Qualifier Emma Raducanu, 18, has made the fourth round of the US Open on her tournament debut in spectacular fashion, dismissing Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-0, 6-1 in one hour and 10 minutes.
Earlier, No.6 seed and 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu blazed past lucky loser Greet Minnen 6-1, 6-2 in one hour and seven minutes to maintain her unbeaten record in Flushing Meadows; and No.11 seed Belinda Bencic extended her head-to-head against No.23 seed Jessica Pegula to 3-0 with a 6-2, 6-4 win in one hour and 13 minutes.
Emma Raducanu is an absolute ⭐️— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 4, 2021
The 18-year-old 🇬🇧 is into Round 4 in her #USOpen main draw debut. pic.twitter.com/BH41bn2h7V
Raducanu has become the first player this century to make the second week of both her first two Grand Slam main draw appearances, having made the fourth round of Wimbledon as a No.338-ranked wildcard.
Now perched at World No.150, she has dropped just 28 games in six matches through qualifying and the main draw, averaging a meagre 4.7 games conceded per match. The British teenager also preserves a perfect record against Top 50 opposition, having won all four of her matches against players in that range so far.
Interview: Out of the spotlight, Raducanu engineers career surge in U.S.
Her defeat of Sorribes Tormo was perhaps the most impressive of them. The Spanish World No.41 has gained a reputation as one of the toughest players to hit through in her breakthrough season. She came into this clash with a 30-15 season record, including wins over Ashleigh Barty, Elena Rybakina and Ons Jabeur.
But Raducanu delivered a performance that combined power and patience to demolish Sorribes Tormo. She blitzed 23 winners and landed 72% of her first serves - but beyond the numbers, her ability to pull the trigger at the right time, mix up her patterns and win the key points proved crucial.
Smile, @EmmaRaducanu, you're into the second week of your second straight Slam. 😄 pic.twitter.com/BEpcqH6ldZ— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 4, 2021
Tactical variety: Raducanu's strategy was centred around her weight of shot, and she never faltered in using it to bully Sorribes Tormo, whose slice in particular broke down repeatedly. Deep returns through the middle of the court frequently put Raducanu on the front foot, as did her own formidable delivery.
But this was no one-note power play. Sometimes, Raducanu went for the first strike - the huge return or one-two punch. At other times, she rallied with Sorribes Tormo, untroubled by her opponent's array of spins, until she found the space into which she could inject winning pace. And she won 10 out of 12 points at net thanks to the judicious timing of her approaches.
Match management: Despite the one-sided scoreline, 10 of the 13 games played went to 30. Raducanu won all but one of them, including a pivotal second game on the Sorribes Tormo serve. That went to five deuces, and showcased the uninhibited striking that would characterise Raducanu's play. Sorribes Tormo grinding it out could have set the match on a different path, but it was Raducanu who sealed her third break point with a booming off backhand into the corner.
Raducanu was 6-0, 5-0 up before Sorribes Tormo managed to cling on to a four-deuce tussle to get on the scoreboard at last, saving a match point en route. The youngster was undeterred, and fired a superb forehand winner to seal her second match point and serve out the win.
In her #USOpen debut and she is yet to drop a set 🤯— wta (@WTA) September 4, 2021
🇬🇧 @EmmaRaducanu swiftly takes out Sorribes Tormo 6-0, 6-1! pic.twitter.com/vTpqrL4mxh
Youth movement: Raducanu joins fellow 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez, who upset defending champion Naomi Osaka on Friday, in the second week. It is the first time that more than one teenager has featured in the US Open fourth round since 2009, when the last 16 included 17-year-old Melanie Oudin and 19-year-olds Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Yanina Wickmayer.
Raducanu also becomes the second British woman to reach two round-of-16s at Grand Slam events before turning 19 years old (Sue Barker being the first).
Raducanu says: "I knew that Sara was an extremely difficult opponent, she's going to make a lot of balls and not make many mistakes at all," the Brit said afterwards. "I knew I had to hit through her. I had to work so hard for every single point. Despite the score, there were a lot of deuce games that could have gone either way. I'm just really, really happy to be able to come through that."
"I have to say from my own perspective, I think I'm playing better tennis here than at Wimbledon," Raducanu added. "Of course being on the hard courts, they're less forgiving than grass. But honestly, I think with the amount of matches I have played and the experience that I have accumulated in the last four, five weeks, my game is just getting better with each match."
What's next for Raducanu: An opportunity to test herself against either World No.1 Ashleigh Barty or last year's quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers.
Andreescu makes short work of Minnen in efficient win
Andreescu's result marks the second time that she has reached the second week of a major. She joins compatriot Fernandez in the last 16, marking the first time in the Open Era that two Canadians have made that stage of a Grand Slam.
The 21-year-old, who did not compete in Flushing Meadows last year, has now won all 10 US Open main draw matches she has played. Her only losses at the tournament came in the first round of qualifying in 2017, to Liu Fangzhou, and 2018, to Olga Danilovic.
The 21-year-old impressed with the brutal efficiency of her win over Minnen, who was making her debut in the third round of a Slam. Andreescu is renowned for playing three-setters - since the start of her 2019 breakthrough season, 36 out of her 72 completed matches have gone to a decider. But after triumphing in a first-round thriller over Wimbledon quarterfinalist Viktorija Golubic, Andreescu has now won two matches in a row in straight sets.
Power Hour 🔥#USOpen pic.twitter.com/Cz8TFbTx4W— wta (@WTA) September 4, 2021
Stat corner: Andreescu raced out of the gates, striking three authoritative winners in the first game, and barely let up. In total, she fired 21 winners to 11 unforced errors, with her backhand producing the most breathtaking shots.
By contrast, Minnen leaked 22 unforced errors, 14 of which came from a forehand that Andreescu repeatedly targeted with both power and a vicious slice. The Belgian's 17 winners were not enough to counter this.
However, a career-best major run will see Minnen make a long-awaited Top 100 debut. The 24-year-old first cracked the Top 110 in December 2019, but is currently still ranked World No.104.
What's next for Andreescu: Andreescu's first consecutive trio of wins since her run to the Miami final in March sets a clash with No.17 seed Maria Sakkari, who upset No.10 seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets. She triumphed over Sakkari 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(4) in the Miami semifinals this year.
Quotable: "She's very powerful. She serves very well. She moves well. She's a fighter. But I'm also all those things, so it's going to be good. I'm pumped."
- Bianca Andreescu looks ahead to playing Maria Sakkari again.
Bencic maintains Pegula mastery to make second week
Bencic had not dropped a set to No.23 seed Jessica Pegula in two previous meetings, and rarely looked like doing so here.
The result puts Bencic into the second week of the US Open for the third time, following a quarterfinal run as a 17-year-old on her tournament debut in 2014 and a semifinal showing in 2019, her most recent appearance here. It is the only major so far at which the Swiss has gone beyond the fourth round.
Bencic's 6-3, 6-3 win over Pegula in the first round of the Tokyo Olympic Games in July kickstarted a run to her greatest career success to date, and the gold medallist was supremely confident again on Pegula's home soil.
🇨🇭 @BelindaBencic cruises through Round 3! pic.twitter.com/xVtJtQQVIf— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 4, 2021
Ideal matchup: The matchup issues were evident from the off. Pegula's flat hitting could not have played into Bencic's hands any better: coming into the 24-year-old's ideal strike zone, she was able to take the ball as early as she needed and redirect it almost at will.
Bencic's serve was also on song. Pegula was largely unable to read it, and though a brief forehand lapse enabled the Australian Open quarterfinalist to break Bencic once in the first set, that would be the extent of her impact on return. Though Bencic only tallied four aces, a total of 22 serves went unreturned. This included three in a row to serve out the match, a fine way to shrug off missing three match points on Pegula's serve in the previous game - the first of which was a pass that missed the line by millimetres.
What's next for Bencic: A rather less well-suited matchup: either No.7 seed Iga Swiatek, who defeated Bencic 6-2, 6-2 in the Adelaide final in February, or No.28 seed Anett Kontaveit, who overpowered her 6-0, 6-1 in the 2020 Australian Open third round.