Friday’s evening session at the 2023 US Open saw the brewing of a huge upset in the top half of the draw. Sorana Cirstea, seeded 30th, took out fourth seed Elena Rybakina in their third-round encounter. Cirstea needed two hours and 48 minutes to clinch a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 win.
After the match, the Romanian had nothing but praises to describe her opponent but, on the court, she withstood each of Rybakina’s fiery shots and sent it back at her, forcing the latter to be on her toes all the time.
Throughout the match, even in the second set, Rybakina didn’t look like she had any answers to give to Cirstea’s game-plan. In the second set, although Rybakina was the one who brought up set points first, in the 12th game of the set, it still seemed as if she was playing catch-up with Cirstea.
The 33-year-old saved both set points she faced on her serve in the 12th game and then saved two more in the tie-break, before the world no. 4 captured the set on her fifth set point. Rybakina’s serve was disappointing in the deciding set.
Of the four games she won in that set, only one game came on her service game. In fact, Cirstea’s win came on Rybakina’s serve in the 10th game as she attempted to level the match to five-all after having been able to break Cirstea’s serve in the ninth game.
The 24-year-old generated 13 break points to Cirstea’s serve. However, while Rybakina could convert only four of these break points, Cirstea converted four of the 10 break points that came her way on her higher-ranked rival’s serve.
This is Cirstea's maiden round-of-16 appearance at Flushing Meadows.
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Belinda Bencic will be the next player Cirstea will face. The Swiss, the 15th seed here, needed two hours and 39 minutes and three sets to post a 7-6(1), 2-6, 6-3 win.
Another three-setter was played to decide the winner of the clash between Coco Gauff and Elise Mertens. In the end, after a little over two hours, the sixth-seeded home favourite grabbed a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over the 32nd seed.
For a chance to reach the US Open quarters, Gauff will play former world no. 1 and three-time Flushing Meadows’ finalist, Caroline Wozniacki next.
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