NEW YORK — Jennifer Brady clasped her hands, threw back her head, closed her eyes and soaked in the biggest moment of her tennis career.
“Wow,” she said, describing the moment. “Just wow.”
The 25-year-old led a contingent of players – two of them Americans – into their first U.S. Open quarterfinals on Sunday, beating former champion Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-4 with a dominant serve and forehand.
Shelby Rogers later joined her with a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6) victory over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. It’s Rogers’ second Grand Slam quarterfinal overall and first at Flushing Meadows.
“It’s so special,” Rogers said.
She now plays two-time major champion Naomi Osaka, who won the U.S. Open two years ago and advanced to the quarterfinals by beating No. 14 seed Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday night. Rogers has beaten Osaka all three times they’ve played.
A bracket lacking six of the top eight women in the rankings because of injuries and coronavirus concerns has given up-and-comers a chance to seize the moment. Nobody has done it better than Brady, who has yet to drop a set and has lost only 19 games in her four matches.
For Kerber, it was an abrupt end to a resurgent week. The three-time major champion, including at the 2016 U.S. Open champion, couldn’t make headway against the American, whose biggest challenge came leading 3-2 in the second set.
Brady took a medical timeout and returned to the court with her upper left leg wrapped.
“My leg was bothering me and I wasn’t serving well,” said Brady, who is based in Florida and ranked No. 41. “I was glad to close it out.”
Brady had never reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Her impressive week – as good as anyone’s – has provided a breakout moment.
“She’s hitting the ball really fast,” Kerber said. “She’s playing well. She has confidence. Let’s see how far she can get here, but for sure she can get far.”
Brady will play Yulia Putintseva, who threw her racket to the ground after dropping the second set in her match – an outburst that became a turning point.
The 35th-ranked player recovered for a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory over No. 8 seed Petra Martic and her first berth in a U.S. Open quarterfinal.
“Before the third set I said to myself, `Whatever happens, you just make it difficult for her, you’re not going to make any mistakes, you’re going to move her around the court as much as possible,”‘ Putintseva said.
Serena Williams plays her fourth-round match Monday against Maria Sakkari, who beat the 23-time Grand Slam champion less than two weeks ago at the Western & Southern Open.
TRY NO. 57
Alize Cornet of France reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time, giving her another chance for that elusive first berth in a Grand Slam quarterfinal. It’s her 57th chance to finally get that far.
The 56th-ranked player has played in the last 54 Grand Slam tournaments, the longest active streak and tied for fourth-longest in the Open era. Japan’s Ai Sugiyama played in 62 consecutive majors.
“I’m pretty proud of this record, let’s say, because it just means that my career has been very consistent since I’m 17,” said Cornet, 30. “It’s not easy never to be injured, never to win a Slam, not to drop in the ranking. I’ve been between (No.) 10 and 90 for my whole career, so it’s quite a good consistency, I’ll say.”
She’ll face Tsvetana Pironkova in her fourth-round match Monday.
“I’m not a player that gives up,” Cornet said, adding, “I’m proud of this resilience.”
STREAK ENDS AT 13
With top-seeded Novak Djokovic defaulted, a streak will be broken.
The last 13 Grand Slam men’s titles have been won by Djokovic (five), Rafael Nadal (five) or Roger Federer (three). Nadal, the 2019 champion in New York, chose not to play the U.S. Open, citing concerns about international travel during the pandemic, and Federer is recovering from two operations on his right knee.