Monday, August 24, 2020

Serena survives, Thiem trounced in W&S Open

Serena Williams edged qualifier Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 7-6 (6),
3-6, 7-6 (0) today in the second round of the Western & Southern Open
in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. 2018 photo by Mal Taam

The Western & Southern Open lost its top two women's seeds on Sunday and almost lost No. 3 today.

Serena Williams, ranked ninth, edged the Netherlands' Arantxa Rus, a qualifier ranked 72nd, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (0) in the second round on a hot, humid day in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

Falling on Sunday were top-seeded Karolina Pliskova and second-seeded Sofia Kenin.

On the men's side today, Filip Krajinovic, a 28-year-old Serb ranked No. 32, thrashed Austria's Dominic Thiem, seeded second and ranked third, 6-2, 6-1 in 61 minutes. 

Krajinovic, the runner-up to Ryan Harrison in the 2009 Chico (Calif.) Futures at 17, won 32 of 34 points (94%) on his serve and never faced a break point. 

Williams, who will turn 39 next month, saved a set point in the first-set tiebreaker on the fast hardcourts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. 

Rus, a 29-year-old left-hander, rallied from 2-5 in the third set to serve for the match at 6-5 in the 2-hour, 49-minute battle. 

Williams, who won the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in 2014 and 2015, had 14 aces and one double fault in her longest match since a first-round loss to Virginie Razzano in the 2012 French Open. Williams won 82 percent of the points on her first serve (47 of 57).

Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident, has struggled in her two tournaments since the WTA Tour resumed two weeks ago after a hiatus of almost five months because of the coronavirus pandemic. She fell to No. 116 Shelby Rogers 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals in Lexington, Ky., her first loss to a player ranked in triple digits since the match against No. 111 Razzano.

Williams is scheduled to meet Greece's Maria Sakkari, seeded 13th and ranked 21st, for the first time on Tuesday not before 4 p.m. (ESPN). Sakkari, the runner-up in the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018, beat Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-4, 7-6 (9) after dominating 16-year-old U.S. phenom Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 on Saturday.

Also today, Marie Bouzkova upset sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova, who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 in an all-Czech encounter.

Qualifier CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, fell to second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6 (1), 4-6, 7-5 in 2:20 in their first meeting. 

Bellis, a 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) right-hander, missed 20 months from March 2018 to November 2019 while undergoing three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow. The powerful Sabalenka reached last year's final in San Jose, losing to Zheng Saisai of China. 

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, in his first official match since February, beat veteran Ricardas Berankis, a 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) qualifier from Lithuania, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Djokovic had his neck treated after the first set.

Djokovic, the 2018 champion in Cincinnati, improved to 19-0 this year. Berankis reached the quarterfinals of the 2010 SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., as a qualifier, losing to eventual champion Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

Andy Murray, a 33-year-old wild card, topped fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Zverev double-faulted three times while serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set at twice more at 5-6.

Murray, the Western & Southern champion in Cincinnati in 2008 and 2011, won the first of his three Grand Slam singles titles in the 2012 U.S. Open. The first of his 46 tour-level singles titles came at 18 in the 2006 SAP Open, and he repeated the following year. 

Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev began his title defense after receiving a first-round bye. Medvedev, last year's U.S. Open runner-up to Rafael Nadal in an epic at Flushing Meadows, defeated American qualifier Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, 6-4, 6-4.

Seventh-seeded Madison Keys, the women's defending champion, lost to Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 6-1.  

Keys won the last Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2017 and reached the U.S. Open final one month later, losing to Fresno, Calif., product Sloane Stephens. Jabeur advanced to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in the Australian Open in January. 

Two American giants advanced in the men's draw. 

Reilly Opelka, 6-foot-11 (2.11 meters), beat ninth-seeded Diego Schwartzman, 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters), of Argentina 6-3, 7-6 (4). 

Sixteenth-seeded John Isner, 6-foot-10 (2.08 meters), blasted 35 aces in a 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over John Millman of Australia. Millman, who won Northern California Challengers in 2010 and 2015, shocked Roger Federer in the 2018 U.S. Open to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

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