(September 3, 2020) NEW YORK – Serena Williams kept the drive alive for her 24th major on Thursday night when the No. 3 seed stopped Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-4 to reach the third round of the US Open.
“I feel like every day I’m on a new journey, and in this tournament in particular and this year, it’s just a new journey.
So I feel really good. I feel like I’m on that journey and I’m going in the right direction.”
Williams will be in an all-American battle in the third round when she plays 26th seed Sloane Stephens. Stephens beat Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-2.
Williams talked about her next opponent: “Well, she’s a great competitor. It’s an incredibly interesting match, because she’s actually a US Open champion. She’s a great player. You can’t win a Grand Slam and not be really, really, really, really, really good.
“Wow, it’s a lot. I have a lot of things that I need to go home and focus on and do to get ready for that.”
“I’ve just got to get ready for the match.” Williams added. “It doesn’t really change. Always going to be intense. Always going to be, you know, who I am on the court, so that’s the only thing I can do.
“And the only difference is I’m playing such a good player so early, so I have to bring, you know, what I can even more.”
Stephens’ win on Thursday was just her third of the year.
“Today I thought I played well, built on my first match,” noted the 2017 US Open winner. “And then obviously another good opportunity to get out there on Saturday to play against Serena possibly. Really looking forward to it, another shot just to have an opportunity to play obviously without having played that much this year. It’s just another amazing opportunity to get out there.”
Stephens’ win on Thursday was just her third of the year.”
Tsvetana Pironkova, unranked and coming back from a three-year absence after having a child, upset No. 10 seed Garbiñe Muguruza 7-5, 6-3.
“I’m really, really happy to continue in the tournament and playing such players,” sadi the Bulgarian. “Coming from three year of absence on the tour, you always have your doubts. Right now my results actually make me really happy because it shows that I did the right things preparing for this comeback. That makes me proud.”
Pironkova, 32, talked about the key to her match win. ” I was trying to be in the point as much as I can, to put the ball in the court as much as I can. In the beginning, that was really difficult because she was serving great, she didn’t miss a serve. She made a lot of aces. Little by little I kind of figured out how to return those serves, and that really helped me.
“My serve was pretty solid, so that was huge help as well. Also I was moving pretty well. All of those things combined I guess led to that result.”
“The decision to come to the US Open I made two days before arriving here,” Muguruza said to media. “It was really just giving me the chance to compete. I really didn’t felt quite prepared. I just said to myself, Okay, I just go, try to compete, see what I can take out of it, just give myself a chance.”
“We never played,” said the Spaniard. “I think she played very well today. Also a little bit nothing to lose, just go out there and see what happens. It was just a mix of everything: having a tricky opponent, just not feeling that expected, the combination.
“I came here knowing that I was not going to feel perfect ready. You normally don’t feel perfect, but I knew that the preparation was different. My decision was a little bit last minute. I knew that it could go both ways. I knew that I could go out there and not feel probably super prepared.”
There other upsets among the women’s seeds on Thursday. Former US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka avenged last year’s US Open loss to her Belarus countrywoman No. 5 seen Aryna Sabalenka by winning a 6-1, 6-3.
“I think today was really solid, obviously,” Azarenka said. “I felt like I stepped on the court and I was really making her earn every single point that we played. That was my goal to be really, really strong. If you hit a good shot, it’s a good shot, but I’m going to make you work a little harder.
“So I’m very happy with that moment, you know, that I was — I was really steady throughout the whole match. I just would like to continue to keep going in that direction, because that works.
“You know, I’m happy with the way I moved today. I think that I got to a lot of balls. And closing out the match was also really important, because, you know, in this moment you never know what can happen.”
No. 8 seed Johanna Konta fell victim to an upset. The woman from Great Britain lost 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 to Sorana Cirstea of Romania.
“My opponent played better than me. I think that’s really about it,” Konta said to media.
“I obviously started better. I think my level was a lot higher than hers in the first set. But she’s a great player. She’s had some pretty amazing results also in the past in her career. She’s capable of playing some very good tennis.
“She obviously raised her level. We were battling kind of toe-to-toe really. She just was better in the end.”
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin advanced to the third round by beating unseeded Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3.
“I feel like my level is there definitely.,” Kenin said. “I feel like maybe it was a bit better in Australia. As I got in these two matches, I have them under the belt, I feel like I’m playing better, feeling the court well, playing my game.
“Leading up to the US Open, last week in Cincy and after that, practices weren’t the best, wasn’t feeling 100% at all. I feel like I’m happy with the way I bounced back. I’m able to find my rhythm again.”
Kenin’s next opponent will be the surging Ons Jabeur, whom the American beat en route to her Australian Open title.
“We’re really good friends,” she said. “Respect her. Always have good matches. I remember it was a close match. She’s playing well. She played well there. She’s playing well now.
“It’s just a matter of taking my chances, matter of executing my shots, serving well, playing my aggressive game. Feel like it’s going to be a bit tougher tomorrow since she knows my game and she lost to me last time in Australia. I feel like I know her game well, as well. We’ll see how it’s going to go. It should be a good match.”
Other seeded women advancing were No. 7 Madison Keys, No. 15 Maria Sakkari, No. 18 Donna Vekic and No. 22 Amanda Anisimova.
Last year’s men’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev’s won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 over No. 116 in the world, Christopher O’Connell.
Dominic Thiem, the second seed gave himself a 27th birthday present – a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 second-round win over Sumit Nagal.
“I think it was a good game in general from both of us,” said the Austrian. “I was playing well today, I also have to say. I had a good plan for the match. He’s very dangerous when he can dictate with his forehand. I was exactly trying to avoid that.
“He has also very, very fast legs. He’s moving around very quick on the court. I was trying to play my fastest tennis to keep him on the backhand, to not let him dictate with the forehand. I did that very well today.
“I think the only bad game he played was at 4-3 for me in the first set where he kind of came back into the match after he broke me, then he did some unforced errors. Beside of that, I think it was a good match on a quite good level. I’m happy to be through in straight sets, yeah.”
Thiem will face 2014 US Open winner and 31st seed Marin Cilic next.
“He’s one of the big champions of the last decade, one of the very few players, active players, who won a Grand Slam tournament here in New York, of course, as everybody knows,” he said.
“I mean, not from the players, but from outside perspective, he’s underrated because he achieved almost everything what you can achieve as a tennis player: Grand Slam champion, Masters 1000 champion, played two other finals in a Grand Slam. As I said, definitely one of the best players of the last decade, true champion.
“Even though for sure he’s not on the top of his game, beginning of this year, maybe also last year, he’s always dangerous for a big and deep run in these big tournaments. It’s not a guy I want to face in the third round as he’s a former champion. On a good day he can beat anybody. Going to be a real tough one.”
A couple of upsets on the men’s side as No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov lost to Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-7, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
In an all-Canadian battle Vasek Pospisil knocked out 31st seeded Milos Raonic 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
“I think especially the first set it probably had a bit of an effect on both of us,” said Pospisil. “We both started a little bit, maybe a little bit slower, maybe — you know, I could feel there was a little bit of nerves on the court from both sides.
“And then I just felt as the match went on, I mean, I felt a lot more comfortable, and I found a really good groove and I was moving really well.
“I mean, he’s serving incredibly well, but I felt like I got a relatively good read on his serve. Then the key for the match today on my end was that I was serving extremely well and able to hold my service games with, you know, relative comfort, which made it a little bit easier, you know, for the rest of the match.”
More to follow…