Bianca Andreescu and Rebecca Marino will play in Friday’s third round of the US Open, but not there will be two prominent players from 2021 – women’s runner-up Leylah Fernandez and men’s semi-finalist Félix Auger-Aliassime.
Fernandez put up stubborn resistance but couldn’t match an in-form Liudmila Samsonova – losing 6-3, 7-6(3) – while Auger-Aliassime was far from his best in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 loss to fast-rising British player Jack Draper.
Those were the major disappointments on a day three that also saw Andreescu and Marino score impressive, straight-sets victories. Andreescu defeated tournament 15th seed Beatrix Haddad Maia 6-2, 6-4 after Marino outplayed Daria Snigur 6-3, 7-6(5).
The day began with Marino playing in the early afternoon against the 20-year-old Ukrainian who had upset No. 7-seeded Simona Halep on Monday. She dominated the relatively uneventful match against the No. 124-ranked qualifier and appeared poised to close it out comfortably serving at 6-3, 5-4 and 30-love. But then there was an unlikely hiccup as she got a little tentative and Snigur revived. Marino lost the game on her second double fault of the match.
That added some unexpected intrigue. In the tiebreak that eventually followed, Marino took control from the beginning until another double fault evened matters at 5-all. But her 13th ace and a backhand misfire into the net by Snigur on match point and the 31-year-old from Vancouver had reached the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time since the 2011 French Open.
Right from the first game Marino served big, unsettling Snigur. Any time the Ukrainian had a chance to make inroads on the Marino serve, the 6-foot Canadian seemed to pull out an ace or a service winner to dash her hopes.
It was a solid all-round performance – both at the service line and from the backcourt – by the world No. 106 in front of a decidedly pro-Marino crowd on Court 11.
“I think because of my previous round (in Court 9) I was used to the really loud environment outdoors (American Brandon Holt and Argentine Pedro Cachin attracted a boisterous following on adjacent Court 12),” Marino said. “I was quite comfortable and settled in pretty quickly whereas I though it might have distracted her (Snigur) a little bit from settling into the match. I really came out confident and strong in that first set.”
The result improved Marino’s ‘live’ WTA ranking to No. 89 and – with only 43 points for her to ‘defend’ this fall – it almost certainly guarantees a ranking good enough to get her a main-draw spot in the 2023 Australian Open.
Marino was well aware that it was her first Grand Slam third round since 2011, and it meant a lot to her. “I’ve worked really hard up to this point and to have my results come through right now,” she said getting close to tearing up, “it’s really exciting and a little emotional too in a very good, positive way. But it’s all from a place of happiness and excitement.”
In the third round on Friday, she will face No. 36-ranked Zhang Shuai. Marino has not played the 33-year-old Chinese, but is well aware of her and said she intends to do her due diligence to prepare for the match.
It was a day of long matches and delays and Fernandez didn’t get on the Grandstand for her match with Samsonova until after 8 p.m.
As for the eventual outcome, Leylah Fernandez would have it no other way. If she was going to lose at the 2022 US Open, it was going to be digging into her deepest reserves until there was nothing remaining there.
In a sparsely-populated Grandstand (Serena Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium was sucking up all the on-site oxygen) the 2021 finalist forced Samsonova to play a superb match that included her requiring six match points before finally putting away the win in an hour and 44 minutes. The first five of those match points were at 5-6 in the second set and on every one of them Fernandez was resolute and refused to miss, making every shot on the brink of defeat before Samsonova flinched each time.
But it was as if that supreme effort finally caught up with her in the tiebreak. After taking a 2-0 lead, she began to falter and Samsonova regained the stellar form that saw her not face a single break point during the entire match. She hit her 10th and final ace (114 mph) to get even at 2-2 and then never looked back – belting a forehand winner to 3-2 and forcing a Fernandez forehand unforced error to 4-2. There was still hope for Fernandez but it pretty well vanished when she double-faulted to fall behind 5-2. There was still one final stroke of genius in the Fernandez racquet – a bold backhand outright winner to 5-3. But more big-hitting from Samsonova paid off and a final deep service return forced a Fernandez forehand to sail long on the decisive match point. The 23-year-old Russian had the 6-3, 7-6(3) win and only the second Grand Slam third round of her career.
Samsonova, who has now won 11 matches in a row (including recent WTA 250 titles in Washington and Cleveland), was devastating on serve against Fernandez – 10 aces and not a single double fault. She made 62 per cent of first serves, winning 81 per cent of them and won an off-the-charts 73 per cent of second-serve points. Fernandez was not that bad herself with 67 per cent first serves made, 55 per cent first-serves won and 63 per cent second-serves won. But in the final analysis, Samsonova’s flat, penetrating shots consistently did more damage – 30 winners and 21 unforced errors to 21 winners and 26 unforced errors for Fernandez. She also created 13 break points (converting two) to the aforementioned none for the 19-year-old Canadian.
Fernandez was only playing her fifth match since suffering a stress fracture in her foot in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros on May 31st. While her game may still not be as sharp as she would like, her battling spirit is certainly undiminished. That as was obvious in the grit and resolve she showed in saving the five match points.
Sometimes a player has to simply tip her cap to an opponent for their excellent tennis – and Fernandez should feel no shame in losing to someone playing at the sublime level that Samsonova has attained over the past month.
The loss will deal a blow to Fernandez’s ranking – she got 70 points for reaching the second round but that will hardly compensate for the 1,300 she now loses after being runner-up to Emma Raducanu a year ago. Her ranking will drop from No. 14 to about No. 38. That’s rough but she can take some consolation because Raducanu’s first-round loss on Monday means she loses 2,040 (an extra 40 for qualifying in 2021) and drops 71 spots from No. 11 to No. 82.
Fernandez is still in action at the 2022 US Open – playing doubles with Daria Saville of Australia and mixed with American Jack Sock.
The signs were ominous from the very first game for Auger-Aliassime against the 20-year-old Draper. He lost his serve in that opening game of the match with a poorly-struck backhand error.
His 6-foot-4 left-handed opponent held serve to 2-0 and even in the third game, Auger-Aliassime was under pressure – having to save two break points with service winners.
Draper wrapped up the first set with a forehand winner, one of 29 winners he would hit during the evening in the match in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Auger-Aliassime would end up with 27.
The Brit converted three of 10 break points – one in each set. The second came to 4-3 in the second set and the third to 3-2 in the third, contributing to the ultimate tidy 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 scoreline.
Draper showed great promise with his deadly serving – winning 84 per cent of first serve points and 59 per cent on his second, and he was solid off both wings from the baseline and was able to match Auger-Aliassime and then some. The Brit was 3/10 in break point chances while Auger Aliassime was 0/3, all three coming when Draper served for the first set.
Sadly for Auger-Aliassime, the match was in keeping with his hard-court North American summer – to fine performances against Alex de Minaur and Jannik Sinner in Cincinnati was that stunner 6-1, 6-2 loss to Casper Ruud in Montreal. On Wednesday night he had 41 unforced errors to just 17 for Draper.
Afterward, Auger-Aliassime bemoaned his inability to find solutions to the challenges presented by Draper but also had words of praise for the current world No. 53. “He served really well,” Auger-Alassime said about the Brit. “I tried to vary my (return) positions to see if it would put him off – but he served well for three sets. I didn’t have many chances – maybe at the end of the first set I could have come back. He has a good backhand and doesn’t make many errors. He’s able to move well and defend well and then when there’s an opening, he can hit out. He’s a good player and it’s never easy to play a lefty.”
There was one bit of good news at the end of his media conference with Canadian journalists when he revealed that he apparently has changed his mind and will play for Canada in its Davis Cup Group Stage playoff in Valencia, Spain, from September 13-18. Canada is in a group with Spain, Serbia and Korea, with two nations then advancing to the quarter-finals in Malaga, Spain from November 22-27. Now if he can only get his compatriot Denis Shapovalov to also change his mind and join him, the land of the Maple Leaf may have a decent chance to do some damage – as it did in 2019 when it reached the final against Spain in Madrid.
Andreescu was the Canadian highlight of the day as she displayed what has probably been her best form since she returned to the tour in April after a six-month hiatus.
She controlled the first set against world No. 15 Haddad Maia, the recent runner-up at the National Bank Open in Toronto. In the second set, the 26-year-old Brazilian was an improved opponent but Andreescu was up to it and finished off the match 6-2, 6-4. That second set was a positive sign because in her opening round, against French wild card Harmony Tan, she won the opening set 6-0 but then proceeded to drop the first four games of the second set.
“I know that she’s been doing really well,” Andreescu said about Haddad Maia, “so I knew I had to bring my A-game today. If I didn’t it could have gone either way. I was just really happy how I started right from the start. A to Z I think I performed the right tactics. I was in a very positive mind frame and I fought until the end. In the second set, it was a bit tighter but I held in there and I’m very happy.”
Andreescu, in the Louis Armstrong Stadium match that ended after 1 a.m., was tidy in all aspects of her game. The numbers that stood out were that she won 69 per cent of the points on Haddad Maia’s second serve and had a clean 11/14 winners to unforced errors ratio while Haddad Maia’s was messier at 14/30.
Andreescu’s victory sets up a third-round clash with a player who is on an even hotter streak than Haddad Maia, Caroline Garcia. The 28-year-old Frenchwoman has resurrected her career in recent months – winning on grass in Bad Homburg, Germany in June, defeating Andreescu 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 in the final, on clay in Warsaw in July (beating world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the quarters) and then at the WTA 1000 event in Cincinnati on hard courts three weeks ago beating three top-10 players along the way – No. 4 Maria Sakkari, No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 7 Jessica Pegula, as well as outclassing veteran Petra Kvitova in the final.
Andreescu, champion in 2019, claims to enjoy the challenge of playing the top players – defeating Haddad Maia as well as Garcia would be solid building blocks to having another great run at Flushing Meadows.
SHAPOVALOV’S BID FOR The Third Round
Current No. 21-ranked Denis Shapovalov is into the second round of the US Open for the sixth year in a row, and he has easily had his best overall Grand Slam results in Flushing Meadows – a 14-5 record.
Thursday’s round-two match will be the fourth on Court 17 (not before 5 p.m.), and the 23-year-old Canadian will face Roberto Carballes Baena. He defeated the 29-year-old Spaniard 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-0 at exactly the same stage of last year’s US Open. In their only other meeting, at the 2020 French Open, Carballes won a 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 second-round victory in a match when Shapovalov was upset by a critical line call late in the fifth set.
Carballes Baena is 4-4 at the US Open and has never reached the third round.