NEW YORK, NY, USA - The numbers all pointed to a quarterfinal clash between the World No.2 and the World No.6, but a pair of Italians - doubles partners and best friends, too - got in the way, and now Sara Errani or Roberta Vinci will be the first Italian in the Open Era to reach the semifinals of the US Open.
Nobody had won more matches this year than Angelique Kerber, who had 56 going into her fourth round match. But the No.10-seeded Errani put a cap on that number, toughing out a marathon 71-minute first set then, after letting a 3-0 second set lead evaporate to 3-all, winning three straight games to close out the No.6 seed and 2011 US Open semifinalist in straight sets, 76(5) 63.
"It was a very difficult match, mentally," Errani said afterwards. "I was so tired in the match because we had so many long points, but I'm very happy I'm in the quarterfinals in New York. The crowd was great and the court is amazing."
"The balls from her were very difficult for me," Kerber told reporters after the match. "It's not easy to play against an opponent like that who mixes the game up, but I knew this before the match, that she would play a lot of spin and drop shots. I tried to be aggressive but in the important moments she was better. This year she has played very well and improved a lot. She's a very good player.
"She beat me and it's okay. I did everything I could today."
Errani is now through to her third Grand Slam quarterfinal, having been a quarterfinalist at this year's Australian Open (losing to Petra Kvitova) and a finalist at this year's French Open (beating Kerber in the quarterfinals and Sam Stosur in the semifinals before falling to Maria Sharapova in the final).
Straight after Errani's win the No.20-seeded Vinci took Armstrong Stadium as well and pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament so far, slicing and dicing out a 61 64 victory over No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska. Vinci's big forehand and constant net-rushing was just too much on the day, as she hit 29 winners and broke Radwanska in five of her nine service games during the match.
"I lost the first four times we played, but today I played an unbelievable match," Vinci said in her on-court interview. "The first set was unbelievable and the second set she was getting better, but sometimes you close your eyes and just play, and the balls were going in. It was just unbelievable for me today."
Vinci scored her second Top 5 win, having beaten a No.1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki at Toronto last summer. But perhaps even more significantly, she is now through to her very first Grand Slam quarterfinal, at age 29.
Errani leads Vinci in their head-to-head series, 3-2, and has won their last three meetings - Vinci does lead the hardcourt series however, 2-1.
"I'm happy to play her - for sure an Italian goes to the semifinals," Vinci said. "She's my best friend and I'm so happy she won against Angelique today. It has been an unbelievable week and unbelievable tournament for us here."
This is the first time in the Open Era an Italian woman will reach the semifinals of the US Open - in fact, all three times an Italian woman has reached the semifinals of any Grand Slam in the Open Era came at the French Open, in 2010 (Francesca Schiavone won the title), 2011 (Schiavone was a runner-up to Li Na) and 2012 (as mentioned above, Errani was runner-up to Sharapova).