Three mothers have reached the US Open quarter-finals. Two of them, Serena Williams and Tsvetana Pironkova, the oldest players remained in the draw, are meant to need as nobody would have expected to seal a berth in the semifinals.
Williams recorded her 100th win in Arthur Ashe Stadium. It is the most of any player, male or female, in history. Aged 38, by reaching her 53rd career Grand Slam quarterfinal, Williams tied Martina Navratilova on the all-time list. They’re just one behind Chris Evert (54) for the all-time Open Era record.
Contesting her 75th Slam main draw, Serena owns a 355-50 win-loss record at Grand Slam level, the most victories in Open Era ahead of Martina Navratilova (307-49). Her next opponent, currently without a ranking, reached as high as No.31 on September 13, 2010 to become the highest ranked Bulgarian woman in WTA history. She won a single WTA title, on the hard courts of Sydney in 2014.
Before this year’s US Open, Pironkova hadn’t played a professional match since a second round loss at 2017 Wimbledon. After more than a decade on Tour and a streak of injuries, she decided to change her life. The former Wimbledon semifinalist stayed in Plovdiv devoted to her family, her son Alexander and her new enterprise. She founded a sportswear brand, Pironetic, that she also promoted as a model.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pironkova trained hard and came back to New York showing her once usual array of down the line backhands and sliced forehands. She created huge upsets as she defeated Garbine Muguruzaand Donna Vekicen route to this quarter-final clash, but beating Serena seems an impossible mission.
Prediction: Serena in straight sets.
Victoria Azarenka v Elise Mertens  | First meeting
Victoria Azarenkawill meet Elise Mertens, two of the four players that have won at least half of their return games at the US Open. The Belarusian could revive her rivalry against Williams to whom she lost to twice in a row here, in 2012 and 2013.
Contesting a landmark 50th major this fortnight, Azarenka is now 38-12 at US Open (fifth most among active players). After reaching the second week at a Slam for the first time since 2017 Wimbledon, she will play her first Slam quarter-final since 2016 Australian Open.
Currently on an 9-match winning streak, she advanced to the last eight in a major for the 17th time in her career. She will face consistent Belgian Mertens who matched her best result here. The US Open became her happiest Slam hunting ground, owning 11 wins here. In four matches at this year’s US Open, she lost just 22 games, including her straight sets victory over Sofia Kenin. That was the second-best of her career. Mertens has now won the most matches of any player on Tour in 2020.
The No.16 seed served and return consistently since the beginning of the tournament. She plays deep off both sides, rarely giving up points. Confidence is clearly helping her to take the initiative during high-speed rallies. Probably Azarenka, feeling like the underdog despite her glorious past, can stop her fairy-tale run.
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