US Open semifinals

Pablo Carreño returns to the semis of the US Open

Carreño defeated Canadian Denis Shapovalov in five sets and returns to the US Open semifinals. His rival will be Alexander Zverev, world number five

Pablo Carreño sealed a return ticket to the US Open semifinals by defeating Denis Shapovalov in a marathon of five sets and more than four hours. The Asturian, who already stepped on this step in 2017, overcame a great start from the Canadian and a back problem to win 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 0-6, and 6-3. His rival in the semifinals will be the German Alexander Zverev, number five in the world.

The two days of rest until the semifinals will come in handy, due to the wear and tear and that back problem that put sleep in danger in the fourth round. Carreño, who was about to retire in 2012 due to a herniated disc in the lumbar area, needed a lower back massage before starting the fifth set. Luckily, the physio’s hands worked and, after giving up the quarter 6-0, he rebuilt in the final round to win the game.

Perhaps one of Pablo Carreño’s strongest points is that he is a perpetual remarkable. He does not shine at the level of the greatest but, except for injury, it is rare that he has a bad day. The opposite of Denis Shapovalov, a tennis player who at 21 years of age has not yet managed to tame his immense talent. The Canadian entered the game overwhelming, putting a lot of pressure on the Asturian’s hits. Shortly after someone fell short, he entered the court to gain meters and punish in the net (10/11 in the first set, 52/70 in the match).

Faced with that push, the solidity of Pablo Carreño. The same one that ended up driving Novak Djokovic crazy in the second round. The Asturian’s regularity contrasts with the ups and downs of Shapovalov, who began to tangle in the eighth game. The first serve did not go in and the second has never been especially good. “Come on! God!” The Canadian yelled, betrayed by nerves.

And in the face of this mess, the determination of Pablo Carreño, who waited for his moment to take out the ax in the tie-break: a cross that came out like a cannon, a passing with a parallel backhand, another to make the first minibreak. Bright, aggressive, and without errors. Three points in a row to take command of a sudden death that closed with an ace.

There came a time when more than the court Shapovalov looked at the stands, at his mother, who also serves as a coach. Who knows if looking for relief or a way out. The Canadian always seemed to find a great service to get out of trouble (except for 13 of the first 16 break balls against) … But he spent too much time in trouble and the service did not always work. He committed six double faults in the second set, four in the third. His worst moment. Shapovalov managed to force the tie-break, but again Carreño scored it.

The best approximation of what must be going through Shapovalov’s head was given by himself when he reached the bench. The Canadian dropped the racket, grabbed the towel, and started hitting the ground with it. Maybe he was also thinking about the other time he met Carreño at the US Open. It was three years ago in the round of 16, with the age of the majority just reached. All three sets came to sudden death and all three were also won by the Asturian. Then, as now, he was on his way to the semi-finals.

With that script, the fourth set was even weirder. Shapovalov dominated again with brilliant tennis, not so strange for talent, but Carreño’s resistance disappeared. The games were falling on him and each time he looked timider until at the break of the fifth game he gave the clue: the Asturian gestured to the chair umpire to ask for medical assistance. “The back,” he warned.

After lying down on the track and passing through the hands of the physio, the Asturian revived to start again the initiative of Shapovalov, seized again by frustration and nerves. And Pablo Carreño, alternating that remarkable perpetual with license plate hits, buckled the fifth set to return to the semifinals of the US Open three years later. His rival will be Alexander Zverev, number five in the world and executioner of Davidovich from Malaga.

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