Serena Williams survived a scare against a U.S. teenager, the youngest player in the tournament got through a scare of her own and another U.S. woman scored the upset of her life.
And that’s just the beginning of what happened is the second round of the US Open on Wednesday and Thursday in New York.
After pummeling Maria Sharapova in the first round, Williams on Wednesday faced 17-year-old Caty McNally, a Cincinnati native who was playing a top-20 opponent for the first time ever.
It was no routine victory for Williams, however, who dropped the first set before rallying in the second to advance with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory. Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and six-time US Open champ, has never lost in the first two rounds of the US Open at 38-0. The 37-year-old Williams, seeded No. 8, is going for her record-tying 24th Grand Slam victory.
On the opposite end of the career trajectory, 15-year-old Coco Gauff played under the lights again on Thursday night, facing Hungary’s Timea Babos. Gauff cruised through the first set but Babos rebounded in the second, cutting down on her unforced errors and settling in to a number of long rallies.
Both players fought through a tension-filled, back-and-forth third set that was tied 4-4 before Gauff held Babos without a point to take a 5-4 lead. Tied 30-30, Gauff placed a beautiful drop shot to reach match point. Then Babos hit into the net to give Gauff the 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, win in front of a riveted hometown crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Gauff became the youngest woman to reach the third round of the US Open since 1996. Her next test will be against defending champion and No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan.
The upset of the second round, however, belonged to Taylor Townsend. The 23-year-old from Chicago came from behind to upend No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Thursday. It was Townsend’s first win over a top-10 opponent and her first time beating Halep, the Wimbledon champion, in four meetings. Townsend went to the net more than 100 times in the match.
Three other U.S. women advanced. No. 10 Madison Keys cruised past Zhu Lin of China 6-4, 6-1; No. 20 Sofia Kenin also continues her journey with a win over Germany’s Laura Siegemund 7-6 (4), 6-0; and Kristie Ahn beat Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya 6-2, 6-3. Kenin and Keys will meet in Round 3, ensuring at least one American among the final 16.
Round 2 marked the end of the road for five U.S. women, however.
Venus Williams fell to No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4, and Lauren Davis lost to No. 2 Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-2, 7-6 (2) on Wednesday. On Thursday, Francesca Di Lorenzo lost to No. 26 Julia Gorges of Germany 7-5, 6-0, and Alison Riske dropped her match against Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, 6-4, 6-3. Danielle Collins took the first set but fell to No. 19 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In men’s action, No. 14 John Isner, Denis Kudla and Tennys Sandgren are still alive following wins in their second-round matches.
Isner won in straight sets against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, who reached his career-high ATP ranking of No. 33 this summer, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). Isner reached the quarterfinals at the US Open in 2018 but this is his first time advancing to the third round of a Grand Slam this year.
Kudla, meanwhile, advances to the third round of a Grand Slam for the third time this year after upsetting No. 27 Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 7-5, 7-5, 0-6, 6-3. As a reward, he gets another Serbian, top-seeded Novak Djokovic, in the third round.
Sandgren was the final U.S. man to play, closing things out Thursday night with a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil.
Four U.S. men were eliminated in round two. Reilly Opelka fell to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (2) and Bradley Klahn lost to Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday. On Thursday, Jenson Brooksby lost to No. 17 Nikoloz Basilashvili from Georgia 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-2 and Frances Tiafoe lost to No. 6 Alexander Zverev of of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.