Two-time major champions Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza will go head-to-head in the third round of the US Open after both won in straight sets on Wednesday.
They were among several big names to progress in the women’s draw, with Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Barbora Krejcikova also reaching the last 32 in the bottom half.
Top-five seeded Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev also posted victories on Wednesday, but Casper Ruud and Grigor Dimitrov exited as the men’s draw continues to open up with surprise results.
Night session: Stephens beats Gauff, Tsitsipas advances
Former champion Sloane Stephens dominated Coco Gauff 6-4 6-2 in their highly-anticipated second-round match, setting up a potential third-round bout with Angelique Kerber, who won the US Open title the year prior to Stephens' 2017 triumph.
Kerber's second-round match against Anhelina Kalinina was postponed until Thursday due to wild weather in New York.
Stephens was at her impenetrable best against Gauff, dismissing the 21st seed in just 66 minutes to reach at least the third round at her third consecutive major tournament.
In the following match on Ashe, Stefanos Tsitsipas began strongly against Adrian Mannarino before the French lefty snatched the third set against the tide.
Yet the No.3 seed responded strongly as Mannarino appeared increasingly hampered by injury; Tsitsipas completed a 6-3 6-4 6-7(4) 6-0 win to set up a must-see third-round meeting with Carlos Alcaraz.
Azarenka flourishing at Flushing Meadows
Last year’s finalist Azarenka saw off Italian Jasmine Paolini 6-3 7-6(1) to set up a fifth career meeting with No.9 seed Muguruza, a 6-4 6-2 victor against Andrea Petkovic.
The US Open is a happy hunting ground for Azarenka – she is a three-time finalist – whereas it is the major at which Muguruza has most struggled.
Yet the pair have split four career meetings, setting the stage for an exciting battle in New York.
That clash was one of several exciting third-round matches set up thanks to results on Wednesday.
Second seed Sabalenka eased past Roland Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek and will next play in-form No.26 seed Danielle Collins, who reached the third round at Flushing Meadows for the first time after overpowering Kaja Juvan 6-4 6-2.
Halep continued her encouraging return from injury by beating Kristina Kucova for the loss of just four games and next faces dangerous No.19 seed Elena Rybakina, who beat former top-five player Caroline Garcia 6-1 6-4.
Fifth seed Svitolina will play No.25 seed Daria Kasatkina after Kasatkina defeated Olympic silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova in three sets, while Ons Jabeur and Elise Mertens set up their third-round bout after comfortable straight-sets wins.
Defending champion Osaka, meanwhile, progressed when opponent Olga Danilovic withdrew due to a non-Covid related viral illness; she will next face Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez.
Medvedev, Rublev continue progress
Medvedev was a comfortable 6-4 6-1 6-2 winner over Dominik Koepfer as he looks to post another strong result in New York after reaching the final in 2019 and semis in 2020.
And his draw is looking in increasingly open, with the Russian one of just two seeds to progress to round three in the bottom quarter.
No.8 seed Ruud and 15th seed Dimitrov both exited, with Dimitrov again succumbing to physical issues – this time an ankle – when trailing Australian Alexei Popyrin by two sets to love.
Grigor Dimitrov in slams this year— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) September 1, 2021
- Back spasm in Australian Open QF loss to Karatsev
- Retired in French Open R1 with a back injury vs Giron after holding triple MP
- Wimbledon R2 loss to Bublik
- Retired from US Open R2 vs Popyrin with a foot injury.
Tough, tough year.
Popyrin next faces No.24 seed Dan Evans – the only other seed to progress with Medvedev – after the Brit beat Marcos Giron 6-4 7-6(3) 2-6 6-3.
Rublev, the highest seed in the third quarter, held off Pedro Martinez in four sets and will clash with Frances Tiafoe in an exciting third-round spectacle after the American beat Guido Pella in straight sets at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Also advancing in that section were No.12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who both won in straight sets and will now play off for a place in the last 16.
Stat of the day
Also progressing was 18-year-old Alcaraz, whose 7-6(6) 4-6 6-1 6-4 defeat of Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech saw him notch some impressive age-related milestones.
The Spaniard becomes the youngest player into the third round of the US Open in 14 years, after Donald Young reached the same stage in 2007.
And he is the youngest in 16 years – since Novak Djokovic in 2005 – to advance to the third round at two major tournaments.
This is the first year Alcaraz has played main-draw Grand Slam tennis and, notably, he has won matches at all four events, enjoying a run to the third round at Roland Garros between second-round finishes at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Upset of the day
Ruud’s loss to qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp was a huge shock on Wednesday.
The No.8 seed had won 16 of his past 18 matches, and while many of those victories had come on clay, he had also made back-to-back Masters quarterfinals on hard courts in Toronto and Cincinnati leading in.
Ruud won the first set against the Dutchman – before fading to a 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 defeat.
Like Ruud, van de Zandschulp has enjoyed winning form of late – albeit mostly on the Challenger tour – and has built a 40-18 win-loss record in 2021, including five straight wins in New York so far. He next plays Argentine Facundo Bagnis.
Ruud became the fifth seed to exit from the increasingly wide-open bottom quarter of the draw, headlined by Medvedev.
Tweets of the day
How good is this Coco - Sloane match! ? @usopen— Sebastian Korda (@SebiKorda) September 2, 2021
Quotes of the day
"It's like a good place, it's a happy place. Obviously I have had a lot of good memories there. For me, it's a feel-good. I think being in this position, trying to work my way through the tournament, have tough matches, like it's nice to have that comfort, those moments to look back on."
- Sloane Stephens, a US Open champion in 2017, after defeating Coco Gauff at her beloved Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"The conditions were a bit slower, quite cold indoors with the roof closed. It was tough to make some crazy winners or some crazy shots. That's why I saw after the match statistics that both of us, we didn't do a lot of winners. I had to stay super consistent."
- No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev, who averaged just over six unforced errors per set in his dominant second-round win over Dominik Koepfer.
"I was really scared that I broke it, because ... it was really painful. I was really scared of my fingers, and I was thinking like this is such a lucky day (smiling). I was really worrying about my arm and my hand, and I'm really happy that I could finish this match. I have an extra day to see what's going on, and maybe to do the best recovery I can do. We'll see. But I'm really, really hoping that I will be able to play on Friday."
- Aryna Sabalenka suffered a heavy fall in her victory over Tamara Zidansek and hopes to be fit for her third-round clash with Danielle Collins.
"He does watch a lot of matches. He was actually asking to come to my match today, but I had to give him a 'not yet' because I can't not pay him attention when he plays. He actually watched our doubles in Berlin, and he still doesn't really understand the score. So he just says, 'Go, momma' then he points: 'Good job, momma'. I'm very attentive parent, so whenever he's around, he's my focus. So the ball will not be my focus when he's around."
- Victoria Azarenka on son Leo.
Day 4: Ones to watch
The world No.1s are back in action at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday, with Ash Barty taking on power-hitting Danish teen Clara Tauson in the first match of the day before Novak Djokovic continues his Grand Slam quest against Tallon Griekspoor under lights.
Djokovic’s match precedes an exciting nighttime clash between Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova and rising American star Amanda Anisimova.
Earlier in the day at Louis Armstrong Stadium, 10th seed Petra Kvitova takes on Pliskova’s twin sister Kristyna.
It’s an all-Canadian line-up at night on Armstrong, with 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu followed by No.7 seed Denis Shapovalov as both play for a place in the third round against Lauren Davis and Roberto Carballes Baena respectively.
On Grandstand, sixth seed Matteo Berrettini faces Corentin Moutet, aiming to take another step closer to his projected quarterfinal meeting with Djokovic.