Czech qualifier Karolina Muchova stunned two-times Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza at the U.S. Open on Wednesday, dumping the Spaniard out in the second round with a three-set victory.
Muchova, who came into the match against the 12th seed with a world ranking of 202, was understandably nervous from the outset but grew into the contest and eventually prevailed 3-6 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes.
Muguruza, a former world number one who has triumphed at Wimbledon and the French Open, showed plenty of her Grand Slam pedigree by racing into a 5-0 lead as she appeared on course for a routine victory.
The Spaniard closed out the opener in 37 minutes and few of those watching the match unfold would have predicted what was to follow.
Muchova, playing in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time, quickly turned the tables at the start of the second set, evening up the contest after she opened a 3-0 lead on the back of some brave shot-making.
“It’s the first match for me on such a big stadium so I was feeling nervous. Somehow I got used to it, I don’t know how,” the 22-year-old said in a courtside interview.
“I don’t even know. I was surviving but I think the (fans) helped me a lot.”
After she settled, Muchova displayed an adept ability to mix up her play, slogging it out from the baseline before picking the right moments to charge the net.
Muguruza, a traditional baseliner, tried to change her tactics to regain the initiative but Muchova kept her at bay with a selection of passing shots and lobs every time the Spaniard ventured forward.
Overall, Muchova hit eight aces and 41 winners as she rallied from a break down in the deciding set to seal victory and claim the biggest win of her career as the clock ticked past 1:00 a.m. at the Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Next up for the Czech is a third-round meeting with Australian 18th seed Ashleigh Barty.
Serena Williams sees off Carina Witthoeft to set up Venus Williams clash
Serena Williams overpowered German Carina Witthoeft 6-2 6-2 to set up a third-round clash with big sister Venus at the US Open on Wednesday. Williams sent down 13 aces and 30 winners to record her second consecutive straight-sets victory at Flushing Meadows as the 36-year-old, who is hunting a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, wrapped up the win in one hour and seven minutes.
“It’s always such a great crowd at night. It’s just amazing to play in front of this crowd,” she said courtside after her victory. “I was happy with a lot of things.” Next up is a 30th career meeting with Venus, who beat her younger sibling in their most recent encounter at Indian Wells earlier this year.
The last time the two sisters met at a Grand Slam was in the 2017 Australian Open final, where Serena prevailed in straight sets. “It’s obviously a tough match,” Serena added.
“It’s so young in the tournament, but it is what it is. It’s not the end of the world. We would rather have met later. We’re both going to come out per usual and play our best in front of you guys. “Normally, I would say cheer for me. But, whoever you feeling — me or Venus will work.”
Venus Williams sends Giorgi packing
Venus Williams beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-4 7-5 in the U.S. Open second round on Wednesday to set up a possible third-round match against her younger sister Serena. Venus, seeded 16th, powered through the first set but appeared to lose energy toward the end of the second in broiling conditions inside the newly built Louis Armstrong Stadium.
She said the crowd’s encouragement had helped her. “I felt the energy, definitely,” Venus said. “That love-40 game at four all was not looking good and you guys really got me through that.” Venus Williams won US Open in 2000 and 2001.
Stephens survives scare to reach third round
Defending US Open champion Sloane Stephens overcame scorching heat, a blister and an inspired performance by qualifier Anhelina Kalinina to advance to the third round with a hard-fought 4-6 7-5 6-2 win on Wednesday. The third-seeded American fired an ace on match point to complete the comeback, which took 2 hours and 46 minutes on a hot and humid day on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I wasn’t playing my best,” the 25-year-old said in an on-court interview. “It was super hot and that was no fun at all. I was sweating a lot,” she added. “But I came out in the third set bouncing around.”
The 21-year-old Kalinina blitzed Stephens at the start, racing out to a 4-1 lead in their first meeting before capturing the first set to make the partisan New York crowd nervous. Stephens bounced back in the second, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before taking a medical timeout to receive treatment for a blister on the palm of her right hand. The bandage on her serving hand seemed to hamper her and Kalinina broke Stephens in the first game after the timeout and levelled the set at 5-5.
But Stephens regrouped and crushed a running forehand winner to level the match and force a decider. Stephens emerged from the 10-minute heat break following the second set the fresher of the two players, committing eight unforced errors to Kalinina’s 17 as she cruised to the finish line.
Next up for Stephens is hard-hitting former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who thrashed Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-1 6-2.
Despite the marathon match on Wednesday, Stephens is battle tested in New York. She won four three-setters en route to last year’s final, where she defeated fellow American Madison Keys in the straight sets to claim her first Grand Slam trophy.