US Open 2020, Day 4 Takeaways: Azarenka beats Sabalenka, Pironkova is back!

The bottom half of the women’s draw is shaping up nicely and has paved the way for some cracking matches on Saturday. Day 4 was probably the most exciting day yet with a couple of noteworthy upsets as three of the top ten seeds departed. All three happened to be matches I watched and are discussed in this post. Rain stopped play on the outside courts so there are still three matches to be finished in Friday’s order of play.

Tsvetana Pironkova is back 🙌

It’s safe to say that Tsvetana Pironkova can still tennis. The best storyline of day 4, and the entire tournament so far, saw Tsvetana Pironkova score a huge win over the number 10 seed, Garbiñe Muguruza, 7-5 6-3. Pironkova is playing her first tournament since Wimbledon 2017 following the birth of her first child. The Bulgarian player backed up her opening round win over Liudmila Samsonova with another terrific display.

The result looked unlikely in the first set as Muguruza came out firing out on all cylinders. Muguruza had three break points at 4-2* for a double break lead. Pironkova forced Muguruza to serve out the set and there’s where things went awry for the Spaniard. Muguruza did get unlucky at the end of the first set as three net cords went against her. There was nothing to do with luck though when Pironkova broke back on a bizarre failed drop shot attempt by Muguruza. Pironkova won the first set with a glorious backhand winner, prompting a furious Muguruza to obliterate her racquet in a solid contender for the best racquet smash of 2020.

Muguruza never recovered from the disappointment of losing the first set as Pironkova locked in. Pironkova dropped just two points in her last six service games, barely missed a return and gave Muguruza nothing to work with pace-wise. Pironkova’s groundstrokes are a delight to watch – i’ve missed that forehand slice! A bad day for Muguruza, particularly with how she tailed off after such a great start, but understandable with the rust of so few matches. These quick, low bouncing courts are just made for Pironkova.

Kenin impresses, sets up AO QF rematch with Jabeur 🎆

Sofia Kenin was very convincing in a 6-4 6-3 victory over Leylah Fernandez. I think Kenin has been one of the most impressive players through the first four days. Kenin had another great serving day as she didn’t face a break point. Like her first match against Wickmayer, she was so quick to take control of the rally on the first ball after the serve. Fernandez competed well throughout and she has a bright future for sure. Kenin advances to an Australian Open quarter-final rematch with Ons Jabeur. That’s going to be a cracker!

Peaking Cirstea knocks out Konta 👏

The seeds kept on falling as Sorana Cirstea produced a stirring comeback to beat the number nine seed, Johanna Konta, 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4. This was certainly not an upset I saw coming and even more so as Konta had led by a set and a break. The match was punctuated by a series of lengthy deuce games. Konta won the two deuce games in the first set and Cirstea won the two deuce games in the second set.

Into a third set and I thought Konta had wrestled control back in her favour with a magnificent re-break of serve in a long deuce game to level up at 2-2. However, a peaking Cirstea bettered that as she broke serve again in an 11-minute game with a tremendous get to seal the break (see linked video below). I wrote in my post two days ago that it will take something special to break down Konta’s serve. Step forward, Sorana Cirstea! She absolutely ripped on Konta’s second serve in the middle of the set. Konta found some gutsy second serves to stave off a pair of match points but Cirstea would not to be denied as she emphatically served out the victory.

A shame for Konta because she was playing well and seemed primed for another deep run at a Slam. Cirstea played an awesome match.

Azarenka cruises past Sabalenka 🇧🇾

In the much anticipated all-Belarusian clash between Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka, it was the in-form Azarenka who sailed through in straight sets. As well as Azarenka played, she was given a huge helping hand by Sabalenka and her 27 unforced errors. The first two games of the match both went to deuce and Azarenka managed to sneak them. Azarenka’s confidence grew and grew as she began to move the ball effortlessly around the court. Sabalenka improved towards the end of the match but remained wildly erratic.

I feel bad for Sabalenka because she was starting to click pre-lockdown. Azarenka is brimming with confidence and it’s an exciting prospect for the next week and a half in New York.

Recommended media 📺

A comeback win for Anisimova on Thursday who talked about her dad in her post-match interview 😥.

Day 5 watchlist 📺

Petra Kvitova vs. Jessica Pegula: Kvitova will face her first significant test against the in-form, Pegula. Pegula played a superb match of counter-punching against another big-hitter in Sabalenka in Cincy-New York. It’s going to be a hot day in NYC but this match will be in the night session. I’m sticking by my champ!

Jen Brady vs. Caroline Garcia: Garcia’s route through the draw doesn’t get any easier after taking out the number one seed as she now gets the red-hot, Brady in a battle of the forehands. The pair have split their six previous meetings in a curious H2H. Brady beat Garcia three times in three months last year before Garcia snapped the streak on the grass courts of Nottingham. I think Brady’s ready to take the next step up in her career.

Naomi Osaka vs. Marta Kostyuk: Nice to see the 18-year-old Kostyuk back in the third round of a Slam and intrigued how she gets on against Osaka.

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

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