Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz outhit third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open on Friday to reach the fourth round at a major tournament for the first time in his burgeoning career.
And the upsets kept coming, with another 18-year-old, Leylah Fernandez, stunning Naomi Osaka in three sets after the defending champion served for the match in the second set.
Earlier, Daniil Medvedev’s New York love affair continued, with the No.2 seed storming into the second week – where he was joined by 24th seed Dan Evans and German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk – without dropping a set.
First up on Friday, Garbine Muguruza saw off Victoria Azarenka in to advance the fourth round, while Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber survived Elena Rybakina and Sloane Stephens respectively to join her in the fourth round.
Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova and fifth seed Elena Svitolina also won through.
Night session: Fernandez upstages Osaka
Fernandez, a former world No.1 junior, hung with Osaka throughout both the first and second sets.
But the third seed’s serve was a cut above; Osaka dropped just six points combined on her first delivery throughout the first two sets, and never faced a break point – until she served for the match at 6-5 in the second set.
Osaka played an error-prone game and allowed the Canadian back into the match, and could not control her frustration in the ensuing tiebreak.
Fernandez then broke in the very first game of the final set, and did not relinquish her advantage.
It marks Osaka’s third straight loss to a left-handed opponent, after she fell to Marketa Vondrousova at the Tokyo Olympics, and Jil Teichmann in Cincinnati.
The loss also ends her eight-match winning streak at the US Open, and 16-match win streak at major tournaments.
Fernandez, appearing in the second week of the major for the first time, faces Kerber for a place in the quarterfinals.
In later night matches, second seed Aryna Sabalenka beat Danielle Collins 6-3 6-3 while Frances Tiafoe upset No.5 seed Andrey Rublev in a five-set match finishing well after 2am local time to set up a meeting with Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Alcaraz lights up Ashe
Like Fernandez, Alcaraz produced a remarkably composed performance to upset Tsitsipas and electrify the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, who thoroughly embraced the 18-year-old during the five-set thriller.
He let slip a set and a break lead to fall behind 5-2 in the third, only to wrest back control. Tsitsipas stormed through the fourth set to again look the more likely, but Alcaraz executed both his drop shot and powerful forehand to perfection to close out a 6-3 4-6 7-6(2) 0-6 7-6(5) on his third match point.
Tsitsipas has been unable to progress beyond the third round in four visits to Flushing Meadows.
Meanwhile, Medvedev has conceded no more than four games in any set in his three wins so far in New York this year.
The Russian dismantled Andujar 6-0 6-4 6-3 and, after reaching the US Open final in 2019 and the semifinals last year, has now won 14 of his most recent 16 matches at Flushing Meadows.
Medvedev will next face 24th seed Evans, who recovered from two-sets-to-love down to beat young Australian talent Alexei Popyrin 4-6 3-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(1).
It equals Evans’ best-ever result at a major; he also reached the last 16 at Australian Open 2017.
In a battle between qualifiers, Gojowczyk defeated Swiss Henri Laaksonen in four sets to reach the second week at a major for the first time.
Gojowczyk next plays Alcaraz.
Also advancing to the fourth round were 11th seed Diego Schwartzman, qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp and Canada's Auger-Aliassime, who overcame Roberto Bautista Agut in five.
Muguruza, Halep, Kerber fight to victory
In the biggest match of the day pitting two-time major champions and former world No.1s against each other, Muguruza saw off Azarenka 6-4 3-6 6-2 in two hours and 15 minutes.
It was a blow to Azarenka, who reached last year’s final in New York and who could now fall out of the world’s top 30.
Muguruza’s fellow Grand Slam champions Halep and Kerber also notched gritty victories on Friday against quality opponents.
No.12 seed Halep withstood 14 aces among 34 winners from Rybakina to triumph 7-6(11) 4-6 6-3 in almost two-and-a-half hours, an extremely impressive result given her recent injury struggles and lack of match play.
Kerber overcame a five-match losing streak against Stephens; in a battle between the 2016 and 2017 US Open champions, Kerber proved steadier deep in the third set to beat the American for the first time since 2012.
Svitolina continues to flourish since winning the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics; last week’s WTA Chicago champion extended her winning streak to eight by beating No.25 seed Daria Kasatkina 6-4 6-2.
In a later result, 15th seed Elise Mertens stopped No.20 seed Ons Jabeur 6-3 7-5 to reach the second week in New York for the fourth straight year.
Stat of the day
Muguruza will next face No.8 seed Krejcikova, who, thanks to her 6-4 6-2 dismissal of lucky loser Kamilla Rakhimova, has now progressed to the second week at three straight majors.
Making that stat more notable is the fact she is playing in the main draw of the US Open for the first time ever.
Ranked outside the top 100 this time last year, the Czech has since turned her singles career around, winning the Roland Garros title and soaring into the top 10.
Krejcikova has won 28 of her past 31 matches and will be confident that she can go even further in New York; she beat Muguruza just a few weeks ago on the hard courts of Cincinnati.
Tweets of the day
The Alcaraz backhand is absolute fire— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) September 3, 2021
Tsitsipas couldn’t break out of Alcatraz!!! Wow!!!!!!— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) September 3, 2021
Upset of the day
Wins for 18-year-olds Alcaraz and Fernandez over third seeds Tsitsipas and Osaka both count as seismic upsets.
But Fernandez’s defeat of Osaka was perhaps the more surprising result.
Tsitsipas has historically struggled in New York and was playing the fast-rising Alcaraz, already verging on the top 50 after reaching last week’s Winston-Salem semifinals and who had beaten 29th seed Cameron Norrie in round one.
But Osaka is a dominant force at the US Open; she entered her third-round clash against 73rd-ranked Fernandez having won 18 of her past 19 matches at the tournament.
And prior to Friday night’s loss, she was 47-1 in matches at major tournaments during which she had won the first set.
Fernandez become the first player since Halep at Roland Garros 2016 to recover from a set down to beat Osaka in a Grand Slam match.
Quotes of the day
"Honestly the Alcaraz match gave me motivation and gave me the energy to do the same. I saw his match and I saw the way he won, and I'm like: I'm gonna do that next now!"
- Leylah Fernandez, speaking to ESPN after beating Naomi Osaka in the third round.
“I feel like for me recently, like, when I win I don't feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don't think that's normal… This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I'm kind of at this point where I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match… I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while.”
- an emotional Naomi Osaka was unsure what’s next for her career after her third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez.
“Actually last night at the dinner we were watching on the schedule, and I was, like, every match is a semifinal.”
- Simona Halep, when asked about the strength of the women's draw at this year's US Open.
“I had let's say two successful US Opens, if we're talking about success, finals, semifinals. Went quite far. I think 2020 I was feeling even better than 2019. And right now also… I'm feeling I can do big things. But I know for this I need to continue playing good. Again, the further you go, the tougher matches and tougher opponents you get. You just need to stay consistent and bring out your best every match.”
- Daniil Medvedev
Day 6: Ones to watch
With two wins already under his belt, Novak Djokovic stands five wins away from the calendar-year Grand Slam, and looks to take another step toward tennis’ ultimate achievement when he faces Kei Nishikori – a player he has defeated 16 consecutive times.
That third-round match comes second at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, after Petra Kvitova battles Maria Sakkari.
Ash Barty and Alexander Zverev take on Americans Shelby Rogers and Jack Sock in the night session, while Bianca Andreescu will aim to win her 10th straight US Open match when she plays Greet Minnen first up at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
That court will play host to an exciting match-up between Gael Monfils and Jannik Sinner later in the day.
The Grandstand schedule features Matteo Berrettini and Iga Swiatek – who will try to snap Anett Kontaveit’s seven-match winning streak – before fourth seed Karolina Pliskova battles Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic.