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US Open 2021: Top five matches

  • Matt Trollope

Almost every day of the US Open we were treated to high-quality battles, blockbuster match-ups and final-set deciders, with play frequently extending into the early hours of the morning.

It was captivating stuff, and now that the Flushing Meadows fortnight has concluded, we revisit five incredible matches that left a lasting impression.

In chronological order...

R2: Karolina Pliskova d Amanda Anisimova 7-5 6-7(5) 7-6(7)

For lovers of clean hitting and first-strike power from the baseline, this second-round clash at Arthur Ashe Stadium was simply glorious.

Roared on by the late-night crowd, American 20-year-old Anisimova – a former Roland Garros semifinalist who peaked at No.21 in October 2019 – was matching Wimbledon finalist Pliskova shot for shot as she forced a third set.

Playing some of her best tennis in some time, Anisimova moved ahead 5-2 in the final-set tiebreak and held a match point, only for Pliskova to remain steady under pressure and eventually seal a high-quality win in two hours, 21 minutes.

The two women combined for 83 winners against 59 unforced errors, while Pliskova finished with a US Open women’s match record of 24 aces.

R3: Carlos Alcaraz d Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 4-6 7-6(2) 0-6 7-6(5)

Tennis fans already knew of Alcaraz's talent, but what they perhaps din’t know was that the 18-year-old was ready to complete the tournament’s biggest upset at the time over No.3 seed Tsitsipas.

And by doing it at a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium in front of a huge audience, he announced himself to a much wider fan base.

The teenager stormed to a 6-3 3-0 lead but could not maintain his run against the Greek, who snatched the second set and led 5-2 in the third, apparently now cruising toward the finish line.

There was another twist. Tsitsipas may have been the more experienced player and in better form, but Alcaraz wrested control of the third set and won it in a tiebreak.

Again he looked finished when he dropped the fourth set without winning a game as he struggled physically.

But with the backing of the vocal crowd, he powered his way to victory in the fifth, scorching a 100-mile-an-hour forehand winner past Tsitsipas early in the set before completing a popular victory with another forehand – his 61st winner of the match.

R3: Jannik Sinner d Gael Monfils 7-6(1) 6-2 4-6 4-6 6-4

Also in the third round unfolded another match with multiple plot twists.

Sinner, the clean-hitting young Italian who reached last year’s Roland Garros quarterfinals, led Monfils by two sets to love and by a break in the third, and then went ahead 4-0 in the fourth.

But the French veteran kept reeling him in, and as the match entered a deciding set, the atmosphere at Louis Armstrong Stadium was electric.

Monfils lives for moments like these as a player energised by crowds on the big stage.

But it was the more reserved Sinner who refocused in the fifth and ended Monfils’ comeback after more than three hours and 40 minutes of drama.

The decisive stat? Monfils was ultimately hurt by 78 unforced errors, compared with Sinner’s 48.

But the 35-year-old nevertheless loved the experience.

R4: Leylah Fernandez d Angelique Kerber 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2

Also on Armstrong was this fabulous fourth-round battle between lefties Fernandez and Kerber, who each arrived at this point after earlier notable wins.

Fernandez had upset defending champion Naomi Osaka from a set and a break down in round three – in a match on Ashe immediately following Alcaraz v Tsitsipas – while Kerber had recovered from 5-3 down in her opening match against Dayana Yastremska, before holding off Sloane Stephens in a third-round classic.

And there was to be another comeback in this match.

Kerber, a three-time major champion, surged to a 6-4 4-2 lead against her teenaged opponent before the Canadian began another resurgence.

The New York crowd had been captivated by Fernandez during her win over Osaka and their support for the youngster continued to grow as she and Kerber played out some magnificent rallies in the second set.

Fernandez went on to upstage her illustrious opponent in the third, prompting a warm, sporting handshake from the German.

"I gave everything I had today. She played I think unbelievable match, especially in the third set," Kerber said.

R4: Maria Sakkari d Bianca Andreescu 6-7(2) 7-6(6) 6-3

This match followed the absorbing Novak Djokovic-Jenson Brooksby clash under lights at Ashe which spanned three hours.

But for those who stayed, they were treated to perhaps the most intensely physical women’s match in Grand Slam history.

For three-and-a-half hours Sakkari and Andreescu traded full-bodied blows, fighting for supremacy using their heavy forehands and athleticism in a succession of incredible points.

Andreescu saved three match points in the second-set tiebreak to get to within two points of victory, but Sakkari held on, forcing a third and eventually getting on top of the Canadian both mentally and physically.

The Greek star sealed victory at 2.13am – the latest-finishing women’s match in US Open history.

And she handed 2019 champion Andreescu her first ever main-draw loss in New York.