Sinner eyes Alcaraz repeat as Sabalenka, Vondrousova advance


Italy‘s Jannik Sinner remains on track for a repeat meeting with world number one Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Italian sixth seed Jannik Sinner remained on course for a US Open quarter-final rematch with Carlos Alcaraz on Thursday as Grand Slam winners Aryna Sabalenka and Marketa Vondrousova advanced safely.

Sinner, who lost to Alcaraz in a five-hour five-set epic in the last eight at last year’s tournament, eased into the third round with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over compatriot Lorenzo Sonego.

It means the talented 22-year-old is just two wins away from a potential meeting with defending champion Alcaraz, who plays South Africa‘s Lloyd Harris in a night game on the Arthur Ashe Stadium later Thursday.

Sinner overpowered Sonego with a dominant service game, conceding a meager 10 points on serve and not giving his opponent a single break point throughout the 2hr 5min encounter.

“We work a lot, me and my team, trying to push myself forward and I feel like my game has improved,” Sinner said afterwards.

“I’m more comfortable at the net and this is a new thing of mine. Hopefully I can show this in the future.”

Sinner will play either 2016 US Open champion Stan Wawrinka¬†or Tomas Etcheverry in the third round on Saturday, with Germany‘s 12th seed Alexander Zverev possibly lurking in the last 16 before any meeting with Alcaraz.

Zverev booked his place in the third round on Thursday with a 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat of compatriot Daniel Altmaier.

Alcaraz, meanwhile, will face Harris on the Arthur Ashe main court later looking for match practice after his tournament opener was cut short on Tuesday.

The Spanish world number one advanced to the second round with an abbreviated 6-2, 3-2 win on Tuesday after opponent Dominik Koepfer retired with an ankle injury.

– Champions advance –

In other early round action Thursday, Britain’s 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray slumped to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 loss to Bulgarian 19th seed Grigor Dimitrov.

Former world number three Dimitrov, who saved three match points in the opening round, meets 2020 runner-up Zverev in the last 32.

“It’s obviously disappointing, to not play how you would like,” said Murray, who hit 45 unforced errors and just 16 winners, following his loss to Dimitrov.

While Murray tumbled out, fellow Britons Jack Draper and Katie Boulter both advanced to the third round in contrasting fashion in their second-round matches.

Draper upset Polish 17th seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 to set up a third-round meeting with American wild card Michael Mmoh, who defeated John Isner 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-6 (10/7) in what was the final game of the big-serving veteran’s career.

Boulter, who reached the third round of Wimbledon earlier this, matched that achievement after coming from behind to beat China‘s Wang Yafan 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

But another Briton, Jodie Burrage, saw her tournament come to an end after a one-sided defeat to second seed Sabalenka of Belarus, the reigning Australian Open champion. Sabalenka prevailed 6-3, 6-2 in 1hr 14min.

Sabalenka, 25, has reached the semi-finals or better at the past four Grand Slams and can replace Iga Swiatek as world number one if she matches the Pole’s result in New York.

“I’m not really focused on that, but it’s going to mean a lot to me,” said Sabalenka “It’s one of my goals, one of my dreams and I’ll do my best to reach my dream.”

Another of 2023’s Grand Slam winners, Wimbledon champion Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, could meet Sabalenka in the semi-finals.

Vondrousova, who made history by becoming the first unseeded woman to win Wimbledon in July, had too much firepower for Italy’s Martina Trevisan, winning 6-2, 6-2 in 1hr 20min.

The ninth seed said afterwards she is adjusting to being the hunted rather than the hunter in the wake of her unexpected Wimbledon triumph.

“It’s a tough position,” Vondrousova said. “I feel like everybody wants to beat me. I’m just happy to be here and play good tennis.”

In other women’s games on Thursday, Tunisia‘s Ons Jabeur, seeded fifth, takes on Czech teenager Linda Noskova, while third seed Jessica Pegula faces Romanian Patricia Maria Tig in a night match on Ashe.

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