Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Brady Moves into US Open Semifinals to Face 2018 Champion Osaka; Men's Doubles Final Set

©Colette Lewis 2020--

Jennifer Brady continued her domination of opponents at this year's US Open, with the 25-year-old former UCLA Bruin defeating No. 23 seed Yulia Puntintseva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2 this afternoon on Armstrong Stadium.

As she has done throughout the tournament, Brady started quickly, running out to a 4-0 lead, with Putintseva unable to put any pressure on the Brady serve. Putintseva did get a break with Brady serving at 4-0 in the first and quickly held for 4-2, but Brady got back on track, primarily with superior power, but also with some inspired defense.

A break in the first game of the second set didn't last, with Brady broken for the second time in the match serving at 2-1, but she got another break in the next game and took control from there, winning the last four games of the 69-minute contest.

The last time Brady had played in Ashe, in the 2017 fourth round against Karolina Pliskova, she had won only one game. In her post-match Zoom press conference, Brady was asked what was the difference in her game now.

"Three years," Brady said. "Three years can make a huge difference. I think I have matured. I definitely have gotten a lot fitter, I feel a lot stronger out on court, have a lot more confidence in myself and my game. I know what I'm doing out there. I believe in myself, my game, that I'm good enough to win matches and to be at this level and to be where I am today."

That being said, Brady admitted that playing in her first slam quarterfinal was nerve-racking.

"Honestly I was feeling like I was going to poop my pants, I was very nervous,: Brady said. "I just tried to really stay calm and, like, keep it cool as a cucumber out there."

Brady still had her left thigh wrapped, which she had needed attention for in her fourth round win over Angelique Kerber on Saturday. Rather than throwing her off her game, Brady said the discomfort helped her focus.

"I think in the fourth game I was serving, and I really started to feel my legs, so, you know, it kind of -- it kind of helped me a little bit," Brady said.

"I just started thinking about that, and I was, Oh, I'm not feeling great, whatever. It kind of took my mind off the match a little bit. And then I was able to recover and really focus in and think, okay, well, I'm up 4-2. How has the match been going? I have been winning points when I'm playing aggressive tennis but not overplaying. So, okay, if I just continue that and take it one point at a time, I can at least put myself in a position to serve for the set if I just continue to just play my game. And then I was able to do that. In the second set I felt like I was continuing off the same thing. Just playing aggressive tennis, looking for my forehand, serving well, trying to be aggressive off returns when I could." 

Brady is the first former college player to reach the US Open semifinals since Lori McNeil (Oklahoma State) in 1987. Of course Danielle Collins made the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2019, so former collegians having slam success is hardly unheard of, but Brady will move into rarified air if she reaches the final. Billie Jean King is the last former college player to make a US Open final, with the former Cal State-Los Angeles star's most recent appearance back in 1974.

Brady will face 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka in Thursday's semifinal, after Osaka, the No. 4 seed,  defeated unseeded Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4. It was Osaka's first win over Rogers in their fourth meeting, although they had not played since 2017.

Brady had this to say about playing the two-time grand slam champion.

"She's obviously a great player," Brady said of the 22-year-old from Japan. "Very powerful, big serve, big shots off the baseline, one-two punch. You know, she's a really good player."

Osaka didn't mention Brady's power when she spoke about her semifinal opponent in the on-court interview after her win over Rogers.

"I think she's a really amazing player," Osaka said. "She has the variety that I wish I had, so I'm a bit jealous. She's super nice and I think it's going to be a really tough match and we're both going to try our best."

The last American man in the tournament was eliminated today in the men's doubles semifinal, with Rajeev Ram and his partner Joe Salisbury of Great Britain falling to No. 8 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia 7-6(3), 6-4. The No. 3 seeds and Australian Open champions had four break points in the 3-4 game in the second set, and when they were unable to convert any of those, the match went the other way quickly. A quick break gave Koolhof and Mektic a 5-4 lead and they closed out the match with an easy hold. 

The last college player in doubles also exited Tuesday, with Jean-Julien Rojer(UCLA) of the Netherlands and his partner Horia Tecau of Romania losing to Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-4, 7-5. The men's doubles final is scheduled for Thursday.

One of the women's doubles finalists was decided today, with Vera Zvonereva of Russia and Laura Siegemund of Germany defeating Anna Blinkova and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 in over two-and-a-half hours. The unseeded veterans will play the winner of Wednesday's semifinal match between No. 3 seeds Nicole Melichar and China's Yifan Xu and unseeded Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad.

One of the men's semifinalists was decided today, with No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany defeating longtime rival Borna Coric of Croatia, the No. 27 seed, 1-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(1), 6-3. Zverev will play the winner of tonight's match between No. 30 seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

Wednesday matches featuring US women:

Serena Williams[3] v Tsvetana Pironkova(BUL)

Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend v Nicole Melichar and Yifan Xu[3](CHN)


Barry Subkow said...

Danielle Collins reached the semi-finals of the 2019 Australian Open.