NEW YORK: Karen Khachanov set-up a US Open semi-final duel with Casper Ruud on Tuesday when he battled past “devastated” Nick Kyrgios in a big-hitting five-setter, shattering the Australian crowd-pleaser’s dreams of a maiden Grand Slam title. Russian 27th seed Khachanov triumphed 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 over the Wimbledon runner-up to make the last-four at a major for the first time.
Earlier Tuesday, Norwegian fifth seed Ruud defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) to make his second Slam semi-final of 2022 having finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the French Open. Khachanov fired 30 aces and a total of 63 winners past Kyrgios. “I did it, guys. Finally, you are showing me some love,” Khachanov told the mostly pro-Kyrgios crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It was a crazy match I was expecting it would be like this. I’m ready to run, to fight to play five sets. We played almost four hours and that’s the only way to beat Nick.” The Russian said he had “nothing to lose” when he faces Ruud on Friday. “I would like to win it,” said Khachanov who lost to the Norwegian on clay in Rome in 2020 in their only previous meeting. “But as deep as you go the expectations rise up. I did the step forward, I made my first semi-final and I think I have nothing to lose.
“I just want to go for it and be ready for the next match and hopefully it will be a good one.” Kyrgios, who had knocked out defending champion Daniil Medvedev in the last-16, hit 31 aces in his 75 winners. However, his unforced error count of 58 was almost double the 31 of Khachanov. “I’m devastated. It’s heart-breaking for me and everyone,” said Kyrgios. “I feel like I have let so many people down.”
After Kyrgios had levelled the contest just after midnight with a dominant tiebreaker, he allowed Khachanov to break for a 1-0 lead in the final set. Kyrgios then failed to convert break points in the second and fourth games and his chance was gone. They were two of seven break points saved by the Russian on the night. Khachanov went to match point off a net cord and claimed victory from an unreturned serve after three hours and 39 minutes of action.
‘Walk on water’
Ruud reached the US Open semi-finals for the first time after breaking Berrettini five times while saving seven of nine break points. He raced through the first two sets under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium before 2019 semi-finalist Berrettini stopped the rot with a break for 2-0 in the third. At 2-5 down, the 23-year-old Ruud saved two set points before recovering and going on to dominate the tiebreak.
“It was a better start to a match than I ever had before. Everything was going my way plus Matteo didn’t serve as well as he usually does,” said seventh-ranked Ruud who could finish the US Open as the new world number one. “I got a little nervous towards the end of the second set because things were going a little too well. “You think you can walk on water, which is not possible. The third set was very tough.”
Berrettini, who missed the French Open because of a hand injury and Wimbledon due to Covid, admitted he had endured a day to forget. “Nothing more I can say than the worst day of the tournament probably in the most important moment,” he said. The remaining quarter-finals take place on Wednesday. Frances Tiafoe, the conqueror of Rafael Nadal, takes on Andrey Rublev while Carlos Alcaraz, the third seed, meets Jannik Sinner. – AFP