US Open 2021: Rublev, Medvedev win but Ruud stunned in four sets on rainy Day 3

Russians ruled supreme on day three, as there were straight-sets victories for Daniil Medvedev (#2) and Daria Kasatkina (#25), while Andrey Rublev (#5) had a fiery response after relinquishing three set points to oust Spain’s Pablo Martínez in four. There were also comfortable wins for Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep while defending champ Naomi Osaka had a walkover.

Fiery Rublev responds well to Martinez challenge

Rublev rallied after losing a back-and-forth second set to blast past Martínez in four sets

Rublev (#5) bt. Martinez 7-6, 6-7, 6-1, 6-1

18 aces, 83% first serve points won (58/70), an eyewatering 67 winners and yet you wouldn’t have known it judging by Andrey Rublev‘s anger at the end of a second set that saw him relinquish three set points and a tiebreak he initially led 2-0. But then, he responded brilliantly.

Martinez, who was good value for his set after narrowly losing the first in another tiebreak, only won two more games as the match flashed by in less than an hour after Rublev’s comfort break.

Rublev overpowered him while cleaning up those sloppy mistakes – recording 21 winners and just seven unforced errors in sets 3-4 – while Martinez tried to weather the storm. Surely the Russian’s level would drop again, or maybe more spots of rainfall would ruin his momentum?

No chance. Rublev raced into a commanding lead and wouldn’t relent a second time, fuelled by an eagerness to finish as soon as possible. Up next? A first meeting with his American agemate Frances Tiafoe after he won 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 in 1h54 against Guido Pella, which could be intriguing.

Medvedev moves into R3 without trouble

Medvedev and Koepfer shakes hands at the net after their second-round matchup

Medvedev (#2) bt. Koepfer 6-4, 6-1, 6-2

It’s still early days, but Daniil Medvedev produced the sort of display against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer justifying his new career-high world no. 2 ranking: clinical when it mattered, no energy wasted and career win 201 under his belt.

En route to the Russian’s first Grand Slam final, the pair played at Flushing Meadows two years ago in the last-16 and contested a much closer affair which was destined for a deciding set.

Medvedev had an unassailable lead in the fourth set tiebreaker that day to emerge victorious, but said post-match here he hoped a repeat of his 2019 attainment would occur this year too.

“It was a completely different match, hopefully the same story or even better! A few tight moments I played well, his level dropped a little and I took advantage – happy to be through in less than two hours. The more I play, the better I’ll feel.”

After slamming 15 aces past France’s Richard Gasquet in round one, he hit eight on this occasion and set the tone by earning early breaks across all three sets – giving Koepfer early adversity. He had to save ten break points, just to keep the scoreline relatively competitive.

Medvedev raced into a 3-0 set three lead and before long, Koepfer was put out of his misery. Up next, he’ll play Spain’s Pablo Andújar on Friday after the 35-year-old was similarly impressive against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 in just over two hours.

Muguruza delighted with Petkovic win, Azarenka awaits

Muguruza hit 21 winners and 14 unforced errors to finally beat Petkovic, at the fourth attempt

Muguruza (#9) bt. Petkovic 6-4, 6-2

After edging two tight tiebreaks against Donna Vekic on Monday, Garbine Muguruza was more decisive against Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, who was riding a 3-0 H2H run before today.

The pair recorded above 70% first serve percentages, but it was the Spaniard who established an early double break in both sets (3-0), before Petkovic broke back on both occasions.

When you’re in that position, trailing and needing a response, the best-of-three set format can worsen a feeling of inevitability about scorelines that don’t look in your favour.

Petkovic overcooked a forehand return on Muguruza’s second serve at 15-all, down 3-2 in the first set, and fought a losing battle from there. Set two was much more volatile, as both were breaking the other’s serve, but down 4-1? There was only going to be one winner from there.

Victoria Azarenka, a beaten finalist here last year, is next for Muguruza on Friday in precisely the sort of matchup that wouldn’t look out of place midway through the second week at a Slam.

The 18th seed was made to work even harder to knock out Italy’s Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 7-6 and both players should fancy their chances given their H2H record is finely poised at 2-2.

Osaka, who beat Azarenka in the aforementioned final, had a walkover after Serbia’s talented 20-year-old Olga Danilovic withdrew hours beforehand with an illness and posted on social media:

Halep eases into round three, to face Rybakina

Halep dropped just four games against Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova, and is now into round three

Halep (#12) bt. Kucova 6-3, 6-1

Two-time Slam champion Simona Halep dropped just four games against lucky loser Kristina  Kucova, to earn a R3 berth — her best result here since a quarter-final finish five years ago.

Importantly, she feels better after her calf injury and although the strapping on her right leg suggests there’s still an injury lingering, it’s a manageable one that Halep is learning to manage.

“I feel better, I have to admit, I’m more confident – before the tournament I was a little bit worried about injuries, didn’t play an official match for five-six months and it’s always tough to handle the pressure of a Grand Slam but think I did well.”

Her best result in ten main draw entries was a semi-final defeat by eventual champion Flavia Pennetta the previous year and she’s got a tough test: Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina (#19) on Friday, after the 22-year-old dropped just a game more against France’s Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-4.

On the other side of that section, an intriguing third-round contest is in the offing on Friday between Elina Svitolina (#5) and Daria Kasatkina (#25).

The latter recovered from a set down to beat 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Svitolina, a semifinalist two years ago, will fancy her chances with a 5-0 H2H record.

Other results so far as Ruud, Dimitrov out

Seeded eighth, 22-year-old Norwegian Ruud becomes the highest seed knocked out of the draw

American wildcard Brandon Nakashima has enjoyed an impressive month on tour but missed a golden opportunity in a section opening up… The 20-year-old had a 2-1 set lead, but made costly errors at 4-5 in the decider, losing to Slovakian qualifier Alex Molcan 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Molcan will play either 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson or Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman (#11th seed) in round three next, with their matchup set for the Louis Armstrong Stadium later tonight.

In that section… Eighth seed Casper Ruud, winner of three successive clay tournaments in July, saved one match point but ultimately still lost against the Netherlands’ Botic Van de Zandschulp 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 after the 25-year-old’s dramatic drop shot winner at the net.

An emotional Dan Evans battled injury discomfort as well as a dicey third set to eventually outlast America’s Marcos Giron, winning 6-4, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 in just under three hours.

“I was struggling after COVID a bit, no confidence and it’s tough, just hanging in and getting physically better. I’m happy with how I played, served and was aggressive. Third round of a Slam, no matter who, is exciting and I’ll enjoy it.”

After beating him in mid-June, Evans fancies his chances of a repeat display against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin on Friday after the 22-year-old led 7-6, 7-6, 4-0 against 2019 semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov (#15th seed) before the Bulgarian opted to retire, struggling with a nasty foot injury.

2017 champion Sloane storms past Gauff

Stephens’ fearsome forehand caused Gauff all sorts of problems, en route to a straight-sets win

Stephens bt. Gauff (#21) 6-4, 6-2

Despite a competitive 25-minute period in set one, Sloane Stephens‘ ferocious forehand – and untimely errors reeling off opposite her – helped the 2017 US Open champion ease into R3.

Coco Gauff, the 21st seed, looked up ruefully as her serve deserted her in a pivotal moment – a double-fault giving Stephens the impetus she needed to seize a stranglehold during a match that could’ve gone long into the night on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Instead, it flew by afterwards.

In the previous game, Stephens blasted two forehand winners from deuce to avoid presenting the teenager a first break point opportunity. Despite a double of her own as she served for set one, the 28-year-old then unleashed another fearsome forehand, in turn forcing a Gauff error.

Gauff, who saved one set point but scooped a backhand return long on the second, needed to reset at the start of set two while continuing to extend rallies: prolong points, stifle Stephens.

Right on cue, Stephens shanked a volley long and a overhit backhand presented Gauff with a break point chance at 2-1. She earned it showcasing her movement, but it evaporated in a flash.

Gauff fired two forehand returns long, so Sloane could breathe. In the very next game, a delicate drop shot winner at the net by Stephens rather reiterated just how quickly things could turn.

2-1, 30-40 had suddenly shifted to 2-3 Stephens. Gauff, for all of her precocious talent, was indecisive with her decision-making and more untimely errors appeared to present the 12-year pro with a commanding advantage, as she eventually cruised through to win in 66 minutes.

“My forehand was key today, wanted to execute and play my game, so really pleased. I love Coco, such a great player, lucky to see her grow up from when she was eight, proud of the woman she’s becoming, there’s great things ahead for her.”

Up next for Stephens, is either Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina or three-time Slam champion Angelique Kerber (#16th seed) – who won this tournament vs. Karolina Pliskova in 2016.

Picture source: Getty Images


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