NEW YORK -- Three 2023 Grand Slams down, one to go. Three different major winners -- will one of them grab a second?
The two not named Iga Swiatek were in play Thursday afternoon and continue to make a compelling case for their chances.
No.2 Aryna Sabalenka was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Jodie Burrage. Later, No.9 Marketa Vondrousova defeated Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-2. Sabalenka is currently No.1 in the Race to the WTA Finals, while Vondrousova is No.6. Both players have already equaled or exceeded their best previous single-season win total.
Sabalenka also leads all Hologic WTA Tour players with 624 winners amassed so far in the season’s four Grand Slam events, 28 of them coming against Burrage. Asked how she did it, Sabalenka wasn’t sure.
“We have to ask my fitness coach,” she told the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd. “Too much weight lifting maybe?”
Burrage was part of a British barrage in the first round; women and men from the island nation went 7-0. The No.96-ranked Burrage did not face a break point in her upset of No.38 Anna Blinkova. It took Sabalenka all of seven minutes to create that opportunity and she converted for a 2-0 lead.
Ultimately, that was the only break in the first set.
Sabalenka struck again -- literally -- pounding a 106 mph first serve for a backhand winner and a break in the fifth game of the second set. It happened again two games later and Sabalenka was well on her way to a stress-free victory. She finished with 28 winners, balanced by 21 unforced errors.
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Sabalenka is now 46-10 for the year, coming off semifinal appearances in Cincinnati (losing to Karolina Muchova) and at Wimbledon (Ons Jabeur). Her 19-2 record in the majors is the best among her peers.
Burrage, who defeated No.4 Paula Badosa earlier this year at Eastbourne, was looking for her second Top 10 victory and her first trip to the third round of a major.
Sabalenka says she tries not to think about it, but Swiatek’s No.1 ranking lies tantalizingly within reach; she needs to at least equal Swiatek’s result here to do it.
“It’s just a chance, first of all,” Sabalenka said. “It would mean a lot to me. It’s one of the goals and one of the dreams. I’ll do my best to reach this dream.”
Vondrousova, now 36-12, is still basking in the afterglow of Wimbledon, where she won her first major title. She went 5-2 in Montreal and Cincinnati but those results were colored by who she lost to -- Gauff and Swiatek.
The 24-year-old Czech has found a rock-solid consistency this year. She has now won all 17 of her matches against lower-ranked players.
Trevisan, always a tricky opponent, achieved a degree of history in her first-round match over Yulia Putintseva, becoming the first woman in the Open Era to win a pair of tiebreakers after dropping the opening set 0-6.
This was the first meeting with Vondrousova -- and it turned quickly.
She broke the No.58-ranked Italian to open the match and again when a forehand soared wide to make it 5-2. Vondrousova served out the 36-minute first set easily, blasting a forehand winner.
The second set began the same way, albeit in somewhat slower fashion. Vondrousova converted her fourth break opportunity of a 14-minute game when a Trevisan forehand missed. It was 3-0 when Trevisan hit another forehand into the net.
Trevisan finished with five double faults and 40 unforced errors -- 27 more than the cagey Vondrousova.
Next up for Sabalenka: Clara Burel, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over No.25 seed Karolina Pliskova. Vondrousova gets No.22 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, who made the Cleveland final less than a week ago and defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-3 on Thursday.
Vondrousova, who has more wins this season (36) than in any other in her career, is looking to match her best run in New York, a fourth-round berth in 2018.
As the Wimbledon champion, Vondrousova finds herself in the uncomfortable role of favorite. Is she embracing the added pressure?
“I’m trying to,” she said in her on-court interview. “It’s a tough position. I feel like everybody wants to beat me. I’m just happy to be here and play good tennis.”