The first week at the 2018 US Open is in the books with the completion of third round matches from the bottom half of the women’s draw. I remember this Saturday vividly from last year and it was another memorable day of tennis. I lasted for the first set of the Ostapenko-Sharapova before calling it night. This was my favourite post to write so far this week! Read on for 10 stories in Saturday’s Set Points post.
Vondrousova snaps Bertens’s winning streak
Marketa Vondrousova is into the last 16 of a Slam for the first time in her career after snapping Kiki Bertens’s eight match winning streak with a 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(1) third round victory.
Vondrousova came from 3-5 down in the first set as she dialed in on her groundstrokes, growing in confidence on the cross-court backhand. Bertens played a tentative game serving for the set at *5-4 and didn’t help herself with two double faults to open the ensuing tiebreak as Vondrousova nailed a few passing shot winners.
Vondrousova was up a set and a break, leading 7-6 2-0. Out of nowhere, her level and energy dropped into the abyss as Bertens reaffirmed control, winning 24 of the last 27 points (!) to seal the second set. Vondrousova found her energy again in the decider and came from 2-4 down to eventually prevail against an increasingly error-strewn, Bertens.
Vondrousova showed plenty of promise up to Stuttgart where she retired with a leg injury in her second round match against Elina Svitolina. After that, she pretty much went off the radar until July where she reached the semi-finals in Gstaad. I really like Vondrousova’s game. The lefty forehand is gorgeous and has so much shape to it. It’s also rare to see a young player persist with the drop shot AND have so much success with it. This was a factor in why she won the first and third sets.
This was a tough loss for Bertens. She seemed to tighten up leading 5-4 in the decider and really lost her way in the third set tiebreak, not helped out by two net cords going in Vondrousova’s favour at the start. Bertens is all class as she went around the net to go and hug Vondrousova. To be honest, i didn’t fancy Bertens pre-tournament as I was concerned about whether she would feel pressure/expectation after her cracking Cincy run. It would seem from her press conference that she was feeling fatigued, both physically and mentally. I had Kiki to R3 in my draw but as always, I was way off with choosing the player to take her place in the draw 😂.
Keys into the last 16 of the US Open for the 4th straight year
Madison Keys had to work hard to get past Aleksandra Krunic, coming from a set down to win, 4-6 6-1 6-2. Krunic had beaten Keys at the US Open back in 2014.
Krunic came into the US Open on the back of a dreary five match losing streak that had seen her win just four games in her three prior matches. The Serb righted the ship with victories over Timea Bacsinszky and Kirsten Flipkens in the first two rounds, and started superbly on Ashe by winning the first set, dropping just seven points on serve. Krunic can be such a tricky player with her deft touch and excellent movement. Keys’s stats were actually positive in the first set.
Keys became increasingly aggressive in the second and third sets, much like her match against Pera, and her power became too much for Krunic to handle. There were still some questionable errors from Keys as the pair exchanged five straight breaks at the start of the third set. Serving at *3-2, Keys saved two break points to hold and then rolled through the last two games. The Keys serve has been impressive this week. Notably in this match, the use of the kick serve was a very effective tactic against Krunic.
Keys in press
Keys spoke quite a bit about the potential match-up against Kerber which is no longer on the table. I’m sticking with Keys as my finalist from the bottom half of the draw.
Suarez Navarro’s streak at the US Open continues
Finishing with a brilliant backhand winner, Carla Suárez Navarro scored a great win over the number six seed, Caroline Garcia, 5-7 6-4 7-6(4). Rather amazingly, there were 21 straight holds (!) in this match from 1-0 in the 2nd set to the 3rd set tiebreak. Garcia saved a pair of break points with a clutch hold at 5-5 in the third set but just couldn’t make any meaningful inroads on the Spaniard’s serve. Granted Suárez Navarro served well but Garcia’s returns has been an issue before and let her down in this match despite plenty of positive play.
It was a good match and I do feel for Garcia because she’s played well since Wimbledon without it really translating in her results. For Suárez Navarro, it’s the third year in a row that she has reached the last 16 at the US Open. Her run in New Haven may have been a bit fluky in the sense that three of her opponents retired or withdraw but she has had to work extremely hard to make it this far in New York with all three of her matches going the distance
11 games on the trot for Tsurenko
From 1-4 down and facing break points, Lesia Tsurenko won 11 straight games to beat Katerina Siniakova, 6-4 6-0. It was a sad display from Siniakova who completely lost her way in a sea of errors against a rock-solid Tsurenko. Tsurenko has now reached the last 16 at two of the four Slams in 2018.
Cibulkova’s first top ten win since Singapore
The last time that Dominika Cibulkova beat a top ten player was back in 2016 at the WTA Finals in Singapore against Angelique Kerber. Increasingly dictating the rallies and absolutely lethal off the forehand wing, Cibulkova beat Kerber again to book her place in back-to-back Slam fourth rounds with a 3-6 6-3 6-3 triumph.
It was a notable win for Cibulkova as Kerber had won seven of their last eight meetings and their two matches in 2018 for the loss of a combined ten games. Kerber played a superb opening set where her intensity was on point and she was consistently hit to a decent depth. I will never tire of Kerber’s extended grunt on her down-the-line winners and there were plenty in the first set 😍.
From the second set onwards, Cibulkova increasingly took control of the match as Kerber did seem to back off a tad. This was PEAK Cibulkova. This was also a GREAT match. The Slovak player was clearly confident after her three hour plus win over Hsieh which she said in her press conference was one of the most memorable victories of her career.
Osaka dishes out a double bagel to Sasnovich
Wow. Naomi Osaka continues to saunter through this draw as she dished out the double bagel to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in a 6-0 6-0 victory in just 49 minutes. Osaka was *0-40 down in her first service game! Osaka was on fire and Sasnovich failed to get her game going. A very surprising result considering how consistent Sasnovich has been this year and after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets in the second round. Osaka is into the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career. Her post-match interview (linked below) was hilarious as always.
Sharapova storms past Ostapenko
Maria Sharapova surprisingly eased past Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3 6-2 in the first night match on Ashe. The nine deuce game to open proceedings didn’t actually set the tone as Sharapova went onto win the next five games and eventually the set. Sharapova was just better in all departments, especially on serve. Once the rally got going, it was Ostapenko who was making the error. There were A LOT of errors.
Back-to-back last 16 showing for Sharapova at the US Open.
While I was sleeping…
Aryna Sabalenka enjoyed her fifth top 10 win of the summer alone, beating Petra Kvitova, 7-5 6-1. Sabalenka’s run since Eastbourne has been extraordinary and she’s into the last 16 of a Slam for the first time in her career. Sabalenka vs. Osaka in the fourth round! 😍😍😍.
It will be a late start for the women on Sunday with S.Williams vs. Kanepi and Pliskova vs. Barty both up second on the schedules for Ashe and Armstrong respectively.