Sunday, September 6, 2020

Djokovic Defaulted; Brady Reaches First Slam Quarterfinal with Win Over Kerber; Rogers Saves Four Match Points to Defeat Kvitova

©Colette Lewis 2020--

No matter what happens the rest of today, there will be only one story on Day Seven of the US Open, and that is the default of top seed Novak Djokovic, who hit a ball in frustration that struck a line judge, resulting in 6-5 victory for No. 20 seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

I did not see the situation unfold live, as I was watching the first set tiebreaker in the women's match between Shelby Rogers and Petra Kvitova (which Rogers won 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(6): see below), but I am not surprised or outraged by the disqualification, as many sports fans who don't follow tennis closely are likely to be. This doesn't happen often, in the juniors or otherwise, although I do remember two such junior tournament incidents leading to player defaults, and less than a year ago, Michael Mmoh was defaulted in the second round of the Charlottesville Challenger when he threw his racquet and it hit a line judge. Another famous incident recently was Denis Shapovalov's default during a 2017 Davis Cup match, when he hit a chair umpire with the ball in anger. Shapovalov, should he win this evening again David Goffin, would play Carreno Busta next.

Randy Walker, a tennis historian, proclaimed it as the biggest default in professional tennis history, and it is certainly in the conversation, but Serena's foot fault default at the US Open in 2009 and John McEnroe's 1990 default at the Australian Open should not be discounted simply because they were years ago.

Here is the USTA release explaining the default:

In accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open. Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.


For more on the incident, see this reaction from Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim.

Before the tournament was hijacked by the Djokovic default, Jennifer Brady was in the headlines, having reached a slam quarterfinal for the first time with a 6-1, 6-4 win over 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber of Germany. No. 28 Brady, seeded for the first time at a major, played flawlessly in the first set, didn't face a break point, and left one of the WTA's top counterpunchers defenseless.

Brady, who had many more matches coming into the tournament than the 17th-seeded Kerber, who hadn't played since the Australian Open, didn't expect the remainder of the match to continue in that fashion and it didn't. Kerber adjusted to Brady's pace, and although Brady got a couple of early breaks, Kerber broke back and never looked out of the second set.

"She was making a lot more balls in the second set," said Brady, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament. "I think maybe I wasn't as aggressive as I was in the first set. I felt like I came out and played really good tennis in the first set, exactly how I wanted to. I was expecting things to be like that. I wasn't really surprised."

Kerber dug in, got break point opportunities in the sixth and eighth games, but Brady continued to come up with winners when it counted, and closed it out on serve after Kerber saved a match point at 3-5.
"I tried to just stay present and not focus on the end result," said Brady, who took a medical timeout to have her left thigh wrapped prior to serving at 3-2 in the second set. "I definitely did want to close it out in two sets, because I wasn't sure, maybe my leg was bothering me a little bit, I couldn't serve as well. But, you know, I was happy with how I 
closed it out at the end."

Brady is the first woman who played college tennis to make the US Open quarterfinals since Gigi Fernandez(Clemson) in 1994, a year before Brady was born.  I asked her about that gap, and whether she had envisioned this success when she started at UCLA in 2013.

"To be honest, when I went to college, if you were to tell me that when I left, if I were to go to college in 2013 at UCLA and seven years from then I would be in the quarterfinals of the US Open, I would probably laugh." Brady said.  "I would be shocked, because I just -- I wasn't ready when I went to college. I wasn't ready to play on the big stage. I definitely wasn't ready to perform or compete with any of these other players. So, you know, for me, college was a big learning experience on and off the court, just growing as a person, becoming more mature. You know, also having Stella and Rance, they made me fall in love with the game a little bit more. Really happy with my decision to go to UCLA."

Brady's opponent in Tuesday's quarterfinals will be No. 23 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, who also is in the US Open quarterfinals for the first time. Putintseva defeated No. 8 seed Petra Martic of Croatia 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
While the drama that the tournament will no doubt ultimately be remembered for took place on Ashe, plenty of the more conventional kind was in store on Armstrong, where the unseeded Rogers had claimed the first set from No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. Rogers was up 5-2 in the first set tiebreaker, primarily due to Kvitova errors, but couldn't serve it out. She did win the 5-all point however, and went big with a forehand on her first set point, with Kvitova serving at 5-6, to take the set.

Kvitova can be up and down in any tournament or in any match, and her level definitely went up in the second set. She broke Rogers early, hit 20 winners and only 7 unforced errors, and quickly got the match back to even with a second break with Rogers serving at 3-5.

Rogers started quickly in the third set, getting a break in the first game, but gave it back in the fourth game and was serving from behind the rest of the match. At 4-5, Rogers saved three match points, all with aggressive shots, and went on to hold for 5-all and then at 5-6, from 30-all.

The final tiebreaker was as close as the rest of the match, with Kvitova taking a 5-3 lead, only to watch as Rogers got the mini-break back with a forehand winner. When Rogers hit a backhand wide at 5-all, Kvitova had her first match point on her own serve, but she double faulted, giving Rogers new life. On her next serve, Kvitova netted a forehand, giving Rogers her first match point, and Rogers got a first serve in. Kvitova hit the return long, and Rogers was through to her first US Open quarterfinal and second major quarterfinal, after reaching the French quarterfinals in 2016.

"To get that double-fault there in the breaker, a little luck was on my side today I think," said the 27-year-old from South Carolina.  "I just kept trying to hang in there and defend her balls, take care of my serve there in the third after I got broken. Thankfully somehow got it done.  The tiebreaker, the whole match actually, was a little bit of a roller coaster for both of us. The first set, you know, a tiebreak. She upped her level a little bit in the second there. I was up a break in the third, she breaks back. She's just hitting missiles. She served unbelievable."

Rogers, who is still rebuilding her ranking after major knee surgery in 2018, was able to see herself returning to a slam quarterfinal, even while the shutdown kept her from playing.

"Starting the year ranked 174, I thought of myself as a higher-ranked player," said Rogers, who will move into the Top 60 regardless of the result of her quarterfinal match. "When I stepped on the court, I didn't see that number. I felt like I would get back to where I wanted to be if I just kept doing the things that I knew were right, stuck with the process.
Honestly, [I was] really enjoying my time at home and the time away. I think that all made this perfect package, helped me being really healthy coming into these events."

Rogers will face the winner of tonight's match between No. 4 seed Naomi Osaka and No. 14 seed Anett Kontaveit.

In an all-former-collegians men's doubles match, No. 3 seeds and Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury(Memphis) defeated the wild card team of Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) and Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) 6-2, 7-6(5).

Sunday’s fourth round results of US women:
Jennifer Brady[28] d. Angelique Kerber[17](GER) 61, 64
Shelby Rogers d. Petra Kvitova[6](CZE) 76(5), 36, 76(6)

Monday’s fourth round matches featuring US men:

Frances Tiafoe v Daniil Medvedev[3](RUS)

Monday’s fourth round matches featuring US women:

Serena Williams[3] v Maria Sakkari[15](GRE)
Sofia Kenin[2] v Elise Mertens[16](BEL

Alison Riske and Gabriela Dabrowski(CAN) v Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad

Nicole Melichar and Yifan Xu(CHN)[3] v Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani(BRA)


Guest said...

There was a default in a doubles challenger, I think last year. I don’t remember the player, but it was either the semis or the finals. It was a complete accident as well. The ball wasn’t aimed at anyone. The player was apologetic and embarrassed immediately afterward. Not many people saw it, because again it was a doubles challenger match. But the rule is clear.

Personally, I think taking away all the points and money earned is harsh for something accidental, especially for a first time offender. The immediate loss of a match, with its financial ramifications, is bad enough.