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Taylor Townsend Keeps Going to the Net, and Keeps Going at the U.S. Open

The qualifier Taylor Townsend stunned the reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep on Thursday by rushing to the net 106 times. On Saturday, there was no reason to change what was working.

Townsend, ranked 116th, came to the net 75 times in her 7-5, 6-2 win over Sorana Cirstea in Louis Armstrong Stadium, including 53 times on serve-and-volley points.

In her on-court interview after the match, Townsend said she had been surprised to learn how many people had her phone number, based on the congratulations she received on her win over Halep, but had worked to maintain her focus.

“I just tried to keep my head on straight,” Townsend, 23, said. “My coach and I talked about strategy, and just continuing what I did from the last round, and just trying to get better.”

Townsend was joined in the fourth round by another American outside the top 100, when 141st-ranked Kristie Ahn beat the 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, 7-5, 6-3. Ahn, a wild card, will next play the 25th-seeded Elise Mertens, who beat Andrea Petkovic, 6-3, 6-3. Ahn beat Mertens at a tournament in San Jose, Calif., in early August.

Townsend and Ahn, who each reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, were the ninth and 10th different American woman to reach the second week of a major this year. That shows the depth of American talent, though none of them have won a Grand Slam title this season.

Only three American men — Frances Tiafoe, Sam Querrey and Tennys Sandgren — have reached the second week of a Grand Slam event this year. The last American men in contention at the U.S. Open, the 14th-seeded John Isner and Tennys Sandgren, lost on Saturday.

Townsend is a new face in the later stages of a major tournament with an old school game. Part of sticking with a serve-and-volley strategy, Townsend knew, was learning to accept that Cirstea’s powerful passing shots would often go zipping by her, a feeling that can discourage players from continuing to venture forward, particularly on the most pressure-packed points.

“I got passed a lot, but I made a lot as well,” Townsend said. “So I have to continue to do that.”

ImageCreditMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

Cirstea, ranked 106th, attributed her loss less to Townsend’s unusual tactics, which she was prepared for, and more to failing to capitalize on opportunities, such as a 3-1 lead she had held in the first set.

“She has a unique game: This is the beauty of tennis,” Cirstea said. “You have to adapt very quick.”

Townsend was playing in the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for just the second time, after losing at this stage of the 2013 French Open. She told the crowd this would be only the beginning for her, saying she planned to “ride this thing all the way.”

After beating two Romanian players in a row, Townsend will face a third player with Romanian roots in the fourth round: Bianca Andreescu, whose parents moved from Romania to Canada before she was born.

The 15th-seeded Andreescu is also in the fourth round of a major for the first time, after a 6-4, 6-4 win over the 19th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, a two-time U.S. Open finalist.

Andreescu, who started the season ranked 152nd, has been the most dominant player on tour this year when healthy; her win Saturday improved her record to 39-4, which includes a remarkable 7-0 record against top-10 opponents. She won hardcourt titles at Toronto and Indian Wells, and has not lost a match since March, though she missed several months with a shoulder injury.

Andreescu has little experience on these stages, but said she had learned how to minimize distractions.

“It’s a Grand Slam, there’s more at stake, obviously,” Andreescu said of the Open. “But I don’t try to focus on that. When I step on court, I’m really good at blocking my surroundings, and I’m just in the zone from A to Z. Well, I try to.”

The 26th-seeded Julia Görges dominated the seventh-seeded Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-3, and will face No. 23 Donna Vekic in the fourth round.

No. 13 Belinda Bencic moved on to the round of 16 when her opponent, Anett Kontaveit, withdrew from their match with an illness. Bencic will play No. 1 Naomi Osaka, who beat Coco Gauff in a blockbuster match Saturday night.

On the men’s side, the second-seeded Rafael Nadal comfortably advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over the qualifier Hyeon Chung. Nadal will play No. 22 Marin Cilic, who ousted Isner, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

The sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev beat Aljaz Bedene, 6-7(4), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (3), and will next play Diego Schwartzman. Pablo Andujar, 33, advanced to the round of 16 for the first time in his career, and will face No. 13 Gaël Monfils, who outlasted Denis Shapovalov, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-3, in the last match of the day.

Andrey Rublev eliminated No. 28 Nick Kyrgios, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3, to set up a fourth-round meeting with No. 24 Matteo Berrettini.

More U.S. Open CoverageCoco Gauff’s Got Game and Her Game’s Got Room to GrowAug. 31, 2019Daniil Medvedev: The Russian Player Who Trolled the U.S. OpenAug. 31, 2019Roger Federer Heats Up on Court and OffAug. 30, 2019


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