NEW YORK, NY, USA – WTA World No.77 Sorana Cirstea produced a sparkling performance to come from behind and beat No.9 seed Johanna Konta, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in two hours 52 minutes to move into the third round of the US Open for the third time in her career.
"I'm very happy with the win," Cirstea said in post-match press. "I've felt I've been playing quite well for a while, but unfortunately the results weren't going my way, so the last few tournaments have been a bit frustrating. Even though I lost the first set, I felt like I was there and it was a matter of a few important points. I felt I could win the whole match; I served quite well and that won me the match."
The first set was dominated by the WTA World No.13, but the Romanian hung tough in the second, winning the match’s key exchanges towards the end of that frame as she saved four break points before pinching it in the tie-break.
An early break in the decider build the platform from which she secured victory for the first time against an opponent who had won her previous five three-set matches in Grand Slam play.
The opening game was a lengthy affair that saw Cirstea, who was seeking to reach the third round for the third time, make three double faults before being broken, and while she did manage to square the set in the fourth game, thereafter it was one-way traffic.
Konta was particularly potent on her opponents’ delivery, sending powerful, deep returns back to the shoelaces of the 30-year-old, which gave her neither the time nor the room to unleash her groundstrokes. The quality of her return was underlined by the fact that she won 58% of points on the Cirstea first serve during the first set.
Two further breaks of serve arrived for the Briton, who sealed the opener after an entertaining angled exchange.
The beginning of the second set promised a speedy conclusion as Konta established a break in the third game, yet Cirstea pushed her way back up the court and immediately levelled as her opponent opened the door with a double fault early as she sought to consolidate her advantage.
With Konta starting to make more errors off neutral balls, the match was locked on serve until 4-4, at which point the higher-ranked player carved out two break points with a combination of excellent hitting and impressive resilience.
Cirstea, who was now getting more change from her serve, survived the examination with some awesome ball striking then held firm once again in her subsequent service game, in which Konta held another two break points.
The tiebreak that logically followed saw the Romanian No.3 establish a 4-1 lead behind some heavy serving then continue that aggressive attitude to close out the set with an ace following a Konta fightback.
At the beginning of the third, the momentum was decidedly with the underdog, who moved ahead for the first time after more than two hours as her opponent pushed a forehand wide.
"I feel I've been playing well since last year at the US Open, so it's been a very frustrating year for me because I'm practicing well, doing all the right things, and I'm fit. Mentally, I feel good. Somehow, I wasn't getting the results I've been hoping for, and it's hard when you work hard and the results just don't come. It can then be hard to find motivation.
"Through the break, I practiced, and I had a bit of a meltdown two weeks before this US Open, saying I was completely tired and I needed a few days off. I felt like I was working well, and that my moment would come. This has been my belief, because I feel I have the game, and when I play well I can beat anyone. Belief keeps me going, and is what keeps me on the practice court even after I've lost a match. It's that belief that any week can change everything."
Although Konta raised her game to hit back, Cirstea responded brilliantly as both players chalked up regular winners. Indeed, she moved back into the ascendancy after a 10-minute game, expertly reaching a drop shot to flick a winner crosscourt.
"I think this game was the key. I had quite a few break points on which I played a little bit tight. The one, I thought I missed her drop shot by a mile but it somehow landed in the court. Jo serves very well, and it's hard to break her, so once I got it, I was much more confident I could get the win."
Cirstea battled back from 0-40 down in the following game to hold and successfully closed the match out, securing back-to-back wins for the first time since Tashkent in 2019.
"My serve saved me in the end and kept me alive. Once I was up 5-3, I felt in a good position, held my head a little higher. I knew I had this, and I just had to stay solid and keep doing the same things."
She will face No.20 seed Karolina Muchova in round three.
"I know her a little bit. I've never played her, and I don't know her game that much in detail. That's where my coach has to come in with good tactics. I know she's a good, strong player, who likes to come to net and has very good hands. It'll be a very tough opponent, but I think a lot of matches are won or lost on my terms, so that gives me confidence."