, was tough,” Nadal said.

“But I still there, and physically it was tough for both. But I think for him a little bit more.”

Up a set, before Monfils could blink, a determined Nadal broke early in the second set and seemed on his way to leveling things. But just when it looked that way, here came Monfils right back with a magnificent game to break back for 3-4. So pumped was he after winning some wild exchanges with one going 31 strokes, it looked like he had a shot at an upset and his first Open quarterfinal.

As often happens though with Nadal, you just can’t count him out. Fittingly with ESPN’s John McEnroe noting that the 23 year-old from Mallorca would ‘come even harder’, that’s exactly what happened making for one of the most memorable games of the tournament. With Monfils trying to draw even at four, the two played some unbelievable points that seemed to take forever mesmerizing the crowd.

Following two successful exchanges, a pumped up Monfils pointed to his chest. Two points from drawing even, the point of the match came with Monfils and Nadal going toe to toe. About half a dozen times, it looked like the Frenchman had the point won but a desperate Rafa randown a shot just stabbing back a slice backhand to stay in it. Eventually, he drew a miss to get to 30-All, then pumping his fists. Possibly tired, Monfils lost the next two points to drop serve falling behind 3-5.

“I think I get a little fatigue. Also, Rafa playing good. It’s credit to him. He played more deep, more, heavy, more flight on his shot,” Monfils admitted.

Serving to square it wasn’t easy for Nadal who got plenty of resistance from a focused Monfils, who fought off three set points with great backhand winners. Instead of falling apart, the 2009 Australian Open champ got even stingier winning a tough point setting up a fourth set point to which he gave a double pump. After finally closing it out, he pounded his chest as if to say, ‘Bring it on!’

“I think it was a bit tough to keep going like that, to take the ball. I think I stepped back a little bit and just give him I think more time and more time to set up,” assessed Monfils. “And also, I think today he played very good, very good. His defense was very, very strong today. So I mean, this where I think the change for me.”

“Yeah, first two sets was really tough, really hard physically and I think the tennis was very good level,” said Nadal in agreement.

Perhaps the quality of the play took something out of Monfils. Either that or the moment got to him because he put up token resistance in a 28-minute third set that saw Nadal stick to the strategy of working his opponent over to the point of exhaustion. After some rallies, he was bent over trying to catch his breath.

Nadal took full advantage breaking three times in the set with the second for 4-1 resulting in the trainer coming out to retape Monfils’ wrist. With little left in the tank, he lost the next two games firing a wild forehand way long to hand Nadal a two sets to one lead.

Was there anything left for a comeback which an enthusiastic Ashe wanted to see even chanting, “Mon—fils, Mon—fils, Mon—fils” after he dropped serve to fall down an early break.

At first, it worked as he bounced back breaking Nadal while frequently talking to himself as if to say, ‘You can do it.’

But following a feisty Nadal hold for 4-3, Monfils finally cracked getting broken at love donating the eighth game with four errors including a pair of doubles that gave him an eighth service break in 14 attempts. By comparison, his opponent also did good going three for six but was silenced when it really mattered.

“I mean, I had like a lot practice behind me, and just come out with few match and a little bit practice,” pointed out Monfils who missed Wimbledon with an injury and had played only three matches entering the Open.

“So didn’t have that confidence also to keep going, didn’t have the miles in my legs. If I played maybe six tournaments before the US Open even, I think it will be more than an hour, 30 minutes. It can be two hours and maybe push him when I’m back in second set at 4 3.”

A cool Nadal then served out the match drawing one last of Monfils’ 63 unforced errors, advancing to a third Open quarter. Last year, he improved by making the semis before departing at the hands of upset victim Andy Murray, who oddly enough he just passed again to regain the No.2 ranking.

Afterwards, a very pleased Nadal thanked the crowd for their support even getting some unexpected love from a fan who ran onto the court to take a pic before Open Security took the grinning stranger away.

“No, for me it wasn’t the problem. The guy was really nice,” Nadal chuckled, then adding:

Yes. He was a great fan. He said, I love you, and he kiss me.”

Even the unexpected doesn’t faze him. He’ll try to keep it going against Gonzalez, who figures to be a good challenge.

“Right now, the rest of the tournament I know gonna be very difficult. I have to enjoy it. I must enjoy that, and I must to play very aggressive and the best tactically if I gonna have chances to continuing win any match.”

Might another Rafa vs Roger grand slam final finally happen in the city that never sleeps?

It remained possible after tonight.