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At the U.S. Open, Silence Is a Sweet Sound for the Underdogs


Nearly every player at the U.S. Open has said they kind of hate playing without a crowd. The effect of all that silence is nearly impossible to discern, because it cannot be isolated from other factors. But coming onto the tournament, many experts predicted that without the screaming hordes, the oohs and aahs during points and the crescendos at dramatic moments, the playing field would level, especially at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which at nearly 24,000 seats is the largest venue in tennis.

So far, it looks like they are right.

The American Jennifer Brady, the No. 28 seed, continued her unlikely run on Tuesday, reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal after dismantling Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, the No. 23 seed, 6-3, 6-2 in 69 minutes. Brady, 25, said it had been crucial for her to not think about the fact that she was playing for a spot in the semifinals at a Grand Slam, and to stay in control of her emotions.

“It’s a little bit easier when there is no fans,” she said.

Brady, who has struggled the last two years in big tournaments, has plenty of practice playing in small, unheralded competitions on the fringes of professional tennis. She also has limited exposure to loud and rowdy U.S. Open crowds. During this run, she has not lost a set, including in a round of 16 victory over Angelique Kerber of Germany, the former world No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam tournament champion.

Brady has plenty of unlikely company as the tournament enters its final rounds. Six of the eight women and five of the eight men who made the quarterfinals were seeded lower than No. 8.

The No. 1 seed, Karolina Pliskova, lost in the second round to Caroline Garcia of France, No. 50 in the world rankings. Shelby Rogers of the United States, No. 93, beat the No. 6 seed, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, a former Grand Slam finalist, outlasting her in a tight third-set tiebreaker that in any other year would have had thousands of fans in Louis Armstrong Stadium in a tizzy.

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