US Open 2021: Novak Djokovic cruises through second round, Iga Swiatek survives upset bid

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After a Day 3 that was full of serious rain, the weather is lovely in Queens for Day 4 and the US Open is pushing forward. 

Both world No. 1 players take the court on Thursday (Ashleigh Barty and Novak Djokovic), as well as Belinda Bencic, who won gold in Tokyo, and two form US Open winners, Angelique Kerber (2016) and Bianca Andreescu (2019). The results of the matches on Day 4 will close out Round 2, and set up the last undecided matches of Round 3. 

Check back here for updates on the notable wins and losses of sunny Day 4 at the US Open.

Djokovic cruises past Griekspoor into third round

Novak Djokovic didn’t have any issue getting through his second round match at the US Open on Thursday night.

Djokovic flew through his match with the Netherlands’ Tallon Griekspoor in straight sets at Arthur Ashe Stadium, winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in just more than 90 minutes.

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“I came out on the court with the right intensity, with the right focus, and it was definitely a better performance on my side than a couple nights ago,” Djokovic said on the court after his win.

Thursday’s performance was by far much smoother than his opening round win, in which he dropped a tight second set with Denmark’s Holger Rune. While Griekspoor did make things interesting in the seventh game of the second set, breaking Djokovic’s serve to bring the game to 4-3, Djokivic closed out the game almost instantly.

While he dropped into a 1-2 hole in the third game, Djokovic rattled off five straight wins to end the match and advance into the third round.

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The top-ranked player in the world seems bound and determined to complete the calendar Grand Slam, and is now just five wins away from doing so in New York. He’ll take hte court next against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

“It’s probably more mental and emotional, really. Physically I feel great,” he said on the court about chasing the Grand Slam. “I can go a couple of hours each day … I feel I have more chances to win against anybody in a best of five. It’s really more about handling everything off the court and managing expectations.”

Pliskova narrowly survives upset bid

Amanda Anisimova nearly pulled off a massive upset win late on Thursday night.

In fact, she had jumped up 4-1 lead in a tiebreaker in the final set and seemingly had all of the momentum in front of a home crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Yet somehow, it wasn’t enough. No. 4 Karolina Pliskova rallied back to claim the second-round win 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (9-7) and advance into the third round.

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The nearly two and a half hour match was easily one of the best of the tournament so far. Pliskova and Anisimova were neck and neck throughout nearly the entire thing. Pliskova only surged ahead in the first set in the final two games, including the 11th in which she survived four match points to take the early 7-5 win.

Yet Anisimova, who was playing in her very first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, rallied right back and won the second set before taking a 6-5 lead in the third set. Though Pliskova won the 12th game handily to force another tiebreaker, Anisimova flew ahead to a 5-2 advantage.

Pliskova, however, rattled off seven of the next nine points and took the win on a backhand error to successfully fend off Anisimova’s upset bid.

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Ash Barty easily handles Clara Tauson

Ashleigh Barty took care of business in the first match of Day 4, beating 18-year-old Clara Tauson 6-1, 7-6.

It wasn't a great sign for Tauson, the No. 78 women's singles player in the world, that the announcers began this Round 2 match by saying that she would hopefully learn something from facing Barty, the world No. 1. Unfortunately for Tauson, there was never any question that Barty would win, it was just a matter of how long it would take for her to do it. 

The answer? 90 minutes. 

It looked like it might be a battle early in the first set, when Barty faced 10 break points in the 10-plus minute second game, but that turned out to be an outlier. Tauson managed to eke out a win and eliminate that zero on the scoreboard, but Barty took the set in just 34 minutes. 

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Tauson finally got her first break point after losing the first match of the second set, which brought her even with Barty at one game apiece. She then won the next game, her very first lead of the match. Barty tied it up, but Tauson kept on fighting. Down 5-3, she fought off a match point from Barty and then quickly tied up the set at 5-5. 

Then Barty took control once again, snapping off two straight games to win the set and the match. But Tauson has nothing to feel bad about. At 18, she hung in there against the best in the world and even had her on the ropes a few times. If this match showed anything, it's that Tauson will be back — and that Barty is still ready to take on all comers. 

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Iga Swiatek survives upset bid

Down a set and tearfully addressing her team during her match against unseeded Fiona Ferro, it looked like it might be the end of the road for No. 7 Iga Swiatek at the 2021 US Open. But as athletes do, she persevered, picked up her racket, and went back out on the court to start and then complete her comeback. 

Swiatek survived a serious upset bid from Ferro, coming back from a relatively punchless first set to win 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-0 in just over two hours. She came back from more than that — Swiatek was struggling emotionally after being down a set and a break, looking absolutely disconsolate at the start of the second set. 

She finally started getting her feet under her after being down 2-0 in the second set. Swiatek won three straight games and stayed competitive as she won the tiebreak and the set. 

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In the third set, Swiatek looked like a totally different player. Sporting more confidence after beating Ferro in the tiebreak, she absolutely dominated the third set. She had just 3 unforced errors in the entire set, and Ferro scored more than one point in just one of the six games. That's the kind of tennis that could win Swiatek her second Grand Slam. 

Angelique Kerber sets up matchup of former champs against Sloane Stephens

After severe weather delayed her Round 2 match on Wednesday, 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber made quick work of her opponent on Thursday. The three-time Grand Slam winner defeated Anhelina Serhiyivna, 6-3, 6-2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in considerably better conditions than Wednesday's downpour from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

Kerber advances to a marquee matchup with 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in Round 3. Stephens defeated fellow American Coco Gauff in straight sets on Wednesday to advance.

More Day 4 updates: Bencic, Sakkari, Zverev, Andreescu

Not every women's tennis player fended off upset bids on Thursday. No. 10 Belinda Bencic, who recently won gold in Tokyo, and No. 17 Maria Sakkari, a 2021 French Open finalist, both had no issues winning their Round 2 matches. Bencic cleared Martina Trevisan in 72 minutes, winning 6-3, 6-1. Sakkari beat Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-2 and will take on No. 10 Petra Kvitova, who also won on Thursday, in Round 3. 

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Alexander Zverev, seeded fourth at the US Open, positively blazed through through his match against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Not only did Zverev beat Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, he did it in just 74 minutes. 

No. 17 seed Frenchman Gael Monfils dropped a set, but advanced past American Steve Johnson with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.

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After a tight first set, No. 7 Denis Shapovalov rolled through to his win over Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, 6-0.

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No. 6 Bianca Andreescu cruised through her match, too, beating Lauren Davis in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. The 2018 champion is now a perfect 9-0 at the US Open.

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Andreescu will advance to the third round, where she'll take on Belgium's Greet Minnen. 

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