US Open 2017

US Open 2017: With his first Major semi, Carreno Busta bursts into WTF contention

Carreno Busta reaches the semi-finals of the US Open in New York by beating Diego Schwartzman in three sets

There were firsts within touching distance of all four of the surviving men in the bottom half of the US Open draw as they targeted a Major semi-final.

Sam Querrey was aiming to become the first home player to reach the last four here since Andy Roddick in 2006. It was only last year that he reached his first quarter-final at a Major—Wimbledon—and then took it a step further at Wimbledon this year, setting an Open era record: His first semi-final in 42 attempts.

He then set another record in the men’s tournament so far by beating Mischa Zverev in the fourth round in 77 minutes, with 55 winners and eight unforced errors.

Kevin Anderson was aiming to become the first South African Major semi-finalist since Wayne Ferreira in 2003. He reached his first Major quarter-final here last year after 26 Majors.

With a succession of injuries, Anderson dropped to 80 in the ranks after missing the Australian Open and retiring in the fourth round of Roland Garros, but was now seeded 32 and into his second ever Major quarter-final. That rise in form through the season was clearly demonstrated through the early rounds: He held 55/55 service games and saved 14/14 break points until Paolo Lorenzi broke him in the fourth round.

As for Diego Schwartzman, not to put too fine a point on it, he was the shortest Major quarter-finalist since fellow South American Jaime Yzaga, also 5ft 7ins tall, made it here in 1994. Should he reach the semis, the record would date back to 1980.

The 25-year-old’s achievement in reaching the quarters was exceptional given his form thus far: This was his 13th Major, and had not made a third round until Roland Garros this year. He had just two tour finals to his name, both on clay, one dealing him his only title last year in Istanbul.

Indeed his best hard-court work had come a month back in Montreal, a Masters quarter-final with a win over No7 Dominic Thiem. That is, until he reached New York. Here he beat former champion and No5 seed Marin Cilic in the third round and then the talented No16 seed Lucas Pouille.

But he could not rise to the challenge of one of the most solid and fit men on the tour.

Pablo Carreno Busta, seeded 12, had set an unusual record in reaching his second Major quarter-final this year, and his first at the US Open, by winning 12 straight sets against four straight qualifiers. The 26-year-old rose to a career-high 15 this summer, and was now making a case for qualification for the World Tour Finals.

And the lean Spaniard, whose confidence has grown with his success this year—notably a fine semi run at Indian Wells and his quarter run in Paris—hardly gave Schwartzman a look-in during their first meeting.

He broke in the first game, and then exchanged breaks with the Argentine before serving out the first set, 6-4, in 38 minutes.

The start of the second set also brought an exchange of breaks, and again Carreno Busta broke to serve out the set, 6-4. The third set raced by with an immediate break, and then another in the seventh, with the Spaniard serving out the win, 6-2.

He thus keeps his clean sheet, not a set dropped, and by the by, jumped six places in the Race to London to No8—and Stan Wawrinka, above him, is already certain not to play.

For the moment, though, he can anticipate a career-high No10 in the main rankings, with only Querrey able to displace him if he makes a better run than the Spaniard. No wonder Carreno Busta is enjoying his time in New York so much. It was all on show in his post-match interview:

“It’s incredible, no? It’s something that I always dreamed of, but I never thought I could arrive here. I’m very excited to be in the semi-finals in this tournament.

Of course, with compatriot and former champion Rafael Nadal playing for a semi-final place tomorrow, it is becoming a possibility that the US Open could see an all-Spanish final:

“It would be fantastic to play against him in the final, but we go step by step.”

The lower ranked—and younger—Spaniard credited his experience on Arthur Ashe with some of his success there today. He was runner-up here last year in the doubles final with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

“Doubles helped me a lot. It’s very good to practise serve, volley, play at the net and being aggressive. I played the final here last year, it was my first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium and that experience helped me this year.”

He will next play the survivor of the tallest Major quarter-final of the Open era: One more first for Querrey and Anderson in what has become a fascinating US Open draw.

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