Bethanie Mattek-Sands will fly the flag for the hosts in the final of the women’s doubles on Sunday after teaming up with her Czech friend Lucie Safarova to beat the fifth-seeded Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in two contrasting sets on the new Grandstand court on a hot, draining afternoon of the US Open.
Day 11 of the tournament had an oddly low-key feel about it, as organisers opened the gates to allow free admission – a move that followed the new format of doing away with the daft old Super Saturday, a log-jam specifically created for television and a result of the late start to the tournament. That pleased the host broadcasters but not the players.
As it is, Mattek-Sands and Safarova, seeded 12, have two days to rest, although it was only in the second set that they were properly stretched.
They took an hour and 24 minutes to win 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) and might have got the job done earlier but for a rousing Russian fightback.
The flamboyant American and her less extravagant Czech team-mate took only 27 minutes over the first set, forcing a slew of six errors from their opponents in the final game.
The mistakes kept coming in the second as another women’s match at the business end of the tournament looked like descending into a one-sided no-contest. Already fans have been served up a couple of substandard matches in the singles. Doubles, the preserve of entertainment for the hardcore, is not supposed to be so one-sided.
The Russian duo gave up five break opportunities in the early exchanges of the second set, saving all but one, and grabbing one of their own. Makarova and Vesnina then decided to make a fight of it and, in the time it took them to surrender the first set, they had stemmed the flow and were on serve mid-set, after coming back from the brink at 0-4.
Not many who had witnessed the embarrassing first set would have bet good money on this match lasting even an hour, but it had turned into a decent match in that time.
The Russians held for five-all to stay in the fight and battled to a tie-break. They had three match points against them, after an hour and 23 minutes, and saved one but not the next one on serve. They had at least played their part in saving the match from being a farce.
Mattek-Sands, who went out in straight sets to Johanna Konta in the first round of singles, is a busy player. In her four doubles matches since then, she and Safarova have given up just 23 games to reach the semi-finals.
She and Safarova looked good in the quarters, beating her compatriots Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend 6-1, 6-2, but will want to guard against another second-set lapse in focus if they are to lift the title.