For the third straight year Simona Halep crashed out early at the US Open. The reigning Wimbledon champion was bounced for former junior star Taylor Townsend who went to the net 106 times and saved a match point in a thrilling 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).
“I’ve always came to the net,” said Townsend. “Ever since I started playing tennis, I was always more comfortable at the net than the baseline. When I was growing up, my sister was like a bam-bam, so she hit super hard, so solid from the ground.
“I was always doing weird stuff, chipping middle shots on the forehand side. I was doing crazy stuff. It was what I enjoyed doing. I always enjoyed coming to the net. It’s always a fine line, especially as you move up and through the levels, that you have to kind of hone in and have things that you do well. You have strengths, but you have to be solid from a certain point because these players are just too good. The level only gets higher.”
Halep was in charge early but Townsend’s relentless attacking of the net eventually got to the Romanian who began to misfire on passing shots. Townsend capitalized and stayed within herself after blowing two match points serving at 5-4 in the third. She then saved a match point on her own serve at 5-6, 30-40, then managed to force a tiebreak which gave her her biggest career win and first over a Top 10 player.
“It’s just confirmation more for myself that I’m on the right path, doing the right things,” said Townsend. “You keep your head down and keep working and you see what happens.
“I won a lot of points. I lost points. I lost big points. But I was rewarded in the end. That’s what was most satisfying.”
Halep, after losing first round the last two years, Halep gave credit to the American qualifier.
“I really think that she played great,” Halep said. “She was very inspired of every ball. She came a lot to the net and didn’t miss much. It’s unbelievable.
“Also my return was weak because I couldn’t feel the rhythm of a lefty. I don’t know, was not very strong the serve, but the ball was moving too much and I couldn’t have the feeling, the touch.
“Then I think I played a little bit wrong tactic. Maybe I should have hit more lobs when she was coming. She was very close to the net. I was not inspired at all today, but I fought. I thought when I came back that I will take it and I will win it. But sometimes it goes the other way. I’m a little bit upset because of the tactic and because of the way I played. But it’s not a drama. She played really well. She really deserved to win it because she gave everything and she didn’t think of losing. She went all the way with 100% belief.”
After a tough opener, Naomi Osaka looked better as she resumed her title defense with a 6-2, 6-4 win over an in-form Magda Linette.
“I feel like I had my moments where I played really well,” Osaka said. “Of course there were moments that I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. But I think the main thing for me was that I was able to adjust whenever I figured out something was going wrong, so I think I’m heading in the right direction.”
Osaka will now 15-year-old phenom Coco Gauff who continued her breakout run edging Hungariam qualifier Timea Babos 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in another raucous atmosphere on Armstrong.
Gauff out-steadied the 112th-ranked Babos but the 26-year-old found her power in the second to force the decided. Gauff avoided an early break then, using her lightning quick speed, just got enough balls back to get the win.
Bianca Andreescu kept her mojo going with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over lucky loser Kirsten Flipkens.
“Flipkens is a tricky opponent to play,” Andreescu said. “She doesn’t give you any rhythm. I’m just really happy with how I managed to deal with what she gave me and with my composure out there.”
The teen is the highest ranked player left in her quarter after Halep and Petra Kvitova lost.
Kvitova was dusted early by former Top 10er Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-4.
Former finalist Caroline Wozniacki picked up a good win over struggling Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins 4-6,6-3,6-4.
With the third round starting Friday, Serena Williams returns against Karolina Muchova. And in two Cincinnati rematches, Maria Sakkari battles Ash Barty and Madison Keys collides with Sofia Kenin.
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