NEW YORK, NY, USA - Reigning Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty advanced under the Louis Armstrong Stadium lights at the US Open, defeating hometown favorite Lauren Davis, 6-2, 7-6(2) to reach the third round for a third straight year.
"It was a little bit better," she said after the match, comparing the evening's performance to her first round. "There were parts of my game that were better. There were parts of my game that I still want to clean up. There's always room for improvement every single match that you play.
"I think that's the beauty of this sport: now that I'm still alive in the tournament, I get an opportunity to do that in my next round."
Barty reached the second week of a major tournament for the first time at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center last year - propelling her into a breakthrough 2019 season that saw her capture her maiden major title in Paris and ascend to World No.1 - and is one win away from repeating the feat after defeating Davis in two hours and three minutes on Wednesday night.
While most of Day 3's second round matches were canceled due to persistent rain, Barty - who rallied from a set down to defeat Zarina Diyas in her first round - was gauranteed to play thanks to Louis Armstrong Stadium's roof. The Aussie began the match with similar efficiency, emerging from an early exchange of breaks to take a 4-1 lead.
Breaking serve a second time, the No.2 seed, who has a chance of wresting the No.1 ranking back from defending champion and top seed Naomi Osaka, soon grabbed the opening set to put Davis on the backfoot.
The unseeded American has been a tough out for big names in the past - pushing former World No.1 Simona Halep to 15-13 in the final set of their 2018 Australian Open clash - and looked to force a decider early on against Barty, breaking first in the second set.
From 5-3 down, Barty soon leveled after saving a set point on the Davis serve, and moved within one game of victory thanks to a clutch hold of her own.
Davis pulled off some scintillating tennis of her own from the brink of defeat, saving a second match point with a searing forehand up the line and a third when Barty missed a forehand return into the net, ultimately forcing a tie-break.
"I think I played a pretty good match, pretty clean match on my serve, for all but that one game early in the second. I was creating opportunities in the second set. I just couldn't take advantage of them on Lauren's serve.
"I'm really happy how I was able to respond in the 5-4 game and played a really clean tie-break which is always good."
Once in the Sudden Death, Barty took control, winning a long rally to move ahead two mini-breaks for 3-0 - just as the match hit the two hour mark - and dove for a no-look backhand volley to maintain her lead and move ahead 5-1 by the change of ends. One last long rally decided the match as Davis' forehand went wide on Barty's first match point.
In all, Barty proved far more aggressive on the night, striking 35 winners - including eight aces -to Davis' 13, all the while winning an impressive 76% of points played on her first serve.
Standing between Barty and a return to the fourth round is the winner of one of the postponed second round matches between No.30 seed Maria Sakkari and dangerous qualifier Peng Shuai, who reached the semifinals of this tournament back in 2014.
"Obviously with the rain, it made the schedule a little bit more difficult for today's play. We were very lucky we were scheduled on a court with a roof. Now that there are multiple roofs here, makes a massive difference.
"I'll just wait and see for that match. I guess it's different conditions for both of them. Not sure if they ever played each other before. Whoever it is, we'll prepare as best as we can come Friday and do the best that we can."