15th seeded Kevin Anderson is the lone first timer in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Anderson advanced to his first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal by shocking third seed Andy Murray on Monday 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (0). Fifth seed Stan Wawrinka is in his third straight quarterfinal at the U.S. Open after beating Donald Young in round four in four sets.
(5) Stan Wawrinka vs. (15) Kevin Anderson
It is Anderson who has earned the headline stealing win of the U.S. Open so far after shocking third seed Andy Murray in the fourth round. Anderson used a massive serve that connected for 25 aces against one of the games’ premier returners. The big South African won 79 percent of his first serve points and kept his second serves to a minimum by getting in 62 percent of his first serves. Anderson crushed 81 winners in all to go with 57 unforced errors. The set won by Murray was the first Anderson had dropped since the opening round when Russian youngster Andrey Rublev took a set off of him. The 15th seed has been killing his opponents with his serve the entire tournament with 94 aces through four rounds and he has been broken just four times. Three of those came courtesy of Andy Murray.
For Wawrinka, it has been four rounds with the cruise control on more often than not. The Swiss has seemed slightly off his best, but it was Donald Young who scored the first set off the tournament off of Stan in the fourth round. Otherwise, Wawrinka has mustered enough to take 12 of the 13 sets he has played. His first serve has been his most effective weapon, winning 78 percent of the points when it has been put into play. Wawrinka’s biggest issue has been a rash of unforced errors. He had 48 against Young to go with 52 winners. They were most evident in his second round match against Hyeon Chung where he chucked in 66 unforced errors to go with 62 winners. That match was settled in three tie breaks. Some of that can be attributed to his big hitting style on his ground strokes, but it is never good if the winners versus unforced errors numbers are close to even when your unforced errors count is high.
The head-to-head will give Kevin Anderson confidence ahead of their quarterfinal clash. Anderson has won four of seven all-time meetings with the most recent on grass this summer at Queen’s Club. That win marked his fourth straight over Wawrinka. The 15th seed’s serve has been tough for Wawrinka to break. Anderson took down the Swiss in two tie breaks where he pounded out 22 aces and won 53 of 61 points off his first serve. During the four match winning streak over Wawrinka, Anderson has won three of the four at Masters events in 2014. He beat Stan 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 in Paris in 2014. He won 7-6, 7-5 at the Rogers Cup and 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 at Indian Wells.
While many will be caught up in the win streak for Kevin Anderson over Stan Wawrinka, there is an X-factor to consider. Despite the loss, Andy Murray forced Anderson to work very hard for his first Slam quarterfinal. He kept him on the court for over four hours. Those were not four easy hours of serving and big hitting. Those were four hours with some of that for sure, but also plenty of running courtesy of Murray. That means the legs could be feeling some fatigue heading into this quarterfinal showdown. That is something that should not be underestimated. The effects of players who have played long matches and their ability to comeback the next round has been big as you would expect. Just ask Bernard Tomic, Donald Young and Fabio Fognini.
The Pig is a firm believer that nerves play a role for players who are making their first appearances in the business end of Grand Slams. It took Wawrinka himself four times to get past the quarterfinal round. Even the great Roger Federer needed three chances in quarterfinals to get past this stage. So there is a vast experience edge in this one that goes to the fifth seed. This year alone, he has already been in this spot three times where he has twice delivered wins to get to the semifinals. It is also worth nothing that none of Anderson’s wins over Wawrinka have come in best of five formats. That is also big. That one extra set you need to get to the next round is no easy task.
Stan Wawrinka will know full well that Anderson’s legs will be carrying the extra mileage of playing Andy Murray in the fourth round. Strategy-wise, it would behoove the Swiss to test those legs early and often. That doesn’t mean getting into extended rallies when you too prefer to shorten points with aggressive ground strokes. You can do this several ways. Rallies. Drop Shots and probably the biggest thing Wawrinka does best; move Anderson around the court with his ground strokes. The fifth seed would do well to work plenty of those to Anderson’s weaker double backhand any time it is possible.
For Anderson, he will not stray from what brought him this far. He wants to pound in big first serves. He wants to keep the points short and use his forehand to whip in winners. The trouble will come if Anderson starts missing first serves and is forced to send in more second serves. He has been very good so far in this tournament at keeping his first serve percentage high. That is something that can become tougher though with fatigue. Temperatures are expected in the high 80s on Wednesday with some stiff winds potentially coming into play as well. This match is scheduled third at Arthur Ashe Stadium after the two ladies quarterfinals are complete.
Tie breaks could dictate several sets in this one. Anderson is 5-2 at the U.S. Open this year in tie breaks. Wawrinka is 5-0. The Swiss has been lights out in tie breaks this season now at 27-10. Anderson is solid at 26-16, but only around 53 percent for his career. Anderson does have a 5-1 mark against Wawrinka in tie breaks during his four match win streak over this year’s French Open Champion. Those memories could bode well in a tight spot in this match. Still, the feeling is that on top of the hard work he put in during his fourth round match and this being his first Slam quarterfinal, that Wawrinka is still more likely to prevail.
Prediction: Wawrinka wins in four sets