US Open: Stephens, Halep reach third round on rain-marred day

The 2017 champion Sloane Stephens advanced to the third round of the US Open in women's singles with a dominant 6-4, 6-2 win over No.21 seed Coco Gauff in 66 minutes.
Representative image.
Representative image.

New York

With the roof closed on Arthur Ashe Stadium due to rain, Stephens saved the sole break point against the 17-year-old American, moving her record in the second round of Slams to an impressive 24-3. 
This was the first career meeting between Stephens and Gauff. Now ranked No.66, Stephens' form had been trending up since the start of the clay season this spring. 
"I've had to battle two good friends," Stephens was quoted as saying on the WTA website. "I think the pressure is a little bit different when you play two people that you know well. It's a different type of pressure. Playing here at the US Open and playing Americans, it's very different. 
"But I'm really happy with the two wins. I played good tennis to get them. I mean, it's still only the third round of a Slam so I have to keep going. But it's nice to know that I was able to get those two wins with all the pressure and outer things happening," she said. 
Little separated the two through the first set, as Stephens and Gauff rolled through their early service games. But serving at 4-4, Gauff made three unforced errors, including a double-fault at 15-40 to hand over the first break of the match to Stephens. Serving at 5-4, Stephens closed out the set by out-rallying Gauff in a 13-shot rally that ended when the young American misfired on a backhand. 
No.9 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain turned around a very unfavourable head-to-head on Wednesday when she defeated Andrea Petkovic of Germany, 6-4, 6-2, to reach the third round. 
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza had lost all three of her prior meetings with former World No.9 Petkovic, but their most recent clash came at Doha in 2016, over five years ago. 
Former World No.1 Muguruza finally got on the board in their rivalry with an 89-minute victory At the Louis Armstrong Stadium. The Spaniard moves into the third round in New York for, somewhat surprisingly, only the second time in her career. 
No.3 seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka too moved into the third round after qualifier Olga Danilovic withdrew ahead of their second-round clash due to a medical reason. Danilovic posted on social media that she has been dealing with a viral illness this week. 
Osaka, the winner in 2018 and 2020, has now reached the third-round stage in Flushing Meadows in all six of her appearances. The Japanese player defeated Marie Bouzkova in straight sets in her opener. 
Another significant beneficiary of Danilovic's withdrawal was No.12 seed Simona Halep. Originally scheduled second on Court 17 with rain forecast all day, the 2015 semifinalist was moved to Arthur Ashe Stadium, enabling her to get her second round done and dusted even as the heavens opened. 
Halep's 6-3, 6-1 defeat of lucky loser Kristina Kucova in just 68 minutes moved the Romanian into the third round here for the first time since 2016. 
No.20 seed Ons Jabeur didn't risk getting caught up in the forecast rain, turning in a remarkably efficient performance to swat aside Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 6-0, 6-1 in just 53 minutes. 
The Tunisian struck 16 winners and won eight out of eight net points to dominate her opponent. The result puts Jabeur into the third round of the US Open for the third year in a row and extends her streak of reaching at least that stage to her past eight majors.

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