US Open: Serena is gone, Kvitova, Pegula sets rematch

New York, –

Like so many other people, Serena Williams’ final match at the US Open was a must for any players still in the tournament, so Jessica Pegula and Petra Kvitova tuned in from their hotel rooms the night before their victories left Saturday’s schedule and wreak a fourth-round showdown.

“Of course I watched Serena. I’m like everyone else,” said Pegula, a 28-year-old American seeded 8th at Flushing Meadows who defeated qualifier Yuan Yue 6-2, 6-7 (6). 6-0 “You’re kind of sad, that’s how it ends. But I don’t know, like I got a little sentimental too, watching her get emotional.”

Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic, credited Williams’ last stand – the owner of 23 Grand Slam titles fended off five match points before giving a three-set goodbye to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday night in what is expected to be her last Competition – with inspiration.

“It was very special. She certainly didn’t want to leave the pitch. That was actually the same case with me today. I didn’t want to leave this tournament, so I just hung there (in ).

“Serena showed that last night,” said Kvitova, who dropped her racquet and covered her face with her ends when what she called a tiebreaker’s “nightmare” was over. “It was nice to see her fight to the end yesterday.”

Yes, Williams is gone, leaving the last major tournament of the year – and in some ways, the sport as a whole – without its biggest star and greatest story. Still, the show must go on.

So there was Kvitova, undaunted as ever despite dropping the first set despite being 5-2 down in the third despite being a point away from losing 6-5 twice.

That’s how close this one was: Kvitova won 109 total points, Muguruza 108.

“I left everything on the court today,” said No. 9 Muguruza, a two-time Slam winner whose departure means six of the top 10 women were already in the group before the end of the third round.

Two more were scheduled later on Saturday: No. 1 Iga Swiatek and No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka.

The Night Session in Ashe featured 22-time Major champion Rafael Nadal against Richard Gasquet, followed by Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins against Caroline Garcia.

The Nadal vs. Gasquet winner meets No. 22 Frances Tiafoe, the first American since Mardy Fish 2010-12 to reach the fourth round of the US Open in three consecutive years. Tiafoe eliminated No. 14 Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-4.

It would be difficult for any of the day’s games to do justice to the kind of attention Williams attracted or the atmosphere she helped create during her three games at Ashe.

“I just can’t believe the ‘era of Serena’ on the tennis court is over,” said Pegula. “I mean, it’s just hard to imagine tennis without her.”

In other action on Saturday, two-time Australian Open champion Viktoria Azarenka beat Petra Martic 6-3, 6-0; No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz, a 19-year-old Spaniard, defeated unseeded Jenson Brooksby, a 21-year-old Californian, 6-3 6-3 6-3; Cam Norrie defeated No. 28 Holger Rune 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 in the men’s draw; and No. 9 Andrey Rublev got past No. 19 Denis Shapovalov 6-4 2-6 7-6(3) 6-4 7-6 (10-7). Next, Norrie and Rublev play each other.

As for Kvitova-Muguruza, Rublev-Shapovalov needed the new final set tiebreak format to determine the winner. The four Grand Slam tournaments agreed to adopt a unified system this year, with the third sets of the women’s games and the fifth sets of the men’s games being decided on a 1-10, 2-win formula; The US Open used to have the more traditional first-to-seven setup.

Pegula’s dominance of her last set made this completely unnecessary. She had missed a chance to end the win half an hour earlier when she failed to convert her match point but quickly regrouped.

Pegula started her Grand Slam career with a 3-8. Since then she has won 22-7, including runs to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open the last two years and the French Open this year.

The 28-year-old American, whose parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabers, arrived at Flushing Meadows on Saturday with a 2-0 record in third-round games, including a loss to Kvitova in 2020 .

Pegula gets another shot at her on Monday.

“Petra is so difficult to play. I have a feeling when it’s on it blows you off your seat. And then sometimes she can be gone too… She’s a fighter. When it clicks it’s really difficult,” Pegula said, adding, confidently, “I think I’m a much better player now than I was the last time I played her.”