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Wozniacki advances to semis, Makarova eliminates Azarenka Fed, Monfils in blockbuster clash

NEW YORK, Sept 3, (Agencies): Five-time champion Roger Federer set-up a US Open quarter-final blockbuster against eccentric French star Gael Monfils on Tuesday as the hugely-hyped new generation once again flopped. Second seed Federer reached his 10th US Open quarter-final in the last 11 years with a comfortable 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut while Monfils, the 20th seed, reached his second New York last-eight stunning seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 Federer, the 17-time major winner, leads Monfils 7-2 in career meetings, including their most recent clash in Cincinnati last month. “It was a tough three-setter in Cincinnati,” said Federer after winning his 25th night-time match.

 
“Gael has been playing some great tennis, he’s always very entertaining. I’m sure we’ll see lots of retrieving by him and attacking by me.” Federer was barely troubled by Bautista Agut, the 17th seed who was trying to make a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time. He broke in the third and fifth games for a 4-1 lead and despite surrendering one of the breaks in the eighth game, two successive aces sealed the opening set and there was no looking back for the 33-year-old. Crowd favourite Monfils overcame a dramatic loss of composure in the second set to reach his second US Open quarter-final, four years after his first.
 
“It’s my first ever win on the Ashe stadium which is great,” said Monfils, who turned 28 on Monday and whose best performance at a major remains his run to the semi-finals at the 2008 French Open where he was defeated by Federer. “I love to play in New York. There is so much energy and it helps me deliver my game.” Wimbledon semi-finalist Dimitrov, 23, was hoping to reach his third quarter-final at the majors this year but despite occasional breath-taking shot-making, he was undone by 38 unforced errors. Monfils, who hasn’t dropped a set at the tournament, raced through the first set on the back of a break for a 6-5 lead. The Frenchman was another break to the good at 4-2 in the second before he got embroiled in a brief war of words over distractions on the court.
 
Still seething, the Parisian surrendered a break point by not returning the ball in the eighth game. But he bounced back in impressive style, saving two set points in the tiebreak before winning four points in a row to open a two sets to love lead. Dimitrov, who had never won a match in New York on his three previous visits, was facing having to come back from two sets to love down for the first time in his career.
He then added to the drama, albeit unintentionally, when he had to leave the court to replace his shoes which came apart early in the third set. But his luck didn’t change and his campaign was over when he served up his fourth double fault of the tie.
 
“It was just a bad match for me. I didn’t play as close to the way I wanted to, and I think it was a great stage for me to come out on there on the cenre court and perform my best,” said Dimitrov. “But everything went the opposite way today.” Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych reached the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Austria’s Dominic Thiem. Berdych, a semi-finalist in 2012, saved seven break points in the first set against the 20-year-old Austrian, but it was plain sailing after that mini-scare as he wrapped up victory in just 98 minutes. He will next tackle Croatia’s Marin Cilic for a place in the semi-finals after the 14th seeded Croatian reached his third US Open quarter-final with a 5-7, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over France’s Gilles Simon.
 
Cilic, also a quarter-finalist in 2009 and 2012, hit 23 aces, 70 winners and committed 76 unforced errors in the four hour 13 minute clash. His victory comes 12 months after he was forced to miss the tournament as he sat out a doping ban. Berdych has a 5-3 career lead over Cilic but the Croatian won their most recent meeting in straights sets in the Wimbledon third round. The quarter-finals in the top half of the draw take place Wednesday with world number one Novak Djokovic taking on fellow former champion Andy Murray and Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka facing Kei Nishikori of Japan. Nishikori is the first Japanese man since Zenzo Shimidzu in 1922 to reach the last-eight. Ekaterina Makarova outslugged Victoria Azarenka, the U.S. Open runner-up the last two years, 6-4 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Open.
 
The 17th-seeded Russian was steadier and more explosive with her big groundstrokes in dismissing the 16th seed from Belarus and reaching her first grand slam singles semi-final. Makarova was down a break in the first set at 3-2 but broke right back, and broke again in the 10th game as she took advantage of loose groundstrokes from the Belarussian. Left-hander Makarova, better known for her exploits in doubles, dominated the second set and kept up the pressure after Azarenka saved six break points before the Russian broke through in the sixth game to lead 4-2 and clinched the quarter-final by breaking in the final game.
 
Makarova, who has advanced without the loss of a set, will meet either two-time defending champion and top seed Serena Williams or 11th seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy. Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Peng Shuai will meet for a place in the US Open title match after dominant victories on Tuesday. Wozniacki, the runner-up at Flushing Meadows in 2009, dismissed 13th-seeded Italian Sara Errani 6-0, 6-1 and is back in the semi-finals of a major for the first time since the 2011 US Open. China’s Peng, in the quarter-finals of a major for the first time in her 37th attempt, made similarly short work of Swiss teen Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1.
 
Peng joined two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na and Zheng Jie as the only Chinese to reach the last four of a Grand Slam. “Thirty-seven times Grand Slam,” Peng said, then had to stop the thought as she struggled to contain her emotions after taking apart Bencic in just 64 minutes. “It’s a little bit too exciting,” she said. “I love tennis, I love to play, but it’s a long time, the career. It’s tough. Sometimes I’ve thought to give up and stop playing because I don’t know if I can make it or not. “My coach and my parents always told me to fight and not give up — that today was coming.” Wozniacki was similarly convincing on a windy night on Arthur Ashe Stadium court, where towels from the players’ chairs and stray plastic bags had to be corraled.
 
In a match between two players with an uncanny ability to extend rallies, Wozniacki’s 26 outright winners to the 12 of Errani made the difference. Errani, who boasts a top-speed serve of less than 90 mph (144.84 Km/h) couldn’t hold once in six service games. She was unable to capitalize on any of four break points in the opening game of the match and after fighting for that hold Wozniacki was rolling. “It was really tricky conditions with the wind but I tried to stay aggressive,” Wozniacki said, calling the opening game “very important”. “You always go out there and are a little bit nervous. I served really well after that.” Errani did break Wozniacki to open the second set, but with the Italian unable to protect her own serve it was immaterial, and the Dane wrapped things up in 65 minutes.

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