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.”

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.