US Open: Kenin downs Jabeur to reach last-16, Keys retires with neck injury

Sofia Kenin overcame a sluggish start to surge past Ons Jabeur in the US Open third round, while Madison Keys retired from her clash with Alize Cornet.

Sofia Kenin had beaten her US Open third round opponent -- Ons Jabeur -- en route to her Australian Open title earlier this year.   -  Twitter

Second seed Sofia Kenin overcame a sluggish start to surge past Tunisian Ons Jabeur 7-6(4), 6-3 on Saturday and move into the fourth round of the US Open for the first time.

Jabeur, ranked 31 in the world, broke to take a 4-2 lead in the opening set as Kenin struggled to control her serve, but the American immediately responded with a break of her own before grabbing the early advantage in the contest via a tiebreak.

Kenin, who beat Jabeur en route to her Australian Open title earlier this year and came into the clash at Louis Armstrong Stadium with a 4-1 record over her, switched gears at the start of the second set.

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Playing superb tennis from the baseline, she went 2-0 up before Jabeur broke back, but the 21-year-old raised her game once again and held firm to close out the win.

“... After Australia it (pressure) obviously got to me in a way but I regrouped... and I feel like I'm just playing better,” Kenin said in a courtside interview. “But it's good to have this pressure ... it means you're the favourite, people look up to you so. Pressure is a privilege.”

Up next for Kenin is Belgian Elise Mertens, who pushed her to three sets in their previous meeting in Wuhan last year.

- Keys retires from third-round match against Cornet with injury -

Seventh seed Madison Keys retired from her third-round clash with France's Alize Cornet early in the second set with a neck injury. Keys was trailing 7-6(4), 3-2 when she shook her head and told the Frenchwoman and the umpire she could not continue.

The 25-year-old American, a 2017 finalist at Flushing Meadows, had a medical timeout between sets and called for assistance again during the second, where the trainer massaged her neck and shoulder.

Keys struggled to raise her arms above her shoulder during the second set and grimaced every time she hit the ball, calling it quits after Cornet held serve to take a 3-2 lead.

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“I could see at the start of the second set that she was in real pain and she is not the type of girl who retires easily so she must have been in real pain,” Cornet said.

“I am sorry for her. I got so tight because I could see that she could not serve normally ... (and) that I had a chance to break her and I shouldn't let the opportunity pass,” she added.

Cornet will face Tsvetana Pironkova in the fourth round.

- Azarenka finally feeling the joy of tennis -

Victoria Azarenka won two Grand Slams and ascended to the world's No. 1 ranking earlier in her career but the Belarusian says she has never felt happier on court than she does now.

The 31-year-old, who beat Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2, has not dropped a set this week en route to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, where she reached back-to-back finals in 2012 and 2013, losing both to Serena Williams.

“I feel like I've been always passionate, but the joy of playing and kind of accepting the process, all of the good and bad in the process, I have never done that before in my career, even when I was No. 1, when I was winning Grand Slam,” she said.

Victoria Azarenka beat Iga Swiatek 6-4 6-2 in the third round of the US Open on Saturday.   -  Twitter

 

The two-time Australian Open winner returned to the Tour in 2018 after the birth of her son Leo but had not lifted a title until winning the Western & Southern Open which was held in New York this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel like sometimes this quick turnaround can work in your favour,” she told reporters. “I feel like a quick turnaround of this tournament being in one place, it's a pretty good advantage I would say for me.”

- Pironkova surprises herself with comeback run in New York -

There were times when Tsvetana Pironkova thought she had played her last top-level tennis match after taking a break from the tour in 2017 but the Bulgarian has surprised herself with a run to the last-16 at the U.S. Open without dropping a set.

The 32-year-old, who gave birth to son Alexander in 2018, eased past Croatian 18th seed Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-1 to reach the second week at Flushing Meadows for the second time.

“It feels amazing. Of course, unexpected. But just super happy,” Pironkova, a 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist, told reporters.

Playing her first professional tournament since Wimbledon 2017, Pironkova used her special ranking after maternity leave to enter the main draw in New York.

“There was a time maybe for one-and-a-half, two years after I became a mom where I didn't really picture coming back to the tour at all,” she said.

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