How to watch: ESPN; streaming on ESPN+ and ESPN3.
How to get there: Take the 7 subway line or the Long Island Rail Road to Mets-Willets Point.
Belinda Bencic and Donna Vekic are about the same age. They are close friends and frequent practice partners. They were highly touted teenage players who, in their early 20s, were finally meeting late at a Grand Slam tournament.
So it was no surprise that for most of their United States Open quarterfinal on Wednesday, they were separated by only a few points.
But midway through the second set, the 13th-seeded Bencic pulled away to defeat the 23rd-seeded Vekic, 7-6 (5), 6-3, and advance to her first major semifinal.
Bencic, who beat No. 1 Naomi Osaka in the fourth round, is only 22. But in some ways her semifinal run is a long time coming.
Bencic was mentored by Melanie Molitor, the mother and coach of Martina Hingis, another Swiss wunderkind.
She played her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in 2014 as a 17-year-old in her U.S. Open debut, and lost to Peng Shuai, 6-2, 6-1. She reached the top 10 at 18.
Bencic hadn’t been back to the final eight of a major since that 2014 Open, her career interrupted in 2017 because of wrist surgery.
Her ranking dropped outside the top 300 and she played low-level professional tournaments in Europe to work her way back. This season she has nine wins over top-10 players, the most on the WTA Tour. She will return to the top 10 next week.
When she was 17, Bencic said getting to the Open quarterfinals “was already very great. I don’t think that was a disappointment losing that.”
But this time she felt like she deserved to be in the semifinals.
“I felt really that I could take it, even though I was very nervous before the match,” she added.
After a tight first set, Bencic broke open the match after Vekic survived a long game, saving two break points, to hold for 3-2. Bencic won the next eight points to take a 4-3 lead and did not lose another game in the match. In the second set, she had only four unforced errors, three of which were double faults.
“I felt like I couldn’t get three good points together,” Vekic said. “I was, like, playing one point good, then bad. I don’t know. I didn’t really have a lot of rhythm out there today.”
Bencic will play the winner of Wednesday night’s match between No. 15 Bianca Andreescu and No. 25 Elise Mertens.
Bencic was as surprised as anyone that she is the last Swiss player left in singles. Her compatriots Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, who have 23 Grand Slam titles between them, lost their quarterfinal matches on Tuesday.
“This is not a good thing,” she said. “I’m not happy about this, actually. I’m kind of surprised, like I think everyone is. It would be really nice if the boys could also make it to semifinals. But I’m happy I can kind of do it for them.”
Playing now: Gaël Monfils vs. Matteo Berrettini
The next quarterfinal at Ashe Stadium features a contrast in styles that should make for an exceptional match to watch.
Berrettini, 23, is the first Italian man to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 42 years. His powerful baseline game, composed of swings that seem too short and too close to his body to be functional, has been on full display in this tournament.
Stylistically, Monfils is Berrettini’s opposite. With his long limbs and acrobatic, lunging shots, he looks most at ease when the ball is far from his body. When he’s in form, as he has been at this Open, Monfils is simply the most entertaining player on tour. Monfils is seeking his third Grand Slam semifinal appearance, after he reached the final four at the 2008 French Open and the 2016 U.S. Open.
Bianca Andreescu and Rafael Nadal headline the night session.
In her first U.S. Open, Bianca Andreescu, a 19-year-old Canadian, is hoping to become the first teenager to reach the semifinals of the women’s tournament since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009. A phenomenal all-court player, Andreescu has lost only four matches this year — none since March — and has soared from No. 152 to No. 15 in the rankings. But her season was interrupted by a shoulder injury in the spring.
Elise Mertens, a 23-year-old Belgian, is the only player in her half of the draw to have reached a Grand Slam semifinal, at the 2018 Australian Open. Mertens has not lost a set, and, in fact, has lost only 16 games on her way to the quarterfinals. Andreescu is the first seeded player Mertens will play. Mertens has excellent lateral movement, and she will be looking to draw on her experience to withstand the furious pace with which Andreescu has been hitting.
In the second night match, Rafael Nadal will be trying to reach his eighth U.S. Open semifinal The second-seeded Nadal, who brushed past a resurgent Marin Cilic in the round of 16, has looked exceptional through the first week of the U.S. Open. Nadal has won three titles in Flushing Meadows, but withdrew in last year’s semifinal match against Juan Martín del Potro with a knee injury that has plagued him throughout his career. This year, it has looked as if nothing can stop him. With his rivals Djokovic and Federer out of the tournament, Nadal is the heavy favorite to win.
Diego Schwartzman, the No. 20 seed from Argentina, will try to stand in his way. He is playing his second U.S. Open quarterfinal at age 27. He has trained at Nadal’s academy but has lost all seven career matches against him. Schwartzman’s excellent return of serve was on full display in his upset of sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev on Monday. He put so much pressure on Zverev that he committed 17 double faults over the four sets.
The Jamie Murray show is at Armstrong Stadium.
The schedule on Louis Armstrong Stadium features six doubles matches, two of them with Jamie Murray of Britain. In the second match of the day, Murray and his new men’s doubles partner, Neal Skupski, defeated the American team of Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4). Sock and Withrow, who grew up playing with and against each other in the Midwest, only recently joined forces on the pro tour, but had looked impressive in upsetting two seeded teams, including the Bryan brothers, on the way to the quarterfinals.
Later Wednesday, Murray will be back at Armstrong Stadium for the mixed doubles semifinal with Bethanie Mattek-Sands against Samantha Stosur and Rajeev Ram. Murray and Mattek-Sands are the defending champions at the U.S. Open, and Murray also won the Open in 2017 with Martina Hingis. Ram and Stosur have had more success this year in their individual competitions, leading them to earn the No. 3 seed, while the defending champions are unseeded. If you enjoy highly technical and tactical tennis, this is a match for you.