A lot has happened for Australian tennis players at Flushing Meadows in the past 38 years. There has been heartbreak and breakthroughs, near-misses and titles. Sam Stosur went all the way in 2011, Lleyton Hewitt in 2001, Pat Rafter in 1997 and ‘98.
One thing, though, hasn’t happened. Australia has not had both a man and woman in the final eight of the US Open singles competition at the same time. Not since Pat Cash and Wendy Turnbull in 1984.
In 2022, Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanović have ensured it will occur again, with both to continue their tilt in earnest on Wednesday morning (AEST). And the purple patch could yet continue, as the pointy end of the draw opens up for both players.
Kyrgios, on the fast track to qualifying for a second consecutive grand slam final after his run to this year’s Wimbledon decider, is in a rich vein of form after stunning world No 1 Daniil Medvedev in four sets on Monday. The 27-year-old’s fourth-round win not only means he moves back into the world’s top 20 but also that he replaces Alex de Minaur as Australia’s No 1.
He will next meet another Russian in 27th seed Karen Khachanov, who has a 1-1 record against Kyrgios but is backing up from a taxing five-setter against Spaniard Pablo Carreño Busta.
Success against Khachanov will mean a semi-final against 13th seed Matteo Berrettini or fifth seed Casper Ruud. Given Rafael Nadal’s loss to American Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday, the sole favourite on the other side of the draw is now Carlos Alcaraz.
“Now I’ve won two against two quality opponents I’ve been able to showcase [my talent],” Kyrgios said. “There’s a lot of celebrities here, a lot of important people here watching. I wanted to get on that court and show them I am able to put my head down and play and win these big matches.
“For the tennis world I think it’s important as well. People were really starting to doubt my ability to pull out matches like this at majors. It hasn’t been easy dealing with all the criticism. I’m just proud of the way that I’ve bounced back after everything, honestly. I’ve been in some really tough situations mentally, and in some really scary places.
“I just sat there in the locker room after and I’m just super proud of the performance because there was really a time where I didn’t think I was capable of producing and doing this any more.”
Tomljanović is on a similarly head-turning roll, having ended Serena Williams’s decorated career in round three before executing a round-of-16 fightback from 5-2 down in the first set against Liudmila Samsonova to claim it on a tie-break and then beat the Russian 6-1 in the second set. The win guarantees her a career-high ranking inside the world’s top 35.
The 29-year-old will now face Tunisian fifth seed and Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur on the hunt for maiden a grand slam semi-final berth, in the knowledge she has the resilience to win under the spotlight. Defeat Jabeur, and Tomljanović will face either American 12th seed Coco Gauff or French 17th seed Caroline Garcia in the semis.
While reluctant to properly consider her chances of going all the way, she acknowledged her success has brought with it more ambition.
“I definitely don’t have the feeling that maybe I had last year where I was maybe a little bit satisfied with making the quarters at majors for the first time,” she said. “Now I’m obviously great and happy – first time in the US Open – but I’m feeling still really hungry, which I like.”