The second half of the women’s singles draw of the US Open was completed on Tuesday, when Jessica Pegula, Ons Jabeur, Marketa Vondrousova, Madison Keys and Elina Svitolina were among those to advance in straight sets to round 2, but Caroline Garcia met her match in Yafan Wang, while Daria Kasatkina and Ekaterina Alexandrova had to go the distance to survive in New York.
I think we are all hoping that we hit the right form going into a slam, especially if you get through the first week trying to hit that stride in the second week. But you never really know what's going to happen. Tennis is so day-to-day -- you can feel great one week and then you can feel terrible the next. So you are just tying to really get through the first few rounds and try and get better each match. Jessica Pegula
Pegula, the World No 3, produced a clinical performance to dispatch Italy’s Camila Giorgi, the American winning 6-2 6-2 in Arthur Ashe Stadium after 82 minutes.
Giorgi was considered a formidable challenger, but she made 31 unforced errors and was broken 4 times in the match.
Pegula has now beaten the Italian 9 times in 11 meetings, 7 times on hard courts.
Having won the title in Montréal just over two weeks ago, Pegula used her quality footwork and movement to go up a double break for a 5-2 lead in the opening set, before serving out with a hold to love with a blazing backhand winner down the line.
In the second, Pegula struck first when she converted her 7th break chance of a 26-point game that lasted 18 minutes to open up a 3-2 lead, and then broke again before closing it on her serve with another hold to love.
An American woman has not won the title in New York since Sloane Stephens beat Madison Keys, her compatriot, in the 2017 final, but Pegula has shown she just be a contender after making light work of Giorgi, the World No 52.
“I think we are all hoping that we hit the right form going into a slam, especially if you get through the first week trying to hit that stride in the second week,” Pegula said during her on-court interview. “But you never really know what’s going to happen.
“Tennis is so day-to-day — you can feel great one week and then you can feel terrible the next. So you are just tying to really get through the first few rounds and try and get better each match.”
Shortly afterwards, Keys beat Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, 6-2 6-4, on Louis Armstrong Stadium, needing 86 minutes to accomplish her opening task.
The American went up a double break for an early 3-0 lead on her way to sealing the opener in 32 minutes and never looked back as the 17th seed got the break she needed for a 3-2 lead in the second, before relying on her serve the rest of the way.
Pegula will face 700th ranked Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, who edged past Canada’s Rebecca Marino, ranked 109, 7-6(6) 7-6(1), while Keys lines up Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, a lucky loser who beat her Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva, 6-4 6-4.
Jabeur, the No 5 seed from Tunisian, who lost in last year’s final to Iga Swiatek, had more difficulty and was checked by a trainer as she was coughing and blowing her nose during her match before getting past Camila Osorio, 7-5 7-6(4).
Later, she explained that she has had flu and has a history of asthma, calling it a ‘a very, very tough day’.
“To be honest with you, I just thought: Just put the ball in and see what happens,” Jabeur said. “I’m old now, that’s why I didn’t feel so good on the court!”
Osorio kept her on Armstrong for just over 2 hours, the day after Jabeur’s 29th birthday and the crowd sang Happy Birthday afterwards in appreciation of the Tunisian’s gutsy performance.
“She was playing unbelievable,” Jabeur said. “At some points I didn’t have the best attitude on court. It’s not easy. She was getting me to run more and more.
“I’m glad that I got the win, especially that I proved I can push myself to keep doing better on the court.”
Sprinkling her trademark drop-shots with looping lobs, and changing direction at will, Jabeur raced out to a 4-1 lead, but Osorio, the World No 65 from Colombia, began to read the trickery and, with plenty of energetic play, chipped away at the Tunisian.
Jabeur was struggling physically in the humid conditions, coughing and crouching over in between points as the Colombian chalked up 4 games in a row.
The doctor was called court-side to check on Jabeur’s temperature and blood pressure, after which the World No 5 valiantly fought on.
From 4-5 down, she found a way to see off a break point with a punchy backhand down the line, and escaped the looming threat to pocket the first set.
A sensational point marked the beginning of the second, with blazing groundstrokes from Jabeur punctuated by an Osorio tweener, before the 5th seed’s net play found a winner.
That initial break was cancelled out, and Jabeur continued to toil in lung-bursting rallies in which she lacked consistency to fall behind, 1-3.
She then conjured up some Jabeur magic, as a series of momentum switches bought them to 3-3, and the Tunisian scooped up a stunning lob to snag a pivotal 4-3 lead.
She earned a 2nd match point at 5-3 with a scorching cross court forehand, but an exchange of further breaks to love allowed Osorio to haul Jabeur into a tiebreak in which the 5th seed hustled with every last drop of her energy to finally prevail.
“She’s such a nice person, she asked if I was OK. I told her, ‘not really’, Jabeur said later. “She told me I’m such a warrior and I apologised for bringing the doctor on court. I didn’t do it on purpose.
“I know it’s tough sometimes to play someone who is injured or feeling bad. She took it really well and congratulated me for the match.”
Jabeur’s major record now stands at 50-25, and she has already featured in 3 Grand Slam finals as runner-up at Wimbledon in 2022 and 2023, and last year’s US Open.
She survives to take on 18-year old Czech Linda Noskova, who was a 6-2 6-1 winner over American Madison Brengle on Court 12.
Out on Court 17, Elina Svitolina, the 26th seed, beat Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-3 6-1, marking the Ukrainian’s return to the US Open after missing last year’s event.
Always a crowd favourite, the new mother has her husband Gael Monfils on her team, as well as her noisy fans, who are numerous, and Svitolina used that energy to make quick work of the German, ranked 90 in the world.
Svitolina has been ranked as high as No 3 in the world, and has had an impressive run since returning from maternity leave in the spring, reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon where she lost to eventual champion Vondrousova, as well as the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
Although Friedsam’s best result in New York was a 2nd-round match in 2020, she produced some solid net play, and had her opponent sprinting from corner to corner as well as forward, to retrieve a barrage of drop-shots.
Against one of the fastest and fittest women on tour, her strategy ultimately failed and, once Svitolina had grabbed a break of serve, the Ukrainian never looked back, taking the set and racing away with the second.
After the match, Svitolina dismissed concerns about the foot pain that forced her to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati just a few weeks ago.
“I’m very happy with my performance today and my health, as well,” said a smiling Svitolina. “Any win at a Grand Slam is a happy day.”
Svitolina’s next opponent is Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who took out American qualifier Fiona Crawley, 6-2 6-4.
Vondrousova, meanwhile, had few problems overcoming South Korea’s Han Na-lae, a qualifier, 6-3 6-0, in her opener, and the 9th seed will meet Martina Trevisan next, after the Italian swallowed a bagel before battling past Yulia Putintseva from Kazakhstan, 0-6 7-6(0) 7-6[10-8], after 3 hours and 19 minutes on Court 14.
French 7th seed Caroline Garcia, however, was stunned by China’s Yafan Wang, 6-4 6-1, out on Court 5, the 2022 US Open semi-finalist routed, 6-4 6-1, by the Chinese qualifier in just 70 minutes.
Garcia, who two months after last year’s US Open went on to claim the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals, was undone by 34 unforced errors against Wang, who is ranked 114, and, with the loss, the Frenchwoman now will fall from the Top 10 to outside the Top 20.
Wang, a former World No 47 who missed 7 months of action in 2022 and was ranked 696 in March, has a 57-10 record across all levels this year, including titles in 5 ITF events and the WTA 125 tournament in Stanford two weeks ago.
Two Russians were made to battle hard on Tuesday, Daria Kasatkina, the 13th seed, coming from behind to get past America’s Alycia Parks, 2-6 6-4 6-2, and Ekaterina Alexandrova, seeded 22, who eliminated Leylah Fernandez, the runner-up in 2021 from Canada, 7-6(4) 5-7 6-4.
Among the other early Tuesday results: Karolina Pliskova, the No 25 seed from Czech republic, was a 6-1 6-4 winner over Ronaia’s Elena Gabriela Ruse; Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko outpaced Elsa Jacquemot, a qualifier from France, 7-5 3-6 6-1; while Czech Marie Bouzkova defeated American Ashlyn Krueger, 7-5 6-4; and Barbora Strycova, another Czech, played her last ever singles match before the 37-year-old retires, losing, 6-4 6-4, to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.