At U.S. Open, Fernandez Dominates, Djokovic Nears Record
Novak Djokovic chases history at the U.S. Open, going for a 21st Grand Slam title and a majors sweep. And upstart Leylah Fernandez is making history of her own.
The men’s singles competition of the U.S. Open has gone pretty much as expected, with Novak Djokovic proving his mettle as he closes in on his 21st Grand Slam title.
But throw out predictability on the women’s side. This year’s competition has seen several upsets, with two top seeds ousted by the same player.
Leylah Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, spent the day before her birthday showing another star player the exit at Arther Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York. Former No. 1 player and 2016 U.S. Open champion Angelique Kerber fell to Fernandez in three sets.
The teenager dispatched defending champion Naomi Osaka two days earlier. It was the first time two former No. 1 players were beaten by the same person at the tournament.
It’s an impressive feat by Fernandez, especially when you consider her first Grand Slam event was a little over a year ago at the Australian Open. She also became the fourth Canadian woman to reach the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.
Before the event, Fernandez was +5000 at Caesars Sportsbook to win the event. Those odds have gone to +1600 at PointsBet, and +1500 at BetRivers. Though she has the longest odds of any of the quarterfinalists, Fernandez is confident.
“I’m not surprised of anything that’s happening right now,” she said. “I’m just glad that it’s happening now and not later in the year.”
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Top Women Players Absent
With Osaka and Kerber out, current No. 1 Ashleigh Barty was an upset victim. Barty was the pre-tournament favorite to win the U.S. Open at +325 at most sportsbooks, including Caesars Sportsbook and BetMGM.
Then Barty was upset by unseeded Shelby Rogers, who won the match in three sets. Rogers was trying to reach the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, but the No. 43-ranked player’s run ended Monday, when she lost in straight sets to another unseeded player, Emma Raducanu.
The highest remaining seed on the women’s side is No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, followed by No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova. Sabalenka has updated odds of +275 at William Hill, while Pliskova is at +425.
Sabalenka told reporters she’s not surprised to reach the quarterfinals, but is trying not to be over-confident. It’s only the second appearance in the quarterfinals for the 23-year-old.
“I don’t want to say ‘expect this,’ because, I mean, you never know,” Sabalenka said. “I’m just really happy to be in the quarterfinals here, because I really like playing at the U.S. Open, especially with the crowd. And the atmosphere is really enjoyable here.”
Of the eight players who reached the quarterfinals, only one has a Grand Slam title. Barbora Krejcikova, who won this year’s French Open, has odds of +750.
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Few Hiccups for Djokovic
Now back to the men’s singles, where the play has been far more predictable. No. 1 Novak Djokovic has won his four matches, though he dropped a set in each of them. Djokovic has now won 25 consecutive Grand Slam matches.
The Serbian is chasing history at this year’s U.S. Open. Djokovic, who opened the event at -135 to win at BetMGM, has seen his odds move to -150. He’s trying to win his 21st Grand Slam title, as well as win all four majors in a calendar year. The last time that occurred in the men’s game was Rod Laver in 1969.
Djokovic reached the quarterfinals by knocking out the last remaining American player, Jenson Brooksby. Brooksby was an unlikely opponent. The 20-year-old, who’s ranked 99th, was a wild card entrant and took the first set from the superstar.
“Was a good finish, it wasn’t a good start,” Djokovic said. “I wanted to wear him down, and it worked.”
Djokovic gave credit to his opponent, and hinted Brooksby maybe a future star. “Whenever I needed a serve I found my serve, I hit my spots well, but all in all it was a very physical battle, a lot of exhausting rallies,” Djokovic said. “Credit to him for his performance tonight. It was fantastic.”
It appears a battle between Djokovic and Russian Daniil Medvedev is still a real possibility. Medvedev, the second seed, has odds of +200 to win the tournament.
Catch the Action
What: 2021 U.S. Open
When: Through Sunday, September 12. Event times vary. For a full schedule, click here
Where: Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing, New York
Watch: Broadcast live on ESPN-TV and livestreamed on FuboTV.