Serena and Venus Williams will go head-to-head for the 30th time on Friday after booking their spots in the third round of the US Open.
A potential clash between the sisters was the main talking point after the draw last week and neither looked like wobbling on Tuesday, with Venus defeating Camila Giorgi 6-4 7-5 before Serena saw off Carina Witthoeft 6-2 6-2 in the night session.
It will be the 16th time Venus and Serena have met at a slam, but the earliest stage of a tournament since their very first match in the second round of the Australian Open 20 years ago.
Their last slam clash was in the final of the Australian Open in 2017, when Serena was in the early stages of pregnancy with daughter Olympia.
Venus said: “The last time we played at the Australian Open it was two against one, so at least this time it will be fair.”
Venus won their most recent meeting at Indian Wells in March during Serena’s first tournament back, but the 36-year-old showed how much sharper she has got since then.
The Wimbledon finalist said: “It’s obviously a tough match. It’s so young in the tournament. It’s not the end of the world. We would have rather met later but we’re both going to come out per usual and do our best.
“We make each other better. We bring out the best when we play each other.
I think we’re used to it now.
“I never root against her, no matter what. So I think that’s the toughest part for me. When you always want someone to win, to have to beat them. I know it’s the same thing for her.”
Another blockbuster clash will see defending champion Sloane Stephens take on former world number one Victoria Azarenka, who has found her form in New York.
The Belarusian is playing at Flushing Meadows for the first time in three years, having missed 2015 while she was pregnant with son Leo and then last year because of a custody dispute that limited her travel.
Since a run to the semi-finals in Miami in March, when she was beaten by Stephens, Azarenka has played full-time on the tour but has struggled to find anything like the level that carried her to two Australian Open titles.
But the 29-year-old, whose ranking is languishing at 79, is feeling more positive now, saying: “I didn’t really enjoy myself because I feel like when you go through difficult times you sometimes have a very narrow focus on results only, and it’s hard to look outside of that.
“It didn’t bring me the joy of the journey, of experience. It really held me back from improving or transitioning from practice to match. It’s been really a struggle.
“But right now I feel happy on the court. I feel happy outside of the court. I feel that little by little, I am making that transition. I feel a lot more comfortable, confident on the court. I really do enjoy playing and fighting and just being here.
“If I look at the big picture and what I have been through and where I am now, it’s pretty significant. But it is not where I want to be. So that space sometimes seems really far.”
Stephens is defending a grand slam title for the first time and had to battle through her nerves and past qualifier Anhelina Kalinina, finding herself a set down and two games from defeat before turning things around to win 4-6 7-5 6-2.
“It was a tough day, obviously,” said the American. “She was playing really well, she’d played four matches already, she was used to the conditions.
“I just kind of had to weather the storm and wait for my opportunities. Obviously I wish I could have been playing a little bit better. That would have helped the situation. But I just found a way today, and sometimes it’s not going to be the best, but you’ve just got to battle through.”
With the clock having ticked past 1am, Czech qualifier Karolina Muchova knocked out 12th seed Garbine Muguruza, beating the former Wimbledon champion 3-6 6-4 6-4.
The high temperatures and humidity in New York this week led tournament organisers to introduce a new rule permitting a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets during men’s matches.
Players are not allowed to talk to their coaches, which is exactly what Murray said he saw Verdasco doing after finishing a cold shower.
The Scot was furious that it was he who alerted officials to the incident, telling umpire Nico Helwerth when he returned to the court: “I had to tell them because no-one knows the f***ing rules.”
Discussing the matter after Verdasco’s 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-4 victory, Murray said: “I went and told the supervisor. I said, ‘What are you guys doing? I mean, there’s clear rules here and you’re allowing this to take place. I don’t get it.’
“Then he ran through, ‘Oh, you’re not allowed to speak.’ They obviously weren’t in there for long, but you’ve got to do better than that. This is one of the biggest events in the world.”
Verdasco flatly denied any such rule breach had taken place, claiming that while his coach was in the locker room, he spoke only to another player, Marcos Baghdatis, and the Cypriot’s coach.
Verdasco said: “Obviously if Andy says that, I don’t want to say that he lies, but I didn’t talk one word with my coach or any one member of my team. I know exactly the rule and I don’t want to be the one breaking it.”
With tournament organisers apparently unable to shed any light on what happened, it was a case of one man’s word against the other – and Murray was determined to make sure it was he who had the last one.
In a post on Instagram, Murray wrote: “I’m off to get a health check as apparently I’ve started imagining things,” followed by the hashtag #liarliarpantsonfire.
Nick Kyrgios, who has history with Verdasco, also weighed in on the debate, saying of the coaching accusations on Twitter: “Let’s be real, very believable because it is Verdasco lol.”
Let’s be real, very believable because it is verdasco lol https://t.co/xFSg0aU8qj
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) August 29, 2018
Four players retired mid-match as conditions took another step up in intensity on Tuesday and for a while it looked as if Djokovic might become the fifth before he recovered to win 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-0.
He called the doctor during the second set and trailed by a break in the third but took advantage of the tournament’s new extreme heat rule for the men, allowing a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets, and returned to the court refreshed.
Djokovic, who has found similar conditions difficult in the past, said: “We obviously both struggled. It was survival mode. Credit to Marton, he’s a great fighter.
“I was actually praying that the next moment I get to feel better. I definitely wasn’t feeling great for most of the three sets. But you have these kind of days. I’m not the only one, a lot of the players struggled. I’ll take the win.”
Regarding the heat rule, Djokovic said: “I want to thank the US Open for allowing us to have a 10-minute break. Marton and I were in ice baths next to each other. We were naked in the ice baths and it was a quite wonderful feeling.”
Wow. Conditions are brutal, but Djokovic seems revived pic.twitter.com/HtfwqgbSMg
— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) August 28, 2018
Fucsovics believed the conditions were unplayable, saying: “It was fun to play in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the first time for me, first time against Djokovic, but it wasn’t fun to play in the heat. I was dying after each point. It was too hot for tennis. It’s dangerous.”
Djokovic arrived in New York as many people’s favourite for the trophy after beating Roger Federer to become the first man to win all the nine different Masters titles in Cincinnati last weekend.
It was smooth sailing initially against Fucsovics as Djokovic won the first set but he soon began to look fatigued and very uncomfortable in the energy-sapping conditions.
Perhaps aware he needed to finish the match quickly, the sixth seed destroyed a racket after failing to break the Fucsovics serve for 3-2 in the second set, and the Hungarian won the next two games as well.
Djokovic called for the doctor and asked for a bin to be put next to him because he was feeling so nauseous.
The 31-year-old was in real trouble when he went a break down early in the third set but he dug in to limit his losses and was urged on by his support camp, including wife Jelena.
A fillip came just in time as Fucsovics suddenly began to wilt, also calling for the doctor, and Djokovic won four games in a row to clinch the third set before both players gratefully retreated to the cool of the locker room.
Djokovic looked a different man on the resumption and did not drop another game as he booked a second-round date with American Tennys Sandgren.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer had the relative luxury of playing in the night session – although it was still hot – and breezed past Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2 6-2 6-4.
The second seed might have won even more comfortably but seemed in a hurry to get over the line and was broken for the only time serving for the match in a flurry of wild shots.
He put things right at the second time of asking though and goes on to face Benoit Paire in the second round.
Federer said: “I’m very happy to be back in New York healthy. I’m happy I never stumbled at the first hurdle. Almost time to retire but not yet. I’m happy I played well tonight.”