Sharapova advances as US Open schedule gets back on track

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    Former world number one Maria Sharapova has become the first player to reach the third round at Flushing Meadows after the 2006 champion came from a set down to defeat Timea Babos and continue her charge through the draw.

    Less than 24 hours following her emotional three-set win over Simona Halep, which ended the Romanian’s chances of becoming world number one post-tournament, the Russian backed up that victory with another gritty three-set win, confirming herself as one of the dark horses of the tournament.

    The 30-year-old will next face fellow wildcard Sofia Kenin in the third round and will fancy her chances of going deep, especially with the second-highest seed in her quarter of the draw, Johanna Konta, having been knocked out.

    She was joined in the third round by two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who defeated Alize Cornet in straight sets after losing just three games, and Garbine Muguruza, who won the last nine games of her match against Duan Yingying to reach the last 32 for the first time.

    Also advancing from the bottom half of the women’s draw were locals Sloane Stephens, who knocked out 11th seed Dominika Cibulkova in three sets, and two-time champion Venus Williams.

    Heavy rainfall on Day 2 saw play outside Arthur Ashe Stadium either suspended or postponed, resulting in a massive backlog of first-round matches needing to be completed on Day 3 to get the schedule back on track.

    Among the first round-matches that had to be completed, eighth seed and 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova fought off three match points to defeat Marketa Vondrousova and advance to the second round.

    The Russian has not reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows in a decade, but she has gone on to reach the final the two times she has gotten this far, winning as a 19-year-old in 2004 and losing to Justine Henin in 2007.

    She remains on track to face career rival Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round after the Pole defeated Petra Martic in straight sets to book a second-round date with Yulia Putintseva.

    Two years after suffering a fall inside a locker room, the woes of Eugenie Bouchard continued after she went down to Evgeniya Rodina on Arthur Ashe Stadium; however, fourth seed Elina Svitolina and recent Connecticut champion Daria Gavrilova advanced in contrasting circumstances.

    Svitolina had won the first set of her match against Katerina Siniakova and was leading 2-1 in the second set tiebreak when that match was suspended on Wednesday morning (AEST).

    However, the Czech was able to steal that set upon the resumption of play before Svitolina hit back to take the final set 6-3, lining up a meeting with Rodina in the process.

    Gavrilova, on the other hand, made light work of American qualifier Allie Kiick, dropping just three games as she booked a second-round meeting against another American, Shelby Rogers.

    Fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki was the latest big name to join the scrapheap. She was beaten in three sets by Ekaterina Makarova, who had served for the match in the second set but lost it in a tiebreak.

    Her departure leaves Muguruza as the highest seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova as the only former champions remaining from this side of the draw.

    (Image: Tatiana / Flickr)

    The men’s draw also saw the completion of all first round matches, with Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils and Grigor Dimitrov among those to advance to the second round.

    All three enjoyed straight-sets wins over Ryan Harrison, Jeremy Chardy and Vaclav Safranek respectively.

    This came after Rafael Nadal won his first-round match against Dusan Lajovic in straight sets under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium before Roger Federer survived a massive five-set first-round thriller against American rising star Frances Tiafoe, winning 6-4 in the final set.

    Australian Nick Kyrgios was not so lucky, going down to compatriot John Millman in four sets and capping off another dismal season at the majors compounded by discipline issues and injury.

    The Canberran thought he’d turned a corner when he reached the final in Cincinnati nearly two weeks ago, but a shoulder injury conspired against him, and he waved the white flag after two hours and fifteen minutes.

    He had previously been troubled by a hip injury, which resulted in him forfeiting his first match at Wimbledon back in July.

    Juan Martin del Potro, 2009 champion, progressed, defeating Henri Laaksonen in straight sets.

    Meanwhile, in the bottom half of the draw Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner both advanced to the third round after wins over Dudi Sela and Chung Hyeon respectively. They could face each other in the fourth round if they beat Radu Albot and Mischa Zverev in their respective third-round ties.

    Another local favourite, Jared Donaldson, stretched 16th seed Lucas Pouille to the limit but capitulated to lose in five sets.

    Marin Cilic, 2014 champion, progressed with a straight-sets victory over Florian Mayer to line up a third-round showdown against Argentine Diego Schwartzman.

    Fourth seed Alexander Zverev became the highest-seeded casualty in the men’s draw so far when he went down to fellow 20-year-old Borna Coric in four sets, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also bowed out after going down to Canadian qualifier Denis Shapovalov in straight sets.

    The departure of that pair means Cilic is now the only remaining man in the bottom half of the draw who has reached a major final. Apart from saluting at Flushing Meadows in 2014, the 28-year-old also reached the final at Wimbledon earlier this year, losing to Roger Federer in straight sets.

    Friday morning (AEST) will see the commencement of third-round matches in the top half of both the men’s and women’s draws, with the schedule now back on track after what has been dubbed ‘Wacky Wednesday’.

    Matches to watch on Day 4
    Arthur Ashe Stadium
    Day session – play starts 11:00am (Friday 1:00am AEST)
    Elina Svitolina [4] (UKR) versus Evgeniya Rodina (RUS)
    Not before 1:00pm (3:00am AEST)
    Karolina Pliskova [1] (CZE) versus Nicole Gibbs (USA)
    Roger Federer [3] (SUI) versus Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
    Night session – play starts 7:00pm (9:00am AEST)
    Ons Jabeur (TUN) versus Coco Vandeweghe [20] (USA)
    Rafael Nadal [1] (ESP) versus Taro Daniel (JPN)

    Louis Armstrong Stadium
    Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)
    [12] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) versus Sorana Cirstea (ROU)
    Andrey Rublev (RUS) versus [7] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
    Taylor Fritz (USA) versus [6] Dominic Thiem (AUT)
    Not before 5:30pm (7:30am AEST)
    Tatjana Maria (GER) versus [15] Madison Keys (USA)

    Grandstand
    Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)
    Barbora Strycova [23] (CZE) versus Jennifer Brady (USA)
    Not before 1:00pm (3:00am AEST)
    Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (ESP) versus Juan Martin del Potro [24] (ARG)
    Donald Young (USA) versus [18] Gael Monfils (FRA)
    Kurumi Nara (JPN) versus [8] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)

    Court 17
    Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)
    Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) versus Tomas Berdych [15] (CZE)
    Adrian Mannarino [30] (FRA) versus Bjorn Fratangelo (USA)
    Risa Ozaki (JPN) versus [27] Shuai Zhang (CHN)
    Agnieszka Radwanska [10] (POL) versus Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)