Three days into the 2014 U.S. Open, and a pair of very clear trends are already starting to develop.
On the women's side, expect the unexpected. A day after 15-year-old CiCi Bellis captured New York's hearts by upsetting Dominika Cibulkova, we saw two more shockers from the ladies on Wednesday.
As for the men, it's pretty much the opposite. Most of the top players are rolling without much of a problem. It has made for some mostly nondescript matches—sans one particular late battle on Wednesday—through the first couple of days, but it's setting up what should be a scintillating quarterfinals and beyond.
Let's take a closer look at the day's action from Flushing Meadows.
Day 3 Results
|Arthur Ashe Day Session Winner||Opponent||Score|
|Johanna Larsson||(21) Sloane Stephens||5-7, 6-4, 6-2|
|(6) Tomas Berdych||Lleyton Hewitt||6-3, 6-4, 6-3|
|(5) Maria Sharapova||Alexandra Dulgheru||4-6, 6-3, 6-2|
|Louis Armstrong Day Session Winner||Opponent||Score|
|Shuai Peng||(4) Agnieszka Radwanska||6-3, 6-4|
|(14) Marin Cilic||Marcos Baghdatis||6-3, 3-1, Ret|
|(2) Simona Halep||Jana Cepelova||6-2, 6-1|
|(7) Grigor Dimitrov||Ryan Harrison||6-2, 7-6(4), 6-2|
|Arthur Ashe Stadium Evening Session Winner||Opponent||Score|
|(19) Venus Williams||Timea Bacsinszky||6-1, 6-4|
|(3) Stan Wawrinka||Thomaz Bellucci||6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(1)|
Note: All scores from Wednesday's action can be found here, courtesy of USOpen.org
Day 3 Recap
The night's featured players, Venus Williams and Stan Wawrinka, steamrolled as expected.
Williams lost just five games against Timea Bacsinszky despite hitting fewer aces and winners. Her ability to hold serve (she won 74 percent of first serve points and was never broken) and a steady approach (just 19 unforced errors) was too much to overcome:
The No. 19 seed is past the second round in New York for the first time since 2010, and she's looking extremely good. ZagsBlog.com's Adam Zagoria couldn't help but glance forward:
Venus Williams is into the 3rd round of the Open. It would be a compelling storyline if she can make a run here at age 34.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) August 28, 2014
Wawrinka, on the other hand, had a little more trouble. After strolling through the first two sets against Thomaz Bellucci, he got a little sloppy and lost his concentration in the third set and was forced to a tiebreaker in the fourth.
With the crowd uniting behind the underdog, who was hitting some fantastic shots, Wawrinka was able to bear down and dominate the tiebreak.
The Australian Open champ has all of the talent in the world, but going forward, he's going to have to stay focused for entire matches.
The story of the afternoon was once again on the other draw. Women's tennis in 2014 has been completely unpredictable, with six different ladies making it to the first three Grand Slam finals, and Wednesday's action was no different.
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 21 Sloane Stephens, who each made it to the fourth round in New York last year, were both on the wrong side of big upsets.
Radwanska capitalized on just one of seven break-point opportunities, falling in straight sets to Shuai Peng. As Tennis.com's Steve Tignor noted, it was a repeat of history:
Peng's only win over Radwanska in 4 tries came in 2nd round at 2010 US Open. #USOpen2014— Steve Tignor (@SteveTignor) August 27, 2014
Stephens, meanwhile, looked to be on cruise control against Johanna Larsson. She won the first set and was up 3-0 in the second, but she completely fell apart down the stretch, winning just three of the last 15 games to take the disappointing loss.
"I didn't take advantage of the times I could have," the American told reporters. "That's definitely something I will look back on, but I won't dwell on it too much. There is room for improvement and I can do a lot of things better."
Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim wasn't nearly as positive in his evaluation:
Sloane Stephens simply failed to show up. Disappointing day, disappointing year— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) August 27, 2014
After making a habit of coming up biggest during grand slams in 2013, Stephens failed to get past the fourth round at any major this year, putting forth especially disappointing performances in the last two.
The rest of the ladies' top seeds were able to advance, albeit with varying degrees of success.
Maria Sharapova dropped her first set against Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru but scrambled back for the win despite a staggering nine double faults and 46 unforced errors. It wasn't pretty, and it won't get it done in future rounds, but she'll take it.
Maria Sharapova wins a slog over Alexandra Dulgheru 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Not long sets on scoreboard, but it was a grueling 2h38m. #usopen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 27, 2014
Fellow top-10 seeds, on the other hand, were much more efficient. Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki advanced with straight-set wins in 56 and 81 minutes, respectively.
This is shaping up to be a thoroughly compelling section of the draw. Sharapova and Wozniacki are on a crash course for a fourth-round matchup, while the winner of that could very well face Halep in the quarters.
Over on the men's side, things went far more according to plan.
Tomas Berdych, Ernests Gulbis and Grigor Dimitrov all advanced in straight sets, with the latter taking out Ryan Harrison.
Unfortunately for the red, white and blue, that—along with Steve Johnson's retirement against Tatsuma Ito—continued the concerning trend of poor performances from the Americans at Flushing Meadows. As The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg pointed out, though, the problem is not quite universal:
Quadruple the number of American women (12) reached #USOpen second round compared to men (3). State of U.S. tennis can't be lumped together.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 27, 2014
Looking ahead to Day 4, several of those players will be on display. John Isner, the Americans' biggest hope in New York, will take on Jan-Lennard Struff, while women's favorite Serena Williams will battle countrywoman Vania King at Arthur Ashe.
With Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic also in action, though, it will be another complete day of must-watch tennis.