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, 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.

On the women’s side, the in-form Caroline Garcia advanced to the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-4 victory over 12th-seeded American teenager Coco Gauff at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

She will face Tunisian fifth seed Ons Jabeur, who became the first Arab woman to make the final four at the New York hardcourt major by beating Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Khachanov fired an unreturnable serve on match point to seal the win over Kyrgios, who had knocked out world number one Daniil Medvedev in the previous round.

Khachanov was better in the intense match’s biggest moments, saving seven of the nine break points he faced, often with his thundering serve.

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.”

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.”

Frenchwoman Garcia, meanwhile, is relishing the opportunity to end a six-match losing streak stretching back to junior level when she faces Jabeur.

The two women have met six times in major championships — four times as juniors and twice as professionals — and Jabeur has won all six encounters.

“It was really a challenge for me to play her in juniors,” Garcia said Tuesday. “She was a rare kind of style. A few times she stopped me on my way to get a Slam in juniors. It’s fun to see two players again in the semi-finals in the US Open.

“In juniors, it was really rare to play someone doing so many dropshots, slicing in the backhand. She was really changing a lot the balls. It was really rare in the juniors. She was very tricky already to play — now she’s even more.”

Tomljanovic had landed in the quarter-finals after a run which included a third round victory over Serena Williams, in what was most likely the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s final singles match before retirement.

But the Croatia-born Aussie’s battling campaign came to a grinding halt against the dynamic fifth-seeded Jabeur, the Tunisian attacking from the outset and never letting up.

Jabeur said she had been infused with belief since reaching the Wimbledon final, where she was beaten in three sets by Kazakhstans’s Elena Rybakina.

“I believe more in myself,” Jabeur said. “After Wimbledon it was very positive. Even though I lost the final, I knew I had it in me to win a Grand Slam. And here I am in the semi-finals of the US Open.”

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2022

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