Pablo Carreno Busta back in US Open semis after 5-set win over Denis Shapovalov
NEW YORK -- It took five sets and more than four hours, all the way until past 1 a.m. on Wednesday, for Pablo Carreno Busta to reach the US Open semifinals for a second time.
That's a lot more work than he put in a round earlier.
One match after advancing when No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic was disqualified in the first set, the 20th-seeded Carreno Busta expended a lot more energy and outlasted Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 0-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.
"I'm destroyed," Carreno Busta said, "but I'm very, very happy.''
The 29-year-old from Spain also made it to the final four in New York in 2017, losing to eventual runner-up Kevin Anderson at that stage. That was the only previous Grand Slam semifinal appearance for Carreno Busta.
At least he'll get a chance to rest up before playing Friday against No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.
Zverev moved on by beating Borna Coric 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-3 in a match that ended nearly eight hours earlier.
Carreno Busta's victory went on so long that Shapovalov's mother, who also coaches him, left her front-row seat behind a baseline to go grab a fresh pair of sneakers for the 21-year-old from Canada to change into after he dropped the third set.
Shapovalov, who frequently looked over at his mom and yelled in her direction after losing points, showed his frustration over ceding that set by taking a white towel and whipping it repeatedly on the ground after sitting on the sideline.
"I came out tight. I played tight in the tiebreakers,'' said Shapovalov, who was making his debut in a Slam quarterfinal. "I'm sure the next time I'm in the situation, I'll be more comfortable with it.''
But Shapovalov responded by rolling through the fourth set.
Before the fifth began, Carreno Busta was visited by a trainer, who massaged his back. That clearly helped matters, because he was fresher at the decisive moments late, and he got the break he needed to lead 4-2 in the fifth when Shapovalov double-faulted.
"He looked dead in the fourth,'' Shapovalov said, "so it's a little bit shocking.''
Carreno Busta had a much shorter outing in the fourth round on Sunday. He was the opponent when Djokovic was defaulted for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball after getting broken to trail 6-5 in the early going.
In the quarterfinal, the outcome of most points depended on the 12th-seeded Shapovalov. The left-hander produced more aces, 26-5; more total winners, 76-33; more unforced errors, 77-42; more trips to the net, 70-19.
"I knew that Denis plays like this,'' Carreno Busta said. "Aggressive. Very aggressive."
Shapovalov also won more points overall, 160-153. But Carreno Busta won the most important one: the last.
"You know going into the fifth set it's the final one, so you try to push,'' Shapovalov said, "but I was pretty tired, and he moved much better in the fifth set.''
Done in by double faults and bothered by an officiating decision, Zverev stumbled at the start of Tuesday's quarterfinal against Coric. Then, suddenly, Zverev soared.
Down a set and a break early, then so close to trailing two sets to one, Zverev grabbed 14 of 15 points in a pivotal stretch on the way to earning his first semifinal berth at Flushing Meadows with a 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-3 victory over Coric.
"The Novak news shocked us all," Zverev said, "and obviously for us younger guys, we see that as a massive opportunity. But we have to put our head down and do our job."
It was a scratchy contest -- both men generated more unforced errors than winners through two sets, and Zverev finished with 12 double faults -- and the winner acknowledged afterward that the way he played at the outset was "not the level for the quarterfinal match in a Grand Slam."
The 27th-seeded Coric's take: "I felt like I was in charge of the match. I saw he was struggling, not playing his best tennis."
But Zverev got more aggressive as things went on, including essentially hitting two first serves instead of a softer, slower second following a fault -- and that helped lift him to his second consecutive major semifinal after getting that far at this year's Australian Open.
"I don't want to stop here," the 6-foot-6 Zverev said.
Zverev has been considered an up-and-coming talent to watch for a few years, but he had never quite put it together at a Grand Slam tournament until this year.
And Tuesday, he was dealing with a lot.
There were his own double-fault demons -- nothing new to him, but disconcerting all the same -- that appeared just 10 minutes into the match, when a trio of those free points contributed to Coric breaking to lead 3-1.
There was his argument with chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore early in the second set about her decision to replay a point after an incorrect call robbed Zverev of a point.
There was his gripe with ESPN courtside commentator Brad Gilbert, whose reports on live TV in an empty Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center bothered Zverev enough that he told the former player and coach: "You're talking too loud, man. ... I can hear every single word you're saying."
There were all of Coric's trips off the court to change out of his sweat-soaked clothes.
"Sometimes not playing your best, and finding a way is more important than playing your best," Zverev said.
Most troubling of all: the holes in which Zverev kept finding himself.
The key juncture was with Zverev serving at 15-30 while down 6-5 in the third set: Two more points and that set would belong to Coric.
But Zverev won the next three points with a backhand passing shot, an overhead and a 135 mph service winner to get to a tiebreaker, then dominated that too, before opening the fourth set by holding at love.
"Huge point," Zverev said. "But this is what I've been doing the past six months. I've been in the gym. I've been on the track.
"This is the moment where it pays off."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.