Aussie's rapid rise continues with US upset

3 weeks ago 15
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Australian Alexei Popyrin has upset 15th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov to progress through to the third round of the US Open.

Popyrin was hit with two rain delays but did enough to take the first two sets 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-4) before Dimitrov fell behind 4-0 in the third and later quit with a foot injury.

It was Popyrin's fourth win over a player in the world's top 20 with three coming this year as the 22-year-old's rapid rise continues.

Although the Dimitrov's retirement may have taken the shine off the win - Popyrin can still hold his head high after playing quality tennis which saw him go up two sets to love up.

The win reminded tennis fans of his 2019 victory over future US Open champion Dominic Thiem at Melbourne Park.

The Australian never took a backward step, pressuring his opponent at the net and dominating through his backhand. Popyrin won many cross-court rallies forcing Dimitrov into errors.

The victory means he will play 24th-seeded Briton Dan Evans in the third round.

The winner of that match will likely face number two seed Daniil Medvedev in the round of 16.

Medvedev reached the third round for the fourth straight year with a comfortable 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over unseeded German Dominik Koepfer.

Russian fifth seed and former quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev overcame an early wobble to beat Spain's Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (7-5), 6-1, 6-1.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka advanced to the third round when her opponent withdrew because of illness.

Alexei Popyrin of Australia returns the ball against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria during his Men's Singles second round match on Day Three of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 01, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) (Getty)

Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza also reached the third round, ending long stretches without success in Flushing Meadows for the two-time Grand Slam champions.

They were among the few players to squeeze in victories early on a rainy afternoon, when play started late and then was suspended briefly on the outer courts.

Osaka had been scheduled to face Olga Danilovic of Serbia in the first match of the day at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Instead, the U.S. Tennis Association moved the 12th-seeded Halep's match against Kristina Kucova into that spot.

Halep won 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round for the first time since a quarterfinal appearance in 2016. She was knocked out in the first round in both 2017 and 2018 — the latter the first time the No. 1 seed lost in the first round of the U.S. Open.

But she has made a strong return after missing the French Open and Wimbledon with a calf injury.

"Already it's a better result than when I was healthy, so it's a good thing to be in the third round here," she joked.

The ninth-seeded Muguruza got past the second round of the U.S. Open for the first time since 2017 when she beat Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-2.

She will play three-time U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka. The No. 18 seed beat Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 7-6 (1).

"I think it's going to be a very difficult match. I think she always plays great here," Muguruza said. "I think that's the best. Just to go out there and play with people that are top level."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 30: Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a shot against Marie Bouzkova of Czech Republic during their women's singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Getty)

Halep and Muguruza — who have won the French Open and Wimblebon — played two of the only matches to start on time on a day when heavy rain was expected in the New York area. Puddles filled the grounds around the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, though rain had stopped as fans began to enter for the day session.

The outside courts were empty while they were being dried so play could eventually start.

Once they did, fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina beat Rebeka Masarova 6-2, 7-5, and No. 20-seeded Ons Jabeur raced to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Maria Camila Osorio Serrano in 53 minutes.

Most other players on the outer courts had to wait out another delay during their matches, as fans raced for cover when rain returned.

Osaka would have been going for her 17th straight victory in a Grand Slam match. After missing Wimbledon during a mental health break, she returned to the majors with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Marie Bouzkova on Monday night.

The two-time U.S. Open champion hasn't lost a Grand Slam match since Coco Gauff beat her at the 2020 Australian Open.

Danilovic wrote on Instagram that she was dealing with a viral illness unrelated to COVID-19.

The 17-year-old Gauff was set for one of the featured matches of the day, facing 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens under the lights at Ashe.

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