NEW YORK: Defending champion Rafael Nadal on Sunday reached the US Open quarter-finals for the eighth time where he will face Dominic Thiem, one of only three men to defeat him in 2018.
World number one Nadal saw off a battling Nikoloz Basilashvili, the first Georgian in a fourth round in New York, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.
“It’s a big victory for me,” said the 32-year-old Nadal, the champion in 2010, 2013 and 2017. “He was hitting the ball very strong and when I thought I was in control of the points, he always came back with strong shots.”
It was world number 37 Basilashvili’s strength, however, which proved his undoing. His 56 winners were erased by 59 unforced errors, three times as many as Nadal.
Elsewhere, Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, beat Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 to make the last-eight for a third successive year.
The third seeded Argentine will next face John Isner, the last American man standing, who defeated Milos Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, taking his tournament aces total past the 100-mark.
Thiem, who beat Nadal on clay in Madrid in the run-up to Paris, booked his place in the quarter-finals for the first time with a 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 win over 2017 runner-up Kevin Anderson.
The ninth-seeded Austrian’s three other appearances in the last-eight of a Slam were all on Paris clay in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Nadal leads their head-to-head 7-3 with all of their matches coming on clay courts, including in the final of Roland Garros in June when he captured an 11th French Open.
He is the first Austrian in the last-eight at the US Open since Thomas Muster in 1996.
Six-time women’s champion Serena Williams survived a spirited challenge from unseeded Kaia Kanepi to triumph 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.
Williams booked a quarter-final date with Karolina Pliskova, the eighth-seeded Czech who beat Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-4.
Pliskova defeated Williams in the semi-finals in New York in 2016.
Defending champion Sloane Stephens, the third seed, eased past Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3 to book a quarter-final rematch with Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.
Sevastova toppled seventh-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 1-6, 6-0, leaving just two of the top 10 women’s seeds remaining.
Stephens was looking forward to taking on Sevastova again in her bid to push ahead in her title defense.
Sevastova, in the quarters for a third straight year, is hoping to turn the tables on Stephens, who is trying to become the first woman to win back-to-back US Open titles since Williams won three straight in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Sunday’s results (prefix number denotes seeding):
Fourth round: 1-Rafael Nadal (Spain) bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (Georgia) 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4; 9-Dominic Thiem (Austria) bt 5-Kevin Anderson (South Africa) 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2); 3-Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina) bt 20-Borna Coric (Croatia) 6-4, 6-3, 6-1; 11-John Isner (US) bt 25-Milos Raonic (Canada) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Fourth round: 17-Serena Williams (US) bt Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 6-0, 4-6, 6-3; 8-Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) bt 18-Ashleigh Barty (Australia) 6-4, 6-4; 3-Sloane Stephens (US) bt 15-Elise Mertens (Belgium) 6-3, 6-3; 19-Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia) bt 7-Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) 6-3, 1-6, 6-0.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2018