After beating Danka Kovinic on Monday night, retiring legend Serena Williams showed she’s still got a little left in the tank after overcoming a stunning set two fightback to outlast world no. 2 Anett Kontaveit 7-6, 2-6, 6-2. Hours later, 20-year-old Brit Jack Draper completed an impressive straight-sets win over last year’s semifinalist Felix Auger-Aliassime  on a busy third evening.
Serena withstands Kontaveit’s pressure to hold firm
“Loving this crowd and it’s really fantastic, there’s still a little left in me, we’ll see. You know this is what I do best, love a challenge and rising to it, haven’t played a lot of matches but practising well, it wasn’t coming together [beforehand] but maybe I should’ve travelled with you [fans] all those years!
After losing the second set I knew it could be over so really just wanted to keep trying, see what I can do, tried my best and it’s super exciting.
Nothing to prove or win, absolutely nothing to lose, never get to play like this since 1998, always had an x on my back since ’99 so enjoy coming out.”
The last sentence of that joyous post-match quote speaks for itself, playing freely while savouring each moment – rather than being fatigued by pressure and expectation to continue making history, as if metronomic winning and history-making is a certainty rather than a rarity.
Just like against Kovinic on Monday, there were a few hairy moments here.
That came with the territory, playing against a world no. 2 in Kontaveit whose inconsistent form didn’t matter a jot coming into a marquee matchup she did everything to win. The tennis was at a much higher level, naturally, but also more shorter rallies to boot – favouring the home hero.
Her movement was tested early and often, though she quickly showed her readiness for the challenge as both had to save break points midway through set one.
Given the troublesome injuries she’s dealt with, the Arthur Ashe crowd couldn’t hide their gasps as she slipped when attempting to retrieve a shot on her third break point opportunity at 3-3.
Thankfully, she didn’t land awkwardly or twist anything – though Kontaveit clinched a gutsy hold during a 13-minute game.
The 26-year-old Estonian found herself constantly having to probe Williams, hitting deep returns and line-kissing winners to keep the 23-time Major champion behind the baseline.
By the midway point at 4-4, they’d both scored 12 winners. Kontaveit’s latest was a forehand down-the-line winner to finish a gripping rally.
However, both self-imploded on serve without warning as they went into a tiebreaker. Serena’s tried and trusty serving, which hurt her in the game prior, helped her clinch the breaker 7-4 during a set which could’ve easily gone against her.
Unsurprisingly, Kontaveit responded with more blistering hitting to snatch an early break and silence the boisterous crowd.
She scored five winners and an ace to consolidate said break, with more fantastic hitting helping level the scores at a set apiece – despite a lull at 3-0 – producing points like these took their toll.
However, her forehand was immediately under duress to start set three as Williams raised her level again. All things considered, she showed great fight in that moment and saved two break points but Serena seized the third, giving her breathing space and a promising lead to defend.
Anett had a chance to turn the tide but was overhitting rally balls and not able to sustain set two’s highs (27 unforced errors, just 3 in second set) as Serena could smell blood. They contested an incredible point at 4-2, 15-15 – Williams later saving a break point to lead 5-2.
It was soon over, celebrations could continue following some nervy moments, and after doubles duty with Venus, Serena plays Wimbledon quarterfinalist Ajla Tomjlanovic on Friday, after the Australian recovered from a set down to beat Russia’s returning Evgeniya Rodina 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Draper sends FAA packing in straight-sets, other men’s results
In a tough section of the draw, Britain’s 20-year-old Jack Draper built on his straight-sets win over Emil Ruusuvuori by doing the same against a considerably tougher test – showcasing big hitting and steely composure to best last year’s semi-finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
The stats say it all
Draper: 29 winners to 17 unforced errors, 84% 1st serve pts won (37/44)
Auger-Aliassime: 27 winners, 41 unforced errors, 75% 1st serve pts won (44/59)
He plays Karen Khachanov  next, after the Russian was made to work against Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro before clinching in a four-set victory elsewhere on Day 3.
Speaking of four sets, Pablo Carreno Busta and Alex de Minaur needed the same to KO hard-hitting Kazakh Alexander Bublik and Wimbledon quarterfinalist Cristian Garin respectively.
They’ll collide in R3 come Friday, on the other side of Draper’s section.
Draper’s compatriot and former world no. 1 Andy Murray played his part to set up an intriguing third-round clash against last year’s Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini  – a rematch of their Queen’s final in June – after the pair recorded contrasting four-set victories themselves.
They both came from a set down to win, Berrettini being forced into winning two tiebreaks to see off French lucky loser Hugo Grenier – while Murray only lost four more games after dropping set one 7-5 against American wildcard Emilio Nava.
On the other side of their section, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ conqueror in Colombian qualifier Daniel Elahi Galan remains after he outlasted Jordan Thompson in five sets.
So too does his upcoming opponent, Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, after winning a deciding set ten-point tiebreak to overwhelm Marton Fucsovics.
Defending champion Daniil Medvedev and Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios remain on a last-16 collision course after both beat Frenchmen: Benjamin Bonzi in four for the unpredictable Australian, while Medvedev proved too much for Arthur Rinderknech during the night session.
There was success for one lucky loser though in France no. 1 Corentin Moutet, starting well and importantly finishing with aplomb to knock out Botic van de Zandschulp  6-4, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4.
He’ll play Pedro Cachin in R3, after the Argentine recovered from two sets down to knock out Taylor Fritz’s conqueror American qualifier Brandon Holt 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6, 7-6 (10-6).
On the topic of Grand Slam finalists, French Open runner-up Casper Ruud is quietly going about his business too after refusing to panic against Tim van Rijthoven’s powerful early surge.
The 23-year-old eventually prevailed with a 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 scoreline but it was tight – having saved two break points deep in set two, winning 11 consecutive points and not looking back.
He’ll play Tommy Paul  next, after the 25-year-old eventually got the better of talented youngster Sebastian Korda over five sets in an all-American clash (6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4).
Gauff-Keys, Andreescu-Garcia headline R3 matches
- After an impressive final set response to oust Daria Kasatkina for her biggest career win, Britain’s no. 2 Harriet Dart saw her tournament ended unceremoniously — losing 6-4, 6-0 to Hungary’s Dalma Galfi who now plays 18th seed Veronika Kudermetova next
- Ons Jabeur  vs. Shelby Rogers  awaits after both hold firm under early pressure to win comfortably past Mandlik [WC] and Kuzmova [Q]
- Alison Riske-Amritraj taken to ten-point tiebreak brink by Colombian’s Camila Osorio but wins, will face Wang Xiyu after Chinese 21yo recovers to beat Sakkari  3-6, 7-5, 7-5
- Intriguing contest awaits as 2019 titlist Bianca Andreescu faces an in-form Caroline Garcia next after both make light work of Haddad Maia  and Kalinskaya while Daria Snigur can’t build on Halep win, loses to Canada’s Rebecca Marino – remember her?
Last year’s runner-up Leylah Fernandez, semifinalist Maria Sakkari and Barbora Krejcikova  were among the seeds to fall on the women’s side today, but true to form, some tantalising third-round matches have been made as a consequence.
Liudmila Samsonova, champion in Washington and Cleveland last month, continued her impressive form with a 6-3, 7-6 win over Fernandez while the Russian’s upcoming opponent, Aleksandra Krnuic, rallied from a set down to beat 2021 French Open champion Krejcikova.
Coco Gauff showcased her fearsome – but frustratingly streaky – serving before fending off two set points and avoiding an anxious deciding set, to beat Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-2, 7-6.
Her reward is another matchup against hard-hitting compatriot Madison Keys, runner-up at this tournament five years ago, in R3 after she won a ten-point tiebreak to knock out Camila Giorgi.
After qualifying, this year’s US Open tournament is up and running. As always, I’ll be producing daily round-ups with the latest results, game reports, and news from Flushing Meadows, so be sure to stay tuned to moandsports.com for the latest coverage — you don’t want to miss it!
Picture source: Getty Images — quotes via Amazon Prime Video broadcast