No.10 seed Karolina Muchova booked her place in the fourth round of the US Open for a second time with a 7-6(0), 6-3 defeat of Taylor Townsend in 1 hour and 54 minutes.
Back in 2018, the Czech had introduced herself to the tennis world when, as a No.202-ranked qualifier contesting her first Grand Slam main draw, she upset Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round. Five years later, Muchova is playing her first major as a Top 10 player herself, having reached the Roland Garros and Cincinnati finals this year.
Both Muchova and Townsend have become known for their variety, touch and creativity on court, and the Louis Armstrong crowd was accordingly treated to a feast of reflexes and improvised shotmaking in this first-time encounter. Between them, the pair came to net on 73 occasions -- 30 times by Muchova and 43 by Townsend. Drop shots, lobs and all manner of cat-and-mouse exchanges abounded.
Though Muchova previously reached the US Open fourth round in 2020, it is the only major at which she is yet to make the quarterfinals. She'll get the chance to rectify that against No.53-ranked Wang Xinyu, who reached the second week of a major for the first time after defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 2 hours and 8 minutes.
Karolina Muchova is into Round 4⃣ after defeating Taylor Townsend! pic.twitter.com/szZ7oy3ll6— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2023
Turning points: The opening few games of the much-anticipated contest delivered on every front. A riot of sneak attacks, miraculous gets and magic touch saw both players show off their full repertoires, and it was Townsend who emerged from this passage of play with a 3-1 lead.
But the American, bidding to return to the US Open fourth round for the first time since 2019, could not capitalize on this. A flurry of errors saw her gift the break back immediately, and then Muchova saved two break points in the following game to level at 3-3.
From that point on, the Czech settled into her groove. There were half-chances for both players to seize momentum, but Muchova was rock-solid in protecting her serve, and would not face another break point in the match.
It was also Muchova who rose to the occasion in the first-set tiebreak. She came up with winners on the volley and pass, while Townsend sprayed five unforced errors and failed to win a point. The World No.132's dip continued at the start of the second set; only when she trailed 3-0, and points to fall behind a double break, did Townsend find her initial form again.
By then, it was too late. Muchova was able to balance both low-percentage improvisation, such as a perfectly-judged tweener-lob in the first game of the second set, with a rock-solid 76% winning percentage behind her first serve and a ratio of 25 winners to 14 unforced errors. By contrast, Townsend racked up 39 unforced errors to 22 winners.
In Muchova's words: "The match was kind of what I expected. Tricky one. Taylor, I think, played really, really great from the start. The first set was very tough, very close. I'm glad I refocused very well for the tiebreak, and I think I played well there. As well, I felt start of the second set it was a little bit more in my hands."
Muchova on her bond with Townsend: "Taylor is the one I always chitchat a little bit in the locker. She's very nice girl also. She has a great game. She's funny. So we talk here and there.
"I wish her the best, because I like the game she plays. It's very similar to mine, so that's what I as well told her at the net. She's bringing the fire now, so I hope she keeps going."