The second round of US Open qualifying went swimmingly for the Top 8 seeds, who all find themselves safely in the final round, vying for coveted spots in the main draw of the year's last Grand Slam event.
32 players remain, and the 16 winners on Friday will guarantee themselves places in the main draw in Flushing Meadows. There are also three lucky loser spots available, following Wednesday's withdrawals by Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Sofia Kenin.
After a two-day first round, all second-round matches were contested on Thursday, and No.1 seed Ana Konjuh continued to lead the field ahead in the qualifying draw.
Croatia's Konjuh ousted Julia Grabher of Austria, 6-3, 7-6(2), in an hour and 42 minutes, and is now a win away from returning to the US Open main draw for the first time since 2017.
Konjuh's career-best Grand Slam showing came at the 2016 US Open, where she made the quarterfinals at age 18. After hitting a career-high ranking of World No.20 in 2017, Konjuh was beset by elbow injuries, but she has had a resurgent 2021, re-entering the Top 100 and making her first WTA singles final in four years.
The final round of #USOpen qualifying is just around the corner— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 26, 2021
🇪🇬 Sherif vs. Raducanu 🇬🇧
🇩🇪 Moraing vs. Rune 🇩🇰
🇸🇰 Schmiedlova vs. Brantmeier 🇺🇸
🇺🇸 Eubanks vs. Baez 🇦🇷
Full Schedule for Friday 08/27 👇
No.3 seed Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain and No.4 seed Mayar Sherif of Egypt also had straight-set wins. Parrizas Diaz, who made her Top 100 debut just this month at the age of 30, eased past Francesca Di Lorenzo of the United States, 6-1, 6-2.
Sherif defeated Yuliya Hatouka of Belarus, 6-4, 6-4. Sherif also recently made her Top 100 debut following a trip to her first WTA singles final in Cluj-Napoca -- she is the first woman from Egypt to both reach a final and make it into the Top 100.
No.2 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, though, had a much tougher trip into the final round, as she held off 2018 US Open quarterfinalist Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 marathon.
In a battle between former Top 30 players, Schmiedlova lost a 5-1 third-set lead, letting the decider slip all the way back to 5-5. However, Schmiedlova broke serve in the next game, then staved off four break points in the final game before grabbing the win in just under three hours.
On to the finals and one win away from the @usopen main draw ❗️ @astrasharma gets past Switzerland's Susan Bandecchi, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to advance to the final round of qualifying. #AnchorDown | #USOpenQualies pic.twitter.com/7UapMXTTqJ— Vanderbilt Women's Tennis (@VandyWTennis) August 26, 2021
No.5 seed Oceane Dodin of France was also close to being upset, but she prevailed over Anna Bondar of Hungary, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3. Dodin was pushed to the limit in the second set, but she never faced a match point, then cruised through the breaker to turn the tilt in her favor.
The rest of the Top 8 seeds advanced in two sets. No.6 seed Greet Minnen of Belgium defeated Mai Hontama of Japan, 6-3, 7-6(3). Minnen has successfully made it through qualies at each of the first three Grand Slam events this year, and is a win away from going 4-for-4.
No.7 seed Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania, who won her first WTA singles title in Hamburg this summer and reached another final in Palermo, beat Kurumi Nara of Japan, 7-5, 6-1.
And No.8 seed Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, who made her first WTA singles final in Gdynia this summer, outlasted American Hanna Chang, 7-5, 7-6(5).
No.9 seed Maryna Zanevska of Belgium is the highest seed to fall so far. Zanevska, who beat Kucova in that Gdynia final to win her first WTA singles title, lost to Liang En-Shuo of Chinese Taipei, 7-6(5), 6-4.
No.10 seed Astra Sharma of Australia made it into the final round, though. Sharma, who defeated Ons Jabeur for her first WTA singles title earlier this year in Charleston, edged Susan Bandecchi of Switzerland, 6-4, 7-6(4).
In other results, No.31 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain is a victory away from her US Open debut, as she eased past Mariam Bolkvadze of Georgia, 6-3, 7-5. Her fellow Brits Katie Boulter and No.32 seed Harriet Dart also moved into the final round of qualifying.
Raducanu will face Sherif in a blockbuster final-round qualifying clash.
Also, former Top 20 player Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania knocked out No.30 seed Jule Niemeier of Germany, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0; Rebecca Marino of Canada outlasted No.19 seed Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4; and No.11 seed Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic beat Robin Anderson of the United States, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1.