Naomi Osaka's short-term future appears away from the tennis court after the tearful former world number one said she plans to "take a break from playing for a while" following her shock US Open elimination.

Osaka's US Open title defence came to a remarkable end after imploding in Friday's surprise 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 loss to teenage sensation Leylah Fernandez.

Up a set and serving for the match at 6-5 on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Osaka lost her cool and composure after throwing her racquet three times in an unsuccessful second-set tie-break.

Amid boos in New York, Osaka was also warned after hitting a ball into the crowd and while the four-time major champion tried to dig herself out of a hole, she crashed out in incredible fashion.

It comes following a difficult couple of months due to mental health concerns as a result of "long bouts of depression" since winning the 2018 US Open.

Osaka withdrew from May's French Open having won her first-round match, after she was fined and threatened with further punishment – and possible expulsion from the grand slam – for skipping obligatory media duties.

The Japanese star subsequently pulled out of Wimbledon before returning for the Olympic Games, though she suffered a surprise loss on home soil in Tokyo and was reduced to tears during a news conference in Cincinnati.

During an emotional post-match news conference, Osaka told reporters: "I'm going to say what we said, I think, like, in the hallway. How do I go around saying this?

"I feel like for me recently, like, when I win I don't feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don't think that's normal. I didn't really want to cry.

"I feel like… this is very hard to articulate. I feel like I'm kind of at this point where I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match [tearing up]. Sorry."

Osaka – who was bidding to become the first woman to defend the US Open since Serena Williams in 2014 – added: "I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while."

Typically reserved and quiet, Osaka was uncharacteristically frustrated on court – the 23-year-old immediately left the court and emerged with a towel over her head before the start of the final set.

On her outburst, Osaka said: "I'm really sorry about that. I'm really sorry about that. I'm not really sure why.

"I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point. Like normally I feel like I like challenges. But recently I feel very anxious when things don't go my way, and I feel like you can feel that. I'm not really sure why it happens the way it happens now.

"It's basically why. You could kind of see that. I was kind of like a little kid."

Naomi Osaka's quest for back-to-back US Open crowns came to a shock end, the defending champion imploding in a remarkable 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 loss to teenage sensation Leylah Fernandez.

Up a set and 6-5, Osaka had the chance to close out the third-round contest before the four-time major champion suffered an epic meltdown on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where fans booed the titleholder.

Osaka – typically reserved and quiet but in the spotlight amid her mental health concerns after withdrawing from the French Open, having skipped Wimbledon – threw her racquet three times in the unsuccessful second-set tie-break on Friday.

The Japanese star received a warning after hitting a ball into the crowd in the final set and while she tried to dig herself out of a hole, 18-year-old Canadian Fernandez completed a stunning upset in New York.

Fernandez showed no fear in her first career meeting with Osaka, going toe-to-toe against the former world number one.

There were no breaks of serve through nine games – Osaka serving to stay in the set at 5-4 and she did so easily before flicking the switch.

Osaka broke to love in the very next game, reeling off nine successive points to take the opening set.

In the third round of the US Open for the first time and with a 1-2 record against top-10 players, Fernandez was not overawed on the big stage.

Behind her big first serve and powerful baseline hitting, Fernandez ensured the second set followed a similar pattern as Osaka was prevented from racing away with the match.

It appeared as though the second set would go down the same path as the first after Osaka broke for a 6-5 lead.

But Osaka imploded on centre court – after failing to serve out the match, she lost her composure in the tie-break, throwing her racquet on numerous occasions as Fernandez forced a deciding set with ease.

Osaka immediately left the court and emerged with a towel over her head before the start of the final set, however, she still looked off her game, broken in the opener.

Continuing to struggle, Osaka was then given a warning for hitting the ball into the crowd, though she boosted her confidence by holding serve and avoiding falling 3-0 behind.

But Fernandez's sole break point was all she needed, sending the defending champion home, much to the delight of the crowd.

 

 

Data slam: Fernandez steps up

Her only top-10 victory came against Belinda Benic at the 2020 Billie Jean Cup, having lost to Elina Svitolina and Sofia Kenin last year. But Fernandez claimed the unlikely scalp of Osaka on Friday. The result also ended Osaka's bid to come the first woman to defending the US Open since Serena Williams in 2014.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Fernandez – 28/24
Osaka – 37/35

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Fernandez – 6/2
Osaka – 15/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Fernandez – 2/5
Osaka – 2/5

World number one Ash Barty said her serving struggles are "not a concern" after advancing to the US Open third round.

Barty continued her quest for a third grand slam title and first US Open crown with a 6-1 7-5 win over teenage prodigy Clara Tauson on Thursday.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Barty hit 33 winners and fired down 11 aces to see off the 18-year-old on Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

Barty, though, had to stave off a late challenge just like the top seed did against Vera Zvonareva in the opening round.

After she faltered to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set of her victory over Tauson, Barty said: "It's happened a few times, but I have won 40-odd matches [this year] and it hasn’t happened a lot.

"It's just a few of those games I haven't been able to get up and hit my spots on first serves.

"When you give good players looks at second serves, you're going to get hurt. It's simple as that. It’s not a concern."

Barty leads the WTA Tour this season for titles won (five), match victories (42), finals reached (six), aces (319) and top-10 wins (seven).

"There's room for improvement, without a doubt, but there's room for improvement every single day," said Barty, who has never reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows.

"Credit to her, she was a little bit more aggressive in that second set. I got a little bit passive and just let my energy drop and allowed her back in.

"We'll go back and have a chat about the matches and, once we get back on the practice court, try and fix a few things up, trust myself and trying to continue to play how I want to play."

Next up for Australian star Barty is either 2020 US Open quarter-finalist Shelby Rogers or Sorana Cirstea.

The US Open was mounting a clean-up and safety check operation on Thursday after being affected by a deadly storm that struck New York City. 

There would be no play before 12:00 local time (16:00 GMT), an hour later than matches usually get under way, and spectators were told they would not be allowed into the grounds until 11:00 at the earliest. 

Severe weather hit New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, with the tail-end of Hurricane Ida striking the area and causing at least nine deaths. 

Eight of those deaths recorded in New York resulted from basements flooding, the New York Post reported, with the flash flooding causing chaos in large parts of the city. At one point, 3.15 inches of rain fell in an hour, a record for the Big Apple. 

Tournament organisers were carrying out inspections to determine whether safety of visitors to the Flushing Meadows grounds could be assured. 

The US Open said in a statement: "We appreciate your patience as we evaluate the readiness of our site. The safety of our fans, players and staff is of the utmost importance. 

"We will be issuing an update to the schedule including gate opening and match start times. The current plan will not open gates before 11:00 am." 

The storms were so unusually powerful on Wednesday that the late-night match between Kevin Anderson and Diego Schwartzman on the covered Louis Armstrong Stadium was affected by rain, with water gusting in through openings despite the protection. 

It was moved to Arthur Ashe Stadium to be completed, with its original court left drenched. 

Transport in New York early on Thursday was proving problematic, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, responsible for the local bus and subway system, announcing an "extremely limited" service and urging customers to "stay home if you can". 

Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic, along with Olympic champions Alexander Zverev and Belinda Bencic, are among those due in action on Thursday. 

Sloane Stephens sent Coco Gauff spinning out of the US Open – then joined the clamour to stop toilet break "gamesmanship" in tennis.

In Wednesday's opening night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, former champion Stephens took the fast route past world number 23 Gauff, speeding to a 6-4 6-2 victory.

Now ranked 66th, Stephens won at Flushing Meadows in 2017 and was tipped by Gauff to challenge for the title again this year. By beating Madison Keys and now Gauff, Stephens is showing she still has major game, and another former champion in Angelique Kerber could be her third-round opponent.

Gauff, now 17, has known Stephens for over seven years, having attended the now 28-year-old's 21st birthday party.

But the American pair put friendship to one side for their showdown, with Gauff, who had been fancied by many to go deep this fortnight, having her threat stifled by an in-form Stephens.

"I think the last time we hit, she was probably like 12. It was a little bit different," Stephens said afterwards.

"It's just been really nice to see her game kind of evolve and the things that she's doing, like how she's able to turn so much defense into offense and kind of do those movements. She is great at the net. She has a really great all-around game. It's been really nice to see.

"She's different from a lot of the up-and-coming players we're seeing now that are just super hard hitting, not much variety. She has a lot of variety. I think a lot of the younger girls, there's half that are very hard hitting and half that have a lot of variety. I think she's in the bucket with a lot of variety."

Gauff was asked whether Stephens could now be considered a title contender and replied: "Yeah, definitely. Today she was playing well. I knew these last couple of tournaments she's been playing better and better. I hope that she can make it all the way to the end.

"Obviously if you are going to lose, you want to lose to the champion. I think that I feel like I've learned that I'm capable of making it far in slams. I think if I tighten up a few things, that I'm capable of winning one."

The debate over toilet breaks in tennis was sparked by Andy Murray being furious with Stefanos Tsitsipas for spending eight minutes in the bathroom before tackling the Scot in the deciding set of their first-round match.

Murray, frustrated to be left waiting for his opponent to reappear, followed up his Monday night fury with a tweet that charged Tsitsipas with taking twice as long to visit the toilet as Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos took to travel into space.

There was no such spat in Stephens' quickfire win over Gauff, but the rules on spending a penny have been the currency of many a news conference this week.

 

"I honestly just thought Andy's tweet was really funny," said Stephens. "I didn't see exactly what happened. I'm not sure. I just thought it was hilarious. We all are like huge Andy fans. We love him.

"I can't speak for what happened in that match, but I do know on the girl's side, there still is a lot of that. It's gamesmanship.

"I think there definitely needs to be a rule or changes. They make a lot of rule changes for smaller things, like they took one minute off the warm-up. If someone goes to the bathroom for nine minutes, no one says anything.

"Six, eight minutes is a long time to leave a match. That changes the whole momentum of a match. If you're changing your clothes, what are you changing? What are you doing in there?

"When you get into six, seven, eight, nine minutes, okay, what are you doing in there? Do you need help? I can come help you. Like, what's happening? I think that's more where the issues are because it just becomes pure gamesmanship."

Two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka says it is "bizarre" that fans need to be vaccinated to attend the US Open but not the players.

The 2021 US Open marks the first tennis tournament where fans must show their proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend matches inside the Flushing Meadows venue. The decision was made less than 72 hours prior to the first matches at the US Open.

Azarenka, who defeated Italian Jasmine Paolini 6-3 7-6 (7-1) in the second round on Wednesday, said there was a double standard applied for fans compared to players who are not required to be vaccinated to play.

"I want to start this conversation between our players, because to me that's a bit bizarre that fans have to be vaccinated and players are not," three-time US Open finalist Azarenka told reporters.

"I think it's inevitable that it will be mandated at some point, like other leagues are doing.

"I don't see the point of stalling it, because I think we all want to be safe, we all want to continue doing our jobs, and I know there is a lot of discussions about it."

She added: "I hope that as an association we make the best decision for our business, for our health, for the tournaments and for the public."

On Saturday, Briton Andy Murray voiced his opinion that players need to be vaccinated, saying it is their responsibility as they travel the world to play.

Numerous top players including Novak Djokovic, Stefano Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev have previously spoken about their concerns about getting vaccinated.

Medvedev would not be drawn on Azarenka's comments after he defeated Dominik Koepfer 6-4 6-1 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday.

"Tough to answer this question," Medvedev told reporters. "I think everybody can have his own opinion.

"I understand why they did it to the fans. So far it has not been applied to the players. We as players, we can just follow the guidelines and the rules. That's all we can do.

"I think it's not for players to decide, because that's why we have governing bodies in tennis."

Two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka says it is "bizarre" that fans need to be vaccinated to attend the US Open but not the players.

The 2021 US Open marks the first tennis tournament where fans must show their proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend matches inside the Flushing Meadows venue. The decision was made less than 72 hours prior to the first matches at the US Open.

Azarenka, who defeated Italian Jasmine Paolini 6-3 7-6 (7-1) in the second round on Wednesday, said there was a double standard applied for fans compared to players who are not required to be vaccinated to play.

"I want to start this conversation between our players, because to me that's a bit bizarre that fans have to be vaccinated and players are not," three-time US Open finalist Azarenka told reporters.

"I think it's inevitable that it will be mandated at some point, like other leagues are doing.

"I don't see the point of stalling it, because I think we all want to be safe, we all want to continue doing our jobs, and I know there is a lot of discussions about it."

She added: "I hope that as an association we make the best decision for our business, for our health, for the tournaments and for the public."

On Saturday, Briton Andy Murray voiced his opinion that players need to be vaccinated, saying it is their responsibility as they travel the world to play.

Numerous top players including Novak Djokovic, Stefano Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev have previously spoken about their concerns about getting vaccinated.

Medvedev would not be drawn on Azarenka's comments after he defeated Dominik Koepfer 6-4 6-1 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday.

"Tough to answer this question," Medvedev told reporters. "I think everybody can have his own opinion.

"I understand why they did it to the fans. So far it has not been applied to the players. We as players, we can just follow the guidelines and the rules. That's all we can do.

"I think it's not for players to decide, because that's why we have governing bodies in tennis."

Naomi Osaka was due to face Olga Danilovic on Wednesday, but the defending US Open champion was handed a walkover into the third round. 

Osaka, who defeated Marie Bouzkova in the first round to start her title defence at Flushing Meadows, is hunting her fifth grand slam title and third in New York. 

Serbian youngster Danilovic, who is being mentored by ATP world number one Novak Djokovic, defeated American Alycia Parks in straight sets on Monday but had to pull out of her second-round tie with Osaka due to a viral illness. 

However, the 20-year-old stressed she had not tested positive for COVID-19. 

"Hi everyone… I am so sad to have to withdrawal [sic] from my match this morning. I have been feeling unwell these past few days dealing with a non-COVID related viral illness," Danilovic wrote in an Instagram post. 

"I was really looking forward to playing against Naomi on Arthur Ashe Stadium today, but [it was] not to be this time. 

"I just want to say [a] big thank you to medical staff here [at the] US Open and [to] everyone for your support and I cannot wait to be back in New York at this amazing tournament next year." 

Osaka will face Leylah Fernandez in the third round on Friday after the Canadian beat Kaia Kanepi 7-5 7-5. 

Another of the big names, Simona Halep, also progressed, with the two-time grand slam winner seeing off Kristina Kucova 6-3 6-1. 

World number one Ash Barty was relieved but happy with her response after surviving a first-round scare against Vera Zvonareva at the US Open.

Barty – the top seed back at Flushing Meadows after skipping the 2020 event due to the coronavirus pandemic – booked her spot in the second round with a 6-1 7-6 (9-7) victory but the Wimbledon champion endured a challenging opener in New York on Tuesday.

Despite firing down 11 aces to improve her WTA Tour-leading tally to 300 in 2021, and hitting 31 winners, veteran Zvonareva was a tricky first-up opponent for Australian star Barty.

A US Open and Wimbledon runner-up in 2010, Zvonareva made life difficult for Barty in the second set, earning a chance to force a decider but the 36-year-old was unable to capitalise at 7-6 in the tie-break.

Afterwards, Barty – who ranks first this season for titles (five), match victories (41), finals reached (six) and top-10 victories (seven) – told reporters: "Obviously a tough one against Vera straight up.

"She's an experienced campaigner. She knows how to get herself into matches. I think all in all, adapting to conditions was a little bit slower than I probably would have liked [but] we're through. We have another chance to improve on that in the next round.

"I think when my back was against the wall late in that buster, I came up with some really good stuff. That's all we can ask is when your back is against the wall, you trust yourself, you go out there and pick your spots and hit them."

Two-time grand slam champion Barty – fresh off winning in Cincinnati as Clara Tauson awaits in round two – added: "It obviously got really tense in that second set - tight - and in the bigger moments I was able to be aggressive and trust myself and that was a massive thing today.

"There were a couple of games where I had lapses in concentration but I was able to come through in straight sets and now we go back to the drawing board, work on a few things and we'll be as happy as Larry.

"I'm certainly happy to be through and playing again here in New York."

 

Defending US Open champion Naomi Osaka passed her opening-round test, producing a powerful performance against Marie Bouzkova 6-4 6-1 on Monday.

All eyes were on Osaka following a difficult couple of months due to mental health concerns as a result of "long bouts of depression" since winning the 2018 US Open.

Osaka withdrew from May's French Open having won her first-round match, after she was fined and threatened with further punishment – and possible expulsion from the grand slam – for skipping obligatory media duties.

The Japanese star subsequently pulled out of Wimbledon before returning for the Olympic Games, though she suffered a surprise loss on home soil in Tokyo and was reduced to tears during a news conference in Cincinnati.

But as fans returned to Flushing Meadows for the first time in two years after the 2020 event was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, Osaka looked comfortable under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights with the likes of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and Hollywood star Alec Baldwin in the crowd.

Bouzkova kept pace with Osaka in the opening set, not overawed by the occasion, but she came unstuck on serve in the 10th game.

While fending off one set point, Bouzkova was unable to save another, slicing a backhand into the net as Osaka closed out the set on her opponent's racquet.

With a set under her belt having reeled off 21 winners in the opener, Osaka stepped it up a gear – winning seven consecutive games before Bouzkova avoided a bagel.

Bouzkova continued to battle but it only delayed the inevitable as Osaka continued her quest for a fourth US Open crown and fifth slam title.

 

Data slam: Osaka on track to follow in Serena's footsteps

The 23-year-old needed one hour, 33 minutes to book her spot in the next round. Osaka is looking to become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows since 23-time major champion Serena Williams claimed three in a row from 2012 to 2014.

Osaka is the only woman to win at least one major title over the past four seasons, claiming the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, as well as the US Open in 2018 and last year.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Osaka – 34/23
Bouzkova – 10/8

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Osaka – 4/1
Bouzkova – 2/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Osaka – 3/6
Bouzkova – 0/8

Novak Djokovic is a strong favourite to become only the third man to complete a calendar Grand Slam and make history at the US Open.

Djokovic has won all three majors this year and can complete a 2021 clean sweep at Flushing Meadows.

The irrepressible world number one would also go beyond Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – both absent due to injury – with 21 grand slam singles titles if he triumphs in New York.

There will be no elusive record-equalling 24th major singles crown for Serena Williams, who has not recovered from the hamstring injury she suffered at Wimbledon.

With Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka the leading contenders to take the women's singles title, Stats Perform use Opta data to preview the final grand slam of the year.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES FOR DOMINANT DJOKOVIC

Djokovic was thrown out of the US Open last year after accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a tennis ball.

The 34-year-old arrived in New York in far better spirits than when he left last September, having taken on all comers this year.

Djokovic missed out on a Golden Slam when he failed to win Olympic gold in Tokyo, but he could join Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) as the only men to win all four majors in the same year.

Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (970) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the only women to achieve the incredible feat.

 

BARTY TO GO BACK-TO-BACK?

Barty became the first Australian woman to win a Wimbledon singles title for 41 years in July.

Not since Williams in 2012 has a player claimed back-to-back women's singles major crowns in the same year, but Barty could take some stopping.

She could become the ninth woman in the Open Era to win Wimbledon and the US Open in the same season. 

Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Serena Williams can boast that achievement.

OSAKA BACK TO DEFEND TITLE

Japanese sensation Osaka won her third grand slam title at Flushing Meadows last September and went on to add a fourth at the Australian Open this year.

Osaka returns to grand slam action for the first time since withdrawing from the French Open, citing struggles with her mental health.

The world number three could be the first woman to win consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams claimed three in a row from 2012 to 2014.

Osaka is the only woman to win at least one major title over the past four seasons, winning the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, as well as the US Open in 2018 and last year.

 

ZVEREV BIDS TO BANISH PAINFUL MEMORIES

Alexander Zverev was beaten by Dominic Thiem in his maiden grand slam final in New York last year after the German had been two sets up.

He will not have to face Thiem this time around as the defending champion is sidelined due to injury.

Zverev was the only player to serve 100 or more aces during the tournament last year, firing down 131 but also racking up more double faults (64) than anyone else.

The world number four won his fourth title of the year in Cincinnati last week but Djokovic is undoubtedly the man to beat at Flushing Meadows.

Novak Djokovic has history in his sights as he begins his US Open quest; after three grand slam titles in 2021, a fourth beckons at Flushing Meadows.

Rod Laver was the last man to achieve a sweep of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open singles in the same year, all the way back in 1969.

Steffi Graf won all four on the women's side in 1988, and it seemed a knock-in that Serena Williams would do likewise in 2015 when she headed to the US Open with three majors already bagged.

But winning any title at that level is never easy, and Williams famously came unstuck when she faced Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals.

Djokovic will be mindful that what seems an inevitability to the outside world remains very much still only a possibility. After his US Open tribulations last year, and a recent jolt at the Olympics, he will know anything can happen.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how Djokovic's situation at Flushing Meadows carries most of the hallmarks of Serena's own position as she headed into the tournament six years ago.

 

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SLAMS

It was not always this way, but Djokovic has reached the point in his career when he can choose targets, decide which records he wants to break, and throw everything at those goals.

At the start of the year in Australia, he savoured triumphing at Melbourne Park for a ninth time and pointed to how Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Williams and Margaret Court had achieved so much.

"They've made history already," Djokovic said. "They made a tremendous mark in our sport. I'm trying to build that and develop that myself in a very unique, authentic way that is suitable to me.

"Whether I think about winning more slams and breaking records, of course. Of course, I do. And most of my attention and my energy from this day forward, until I retire from tennis, is going to be directed in majors, trying to win more major trophies."

It had very clear echoes of Williams in 2015, also in Australia, setting out her own ambitions for the year and specifically targeting the French Open and Wimbledon.

"Those are the two I really have my eye on, because I would like to do better at those. And I know I can do better," she said.

Williams set her heart and mind on that twin challenge and won both.

"I definitely am not going to play as much this year, and I'm just going to go for everything when I do play," said Williams.

 


BUILDING UP

When Williams reached New York in August 2015, she had delivered a 48-2 win-loss record for the season, landing each of the majors alongside the Miami Open and the Western and Southern Open. Petra Kvitova in Madrid and Belinda Bencic in Toronto had been the only two players to get the better of the 33-year-old Williams.

Djokovic has a 38-5 record for the year, albeit it has the feel of a more dominant year for the 34-year-old Serbian. Two of those losses came at the Olympics, in a semi-final and bronze medal match, and the other three came in his first three events on clay, losing to Dan Evans in Monte Carlo, Aslan Karatsev in Belgrade and Nadal in Rome.

When it mattered on clay, though, Djokovic majorly turned up in Paris, gutsily beating Lorenzo Musetti from two sets down in the fourth round, ending Nadal's streak of four Roland Garros titles by sinking the Spaniard in the semi-finals, and then leaving Stefanos Tsitsipas devastated in the final, with another fightback after dropping the first two sets.

Wimbledon followed, and Djokovic by then was openly targeting a Golden Slam – each major and the Olympic title.

Much like with Williams and her loss to Bencic in the Toronto semi-finals six years ago, however, Djokovic showed he was fallible as history beckoned. From a set up, he lost to Alexander Zverev at Tokyo 2020, a blow that was compounded by missing out on bronze when Pablo Carreno Busta sprang another shock.

 


HISTORY CAN BE A FIERCE OPPONENT

Williams and Djokovic have won non-calendar Grand Slams before, winning four in succession spanning two seasons.

Williams first achieved that from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003, and in 2015 she was aiming for five slams in a row at the US Open, having begun her dominant streak at her home grand slam the previous year.

She won the first set of the semi-final against Vinci, the world number 43, but was then second best to the Italian, with Williams saying her conqueror "played literally out of her mind".

But the disappointment was stark, underlined by Williams' terse response to the question of how disappointed she felt by the result.

"I don't want to talk about how disappointing it is for me," she said. "If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

The four-in-a-row feat has only been performed once by Djokovic, from Wimbledon in 2015 to the French Open in 2016. Had he not been disqualified during the US Open last year for carelessly hitting a ball that struck a line judge, he would most likely currently be on a four-slam streak.

Those who win the first three slams of the year often do complete the set, but there are four instances of singles players falling one short by failing in the year's last major.

Before Williams, the most recent case was Martina Navratilova in 1984, when the imperious left-hander headed to the Australian Open – then played at the end of the year rather than the start – in pursuit of the Grand Slam. She lost to Helena Sukova in the semi-finals, and said: "If I'd have won, I'd have done it all. If I lost I had to start from scratch. Both are hard to cope with."

Navratilova had won 74 consecutive matches until that loss and ended the season with a 78-2 record.

In the men's game, Jack Crawford (1933) and Lew Hoad (1956) also fell short, both losing in finals of the US National Championships, the tournament that became the US Open. Don Budge (1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) are the only men to have won a calendar Grand Slam in singles.

The weight of expectation is immense for Djokovic as he pursues what would be his crowning glory, not only sealing the Grand Slam but reaching 21 majors, one ahead of Nadal and Federer and into the outright lead in the men's game. The prospect cannot be ignored, and it will be a heavy burden to carry over the coming fortnight.

As Djokovic said on Friday: "I would be lying if I said that’s not something that I’m thinking about or that my attention is not going that way.

"I’m very motivated to play my best tennis. But I have to hit one ball at a time, as they say, try to be in the moment, have a guiding star in a way, a dream to win a slam here."

Elina Svitolina claimed her first title of the year with a hard-fought victory over Alize Cornet at the Chicago Women's Open.

Svitolina won in straight sets in tough conditions, though she needed two hours and two minutes to record a 7-5 6-4 triumph over her French opponent.

Cornet had won their previous meeting at Eastbourne in 2019 but the world number 68 was unable to pull off a repeat result against the tournament’s top seed in Illinois.

A see-saw contest saw 10 breaks of serve, starting with the second game as Svitolina struck an early blow while racing into a 3-0 lead.

However, Cornet clawed her way back to get on level terms and a tie-break looked likely until she was broken in a lengthy 12th game.

The second set followed a similar pattern as Svitolina again won the opening three games. After a medical timeout, Cornet cut the deficit to 3-2 but was not able to get back on level terms, the pair exchanging six breaks through to the conclusion.

Having failed to serve out for the victory, Svitolina finally secured a first tournament triumph since Strasbourg in 2020 thanks to a superb backhand.

It is her 16th title overall and comes as ideal preparation ahead of the US Open, where the Ukrainian will face qualifier Rebecca Marino in the opening round in New York.

Anett Kontaveit ended a four-year title drought by beating Irina-Camelia Begu to win the inaugural Tennis in the Land event on Saturday.

Kontaveit had failed to win a tournament since her maiden WTA Tour triumph in 's-Hertogenbosch back in 2017 before defeating Begu 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

The world number 30 from Estonia had lost two finals this year, but she was not to be denied in Cleveland.

Begu fought back from 5-2 down in the first set to force a tie-break, but one mini-break was enough for second seed Kontaveit to take a big stride towards an elusive title.

The composed Kontaveit did not face a break point in a tight second set, not allowing her Romanian opponent a look-in as she served superbly.

Kontaveit only had one break-point opportunity of her own, but grasped it to lead 2-1 and went on to seal a confidence-boosting triumph ahead of the US Open.

Sam Stosur will be Kontaveit's opponent in the first round at Flushing Meadows, while Begu faces Andrea Petkovic.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.