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 U.S. Open semi-finals 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 quarter-finals 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 semi-final 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 semi-finals.
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 quarter-final. “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 a trainer, who massaged his back. That clearly helped matters, because he was fresher at the decisive moments late, and 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 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 quarter-final, 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: 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.”