Iga Swiatek winning easily, but knows who’s No. 1 at the U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Iga Swiatek is winning easily – and quietly.

At this U.S. Open, even the world’s No. 1 player is a distant No. 2 as long as Serena Williams is still around.

“Yeah, that’s kind of her time right now,” Swiatek said. “I’m just, you know, playing and focusing on that, and that’s the most important thing for me.”

The two-time French Open champion easily beat 2017 U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-2 in the second round for her WTA Tour-leading 50th victory this season.

A day after Williams eliminated No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit, with No. 3 Maria Sakkari losing earlier, Swiatek perhaps looms as an even bigger threat to win a seventh title this year, something nobody has done since Williams in 2014. Past U.S. Open champions Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu have also been eliminated, along with 2021 runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

Swiatek came to the U.S. Open just 4-4 since the end of her 37-match winning streak earlier this year, but has dropped just eight games through two rounds. She needed only 1 hour, 14 minutes to beat Stephens, having no trouble with her first match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Honestly, I just tried to have the same kind of motivation or attitude as any other court, because it’s the best way for me to perform good,” Swiatek said.

Williams resumes what could be her final singles tournament. First, she was due back on Ashe to begin the night session along with big sister Venus for their women’s doubles match against the Czech duo of Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova.

Four-time champion Rafael Nadal was following them against Fabio Fognini.

Other winners included No. 8 Jessica Pegula, No. 13 Belinda Bencic and No. 26 Victoria Azarenka, who didn’t get a handshake from Marta Kostyuk after beating the Ukrainian player.

Azarenka is from Belarus, which helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine.

“I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do in the circumstances I’m in right now,” Kostyuk said of a handshake, instead offering only a racket tap at the end.

No. 11 Jannik Sinner and No. 15 Marin Cilic, the 2015 U.S. Open champion, advanced, but No. 25 Borna Coric was upset by American Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 7-6 (10), 6-1. Brooksby reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows as a 20-year-old last year, winning a set from Novak Djokovic.

Pegula was due back on the court later to join Coco Gauff for their first-round doubles match. The No. 2 seeds were to play Fernandez and Daria Saville.

The 18-year-old Gauff is also still alive in singles, but Pegula didn’t think they would consider dropping out of doubles to save their energy.

“No, we just want to win the tournament, I think,” she said. “I think both of us do. Her, she’s never tired. She’s so young, anyways.”

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Sunday to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”