New York, USA - Week two of the US Open has arrived, with the men's and women's singles draws whittled down from 128 to 16 elite players. There are 4 men and 4 women from team Yonex who are still dreaming of hoisting the US Open trophies next weekend, with the success creating inevitable Yonex-vs.-Yonex clashes.
Home hope Frances Tiafoe (USA) faced an always-tricky opponent in the third round: French counter-puncher Adrian Mannarino (FRA), a lefty. Tiafoe lost the first set, but didn't let the deficit deter him, especially with a packed Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd backing him.
"Honestly, even though I lost the first, I thought I was the better player," Tiafoe admitted.
He proved as much from the second set onward, winning the match in two hours and 55 minutes, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6).
"I'm happy to get through obviously," Tiafoe said, having reached the round of 16 in New York for a fourth consecutive year. "It's another fourth round here, so it's good."
Tiafoe's across-the-net foe in the fourth round is another Yonex family member in Rinky Hijikata (AUS). The 22-year-old, who played collegiate tennis at the University of North Carolina, received a wild card into the US Open. The Aussie, who idolizes another Yonex legend in Lleyton Hewitt, has a similar style of play and fighting spirit to his Aussie idol.
In the third round he faced Zhang Zhizhen (CHN), who was coming off an upset over 2022 finalist Casper Ruud (NOR). Hijikata hustled to a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory in front of a packed Court 17. Hijikata, who played Rafael Nadal (ESP) last year on Arthur Ashe Stadium in an electric evening session atmosphere, looks back on that experience as the key to his growth.
"Yeah, I feel like I've developed a lot since last year," he said. "Obviously, I played Rafa this time last year, at my first Grand Slam match, and that was really cool. I really learned a lot from that match and that experience. and that's been the biggest key."
He will return to one of the biggest stages of the US Open against Tiafoe when the two do battle on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The fourth round will feature another all-Yonex matchup that is highly-anticipated among American fans featuring Tommy Paul against Ben Shelton. The American duel is also a rematch of the Australian Open quarterfinal earlier this year.
The 14th seed Paul contested a US Open match inside Arthur Ashe Stadium for the very first time in his career in the third round.
"To start the match, I was pretty nervous," he admitted. But Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) was feeling the pressure, too, with Paul dropping just one game in the first two sets and then going on to win in four, taking the victory in 2 hours and 19 minutes.
Shelton, like Paul, won his third-round match in 2 hours and 18 minutes, recording the fastest serve of the tournament at 147 mph - one of 26 aces in the match.
The 20-year-old, who had never played overseas until this year, reflected on his Melbourne experience from January.
"I think that was a match [against Paul] where I was a little unsure of what to expect... I hadn't really been in that situation before, quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, on Rod Laver Arena, packed stadium," he said. "I think I panicked a little bit, pressed early in the match, and he kind of got on top of me and was the frontrunner from there."
Seven months later, with plenty more experience under his belt, the big-serving youngster is ready to show his home crowd what he's capable of.
Yonex duels feature on the women's side
Former US Open semifinalist Belinda Bencic (SUI), the 15th seed, escaped an upset despite a stiff challenge from Zhu Lin (CHN) in the third round.
The biggest upset so far in the women's event came in the final match of Friday night inside Louis Armstrong Stadium. Thirty-three-year-old Sorana Cirstea (ROU), the 30th seed, stunned No.4 Elena Rybakina (KAZ) in a close-as-can-be three-setter. The Romanian veteran, who has been through her fair share of ups and downs in her long career, showed her mental toughness against the 2022 Wimbledon winner.
Cirstea seized the two-hour, 48-minute battle 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 in a match that finished just after midnight.
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) | EZONE 100[LINK]