On the same day as another American, who famously calls herself Coco, would be taking the stage in Arthur Ashe Stadium in the US Open night session, Taylor Townsend was also making noise on the court next door in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
I'm going to take it as far as I can, We're going to ride this thing all the way. Taylor Townsend
Townsend beat Romanian Sorana Cirstea, 7-5 6-2, to advance to the 4th round of the 2019 US Open.
Remarkably, this American had to qualify for the US Open, and becomes the first qualifier to reach the second week of since 2015, when both Johanna Konta and Anett Kontaveit reached that stage.
Townsend’s next opponent is another teenage sensation, the No 15 seed Bianca Andreescu, who charged into the Last 16 in commanding style, taking down the great Dane Caroline Wozniacki, a former World No 1 and seeded 19, in straight sets, 6-4 6-4, to continue the best Grand Slam run of her career.
A year ago, the Canadian 19-year old fell in the first round of US Open qualifying and now is making a head-turning main draw debut after a string of electrifying 2019 results catapulted her well into the WTA’s Top 20.
“I think I played great tennis. I’m really pleased with my performance,” said Andreescu, also into the second week of a major for the first time.
This year’s qualifier, Townsend vowed to ride her surprise US Open run ‘all the way’.
Ranked 116th, she was asked how she coped in the wake of her Halep upset: “I didn’t know that many people had my phone number,” Townsend said, enjoying her deepest run and surpassing her third-round showing on debut at the 2014 French Open and a match away from a quarter-final spot.
“I made third round before but it was in another country. I got a lot of messages. It was a lot of love. My phone started dialling 911 by itself, I don’t know what that was about. I just tried to keep my head on straight.”
“I’m going to take it as far as I can,” she added. “We’re going to ride this thing all the way.”
After 4 straight matches, starting from the 2nd qualifying round, in which Townsend had to come back from a set down, the American managed to eke out a tight first set in which she trailed most of the way before rolling through the second.
Having come to the net 105 times in defeating Simona Halep in the 2nd round, Townsend added another 74 approaches on Saturday against Cristea, and although the strategy felt like a tightrope walk at times, the 46 points she won demonstrated how her boldness paid off.
Townsend came from an early break down to serve-and-volley her way to a win over Cirstea, stubbornly sticking with her game-plan to back up her upset of the 4th-seeded Halep to set up her 4th round debut in an hour and 27 minutes.
The match was a fascinating study in strategy, particularly in the context of Townsend throwing caution to the wind and committing herself to all-out net-rushing to stun the Wimbledon champion in the previous round.
The 23-year-old started exactly as she had left off, serve-and-volleying with abandon and rushing the net as soon as humanly possible on the Cirstea delivery, often directly off the return.
Where Halep had been taken by surprise, her Romanian compatriot came prepared, repeatedly nailing down-the-line returns that left Townsend stranded, scoring 5 clean return winners in the first set while successfully taking the net away from her opponent by approaching herself.
Indeed, as Cirstea came through a 3-break sequence to take a 3-1 lead, she was the one executing with far more clarity of purpose in the forecourt.
As she had against Halep, though, Townsend was able to adjust magnificently.
The World No 116 did not abandon her strategy but began to deploy it more judiciously, opting to stay back on occasion rather than swarming the net off everything.
This was key to getting back into the set: two consecutive baseline winners, both superbly angled backhands, sealed the break back for 2-3.
Of course, Townsend could not be kept away from the net for long, and that also paid off as she saved 3 break points with a magnificent blend of touch and power to level for 3-3.
After 5 straight games that had featured at least 1 break point, both players hit a golden patch of serving to emerge tied at 5-5, at which point, with clutch play under pressure at a premium, it was Townsend, once again rushing the net straight off the return, who took the spoils.
Cirstea was unable to execute the tactics that had served her so well at the start of the match, and a succession of errors on attempted passes from the World No 106 ensured that Townsend, who had been behind for the entire set, would rattle off its final 8 points to take the lead.
Townsend, sensing her opportunity to take firm control of the match, kept her feet moving between sets by producing a rope from her racket bag and skipping while Cirstea left the court.
She continued to press on resumption of play, coming up with a wonderfully controlled lob winner en route to breaking a still-rattled Cirstea.
From there, she rolled on, having had her strategy hampered by a lack of first serves early on, Townsend raised her first serve percentage from 61% in the first set to 78% in the second, and consequently did not face a break point until the final game of the match.
Those, too, were dealt with in short order, Townsend producing consecutive aces, her 4th and 5th of the day, to reach match point, whereupon another un-returnable serve sealed a berth in the Last 16 against Bianca Andreescu from Canada, who took out the 19th seed Caroline Wozniacki.
The No 15 seed Bianca Andreescu charged into the 4th round at the US Open in commanding style, taking down 19th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.
The 19-year-old, a winner at Toronto and Indian Wells this season, improved to 30-4 for the year despite missing much of the clay and grass portion with a shoulder injury.
“I think everything is just clicking with me,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot with injuries and have just taken everything I’ve learned from the past couple of years and brought it into this year.”
The Canadian also lit up the courts at Indian Wells with a run to her maiden tour-level title, backing up a final in Auckland.
She took down the likes of Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Garbiñe Muguruza before lifting the Premier Mandatory trophy, but then suffered a setback as a shoulder injury kept her out of the tour for two months after the French Open.
When she returned to action, it was as if she had never left, becoming the first Canadian player in the Open Era to win the title in Toronto.
Up against two-time finalist Wozniacki, Andreescu was eager to extend her impressive record against the WTA’s best, being 7-0 versus Top 10 players in her career, all achieved in 2019.
Coming into the match, she already held a win over Wozniacki, defeating her in straight sets in their only previous encounter in Auckland.
Yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows, Andreescu built on her momentum to race ahead to an early break against Wozniacki on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Wozniacki fought back to level at 1-1, but found herself under pressure again as Andreescu brought out her signature mix of variety and firepower.
She created 2 break points at 2-3, before finally breaking through to lead 4-3, holding on to her slim advantage to close out the set.
Andreescu held her nerve in the second as the Australian Open champion rallied back, raising her level to erase the Canadian’s double break, 3-0 lead and levelling the score at 3-3.
Stopping former Wozniacki’s run in straight sets, Andreescu fired 26 winners to the Dane’s 13.
“I played great but so did Caroline. It was super fun,” said Andreescu. “Everything is just clicking with me. I have been through a lot.”
Wozniacki, twice a US Open runner-up, said: “She’s playing very well and mixing up the pace. She has a lot of shots in her game that she can pull out.
“I think the one that I can most compare her game to would probably be Kim Clijsters, back in the day.
“I think because she moves well, and she can stretch out and get to some balls and also play aggressive and using the angles.
“Everyone has their own style but for me, playing her, it a little bit brings me back to when I played Kim.”
Up next, Andreescu takes on American qualifier Taylor Townsend as both players seek their first career Grand Slam quarter-final.
Interestingly, it will be the first time the pair meet in singles, but the second time they will face off this tournament after Townsend teamed up with Whitney Osuigwe to defeat Andreescu and Sharon Fichman in doubles, 6-2 6-3, earlier in the week.
Belgian Elise Mertens swept into the 4th round for a 2nd year running with a 6-3 6-3 defeat of Germany’s Andrea Petkovic.
The No 25 seed broke serve at love to begin the match and the German was never able to catch up in the 72-minute contest that opened play in the Grandstand on another perfect late summer day for tennis.
She takes on another American, Kristie Ahn, who made it through to round 4 with a 6-3 6-3 win over Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia
Elsewhere, Dutch 7th seed Kiki Bertens lost to another German Julia Goerges.
Bertens, a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist last year, fought off 4 match points before Goerges won, 6-2 6-3, and the German will face Donna Vekic in the fourth round after the Croat beat Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, 6-4 6-1.