WHAT HAPPENED: No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and 18-year-old Ana Konjuh played one of Wimbledon's most memorable matches earlier this summer. The veteran Radwanska cruised through the opening set before the powerful youngster came back to force a third. But instead of the biggest win of her life, Konjuh squandered match points, and left the court in tears after losing 9-7 in the third set.
On Monday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Radwanska got off to a fast start, on a tack similar to her Wimbledon performance. The crafty right-hander broke her teenage opponent immediately to grab a 2-0 lead. But while it took the Konjuh more than a set to start finding her mark at the All-England Club, she had no such problem in Flushing Meadows.
“I remembered Wimbledon, I had two match points there,” said Konjuh, who in fact lost three match points in that match. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to do it here, I’m not going to let the opportunity go.’ So I just went for it this time.”
Konjuh, the 2013 US Open Juniors Girls’ champion, went for shot after shot and gave Radwanska little chance to use her variety, hitting 38 winners to only 27 unforced errors in her 6-4, 6-4 victory. It was the fifth time that Radwanska has lost in the fourth round of the US Open — her best result at the tournament.
Radwanska usually is not one to dictate play, and instead draws strength from being a shot or two ahead of her opponent tactically. But in this contest it was clear that the match sat squarely on Konjuh's racket, and out of the favorite's hands.
In the first set, Konjuh struck 15 more winners than Radwanska, and the story did not change much in the second set, in which the margin was 14.
A loud noise burst through the air in the stadium while Konjuh was serving for the match, but nothing could unsettle her, as Radwanska could not put a return over the net at 40-15, sending Konjuh to the next round.
WHAT IT MEANS: Konjuh, still 18, has proven that she has a bright future. But for her the future is now, as she will play No. 10 Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinal of the final Grand Slam of the year. The two have never played, but both will be in uncharted territory when they take the court in the final eight.
Neither player had made the round of 16 at a Grand Slam before this US Open, and both were able to pull out wins.
Pliskova, the No. 10 seed, showed great form in upsetting No. 6 seeded Venus Williams in a third set tiebreak earlier Monday. And perhaps playing against the big-hitting Williams will be good preparation to confront the Croat.
On the other hand, Konjuh will play someone who employs almost an entirely different game compared to Radwanska. Pliskova takes big swings at nearly every ball, hitting flat shots deep in the court. The Polish star and Konjuh both threw in drop shots here and there, but that will likely disappear in the next round.
QUESTION: A future star, Konjuh is showing that she is ready to shine now. Just how long can her dream run last?