US OPEN TENNIS

Suárez earns her place in history

World number 20 becomes first Spaniard in 15 years to reach US Open last eight

Carla Súarez beats Germany's Angelique Kerber to make the quarters of the US Open on Sunday.
Carla Súarez beats Germany's Angelique Kerber to make the quarters of the US Open on Sunday. Mike Groll / AP

Carla Suárez has had a few of what might be described as breakthrough years: 2008, when she reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, or 2009, when she did the same at Melbourne Park. But there is little doubt that 2013 will be remembered as the year Suárez earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as Conchita Martínez and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario.

The Canary Islands-born player became the first Spanish woman to reach the last eight at the US Open since 1998 on Sunday, defeating the eighth seed, Angelique Kerber, in a tense three-set match in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Suárez was forced to come from a set down to beat Kerber, a Wimbledon and US Open semifinalist, despite carving out a 4-2 lead in the opener.

However, Suárez’s attacking style began to wear down Kerber’s counterpunching in the second as the Spaniard’s winners count inched up in tandem with the German’s unforced errors. Serving for the match at 4-6, 6-3, 5-4, nerves got the better of Suárez and Kerber broke to love but the world number 20 rallied to win the final set tie-break 7-3.

“It was a difficult match, I had to fight the whole way,” said Suárez after the game. “I was very nervous when serving for the match. I made three errors in a minute.” She also hit 20 winners to Kerber’s 10 in the final set, and 45 overall to her opponent’s 30. “I hope the crowd will be behind me in the next match,” she smiled, already aware that her reward is a quarterfinal — on the Spaniard’s 25th birthday — against Serena Williams. The world number one had put young pretender to the throne of US first lady, Sloane Stephens, firmly in her place with a 6-4, 6-1 victory earlier in the session.

I was very nervous when serving for the match. I made three errors in a minute”

“It’s amazing to be in the quarterfinals and to be playing against Serena,” Suárez told the WTA website. “She’s a very good player, she’s number one, she’s won a lot of Grand Slams so it’s going to be difficult. I just need to be relaxed, concentrate on my game and try to enjoy the match,” added the Canarian, who regardless of the result should next week become the first Spanish woman to break into the world top 15 since Sánchez Vicario and Martínez hung up their rackets.

In the men’s event, Marcel Granollers also bought himself a little bit of history on Day 7 after his third comeback in as many matches. The unseeded Spaniard knocked out the US’s Tim Smyczek in a five-set thriller to deny the host nation a representative in the last 16 for the first time since the tournament began in 1881.

Granollers, the last remaining Spaniard in the top half of the draw, triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 0-6, 6-3, 7-5 to reach the fourth round, where he will also play a world number one: Novak Djokovic.