In the best match of the tournament, Fabio Fognini became the first player to ever come from two sets down in a Grand Slam match and beat Rafael Nadal 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
The Spaniard had won 22 of his last 23 matches in New York with titles in 2010 and 2013, but couldn’t match the power from the Italian for the duration of the 3-hour, 45-minute slugfest which ended approximately 1:26am.
Fognini cracked 70 winners to Nadal’s 30 and converted on 9/16 break chances including four in the final set to reach his first US Open fourth round.
The final ses saw seven breaks of serve and some incredible tennis. And in the end, Fognini scored his third win over Nadal this year, and his first over a Top 10 player on hardcourts in 18 tries.
Nadal’s streak of winning a Slam every year since 2004 ends, and the loss leaves the door that much wider open for Novak Djokovic on his path to the final.
Fognini, who was 0-7 on hardcourts this season entering the US Open, picked up his 5th career comeback from 0-2 down.
Earlier, on an eventful evening top seed Serena Williams had her struggles. Williams lost the first set to fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, clawed her way through the second set, then bulldozed her way to a bagel in the third to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-0.
“She’s a great player,” Williams said during her on-court interview. “She’s fought through so many difficult injuries. I admire her for all that she’s been through. She’s always so positive. It was a really good match for her today as well. I don’t think I came out too slow today. I think Bethanie played really well. I had to adapt to her game.”
The younger Williams sister will again have her hands full in the next round when she meets powerful young fellow American and No. 19 seed Madison Keys, who on Friday overpowered No. 15 seed Aggie Radwanska 6-3, 6-2.
Keys, who had previously struggled with Radwanska’s retrieving ways, prior to the match said she hoped for another meeting with Serena at “her” home Slam.
“Fingers crossed, it could happen,” Keys said. “If it happens in my home Slam, even better. [Serena’s] drive and fight is unmatched by anyone.”
Venus Williams was in stellar mode on Friday, improving to 4-0 career against Bencic.
“Today I just wanted to be aggressive, which is my style of game,” said Williams, who trailed 1-4 in the second before unleashing a torrent of winners to claim the last five games of the match. “She picked her level up, leading a break and pretty poised for her taking the second set, but it’s not over ’til it’s over. I just tried to play some good service games, get a hold, and you never know.”
The elder Williams sister will next meet teen qualifier Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, who recorded a 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 win over American Madison Brengle.
Williams has now won all four of her career meetings against Bencic in straight sets.
Other seeded winners were No. 13 Ekaterina Makarova who defeated No. 17 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 7-5, and the resurgent No. 25 Genie Bouchard who outlasted Dominika Cibulkova 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3.
Makarova will next meet France’s Kristina Mladenovic, a 6-2, 6-3 winner against Russian Darya Kasatkina, and Bouchard will face Roberta Vinci, who beat Colombia’s Mariana Duque 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.
The men’s side was full of upsets on Friday, four to be exact, as France’s unseeded Benoit Paire toppled No. 26 Tommy Robredo 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-1; No. 27 Jeremy Chardy beat No. 7 David Ferrer 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; No. 18 Feliciano Lopez defeated an injured No. 10 Milos Raonic 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-3; and No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut advanced when No. 14 David Goffin became the 13th retirement of the US Open at 2-6, 5-7, 6-3, 3-1 with an undisclosed illness/ailment at the time of this writing.
Seeds into the 4th round were No. 1 Novak Djokovic straight-setting No. 25 Andreas Seppi 6-3, 7-5, 7-5; No. 9 Marin Cilic outlasting Mikhail Kukushkin in five 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-1; and No. 19 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga overpowering Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
Djokovic improved to 11-0 career against Seppi, but had his serve broken for the first time in the tournament and was wary of his opponent’s upset-specialist past.
“I can’t underestimate the quality of my opponent today,” said Djokovic. “He’s not afraid to go out on a big stadium and play his best against big players. He won against [Roger] Federer earlier this year in Australia. He’s a good player and it’s a good win…I didn’t close out the match at 5-4. He played a very good game. I got a little bit tight. I came up with some big serves, but generally was a really, really tough three sets.”
Cilic, while stretched to five, had to come back early in the math from a break down to avoid looking at an 0-2 set deficit.
“Playing on a big court with a full house, that’s going to give you some extra motivation in the situations like today when I was set and 5-2 down,” said Cilic. “I was in the thought process that I am going to stay on the court as long as necessary. I was feeling that I wasn’t playing so well and then the ball wasn’t coming off my racquet really well. So I always focused on getting my legs in the best position and trying to make the match as physical as possible. Over time things got better, so that was pleasing.”
On court Saturday will be (5) Petra Kvitova vs. (32) Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, (2) Roger Federer vs. (29) Philipp Kohlschreiber, (20) Victoria Azarenka vs. (11) Angelique Kerber, Shelby Rogers vs. (2) Simona Halep, (3) Andy Murray vs. (30) Thomaz Bellucci, (18) Andrea Petkovic vs. Johanna Konta, (13) John Isner vs. Jiri Vesely, Varvara Lepchenko vs. Mona Barthel, (5) Stan Wawrinka vs. Ruben Bemelmans, (24) Bernard Tomic vs. (12) Richard Gasquet, (16) Sara Errani vs. (22) Samantha Stosur, (22) Viktor Troicki vs. Donald Young, Barbora Strycova vs. (24) Sabine Lisicki, (6) Tomas Berdych vs. (31) Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, (26) Flavia Pennetta vs. Petra Cetkovska, and (15) Kevin Anderson vs. (20) Dominic Thiem.
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