2020 US Open: What to Watch on Wednesday

How to watch: From noon to 6 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN; 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN2; and streaming on the ESPN app.

As the United States Open inches closer to its final weekend, the matches are now taking place on just two courts. All of today’s singles quarterfinals will be at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the lone doubles semifinal at Louis Armstrong Stadium. With so many top players facing off, it should be an interesting day.

Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are at best a guess and are certain to fluctuate based on the times at which earlier play is completed. All times are Eastern.

Arthur Ashe Stadium | Noon

Williams, a 23-time major singles champion, on Monday won her 100th match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It’s a testament to her dominance and longevity that the next best performer at Arthur Ashe is Roger Federer, with 77 victories. Although the rabid fans that usually accompany such wins are not present this year, the change appears to have had almost no effect on Williams.

“This is my job,” she said after her win over Maria Sakkari on Monday. “This is what I wake up to do. This is what I train to do 365 days of the year.”

That resolve was clear in her past two matches. Against Sakkari and Sloane Stephens, she dropped a set to an opponent who knew she needed to play her best tennis in order to unseat Williams. But with aggressive returns and tenacious rallies, Williams refused to allow either of them the opportunity to win.

Pironkova, in her first professional tournament since Wimbledon in 2017, has reached the quarterfinals in style. Though the unseeded Pironkova has been a dark horse for the average viewer, she has gained two comprehensive victories over seeded players: Garbiñe Muguruza and Donna Vekic. This is only Pironkova’s third Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance out of 50 appearances, and she has reached the round of 16 at the U.S. Open just once before.

Pironkova prefers a faster court, but it will be tough for her to outgun Williams today. The experience that Williams has been building — not just throughout her career, but also in the past few months of competition in preparation for the U.S. Open — will probably allow her to adjust to her fellow veteran’s style of play.

Daniil Medvedev is aiming to return to the U.S. Open final a year after finishing as the runner-up to Rafael Nadal.
Credit…Frank Franklin Ii/Associated Press

Arthur Ashe Stadium | 2 p.m.

In the men’s singles draw ahead of the U.S. Open, the quarter with last year’s runner-up, Daniil Medvedev, stood out as easily the most packed with talent. Medvedev was joined by two quarterfinalists from last year — Matteo Berrettini and Grigor Dimitrov — and promising youngsters, such as Frances Tiafoe and Rublev.

In the early rounds, Medvedev and Rublev made it clear that they both had the potential to reach the final this year. Rublev has dropped only one set, against the big serve of Berrettini, but ultimately became the first player to break Berrettini’s serve as he secured a four-set victory. Medvedev has not dropped a set, and has lost only seven games on average in each match.

Both Russians possess unique games. Rublev hits with a very open stance, a technique that has recently grown in popularity, but that is generally reserved for situations in which a player is on the run and needs to play defensively. Rublev uses this open stance even when in control of the point, which can make it difficult to tell where he intends to hit.

Medvedev, an extremely lanky player, has an erratic and transfixing game. He seems able to hit the ball in almost any way, depending on the position he finds himself in. He appears equally comfortable to shape up in perfect form, or to hit a winner by swinging his arm wildly over his head.

This matchup could leave viewers transfixed, making them ask just how the modern game of tennis works. There is no simple answer anymore.

Arthur Ashe Stadium | 7 p.m.

There were times during Azarenka’s round-of-16 matchup against Karolina Muchova that one could see just how mentally tough the Belarusian veteran is. After battling through the first set, and being kept at bay by the 20th seed, Azarenka adjusted, finding weaknesses in Muchova’s game and exploiting them with almost no fuss to charge ahead and win the next two sets.

Azarenka, the champion at the Western & Southern Open last month, has shown this ability time and again in the past few weeks.

For Mertens, the 16th seed, this match will be a tough task. Even though Mertens has yet to drop a set through the first four rounds and she upset the second seed, Sofia Kenin, an in-form Azarenka poses a different set of complications. The two have met in doubles a few times, including in the 2019 U.S. Open doubles final, but there, the challenges posed to opponents tend to be about placement, not power.

Mertens is an exceptionally consistent player. That works well against players who can be forced into mistakes, but with the way Azarenka has been playing, it’s unlikely that Mertens will be able to withstand an onslaught of groundstrokes for long enough to find that one mistake.

Arthur Ashe Stadium | 9 p.m.

Thiem, the world No. 3 and the highest seed left in the men’s competition, is primarily a defensive player. Having reached the final at three major events, only to be foiled by one of the “Big Three,” Thiem has developed a reputation as a champion in waiting. Now that he is one of the favorites, it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.

Thiem prefers slow clay courts and has some tendencies that don’t seem to fit a hard-court match. He returns from deep behind the baseline, plays high looping balls during points to reset himself and almost never comes to net. These strategies, for an average player, would be a distinct disadvantage on faster surfaces. Yet Thiem manages to chase balls down and to keep himself in points. Tonight, he will play another resolute defender.

After his round-of-16 victory over Vasek Pospisil, de Minaur, the 21st seed, was asked about his defensive style of play, which is predicated on his speed.

“Well, if I could definitely blast people off the court, then trust me, I would rather do that,” he replied wryly. “This running thing gets tiring, that’s for sure.”

To watch him, you could imagine that de Minaur, known as Speed Demon, is never tired. It can be discouraging for any opponent to hit a nearly perfect drop shot, only to see the wiry 21-year-old chase it down, then immediately pop up to chase the following shot.

Often, when two defensive players meet, there can be a lull in energy, since they are used to redirecting the pace that is being directed into the corners of their court. In this case, you will see an exception. Both players are capable of creating their own pace, and it will be interesting to see how they moderate their shotmaking to create problems for the opponent without compromising their own strengths.

Credit…Phil Walter/Getty Images

Asia Muhammad/Taylor Townsend vs. Xu Yifan/Nicole Melichar, Louis Armstrong Stadium | Noon

This will be the first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal for Muhammad and Townsend. Throughout the tournament, they have seemed remarkably calm, letting each match stand on its own, without heeding the usually worrisome context of a Grand Slam appearance. Xu and Melichar, who began playing together this year, have a bit more experience with deep runs. Melichar has one Grand Slam doubles title, and Xu made it to the finals at Wimbledon last year. Each pair has shown stoicism, but the deeper the run, the more difficult that can be to maintain. Today’s match may end up being a test of nerves, more than a measure of physical abilities.

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