Late on Wednesday at the US Open the packed schedule caught up with itself and saw yet another top tenner bite the dust.
Ekaterina Makarova closed out the marathon day with an upset over 5th seed Caroline Wozniacki as the Russian registered her first win in eight meetings against the former World No 1 and secured a place in the third round.
After rain washed out most of Tuesday’s play, there was a bumper schedule at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as officials raced to get back on track and the 40th-ranked Makarova brought the curtain down with an impressive 6-2 6-7(5) 6-1 win.
To save three match points, I think it was crazy. It was a tough one. I’m happy I survive. But I’m definitely not happy with my performance today. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Twice a runner-up at Flushing Meadows, Wozniacki arrived in New York ready to claim an elusive first Grand Slam crown and add some sheen to a frustrating season that has seen the 27-year-old reach six finals but fail to win a single one of them.
The Dane, who has won more matches than any player on the WTA Tour this season, was quickly in trouble and dropped a one-sided opening set.
Makarova moved ahead in the second, breaking her opponent at the first opportunity, but the Russian was unable to close out the contest as a resilient Wozniacki forced a tiebreak, which she won 7-5 to set up the decider.
The Russian broke down in tears on court while losing that second-set tiebreak, but then took an extended bathroom break to compose herself before running through the third.
Wozniacki’s reprieve was short-lived as Makarova swept through the first five games of the third set to deny the Dane a chance of reclaiming the top spot, had she gone on to claim the title.
Top 10-seeded players avoiding the upset bug on Wednesday were Garbine Muguruza (3), who defeated China’s Duan Yingying 6-4 6-0; Elina Svitolina (4), who worked past Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-0 6-7(5) 6-3; Svetlana Kuznetsova (8), who came from a set down and match points to defeat Czech Marketa Vondrousova 4-6 6-4 7-6(2); Venus Williams (9), who topped France’s Oceane Dodin 7-5 6-4; and Aggie Radwanska (10), who edged Croat Petra Martic 6-4 7-6(3).
“To save three match points, I think it was crazy,” Kuznetsova said. “It was a tough one. I’m happy I survive. But I’m definitely not happy with my performance today.”
The Russian survived a scare in her first round match, saving three match points down at 5-4 on serve in the third set against Vondrousova, eventually beating her after two hours and 33 minutes.
Kuznetsova, who won 2004 US Open title, dominated the tiebreak, winning it 7-2.
Venus dodges Dodin
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams showcased a remarkable performance as she knocked out the big-hitting Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin in straight sets to storm into the third round.
The American, who needed three sets to get past Grand Slam debutante Viktoria Kuzmova, was much sharper against Dodin as she eased past her in a one-sided second round clash 7-5 6-4 that lasted one hour and 28 minutes under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Although Dodin made late pushes after falling behind 2-5 in each stage at one point of time, Williams proved too experienced as she struck 32 winners to just 14 unforced errors against the 20-year-old’s 20 winners and 27 errors to come out victorious.
Venus will now cross swords with Greece’s Maria Sakkari for a place in the fourth round.
The 37-year-old is bidding to clinch her third US Open crown after reaching the Wimbledon and Australian Open finals this year.
Venus, who has not won the title at Flushing Meadows since 2001, had earlier made it to her first Grand Slam final since 2009 when she slumped to a defeat at the hands of Garbine Muguruza at Wimbledon earlier this year.
A victory in the finals of the third major of the season would have made the American the oldest female Grand Slam champion in the Open era, and could see her return to top of the world rankings for the first time since July 2002.
Williams keeps her head down and cares not for what is said about her in the press.
“For me, I’m just going on the court, practicing, preparing, and recovering and playing the match,” Williams said.
“I’m not out there reading press, watching TV or trying to see who said I was going to win.
“At the end of the day there’s people who are talking about the winning and there are people who are actually playing the matches.
“I need to play the match.”
Muguruza marches past Duan
Garbiñe Muguruza had to wait all day for a court assignment as 87 matches took the court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and then waited a little more once she got one.
When she got in the Grandstand at 10 pm Wednesday night, however, the No 3 seed was ruthless.
Originally assigned not before 6 p.m. on a court ‘TBA’, Muguruza closed out the night in style as she powered through the last eight games to dispatch China’s Duan Ying-Ying, 6-4 6-0, to move through to the third round at the US Open for the first time.
The two-time Grand Slam champion has reached the quarter-finals or better at the other three Grand Slams, raising trophies in Paris in 2016 and at Wimbledon this summer, but Flushing Meadows has always been a sore spot for the Spaniard, who had compiled a 2-4 record in four previous trips to the US Open.
Needing a few games in the first set to become accustomed to the power coming her way off of Duan’s racquet, Muguruza was left watching as several of the Chinese player’s powerful ground strokes found a way past her in the opening set.
After saving break point in the first game of the match, Duan earned one of her own at 3-3, but was unable to convert, and the Spaniard made her pay the price in short order.
Winning three of the final four games put the Wimbledon champion in command, and she sprinted through the second set as the world No 92’s unforced error total began to mount.
“I think, yes, the first set was very equal,” she said.
“It took me a while. You know, she was hitting such a powerful shot. She’s very tall. She hits the ball very strong. It took me a little bit to be able to feel her ball.
“I’m happy I turn it around. It was a few points difference in the first set, and it could go both ways. But I fighted there. After I felt much better. I adapt more to the match for the second set.
“I feel like a relief in a way [to be in the third round]. Five years or something like this, or three, I don’t know, I’ve been always stuck in this round. I didn’t know really why.”
The world No 3 is one of the five women left in contention for the WTA No 1 ranking but must reach at least the fourth round here to do so.
Muguruza will next square off with No 31 seed Magdalena Rybarikova in a rematch of last month’s Wimbledon semi-final, which was won by the Spaniard with the loss of just two games.
Rybarikova was a surprise package in the final four at the All-England Club, as she returned to tennis this season following wrist and knee surgeries, which saw her fall far away from a career-best ranking of No 31 in 2013.
Just one spot off of her career-best ranking at No. 32, Rybarikova defeated Kristyna Pliskova, twin sister of current world No 1 Karolina, in a pair of tiebreaks to reach her first US Open third round since 2009.
Stephens takes out Cibulkova
Earlier, Sloane Stephens had knocked off 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 5-7 6-3 to reach the third round.
The 24-year-old American is ranked only 83rd after going 11 months without entering a tournament because of an injured left foot that required surgery, returning to the tour at Wimbledon in July.
Stephens and the 11th-seeded Cibulkova each made the same number of unforced errors, 39 but the difference in the match was the winner count: Stephens had 43, nearly double Cibulkova’s 22.
Not too long ago, Stephens appeared to be a rising star in tennis, making at least the fourth round at six consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, including a semi-final run at the 2013 Australian Open
If she can beat Australia’s talented Ashleigh Barty next, Stephens would get to the fourth round at a major for the first time in nearly two and a half years.
Another American, CoCo Vandeweghe, the No 20 seed who beat fellow American Alison Riske 2-6 6-3 6-4, wishes Maria Sharapova’s wild card had gone to someone else, preferably someone from the USA.
“Wild cards are appointed by the USTA. I can’t say I agree,” she told the media after her match.
“I wish it was an American instead, selfishly, because it is a USA tournament.
“I know from receiving a wild card here, it can be a huge platform to kind of progress through maybe a developing junior or someone that’s coming back from injury or, you know, just somebody that’s on the cusp, next American out that has an opportunity to kind of help their own ranking.
“Selfishly, I would have wished it was an American.”
Sharapova needed a wild card because her ranking had fallen too low after she served a doping suspension.
The USTA said when it was granted that its past practice was to award wild cards to former U.S. Open champions who needed them.
She was in action again on centre stage, using 12 aces to help overcome a shaky start and reach the third round.
The five-time major champion got better and better as the match wore on and came back to beat 59th-ranked Timea Babos of Hungary 6-7(4) 6-4 6-1 in 2 hours, 19 minutes.
Sharapova is playing in her first Grand Slam tournament since serving a 15-month doping suspension and beat the second seed Simona Halep in the first round at Flushing Meadows.
She made 19 unforced errors in the opening set against Babos, but cleaned up her play, cutting the mistakes to 12 in the second set and 5 in the third.
“I definitely wanted to enjoy the quality of tennis that I played with the other night, but I also wanted to put my mind onto this one,” Sharapova said.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, no matter who I was going to play today. It’s always difficult to come after a match like that. My goal was just to get it done.”
She believes her performance thus far vindicates her presence on tour now.
“I think with the way that I played Monday night, I don’t think there are any more questions,” she said.
“I’ve had an amazing reaction from fans since I’ve been back, and that’s been very special. I mean, I felt it while I was away. I felt it in a real presence since I’ve been back. It’s a very special feeling.”
Others on the upset tip included Romanian Monica Niculescu confounding Kristina Mladenovic (14) 6-3 6-2; American Christina McHale coming from a set down to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (19) 3-6 6-3 6-2; Croat Donna Vekic rolling Peng Shuai (22) 6-0 6-2; veteran Czech Lucie Safarova coming from a set down to oust Anett Kontaveit (26) 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4; and Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro coming from behind to beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (29) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2.
Unseeded winner of note was American Sofia Kenin into the third round of a Slam for the first time after edging countrywoman Sachia Vickery 6-3 4-6 7-6(0), where she now faces Maria Sharapova.