Elina Svitolina fights through as Dominic Thiem cruises at US Open

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Dominic Thiem

Ukraine’s fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, fighting to become world number one, and Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem captured rain-interrupted matches Wednesday to reach the second round of the US Open.

Svitolina, seeking her sixth title of the year and first Grand Slam crown, held off 42nd-ranked Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-0, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 while Thiem finished off Australian Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 under sunny skies.

There were 87 matches scheduled Wednesday in the year’s final Grand Slam event after rain washed out most of Tuesday’s agenda, 11 of them halted first-round affairs.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova, who in her Grand Slam return from a 15-month doping ban upset second-ranked Simona Halep, was set to face Hungary’s 59th-ranked Timea Babos in a later second-round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, tested positive for blood booster meldonium in the 2016 Australian Open, her most recent Grand Slam appearance until this week.

She played only one hardcourt tuneup match due to a forearm injury but powered past one of seven contenders for the world number one ranking still in the field.

Another of those is Svitolina, who dropped six of nine tie-breaker points when her match resumed, but survived a third set, breaking for a 4-2 edge and serving out for the victory.

“It was a little bit unlucky to stop because I was playing good,” Svitolina said. “Today was a little bit of a mess in my head. It was tough to keep my focus. I’m happy I could win the third set and play really good Tennis.

“I was just trying to fight for every ball. You can’t win if you’re not mentally strong.”

Thiem, a semi-finalist at the past two French Opens, was working to adapt his skill on the Paris red clay to maximum impact on the New York hardcourts.

“I’m pretty pleased with the performance,” Thiem said.  “I’m trying to improve my hardcourt game. I cannot play my clay game here. I can’t stay close to the baseline.”

Canadian 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who faces French eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga later, can become the youngest man in the third round of a Grand Slam since Australia’s Bernard Tomic at the 2011 Australian Open and in the US Open since American Donald Young in 2007.

Other later second-round matches include German fourth seed Alexander Zverev against Croatian Borna Coric and 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic, the fifth seed from Croatia coming off a Wimbledon runner-up effort, against German Florian Mayer.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, the third seed from Spain, can reach the US Open third round for the first time by beating China’s 92nd-ranked Duan Ying-Ying.

And seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, this year’s Wimbledon and Australian Open runner-up, meets France’s Oceane Dodin. The US ninth seed is the oldest woman in the field at 37.

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Naomi Osaka knocks out defending champion Angelique Kerber in first round of US Open

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Naomi Osaka

Defending champion Angelique Kerber’s woeful season continued with a first-round loss to 19-year-old Naomi Osaka at the US Open.

The German’s 6-3 6-1 defeat makes her only the second defending women’s champion to lose her first match after Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2005.

Kerber rose to the top of rankings after winning in both Australia and New York last season but has not claimed a title since nor made a grand slam quarter-final.

Fourth-round appearances at the Australian Open and Wimbledon sandwiched an opening-round defeat at the French Open and her misery was complete here.

It was a very tough draw for Kerber against a player regarded as one of the future stars of the women’s game, and Osaka rose to the challenge under the roof on Arthur Ashe.

The Japanese-American is a fearless ball-striker and Kerber had no answer, netting a final forehand to succumb meekly after just 65 minutes.

Kerber, who despite her poor form held the number one spot until Wimbledon, will now fall outside the top 10.

There was better news for world number one Karolina Pliskova, who has headed in the opposite direction to Kerber after losing to the German in the final here last year.

The Czech defeated Poland’s Magda Linette 6-2 6-1, while players on the outside courts were made to wait by wet weather at Flushing Meadows.

Like Muguruza, fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki is one of eight women who could end the tournament ranked world number one.

The Dane moved safely through to round two with a 6-1 7-5 victory over Romanian qualifier Mihaela Buzarnescu.

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Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep and two other stars set to light up Flushing Meadows

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Garbine Muguruza is the favourite to win a third Grand Slam title but she will face stiff competition from World No1 Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep at Flushing Meadows.

Meanwhile, there are a number of players, who on their day, have the ability to make headlines of their own.

Ahead of the tournament, here’s a look at five stars who are set to flourish at the US Open.

Who do you think will win?

Let us know on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

GARBINE MUGURUZA

Age: 23
World ranking: 3
2017 Win/loss: 39-15
Titles won: 2
US Open best: 2nd round (2015, 2016)

Why she’ll win it: Has form – two defeats in her last 18 and titles at Cincinnati and Wimbledon – plus for the first time seems to be relishing and comfortable in the limelight as a leading lady.

Why she won’t: Has never been past the second round and could face Kvitova and Wozniacki before the semi-finals.

Garbine Muguruza.

Garbine Muguruza.

KAROLINA PLISKOVA

Age: 25
World ranking: 1
2017 Win/loss: 42-12
Titles won: 3
US Open best: Runner-up (2016)

Why she’ll win it: Came desperately close last year is now a better player. Her understated personality means she always flies under the radar so shouldn’t experience much pressure or attention until later rounds. Also in the easier half of the draw.

Why she won’t: Has struggled with her energy levels post-French Open and record against top-10 opposition isn’t great for a No1: won – 8, lost – 4.

Karolina Pliskova.

Karolina Pliskova.

SIMONA HALEP

Age: 25
World ranking: 2
2017 Win/loss: 39-12
Titles won: 1
US Open best: Semi-final (2015)

Why she’ll win it: Has reached at least the quarterfinals in four of her last five Slams. Semi-finals in Toronto and final in Cincinnati shows her form on this surface.

Why she won’t: Sharapova up first is a real banana skin. She’s gone deep in lots of tournaments but has won just one of four finals. Her heartbreaking loss in the French Open decider still haunts her to a degree.

Simona Halep.

Simona Halep.

JOHANNA KONTA

Age: 26
World ranking: 7
2017 Win/loss: 36-12
Titles won: 2
US Open best: 4th round (2015, 2016)

Why she’ll win it: Away from the focus and pressure cooker of being a British player at Wimbledon, she can go about her business becoming part of the elite. Has made the last 16 two

years running and both her titles in 2017 have come on hardcourts.

Why she won’t: Still lacks that genuine big match knowhow in a semi-final or final. Is a patchy 2-2 since her run to the last four at Wimbledon.

Johanna Konta.

Johanna Konta.

VENUS WILLIAMS

Age: 37
World ranking: 9
2017 Win/loss: 29-10
Titles won: 0
US Open best: Winner (2000, 2001)

Why she’ll win it: Made the finals in Australia and Wimbledon and the Williams sisters just deal in spectacular narratives – a win here will take her to world No1. If she makes it to the second week expect a partizan crowd to get right behind her.

Why she won’t: Hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals in NYC since 2010. Also has Wozniacki and Muguruza in her quarter of the draw.

Venus Williams.

Venus Williams.

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