No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka kept herself in the hunt for the World No.1 ranking with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Clara Burel in an hour exactly to book her place in the US Open fourth round.
The Australian Open champion will take over the top spot by matching the performance of No.1 seed Iga Swiatek this fortnight, meaning that Swiatek now needs to win her fourth-round match with Jelena Ostapenko to hold on to it.
Sabalenka will next face No.13 seed Daria Kasatkina, who defeated qualifier Greet Minnen 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour and 28 minutes to reach the fourth round in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2017. Kasatkina played near-flawless tennis to lead by a set and 5-1, showing off her touch with perfect placement on defense. However, she had to hold off a late fightback from No.97-ranked Minnen, who saved the first three match points against her and held a point to level at 5-5 before Kasatkina edged over the line.
Sabalenka owns a 4-2 record over Kasatkina, including a 6-3, 6-3 win in the Cincinnati third round two weeks ago. On hard courts, the pair are all square at two wins apiece.
Daria Kasatkina gets it done in straight sets. 💯 pic.twitter.com/FJ633T3qxn— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 2, 2023
Here are the key numbers from Sabalenka's win:
2 - For the second year in a row, Sabalenka faced Burel in this round of the US Open and conceded just two games. In 2022, the scoreline was 6-0, 6-2, but if anything, this year's reprise was even more dominant. Sabalenka lost 31 points compared to 40 last year, and needed eight minutes fewer on court than her 68-minute victory in 2022.
21 - Sabalenka slammed 21 winners compared to Burel's six, and showed off her full repertoire in doing so. Powerful groundstrokes accounted for the majority, but Sabalenka also delighted the crowd with drop shots, a superbly angled volley in the second set and a spectacular forehand pass on the run. A clean backhand return winner sealed her second match point.
8 - Sabalenka was also efficient in finishing points in the forecourt, winning eight out of the nine times she came to net.
Blink and you might have missed it!— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 2, 2023
Aryna Sabalenka is into Round 4. 💪 pic.twitter.com/Drjx7gqjkm
1 - Sabalenka faced just one break point in the match, in the sixth game of the second set. She saved it with a drop shot, and eventually held after four deuces. In total, she lost just eight points behind her first serve and six behind her second.
10 - The result puts Sabalenka into the second week of a Grand Slam for the 10th time, and for the fourth time in six appearances at the US Open. She has not lost before the semifinals of a major since Roland Garros 2022, and she has not lost before the fourth round of a major outside of Paris since the 2020 US Open.
0 - Burel falls to 0-5 against Top 10 opposition. The No.62-ranked Frenchwoman has won just one set in those matches -- against Elina Svitolina in the 2021 Chicago first round, before retiring down 5-7, 6-1, 2-0.
5 - Years since Burel was the US Open girls' runner-up, defeating Emma Raducanu and Camila Osorio before falling to Wang Xiyu in the 2018 final. That was also the year Sabalenka made her US Open main-draw debut, making the fourth round before losing 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.