Tennis: Alcaraz through at US Open as Sabalenka, Vondrousova advance

AFP , Friday 1 Sep 2023

World number one Carlos Alcaraz edged closer to a US Open rematch with Italy's Jannik Sinner on Thursday as Grand Slam winners Aryna Sabalenka and Marketa Vondrousova booked their places in the third round.

Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates match point against Lloyd Harris of South Africa during their Men s Singles Second Round match on Day Four of the 2023 US Open. AFP


Defending champion Alcaraz eased into a last 32 meeting with Britain's Dan Evans after dispatching South Africa's Lloyd Harris 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) in 2hr 28min on the Arthur Ashe Stadium showcourt.

It means Alcaraz is just two wins away from a potential quarter-final collision with Italian sixth seed Sinner, who continued his serene progress through the draw with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 defeat of compatriot Lorenzo Sonego.

Last year, Alcaraz and Sinner produced an epic five-set quarter-final classic that was not completed until 2.50am local time -- the latest ever finish in US Open history.

After their performances on Thursday, few would bet against a repeat of last year's heavyweight slugfest in this year's quarter-finals.

"I think I played a great match from the beginning to the last ball," said Alcaraz, who is bidding to become the first man to defend the US Open since 2008, when Roger Federer hoisted the trophy for a fifth straight year.

The 22-year-old Sinner meanwhile looks to be firing on all cylinders on the evidence of his second round performance.

The Italian conceded just 10 points on serve without giving Sonego a single break point throughout the 2hr 5min encounter.

Sinner will play 2016 US Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the third round on Saturday. Wawrinka, 38, rolled back the years to eliminate Argentine No.30 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 6-2.

Germany's 12th seed Alexander Zverev is also potentially lurking in Sinner's path before a quarter-final with Alcaraz.

Zverev booked his place in the third round with a 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat of compatriot Daniel Altmaier.

Also in Alcaraz's side of the draw is 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev, who reached the third round with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 defeat of Australia's 69th-ranked Christopher O'Connell in a late night match.

Medvedev looked to be heading for a comfortable straight sets win before a wobble -- double-faulting on match point and set point -- took it to a fourth set.

"Tough match," Medvedev said. "I don't know why but one moment in the match he decided to play much better. I don't know why was the reason, but it became much tougher for me."

Medvedev will play Argentina's Sebastian Baez for a last 16 berth on Saturday.

- Champions advance -

Elsewhere Thursday, Britain's 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray slumped to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 loss to Bulgarian 19th seed Grigor Dimitrov.

Former world number three Dimitrov, who saved three match points in the opening round, meets 2020 runner-up Zverev in the last 32.

While Murray tumbled out, fellow Briton Jack Draper advanced to the third round, upsetting Polish 17th seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 to set up a third round meeting with American wild card Michael Mmoh, who defeated John Isner 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-6 (10/7) in what was the final game of the big-serving veteran's career.

In the women's draw, another Briton, Jodie Burrage, saw her tournament come to an end after a one-sided defeat to second seed Sabalenka of Belarus, the reigning Australian Open champion. Sabalenka prevailed 6-3, 6-2 in 1hr 14min.

Sabalenka, 25, has reached the semi-finals or better at the past four Grand Slams and can replace Iga Swiatek as world number one if she matches the Pole's result in New York.

Another of 2023's Grand Slam winners, Wimbledon champion Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, could meet Sabalenka in the semi-finals.

Vondrousova, who made history by becoming the first unseeded woman to win Wimbledon in July, had too much firepower for Italy's Martina Trevisan, winning 6-2, 6-2 in 1hr 20min.

The ninth seed said afterwards she is adjusting to being the hunted rather than the hunter in the wake of her unexpected Wimbledon triumph.

"It's a tough position," Vondrousova said. "I feel like everybody wants to beat me. I'm just happy to be here and play good tennis."

One of the players likely targeting Vondrousova is third seed Jessica Pegula, who was barely troubled on her way to a 6-3, 6-1 win over Patricia Maria Tig of Romania. US hope Pegula, who is seeded to meet Vondrousova in the last eight, faces Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in the next round.

Meanwhile Tunisia's fifth seed Ons Jabeur, struggling with a bout of flu, was put through the grinder in a 7-6 (9/7), 4-6, 6-3 defeat of Czech teenager Linda Noskova.

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