No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus wasted no time making it into the third round of the US Open for the first time since 2018, taking just 59 minutes to oust 2021 Roland Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 6-3, 6-1.
Sabalenka had lost in the second round of the last two US Opens, but she was mostly untroubled by World No.40 Zidansek this time as she picked up her 40th match-win of the season.
More from Day 3 at the US Open:
Halep, Jabeur win quickly; Osaka receives walkover
Muguruza, Azarenka pick up straight-set wins
Stat box: Sabalenka and Zidansek had split their two previous clashes, but in their first meeting since 2019, Sabalenka took charge on court, slamming 23 winners to just 10 unforced errors, and saving both break points she faced. Zidansek's eight winners, meanwhile, were outpaced by 19 unforced errors.
Key moments: Sabalenka took command early as she broke Zidansek's serve in the very first game of the match. Zidansek nearly leveled the affair quickly, holding two break points on the Sabalenka serve at 2-1, but the Belarusian wiped those away with her power game to retain her lead.
Those would prove to be the only break points Zidansek saw all day. Even a jarring fall that Sabalenka had in the back of the court at 3-2 in the first set could not stop her tidal wave to victory, as she swept through the rest of the first set, then finished off the second set with a volley winner.
Sabalenka says: "I think it was a really solid match, and I did everything I could in this match," the No.2 seed told the press. "I'm really happy with this win. I think it was a great level for me today."
Despite being concerned about injuring her fingers or hand during the fall, Sabalenka said that "I'm happy that I was able to hold my racquet, and I did everything I could after I fell down. I'm really happy with the win. And, we'll see tomorrow. I think it needs to cool down and after one night I can tell what's going on with my fingers."
Collins clash ahead: In the third round, Sabalenka will meet one of this summer's hottest players on tour, when she takes on 26th-seeded American Danielle Collins. Collins booked her third-round spot by defeating another Slovenian, Kaja Juvan 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour and 9 minutes.
Earlier in the summer, Collins pulled off a 12-match winning streak, which included her first WTA singles title on the clay of Palermo, immediately followed by her second title on the hardcourts of San Jose.
"[Collins is] a great player," Sabalenka said. "We had a couple matches against each other, and it was tough matches. She's playing well right now, moving much better than she was moving before. She's, I would say, a powerful player, and she can come back whenever she wants to."
Krejcikova spans two courts for second-round win
Not much stops No.8 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic from winning singles matches these days, not even rain. The reigning Roland Garros champion saw her match moved midway but still had little trouble defeating Christina McHale of the United States, 6-3, 6-1.
The pair started on Court 13 with Krejcikova easing to a 6-3, 2-1 lead before light sprinkles turned into a torrential downpour. But about 30 minutes later, the match restarted under the roof of Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The change of circumstances did not hinder the Czech one iota as she reeled off all four games in a row in Armstrong, saving a break point at 4-1 in the process, to defeat former Top 25 player McHale after 83 minutes of action plus the rain delay.
"I wasn't happy that it started to rain, but when I heard that they moved us I was really happy because I love to play on a big court and on the big stages," Krejcikova said. "I think was obvious when I stepped on court there and I was playing, I was playing much better tennis. I was just enjoying the crowd and everything.
"I wish in the future I will be playing more matches like this on the big courts, playing big players, that I'll be able to compete at the highest level to entertain people. I enjoyed it. It was amazing."
Krejcikova finished the match with 20 winners to McHale's five, and she converted five of her 12 break points on the day. Krejcikova is still undefeated at the US Open proper -- despite being a Top 10 player, this is her first time competing in the singles main draw.
Next up for Krejcikova will be Russian lucky loser Kamilla Rakhimova, who upset her 32nd-seeded compatriot Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-4, 6-1, in just over an hour. World No.115 Rakhimova made a little bit of history with her win:
No.115 Kamilla Rakhimova is the 4th lucky loser in the Open Era to advance to the #USOpen 3R, defeating No.32 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 64 61.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 1, 2021
The 20yo Russian joins Nathalie Herreman (1991, R32), Maria-Jose Gaidano (1993, R16) and Daria Kasatkina (2015, R32).#USOpen
Kasatkina levels head-to-head with Vondrousova in test of endurance and shotmaking
The last time Daria Kasatkina and Marketa Vondrousova met, they produced a claycourt battle at Rome 2019 of such quality that Stadio Pietrangeli crowd were chanting their names by the end.
They’ve had ups and downs in their careers since, but both arrived in Flushing Meadows in form: Kasatkina the No.25 seed after a resurgent season that has seen the Russian play four WTA finals, winning two, and Vondrousova fresh off an Olympic silver medal run in Tokyo.
Two years ago, Vondrousova took two hours and 13 minutes to defeat Kasatkina 7-5, 2-6, 6-2. This time, they went four minutes beyond that in another nail-biting marathon, with Kasatkina gaining revenge – and levelling the head-to-head at 2-2 – with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 comeback in two hours and 17 minutes.
At times, the match showcased sheer genius, with extended exchanges showcasing the full range of both players’ creativity. At times, it was arduous, with batches of loose errors looming whenever either had the opportunity to seize momentum. Almost any given passage of play was too close to call: six of the second set’s last eight games went to deuce, and the decider opened with five breaks in a row.
No.25 seed Daria Kasatkina notches her tour-leading 17th three-set win of the season. Defeats Marketa Vondrousova 36 64 64 to advance to 3R.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 1, 2021
Faces No.5 seed Elina Svitolina.#USOpen
Stat corner: Vondrousova edged Kasatkina in terms of winners, 28 to 26, but also tallied 38 unforced errors to the Russian’s 27. The Czech appeared to be ailing toward the end, bending double every so often, but in the end Kasatkina’s resilience and commitment to staying aggressive made the difference. The 24-year-old lost a five-deuce tussle to move up 5-2, having missed three points for the double break, but continued to go after her forehand to get herself over the line.
What’s next for Kasatkina: More grueling rallies are sure to be in Kasatkina’s future as she faces No.5 seed Elina Svitolina – an even steeper challenge, considering that she is yet to beat the Ukrainian in five meetings dating back to 2016.