We’re into Week Two of the U.S. Open and there are upsets on the women’s side of the draw, including the top two ranked women—Wimbledon champ Ashleigh Barty and defending champ Naomi Osaka—going out disappointingly in the third round in three-set nail-biters.
World No. 1 runs out of gas Prior to Saturday, you could have bet money on Ash Barty at least making it into the second week of the year’s last grand slam.
Although she’s never won a hard court major, the Australian player got a major confidence boost coming into the tournament, having won the Cincinnati Open just a few weeks prior. The world No. 1 has collected five WTA trophies this year, including three on hard courts, two of them WTA 1000 titles.
However, the two-time slam champion came up against fired up American Shelby Rogers, who stunned the world No. 1 with thrilling winners that flipped the script in a tight third set. Barty had been leading at 5-2 in the final set, but the American dug deep while the Queensland native ran out of gas, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5).
"In the end I just didn't quite have enough in the tank. I've left everything out on the court this year,” described Barty afterwards, via tennisnow.com “It was no different tonight. I just didn't quite have enough to get over the line, which is disappointing, but we move on.Ashleigh Barty will continue on and compete at Indian Wells next month. The 25-year-old is likely to walk away disappointed at another hard court major loss.
I sleep well tonight knowing I gave everything I could; it just wasn't quite enough."
However, the number of hard surface titles this year will serve as encouragement that she will eventually be able to add either an Australian or U.S. Open grand slam to her trophy room. Winning the Australian title in her home county would probably mean the most to the player.
Defending champ Osaka’s meltdown As the defending champion—and reigning Australian Open winner—Naomi Osaka entered the Flushing Meadows major as the one to beat.
Having breezed through her first round win, received a walkover in her second, the two-time U.S. Open winner faced a rising star from Canada by the name of Leylah Fernandez. Osaka played true-to-form in the first set, but unraveled in the second set tiebreak as the 18-year-old Fernandez fired up a second set stunner that completely turned around the momentum of the match as well as the support from the fascinated crowd.
Osaka’s form wilted under the pressure of the powerful confidence that responded on the other side of the net. Osaka lost the third set to give Fernandez her breakthrough win. The loss was shocking enough, but it was the uncharacteristic outbursts that came from the Japanese star that had tennis fans scratching their heads the most.
In addition to throwing her racquet in frustration and lobbing a ball into the audience, Naomi Osaka then walked off the court draped in her white towel, prompting even more shocking boos from the Arthur Ashe stadium audience.
This is the same competitor who became the first tennis player to light an Olympic torch just a month earlier. She’s also been admired for her stance on social justice and opening up of the dialogue on mental health and athletes.
The four-time major winner announced shortly after the match that she was taking another hiatus from the sport of tennis, a great loss to the sport community. She is the highest paid female athlete who is gravely unhappy with her sport, admitting that even winning has lost its allure.
“I feel like for me recently, when I win, I don’t feel happy,” Naomi Osaka said afterwards, according to tennis.com. “I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal”.
In the meantime, youngster Leylah Fernandez has continued her dream run by taking out another big name in the draw, three-time slam winner Angelique Kerber, in three gritty sets.
"She's always ... enjoying her tennis out there,'' Kerber said about her confident opponent, via ESPN.
"I think she can go really far in the next few years.' '
Simona Halep’s hopes dashed Next up for Fernandez is world No.
5 Elina Svitolina, who hasn’t dropped a set yet at the tournament, including her fourth round victory over former world No. 1 Simona Halep. Halep voiced her frustrations throughout the match against the 26-year-old Ukrainian.
The two-time slam champion entered the U.S. Open already battling a nagging calk injury, ranked No. 12 after two disappointing withdrawals from the French and Wimbledon majors. Add a new thigh injury, and the Romanian was clearly not at her best heading into the last major of the year.
That’s not to take away from Svitolina’s steely grace under pressure. Svitolina’s calm demeanor served her well as she remained a positive willpower that saw her all the way to the finish line, 6-3, 6-3, securing her eighth grand slam quarter-final appearance.
Elina Svitolina is one of the top contenders who could easily fly under the radar and perhaps walk away with the trophy.
Svitolina is playing VERY good tennis. So positive as well 👌🏼 — Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) September 5, 2021
Despite the loss of the Top 2 players as well as former world No. 1 Halep, the women’s draw still looks strong with Top 10 players Aryna Sabalenka, 2019 U.S. Open champ Bianca Andreescu, this year’s Wimbledon finalist Karolína Plíšková, and Barbara Krejcikova.
The most fascinating matchup on Monday will occur between gold medalist Belinda Bencic and seventh seed Iga Swiatek. Also look out for the bout between the young sensation Leylah Fernandez and Svitolina on Tuesday. Shelby Rogers and Fernandez will look to keep wreaking havoc among the roster of favorites.