Karolina Pliskova saved a match point to defeat China’s Zhang Shuai on Saturday and reach the US Open last 16, hanging on to her world number one spot in the process.
Top seed Pliskova, the runner-up in 2016, triumphed 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 but the lanky Czech was forced to save a match point in the 10th game of the second set and recover from a break down in the decider.
“I was match point down and I thought I haven’t tried many forehand winners down the line. That’s what I did. I may not have got another chance,” said the 25-year-old.
“She got tight at the end of the second set, so I just waited for my chances.”
Had she lost on Saturday, Pliskova would also have been guaranteed to lose her world number one ranking to either Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza or Elina Svitolina, both of whom are still in the tournament.
Pliskova will next face either Jennifer Brady of the United States or Monica Niculescu of Romania.
In early men’s third round matches, Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem defeated France’s Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to make the last 16 for the third time in four years.
Thiem took his record to 6-0 over Mannarino to set-up a last 16 duel with either 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina or Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agiut.
Germany’s Phillip Kohlschreiber eliminated Australia’s John Millman 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.
Meanwhile, controversial Italian Fabio Fognini was kicked out of the US Open for making foul-mouthed comments to a female umpire in his first-round match.
The 30-year-old lashed out at Louise Engzell with a series of ugly mysogynistic insults during his loss to fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia.
Fognini and compatriot Simone Bolelli had reached the third round of the men’s doubles but tournament organizers have now axed him from the event.
Fognini, the world number 26, was also fined $24,000.
Maria Sharapova rolled into the last 16 at the US Open by overpowering US teen Sofia Kenin on Friday while a wide-open side of the men’s draw lost 2014 champion Marin Cilic.
Former world number one Sharapova, the 2006 US Open winner in her first Grand Slam since serving a 15-month doping ban, downed the 139th-ranked wildcard 7-5, 6-2 and moved into a fourth-round clash with Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who tested positive for the blood booster meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, reached the round of 16 for the 14th time in 15 Slams since the 2011 US Open.
Sharapova, who returned from her ban in April, was snubbed for a wildcard in the French Open and injured for Wimbledon but was given a US Open wildcard despite playing only one hardcourt tuneup match due to a forearm injury.
The 30-year-old Russian broke Kenin with a forehand winner after 66 minutes to swipe the first set, exchanged early second-set breaks on double faults then broke again in the sixth and last games for the victory.
“She came out and had nothing to lose so I’m really glad I got through,” Sharapova said.
Sharapova blasted eight aces and 38 winners with 33 unforced errors while Kenin hit only seven winners in the match.
Croatian fifth seed Cilic, idled after Wimbledon until this week due to an adductor strain, was eliminated 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 by Argentine 29th seed Diego Schwartzman.
“(The injury) played a quite significant part, and just being injured and not being able to keep that good form,” Cilic said.
Cilic’s exit ensured a first-time Slam finalist will come from his draw half, which now lacks a top-10 player and has only one Slam semi-finalist, American Sam Querrey, who made it in July at Wimbledon.
“Everyone is improving,” Cilic said. “And you have a lot of youngsters coming up that are playing better.”
Prime among them is Canadian teen Denis Shapovalov, who became the youngest man since 1989 into the US Open last 16.
The 18-year-old Israeli-born world number 69 advanced when Britain’s Kyle Edmund retired with a neck injury with the Canadian leading 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 1-0.
Not since 17-year-old Michael Chang in 1989 had a younger player cracked the fourth round in New York. No qualifier had reached the last 16 since Gilles Muller in 2008.
“I’m playing my second main draw Slam. It’s huge,” Shapovalov said. “It opens up the draw and helps players like myself have a chance.”
Shapovalov will play for a quarter-final berth against Spanish 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who ousted French qualifier Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
The Spaniard, who has not dropped a set, will become the first player to face four qualifiers at a Grand Slam in the Open Era (since 1967).
With US 10th seed John Isner being ousted 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) by German 23rd seed Mischa Zverev, Carreno Busta became the top remaining seed in his half of the draw. Zverev gets US 17th seed Querrey next.
Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi, 35, became the oldest player in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam last 16 for the first time by defeating countryman Thomas Fabbiano 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
Lorenzi next meets South African Kevin Anderson, who beat Croatian Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Anderson has won all 43 of his US Open service games and saved all 14 break points he has faced.
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza needed only 62 minutes to defeat Slovakian 31st seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 6-1 and continue her best US Open run as well as take command of the fight for women’s world number one.
Only current number one Karolina Pliskova and fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina can deny Muguruza reaching the top spot for the first time.
“I’m taking every match as a final here,” Muguruza said.
Awaiting Muguruza next is Czech 13th seed Petra Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion who defeated French 18th seed Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-4.
Roger Federer has conquered virtually everything in his two decades on tour but even the greatest tennis player of all time can’t beat New York’s notorious traffic snarl-ups.
The US Open, where the Swiss star has been champion on five occasions, is staged in the New York borough of Queen’s, across the East River from glamorous Manhattan, where players and media stay for the fortnight.
However, the 10-mile journey can often take an hour or more during the working week.
It’s one of the many challenges, on and off the court, which reinforce the city’s reputation as no place for shrinking violets.
Federer has found one way of making the tournament come to him by practicing on public courts in Central Park.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, anything that doesn’t make me drive very long,'” said Federer.
Fellow superstar Maria Sharapova, never one short of confidence, admits that when she first saw the city of 8.5 million souls, she hated it.
“When I first came to New York I was intimidated by the noise, the traffic, the people. But now I love it,” said the Russian star who was 2006 champion at the US Open. The feeling appears to be mutual.
When Sharapova played her first Grand Slam match since the end of her 15-month doping ban on the 24,000-capacity Arthur Ashe stadium on Monday, she wore a black dress, dotted with Swarovski crystals.
“It’s prime time baby!” said Sharapova.
The Ashe stadium, the largest tennis venue in the world, can be a constant cauldron of noise. At night, the din is ratcheted up with music and commercials thumping out during changeovers while fans chat and fidget, usually on their way back from the bars around the sprawling venue.
“It’s intimidating, it’s so big, there’s so much going on. The screens are working during the points. Yeah, there’s a lot of people moving and talking. It’s not easy to play in,” said Canadian 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov.
Shapovalov even interacted with a spectator who was merrily enjoying his evening out. “I noticed a couple of guys had a little bit too much to drink. I mean, some of them were standing and, like, just talking to me as if we’re buddies.
“I was up a break in one game, I think it was probably 40-15, I just miss a backhand. He’s like, ‘Ah, no.’ I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, man, I got this.'”
The noise on Ashe is always impossible to ignore, although it wasn’t to everyone’s taste on Tuesday when the $150 million roof was shut all day as torrential rain washed away most of the programme.
With fans happily chatting away, the sound turned the arena into a giant echo chamber, much to the irritation of Rafael Nadal
“I understand it’s a show, but under the roof we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise,” said the world number one, a two-time champion at the tournament.
Most players who experience Ashe insist that you have to get the crowd on your side — otherwise you are doomed.
“It’s hard to beat a New York crowd when they’re for you – it’s a lot to go against,” said CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States.
Provided by AFP Sport