Day 3 of the 2018 US Open claimed two big names – one each in the men’s and women’ singles draws – as Andy Murray and Garbiñe Muguruza, five Grand Slam titles between them, faced the end of their Flushing Meadows campaigns.
Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro and Elina Svitolina had no such trouble on the show courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but on the opening day of doubles play, the top-seeded men’s duo of Oliver Marach and Mate Pavić bowed out.
Serena, Venus win to set up third-round showdown: Venus and Serena Williams did their parts to fulfil one of the major talking points of this year’s women’s singles draw; seeded No 16 and 17, respectively, the sisters will square off in Round 3 in their earliest ever meeting at the US Open.
Venus, who won back-to-back titles in Flushing Meadows (2000-01) stepped to the line first, dismissing the flashy Italian Camila Giorgi, 6-4 7-5, in her first match in the new Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Opening the Arthur Ashe Stadium evening session, sister Serena dropped only four games against Germany’s Carina Witthoeft to set up a 30th tour-level meeting with her older sister.
Serena leads the head-to-head, 17-12, with a 10-5 edge in Grand Slam play and a 3-2 record at the US Open.
Muguruza stunned by 22-year-old qualifier: Karolina Muchova stunned two-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza with a dazzling display of all-court tennis.
The Spanish star won the opening five games of the match, but Muchova raised her game from there as she got comfortable on the Louis Armstrong stage in just the third WTA Tour-level match of her young career.
Murray’s return ends in defeat to Verdasco: Prior to the tournament, Murray said that he didn’t feel as if he was a contender for the title.
His words proved prophetic, as he was ousted in Round 2 by No 31-seeded Fernando Verdasco.
The 2012 champion did not go down without a fight, as it took Verdasco three match points to close out the 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-4 victory – only his second win (and first in almost 10 years) against the 2012 US Open champion.
He later laughed off suggestions from Verdasco that he made up a story which indicated the Spaniard had been talking to his coach during their match at the US Open.
The former World No 1 was trailing 2-1 in sets when a mandatory 10-minute break was enforced due to the humid conditions at Flushing Meadows, and it saw both players go back to the locker rooms.
Murray returned to inform the umpire that Verdasco was speaking with two members of his coaching team, which is forbidden under the rules, and an official and a supervisor were allowing it to happen.
Verdasco claimed he was talking to Marcos Baghdatis and his coach at a time when his own coach had been in the locker room to go to the toilet, but Murray has taken to social media to mock this, creating the hashtag ‘liarliarpantsonfire’.
Murray will now take a break before deciding whether to represent Great Britain in the Davis Cup in September.
Stephens survives challenge from debutant: After dropping the opening set, 6-4, to 21-year-old qualifier Anhelina Kalinina, defending champion Sloane Stephens was two games away from an early US Open exit at 5-all in the second.
The French Open finalist, however, won the next two games in Arthur Ashe Stadium to push the match to a decider, and after a 10-minute heat break, she cruised to a 6-2 final-set victory.
In one of the marquee matches of Round 3, Stephens will take on two-time US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka, who breezed past No 25 seed Daria Gavrilova, 6-1 6-2, on Court 17.
Isner wins five-setter: Another major, another epic five-setter from John Isner.
The Texas resident defeated Argentina’s Nicolas Jarry in the Grandstand in a battle that clocked in at three hours and 38 minutes.
Isner struck 38 aces in the match, bringing his career tally to 10,655 – ahead of Roger Federer by ten, and trailing only Ivo Karlovic’s 12,936 on the all-time list.
Dominic Thiem and Denis Shapovalov also went the distance to win in five sets on Day 3.
Clothing controversy continues: Serena Williams and Alize Cornet have been subjected to strict restrictions by Grand Slam tournaments over the past week and Victoria Azarenka has blasted the issues part of a “problem in the world”.
Williams has been banned from wearing her ‘Black Panther’ catsuit to future French Open events, while Cornet was issued with a code violation during her first-round defeat on Tuesday for taking her top off to turn it around after returning from a 10-minute heat break with it the wrong way round.
The US Open have since apologised for the action and two-time Grand Slam winner Azarenka has hit out at the authorities and sexism across the planet.
“I don’t think it’s just a problem on the tour. I think it’s a problem in the world, unfortunately,” she said.
“You know, the things with the catsuit, I personally don’t understand it. No idea what means disrespecting the game playing in the catsuit?
“There is always a double standard for men and women. But we need to push those barriers.
“And as players, as representatives of the WTA Tour, I believe we’re gonna do the best we can to make sure that we are the most progressive sport and continue to break those boundaries, because it’s unacceptable. For me, it’s unacceptable.
And when speaking of Cornet’s punishment, Azarenka, who is a member of the WTA Players Council, said: “It was nothing wrong. Nothing wrong. It wasn’t anything disrespectful. She literally changed her shirt because it was backwards. So I couldn’t believe this was a conversation.”
“I’m glad they [the USTA] apologised, and I hope this never happens again.” She later added.
“There is always a double standard for men and women. But we need to push those barriers. And as players, as representatives of the WTA Tour, I believe we’re gonna do the best we can to make sure that we are the most progressive sport and continue to break those boundaries, because it’s unacceptable. For me, it’s unacceptable.”
The bottom halves of the men’s and women’s singles draws will complete the third-round field on Day 4, with Federer, Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber among the highlights.
Men’s and women’s doubles action will also continue, wrapping up Round 1, while a fifth event, the mixed doubles competition, gets underway.