August 30, 2019
Wimbledon champion Simona Halep was the author of her own downfall in New York.
But we saw storming performances from Dan Evans, Jo Konta and Coco Gauff set up some mouthwatering clashes for the next round. Evans will face Roger Federer. And 15-year-old Gauff takes on the mighty Naomi Osaka next. Meanwhile, Konta will aim to equal her best ever run at Flushing Meadows. If she beats Zhang Shuai in the third round, she will be there.
Simona’s exit was the big shock of the night though. Her unlikely conqueror was the world number 116 – Taylor Townsend of America. The Romanian favourite saved two match points then squandered one of her own. She was overpowered in the final-set tie-break after running out of ideas. Underdog Townsend rushed the net more than a hundred times. But Halep’s response was baffling – particularly in the final set.
On the rare occasions when Simona went cross-court with her passes, she usually found success. So why did she choose to go down the line so much more often? Taylor repeatedly snuffed out those efforts. Yet Halep persisted, her mind apparently scrambled by the constant pressure she was under.
Simona only seemed to prefer the cross-court option when desperately scurrying beyond the baseline. But the angle was over-ambitious from so deep. There were times when Townsend was there for the taking from further up the court. The cross-court forehand was the obvious answer, given what had gone before. Neither did Simona seem willing to lob her opponent to try to force her back.
It just goes to show that even the best can sometimes fail to arrive at the correct conclusions when taken by surprise.
At least Britain’s Dan Evans doesn’t believe Roger Federer can spring any surprises in their forthcoming showdown. They played at Wimbledon 2016 and the Aussie Open earlier this year. They even trained together in Switzerland before the 2019 French Open. After an impressive 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 win over Lucas Pouille, Evans was relishing the latest Federer meet-up.
‘I hope to enjoy the occasion and not just be part of the show,’ Dan said. ‘I know Roger’s game pretty well. I have the chance to reach the fourth round. I’m confident I can do it.’
Jo Konta must be feeling even more confident. She hit 24 winners in 54 minutes to defeat Margarita Gasparyan 6-1, 6-0.
‘I think overall I’m just pleased with how well I was able to play,’ she said.
And so she should have been, though much of New York’s focus lay elsewhere.
Coco Gauff wasn’t about to be upstaged by anyone. She won a three-set thriller against Timea Babos 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
‘It’s still crazy,’ she said as the crowd went wild.
And it will get even crazier when she takes on reigning US Open champion Osaka next.
Things are certainly hotting up nicely at Flushing Meadows. It has already been too hot for some of the biggest names!