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Defending champion Stephens beats Azarenka to reach third round

  • Posted: Aug 31, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Defending champion Sloane Stephens beat two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-4 to reach the fourth round of the US Open in New York.

The American third seed broke twice in the first set and three times in the second at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Both players battled hard in the second set and Azarenka came from 3-1 down to lead 4-3 before the roof was closed.

The 25-year-old French Open finalist will face Belgian 15th seed Elise Mertens in the next round.

  • Follow live coverage of day five at the US Open
  • Williams sisters meet on day five

“I just hung in there and battled as hard as I could to keep fighting. I was playing a former Grand Slam champion,” Stephens said. “She raised her level so I just had to stay in it.

“It felt like a night match with the lights on. I have never played under this roof before but it is super cool. It was unlucky for her but I was thankful for the break.”

It was Belarusian Azarenka’s first appearance at the US Open for three years, having missed the 2016 edition while pregnant and last year’s tournament because of a custody battle.

And the 29-year-old showed glimpses of the type of tennis that took her to the top of the world rankings in 2012 but was let down by 27 unforced errors.

Azarenka, runner-up here in 2012 and 2013, believes she can still add to her Grand Slam titles if she can put in a full off-season of training, which she has not managed in recent times.

“Trust me, I wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t believe that. I would be home doing a bunch of different things and being successful at those things, but I want to do this,” she said.

“At this stage, it’s a matter of one, two points, and today I just need to cut down my unforced errors and then everything is going to be OK.”

When Stephens takes on Mertens for a place in the quarter-finals, she will be hoping to avoid a repeat of their most recent encounter with the Belgian beating her 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 at the Cincinnati Masters earlier this month.

Mertens booked her place in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) victory over Czech 23rd seed Barbora Strycova.

Also through to the next round is Ukrainian seventh seed Elina Svitolina, who overcame China’s Wang Qiang 6-4 6-4.

The 23-year-old will play Latvian 19th seed Anastasija Sevastova, who came from behind to beat Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 4-6 6-1 6-2.

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'You've got to be crazy' – fans stay past midnight to see Sharapova extend perfect night record

  • Posted: Aug 31, 2018

Maria Sharapova set up a third-round clash with former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko after beating Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in New York.

The 22nd seed, who won the 2006 title at Flushing Meadows, thwarted a second-set comeback to win 6-2 7-5.

The Russian, 31, has a 21-0 win record in night matches at the US Open, recovering from a break down in the second set to finish after midnight.

“You’ve got to be crazy to be here after midnight,” she said to fans.

The five-time Grand Slam champion hit 10 double faults and could have stayed up later with world number 51 Cirstea two points from forcing a third set, but Sharapova broke her 28-year-old opponent twice to force the win.

“There’s a saying we use a lot: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” she said.

  • Williams sisters meet on day five at US Open
  • Wozniacki joins top seed Halep in making early exit

Latvia’s Ostapenko is seeded 10th for the tournament and the 21-year-old fought back to beat American Taylor Townsend 4-6 6-3 6-4.

“It only gets tougher from here,” said Sharapova, who suffered a 15-month doping ban in 2016.

“Being seeded in the 20s, you know you’re going to get tough draws. You know you’re going to play Grand Slam champions.

“[Ostapenko] is a competitor, a great opponent. I look forward to it.”

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US Open 2018: Caroline Wozniacki out while Angelique Kerber progresses

  • Posted: Aug 31, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

The US Open women’s draw has lost its top two seeds after Caroline Wozniacki suffered a shock second-round loss to Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

The world number two from Denmark has reached the US Open final twice but lost 6-4 6-2 to the world number 36.

World number one Simona Halep lost in the first round while Australian Open champion Wozniacki’s defeat by Tsurenko was her third early exit this month.

“She played the game I was supposed to play,” said Wozniacki, 28.

“This part of the season is usually a part of the season I really look forward to, one where I really play well.”

Meanwhile, fourth seed and former champion Angelique Kerber overcame a second-set wobble against Sweden’s Johanna Larsson to make the last 32.

The German, who had never lost a set in three previous matches with Larsson, eventually won 6-2 5-7 6-4.

Kerber plays Dominika Cibulkova next after the Slovak advanced despite a two-point deduction for returning late from a heat break.

  • Williams sisters meet on day five at US Open
  • Maria Sharapova sets up Jelena Ostapenko match after second-round win

Temperatures at Flushing Meadows were once again high enough for organisers to apply their extreme heat policy, but Cibulkova was deemed to have taken longer than the permitted 10 minutes to cool down between the second and third sets in her match against Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei.

“[The umpire] told me I was one minute late. I’m getting two points’ penalty. You cannot be serious,” said Cibulkova, who won 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4.

“It took me, I think, more than three minutes walking through the people, because there were so many fans and so many people. I couldn’t believe it.”

American Madison Keys, who lost last year’s final to Sloane Stephens, beat compatriot Bernarda Pera 6-4 6-1 to set up a third-round match with Victoria Azarenka.

Fifth seed Petra Kvitova got past China’s Wang Yafan 7-5 6-3, breaking late to seal the opening set after initially letting a 4-1 lead slip.

Kvitova, 28, next plays 20-year-old Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who won the New Haven title earlier in August.

Sabalenka beat 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva 6-3 7-6 (9-7) to reach the last 32.

She is joined by her compatriot Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who upset Russia’s in-form 11th-seed Daria Kasatkina 6-2 7-6 (7-3)

Sasnovich will face Naomi Osaka – who clinched her biggest career title at Indian Wells in March – after the Japanese beat Julia Glushko 6-2 6-0.

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Day 5 Preview: Del Potro Faces Verdasco, Nadal & Wawrinka Return

  • Posted: Aug 31, 2018

Day 5 Preview: Del Potro Faces Verdasco, Nadal & Wawrinka Return

Last year’s finalist Anderson meets #NextGenATP Shapovalov

Juan Martin del Potro moving with ease to wallop one of his thunderous forehands is one of the most crowd-pleasing sights for a tennis fan and one of the most daunting prospects for the man across the net. Fit and healthy again, the Argentine has already put in two resounding performances – complete with ample thunderous forehands for the highlight reels – in his opening two matches at this year’s US Open.

The 2009 champion is sitting pretty at a career-high No. 3 in the ATP Rankings and judging by his early form at Flushing Meadows he is again firming as a serious title contender. On Friday, he meets Andy Murray’s conqueror, Fernando Verdasco, for a place in the fourth round. 

On Wednesday, Verdasco, the No. 31 seed, posted his first win over Murray since the 2009 Australian Open – the site of his lone Grand Slam semi-final. The Argentine holds a 4-1 lead in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including their most recent clash in the semi-finals in Stockholm last year.

“Fernando is a really good player,” Del Potro said. “I don’t like to play against a lefty because they can mix it up all the time. They play different angles of the game. They make variations all the time. It’s not going to be easy for me.

“I will try to play even better than today. I also have a lot of fans who give me good energy to always try to keep winning. I will try to take that advantage.”

You May Also Like: Rafa Races: Nadal Dominant En Route To Third Round

After a five-set defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Del Potro reached the hard-court final in Los Cabos, where he fell to Fabio Fognini. He was bidding for his third hard-court title of the season after consecutive victories in Acapulco and his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy in Indian Wells. 

Top seed Nadal continues his title defence on Friday when he meets Russian Karen Khachanov for a place in the fourth round. The Spaniard is on a roll, having won 24 of his past 25 matches. He was completely dominant in his straight-sets triumph over former world No. 25 Vasek Pospisil on Wednesday. This will be the first day match of his campaign.

Khachanov, 22, has never taken a set off Nadal but played him close in the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto earlier this month. The Russian downed Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego to reach the US Open third round for the first time. He captured his second ATP World Tour title in Marseille, downing two Top 20 opponents in his final two matches to do so.

Returning to the site of his maiden Grand Slam final 12 months ago, fifth seed Kevin Anderson is steadily building momentum again in New York. The South African got his campaign back on track on Wednesday with a convincing victory over Jeremy Chardy, after struggling to put away Ryan Harrison in five sets in his opening match.

The New York Open champion, a runner-up at Wimbledon last month, will meet #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov for the first time for a place in the fourth round. Shapovalov did it the hard way, fighting back from two sets to one down against Italian Andreas Seppi to book his place. Twelve months ago, the 19-year-old took down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Arthur Ashe Stadium on his way to a maiden appearance in the fourth round at a Grand Slam. 

In a battle of former World No. 3s, 25th seed Milos Raonic meets Stan Wawrinka for a place in the fourth round on Friday. The Canadian pushed eventual champion Novak Djokovic in a three-set quarter-final at the Western & Southern Open leading in.  A resurgent Wawrinka is continuing his steady climb back from two knee surgeries.

After beating Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in back-to-back Grand Slam first rounds, the Swiss held off #NextGenATP Frenchman Ugo Humbert to reach the third round on Wednesday. Wawrinka leads the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1, although they haven’t played since Raonic’s five-set triumph in the Australian Open fourth round in 2016.

In a showdown between two of the most promising talents on the ATP World Tour, No. 20 seed Borna Coric will look to claim his third victory in four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. The Croatian won their first clash, in the round-robin stage of the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017, but Medvedev sprung the upset in the opening round at Wimbledon this year, after Coric had just won his first grass-court title in Halle, defeating Roger Federer in the final.

The Croatian gained revenge in the first round of the Western & Southern Open this month. Medvedev rebounded to win his second title of the season last week in Winston-Salem. He felled #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round.
Other Matches To Watch:
[9] Dominic Thiem vs. Taylor Fritz 
[11] John Isner vs. Dusan Lajovic

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