US Open Day 3: Serena Williams downs Kontaveit as other contenders fall away; Medvedev cruises on a big day for the Brits

Serena Williams is not ready to hang it up just yet. The 40-year-old, in the last tournament of her career at the US Open, took down World No. 2 Anett Kontaveit 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday.

Few tennis stadiums have been louder than the Arthur Ashe Stadium for Williams this year, and the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion did not disappoint. She won a very closely-fought first set – in which she won one more point than the Estonian overall – on a tiebreaker before Kontaveit took the game away from her in the second.

There was a certain calmness about Williams’ play in the third set which felt familiar but had not been seen in a while. The American’s dominance was reminiscent of her best years on tour, and nothing displayed that dominance more than a crushing backhand winner on match point that had 23,000 spectators – all of whom were already on their feet – cheering and wanting more.

The Open was meant to be one last dance for Williams, but with so many top players out of the tournament already, and with William’s pedigree, she has now emerged as an outside contender for the title after the first two matches.

Big names crumble in the women’s draw

Kontaveit was not the only top seed to fall by the wayside in New York on Wednesday, as third seed Maria Sakkari crashed out to China’s Wang Xiyu 6-3, 5-7, 5-7. Despite a strong start, the Greek who reached the semifinal at Flushing Meadows last year, had no answers for her opponent’s ability to absorb pressure and play through her. The biggest result of Wang Xiyu’s career.

In another big upset late on Wednesday, 15th seed Beatrice Haddad Maia, one of the in-form players coming into the Open, was taken down by 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu in straight sets. The Canadian has not been in touch ever since her triumph at Flushing Meadows three years ago, making this one of her biggest results in that phase. A tricky assignment against Cincinnati champion Carline Garcia will follow.

Elsewhere, last year’s runner-up Leylah Fernandez, who has slowly slipped under the radar since her remarkable run last year, lost in straight sets to the experienced Russian Ludmilla Samsonova. A huge plummet in the rankings is to come for the Canadian.

Medvedev into the third round without a hiccup

It may be early days in the Open, but with others around him showing signs of weakness, World No. 1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev’s ruthlessness is looking impressive. The Russian took down France’s Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 7-5, 6-3.

He was not broken a single time on his serve, and crafted 17 break point opportunities on his opponent’s – converting five – before cruising into the next round. He has got China’s Wu Yibing next before the blockbuster meeting with Nick Kyrgios as scheduled.

The Australian needed four sets, and plenty of nervy errors from his opponent in the first set tiebreak, to win his second round against Benjamin Bonzi.

Brits shine in New York

While Harriet Dart was unable to take advantage of her first-round scalping of World No. 9 Daria Kasatkina, both Jack Draper and Andy Murray gave the UK plenty to cheer about. Draper took down the big name in Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Aug 31, 2022; Flushing, NY, USA; Jack Draper of Great Britain hits a shot against Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada on day three of the 2022 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The latest defeat comes in a string of disappointments for the Canadian, who needs to prove his mettle, not his talent. For all his evident talent, he must convert it into results. Auger-Aliassime reached the semifinals last year, but his nervous start was latched on to by Draper, who then never let go. The Brit was not even broken once, and he used his forehand smartly.

Murray, on the other hand, needed to come back from a one-set deficit against America’s Emilio Nava 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0. The 35-year-old looked nervy in the start, and even though he broke back late in the first, he never capitalised. After zeroing in on his opponent’s weaknesses though – taking the ball early and becoming the aggressor – there was no turning back. He has got the dangerous Matteo Berrettini next.

Other notable results

– Matteo Berrettini def. Hugo Grenier 2-6, 6-1, 7-6, 7-6
Things looked nervy for the Italian in the start, but he showed why he is one of the most consistent men’s players at the best-of-five level. A good test against Murray awaits.

– Ons Jabeur def. Elizabeth Mandlik 7-5, 6-2
The Tunisian has not picked up any big results after the disappointment of losing the summit clash at Wimbledon. But following a couple of routine wins in New York, with all the top contenders falling by the wayside, she is emerging as one of the favourites in the draw.

– Casper Ruud def, Tim van Rijthoven 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
There was a really slow start, but the fifth seed recovered impressively to prevail against a dangerous player. There is still a chance he leaves New York as World No. 1, but now that he is the highest-ranked player in his quarter, expectations are high.

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