British No 7 Lily Miyazaki was beaten in the 2nd-round of the US Open on Wednesday, but since she has 5 matches under her belt, her run in New York has been both a revelation as well as a personal triumph.
Belinda redirects the ball really well. You do feel quite under pressure. One of the biggest things is you don’t really get any cheap points. I gave her some errors, and you just can’t do that at that level. Lily Miyazaki
Losing to the No 15 seed, Belinda Bencic from Switzerland, 6-3 6-3, was unsurprising, but Miyazaki put in a very credible performance.
Her efforts here at Flushing Meadows will take her ranking from No198 into the early 150s as a result, while the $123,000 in prize money she has earned will help her future participation on the women’s tour at varying levels, and she is already pondering how best to use this windfall.
“I think it will be great if I can take some support on the road,” she said. “Unfortunately my coach’s wife is having a baby in October, so he won’t be traveling too much at the end of the year.
“Maybe I could get help from a strength coach because I need to keep working on my physicality.”
One of 7 Britons to make it into the 2nd-round, 3 women and 4 men, Miyazaki was the first to fall, while the others all play on Thursday.
“I think we all push each other on,” Miyazaki said. “It’s been great to be a part of that. Unfortunately, I’m the first one to lose.”
The 27-year old’s next tournament is a second-tier ITF event in Japan, the country where she was born, and which she represented until March last year when she switched her allegiance to Great Britain.
Miyazki faced a much more demanding opponent in Bencic than she had done against Margarita Betova, the Russian whom she handily beat, 6-3 6-3, on Monday.
Having lived for 4 years in Switzerland, Miyazaki and Bencic played each other as young juniors.
“Belinda redirects the ball really well,” said Miyazaki after her match. “You do feel quite under pressure. One of the biggest things is you don’t really get any cheap points.
“I gave her some errors, and you just can’t do that at that level.”
Nevertheless, Miyazaki showed glimmers of the disruptive quality that carried her to her 1st-round win, and she advanced from the baseline early on to push Bencic around the court, and play to her forehand to frustrate the Swiss.
Her best chances came in the first half of the second set, when she took the lead in Bencic’s service game on more than a couple of occasions, but each time, she was not allowed to capitalise.
Bencic, the Olympic champion, was dominant from the get-go, using her powerful first serve to her advantage, winning 81% of the points off her first delivery, compared to the Brit’s 66%.
The Swiss was also the more consistent, with 18 unforced errors compared to Miyazaki’s 26.
Despite being 2 breaks down mid-way through the second set, it seemed that Miyazaki just might get herself back into the match, breaking back at 0-3 down, and prompting Bencic to fling her racket in frustration.
The Swiss, though, quickly set that aside to secure a straight sets win, and a place in the 3rd-round against Lin Zhu of China.
Miyazaki might feel disappointed, but the World No 198 has much to be proud of, particularly coming through the qualifying competition, and then winning a main draw match to earn the chance to test herself against the Olympic champion.
There haven’t been 7 Brits winning their main draw matches since 1997, when Virginia Wade and John Feaver reached the second week, and, amazingly, all 7 wins this year came in straight sets, and, of course, there was qualifier Emma Raducanu who won the title without dropping a set in 2021, giving inspiration to all.
“This is a very cyclical sport,” Iain Bates, Head of Women’s Tennis at the LTA, told Simon Briggs of The Telegraph. “It’s very easy to take a moment-in-time snapshot of things.
“The French Open, with no women in the main draw, wasn’t where anybody wants to be. But the four or five months since Paris have been encouraging, and suddenly, in a short space of time, the rankings look healthier.”
On the women’s side, Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage will be hoping to extend their success in New York further.
Boulter, the British No 1 in the absence of Raducanu, has the better chance since she faces a qualifier from China, Yafan Wang, who upset the No 7 seed, Caroline Garcia from France, 6-4 6-1 in the 1st-round and arrives with an 11-match winning streak.
The Chinese is ranked 114, while Boulter has risen to a lofty 61 and, on paper, the Brit should win their contest, the first match on Court 5, but the in-form Wang nevertheless presents a tricky enough challenge.
Burrage has a far greater mountain to climb when she meets the World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka in the second match on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Although she did not face a break point in her opening round match against No 38 Anna Blinkova, Burrage will be greatly tested against such a top flight opponent as the Belarusian.
The British No 2, though, is looking for her second Top 10 win of her career, having previously defeated No 4 Paula Badosa at Eastbourne this summer, despite the occasion.
Sabalenka’s record at Grand Slams stands at 13-4 in reaching the Round of 64, and she has not lost in the 2nd-round at a major in 3 years, since she lost to Victoria Azarenka at the US Open in 2020.
With her first win at Flushing Meadows, Sabalenka is 16-5 in the Big Apple, her most wins at any Grand Slam, and she has a chance to overtake Iga Swiatek as the World No 1 if she can at least equal the Pole’s run this fortnight.