2021 US Open, Day 5 & 6 Highlights: A thrilling slate of third round matches!

Week one done. Onwards to the second week. Friday was one of the most exciting tennis days of the year. The women’s match-ups promised plenty and totally delivered. Saturday didn’t quite match the quality but did in terms of seismic shocks! I’m now on holiday in North Wales and it looks like we’ve got really lucky with some actual sunshine. I’ll be watching the tennis and might share a few thoughts on the previews page if i’m feeling moved by the tennis. Read on for a wrap-up from a thrilling two days of tennis in New York.

Day 5️⃣ and 6️⃣ Highlights

(16) Angelique Kerber d. Sloane Stephens, 5-7 6-2 6-3 (Friday)

Take a bow ladies because this was an excellent match, probably the match of the day on the women’s side on Friday. Interested to know if you think I am exaggerating if I were to say this is one of the best wins of Kerber’s career? To set the scene, Kerber had lost her last five matches against Stephens and most of these matches were beatdowns. 6-2 6-2, 6-1 6-2 and most recently in the 2018 WTA Finals, 6-3 6-3.

And you couldn’t blame Kerber for feeling disheartened as she found herself down a set despite a gritty late fightback. Stephens’s level during much of the first set was phenomenal. It’s been coming this year. I was taken aback by how good Sloane was and the angles she was able to generate. Key to the match turning around was Kerber’s attitude and positivity at the start of the second set. She sent a message across the net that she wasn’t going anywhere. Kerber was the more aggressive player in the second set and served well as Stephens’s level tailed off.

Stephens started the third set strongly as she began to weave those delightful angles once more. Sloane had chances to break. At 1-0 and then 3-3 when she chalked up break points. Didn’t take them. There was one volley at the net at 1-0 that Stephens pushed long which felt pivotal. After saving break points, Kerber then scored the lucrative break in the crucial seventh game. I sensed Kerber was tiring in the third set but she was absolutely relentless in defence. In the end it felt like Kerber actually wore down Stephens.

A greattt match. Kind of sad that they had to meet so early because I honestly think they were both in title-winning form. This Kerber resurgence since Bad Homburg has been quite remarkable. Angie is a title contender IMO.

(9) Garbiñe Muguruza d. (18) Victoria Azarenka, 6-4 3-6 6-2 (Friday)

Muguruza reached the second week in New York for just the second time in her career with an excellent win over three-time US Open finalist, Azarenka. This match lived up to the expectation I’d built up in my head. It was a clinic of ballstriking, particularly in terms of the depth that both players consistently delivered with their groundstrokes.

Muguruza rallied from an early break down in the first set and then won 12 of the last 13 points as she began to serve really well with plenty of free points. The end of the first set was the best level I’d seen from Muguruza since the start of the season. The joy on serve was shortlived for Muguruza though as she lost her rhythm, perhaps with a few foot fault calls? Azarenka pounced in style. Into a third set and it was shaping up very nicely as both players were clutch to save break points and both had success coming forward. I thought the difference in the end was simply Muguruza’s serve as she found her rhythm again from the first set and drew away to win the last four games of the match.

A very good match. An exciting and closer finish would have elevated this into the great category. There’s something about Muguruza at this tournament. Muguruza seems relaxed, content and quite jolly in press. The draw is rough ahead but Garbi seems in a happy place right now.

(12) Simona Halep d. (19) Elena Rybakina, 7-6(11) 4-6 6-3 (Friday)

The first set was one of the rollercoaster sets of the year. Rybakina 3-0 to Halep 3-3 to Rybakina 5-3 to Halep 6-5 and to the tiebreaak. And whattt a tiebreak it was. I thought the match up to the tiebreak, while entertaining, was pretty dreadful quality. Both tightened up when they had chances to serve out the set and Rybakina was especially wayward.

The first set tiebreak was a different kettle of fish as the intensity and quality went up several levels. Rybakina locked in from 2-6 to save four consecutive set points. The momentum then swung from side-to-side. Halep’s set point save at 8-9 was a thing. Such a wonderful sight to see Simona playing so aggressively! A real shame that the tiebreak had to end on a Rybakina double fault as it was a thriller.

Halep went onto win in three sets and reach the last 16 of the US Open for the first time since 2016. Didn’t see this coming at all and I’m not sure Simona did either to be honest! A feel-good story considering how injuries have ravaged Halep’s 2021 season.

Emma Raducanu d. Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-0 6-1 (Saturday)

Oh. My. Goodness. I wrote in my preview to write off Sorribes Tormo at your own peril. That aged well 😂. Raducanu produced an outstanding display to beat Sorribes Tormo for the loss of just one game! SST has been one of the most improved players of the year and developed into one of the toughest competitors on the tour. This scoreline 😮😮😮.

I think what impressed me most about Raducanu was her utter ruthlessness. She never took her foot off the pedal and maintained her intensity from start to finish. Raducanu took the game to Sorribes Tormo and had the perfect tactics as she was both patient and aggressive. Raducanu tore into the Sorribes Tormo’s serve and was mostly unphased by the slice too. And that forehand winner on match point!!!

(7) Iga Swiatek d. (28) Anett Kontaveit, 6-3 4-6 6-3 (Saturday)

This was probably the best match of the day on Saturday, at least during the day session. Fun stat that I have to admit the bro alerted me to. There is just one player who has reached the second week at all four Slams… Iga Swiatek. That’s a feat. After splitting sets, I thought Swiatek’s groundstrokes had an extra dimension in the third set and she did a great job at opening up the court. 

While I was sleeping 😴

The biggest upsets, and first real upsets of the tournament, both took place at night. On Friday night, Leylah Fernandez ousted the number three seed and defending champion, Naomi Osaka, 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4. Osaka shared afterwards in press that she plans to take a break from tennis. 

And then on Saturday night, Shelby Rogers ousted the number one seed and favourite, Ash Barty. Rogers rallied from 2-5 down in the third set to record her first ever win over Ash, 6-2 1-6 7-6(5).

Hot shot 🔥

Loved this!

H&H 🤗

❤❤❤

 

Snap of the day 📸

😂

Press highlights 📰

Highlights from Barty and Rogers’s press conferences. I’m sad for Ash but at the same time, sooo happy for Shelby. She’s one of my favourite personalities on tour.

Funny moment 🤣

Oh come on Pam! This was a great interview 😂.

Recommended media 📺

Naomi Osaka’s press conference after a third round loss to Fernandez. Naomi’s response to the questions from Japanese press was a tough watch 😭. Take your time, Naomi.

Day 8 watchlist 📺

Thoughts about day 8 matches and the start of the fourth round can be found on the separate page here.

(8) Barbora Krejcikova vs. (9) Garbiñe Muguruza

(5) Elina Svitolina vs. (12) Simona Halep

(2) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (15) Elise Mertens

(16) Angelique Kerber vs. Leylah Fernandez

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9 thoughts on “2021 US Open, Day 5 & 6 Highlights: A thrilling slate of third round matches!

  1. James – did you witness those beautiful sunsets when you went to New York to watch the U.S Open ? They are stunning or maybe they look better on TV ?

    I strongly dislike some of the online hate against Naomi. There is no need for it. She is not blameless for the situation but she is human and is not a nasty person and clearly has mental health issues so people should be more understanding. I thought she lost due to lack of fitness and match practice. I hope she does not return to playing tennis unless she really has got her enthusiasm back for playing the game.

    The Kerber/Stephens match was excellent and nearly as good as the Kerber/ Sorribes Tormo at Wimbledon imho. Difficult for me to say if it was one of Kerber’s best wins of her career as I have not followed her results that closely but I can understand what you mean and perhaps it was.

    I watched and enjoyed the Swiatek/Kontaveit match and also loved the banana forehand from Iga Swiatek. I was cheering for her to win but did think that Kontaveit played some good tennis and I wonder if she is an improving player ……I have made a mental note to select her as my outsider for next year’s Wimbledon😁

    Belinda won easily and her serving was the best that I have seen from her for a long while. This is probably wishful thinking but if she can serve that well against Iga Swiatek then I think that she has a good chance of winning. Looking forward to their match tomorrow.

    Very surprised to see Barty go out and pleased that Simona is doing well. I do not personally rate Sorribes Tormo that highly but it was still an excellent performance from Emma Raducanu to nearly double bagel her.

    Hope you have a great holiday James. I think that Wales is beautiful and have been to Snowdon and some of my ancestors are from Llangollen where I have also been a few times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do remember the sunsets! The night sessions at the US on the outside courts were so much fun. Would love to go back one day.

      Swiatek-Kontaveit was good. I like Anett and was going this might be her team. She’s pretty consistent but always seems to come up short in the big matches. Would love to see her claim a big scalp at the Slams. Tough to call Swiatek-Bencic. That should be a good match.

      Thanks, Peter! We’re in Porthmadog for the week. Love this area as we’ve been holidaying here since I was young. Looks like we got lucky with the weather.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The quarters are set now and if memory serves, no one in the final eight has previously won a slam so whoever does win the title will be a first time winner. I can’t remember when that last happened in the US Open, or any other slam for that matter.

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    • Barbora Krejcikova is in the final eight and won the French Open this year but I think that we will get another first time Grand Slam winner here.

      It will be interesting to see how Emma Raducanu gets on tomorrow. She has played very good tennis so far but her opponents were all ranked outside the top 40 and I do not think that she has ever played against a player as good as Belinda Bencic previously. I think that Belinda will win.

      The shock of this Grand slam ( in my opinion ) has been the performance of Leylah Fernandez and I never expected her to get this far and it is possible that she could get to the semi finals !

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Barbora Krejcikova is in the final eight.”

        Thanks, I’d forgotten about her! She’s just lost to Sabalenka though so you’re right, we will get a new slam winner this time.

        I agree with your other points except that I think Emma has a good chance against Belinda today. Should be a good match anyway.

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      • I think Raducanu has a shot too. Bencic definitely the favourite but Raducanu has that unknown quantity. What a tournament this has been! Blown away by Fernandez’s run. Beating Osaka, Kerber and Svitolina, all in three sets, is quite a feat. The Fernandez-Kerber and Fernandez-Svitolina matches were both fantastic!

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  3. Could we get a Raducanu/Fernandez final ! It is now possible and it will be one of the most amazing sports stories of the century if we do in my opinion.

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  4. Its been a while since I have been conflicted by slam final contestants. The last was Naomi against Serena. Unlike then, I hope the sometimes partisan crowd at the Meadows does not boo the winner. Surely, The WTA could do with more of the younger players catching fire at the slams like this. I feel the crowd might fall behind Leyla, being the north american player. I am intrigued to see how Raducanu responds. Although, Raducanu is the fresher face and Leyla the more experienced, she does not look to me the underdog here. Fascinating tournament this has been.

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