Stan Overcomes #NextGenATP Test; Isner Survives In Five
One month ago, Stan Wawrinka was continuing to plot his comeback from a knee injury, struggling to find his elite form and rhythm on the court.
It looks like Stan is the man once again. The 2016 champion extended his win streak to nine straight at the US Open, overcoming a stern test from 20-year-old Frenchman Ugo Humbert. He outlasted the surging #NextGenATP star 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday.
Oppressive heat and humidity set the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center ablaze on Day 3 and Wawrinka's superior fitness proved critical over the three-hour and 20-minute affair. Despite surrendering a break lead in the second set, the Swiss would have too much firepower for the dogged Humbert, who acquitted himself well in defeat.
"It was a battle to play a player that I never played before," said Wawrinka. "He's a young player. He's been playing really well this summer, recently: qualifier, won a match. He's a lefty, doesn't give you a lot of rhythm and plays a great game.
"I think I went down a bit after being a set and a break up. Lost a little bit my focus on the right things. I wasn't feeling great all the match. I wasn't feeling the ball the best. I would have loved to. But I think it was important to stay mentally there, to stay trying to play a lot of balls, trying to play aggressive. As I say it was tough conditions for both players, so I just wanted to stay there."
Two days after upsetting eighth seed Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets, former World No. 3 Wawrinka continues to make significant progress in his return to the tour. Also a quarter-finalist at the Western & Southern Open, he is projected to return to the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings a week from Monday.
Meanwhile, Humbert will hold his head high after reaching the second round in not only his Grand Slam debut, but his first tour-level main draw, as a qualifier. The Frenchman has catapulted up the ATP Rankings behind three consecutive final appearances on the ATP Challenger Tour in July, lifting his maiden trophy in Segovia, Spain. Having won 17 of his last 20 matches, he is projected to rise to a career-high inside the Top 120 and will be up to 11th in the ATP Race To Milan.
Wawrinka awaits Milos Raonic next in a blockbuster third-round clash. Also coming off a quarter-final run in Cincinnati, the Canadian defeated Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday afternoon. Wawrinka leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 4-1, but Raonic has taken the most recent encounter, prevailing in five sets at the 2016 Australian Open.
"It's going to be good," Raonic said of facing Wawrinka. "I watched him play two matches in Cincinnati. I watched him play a little bit of his match against Grigor on Monday. He's playing well again. He's moving well. He's doing his things. He's stepping up. He's playing well in those big points. He's hitting the ball hard, as he knows. He's effective with his backhand. It's going to be tough. I'm going to have to play well."
Seeded 25th, Raonic's best result in New York was a Round of 16 appearance on three occasions: 2012, 2013 and 2014. He withdrew from last year's edition with a wrist injury, but is peaking at the right time this year, firing 39 winners, including 17 aces, to dismiss Simon in efficient fashion.
John Isner claimed a thriller under the lights on the Grandstand, needing five sets to dispatch big-hitting Chilean Nicolas Jarry. Into the third round for a 10th straight year, he needed three hours and 42 minutes to prevail 6-7(7), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.
Up to a career-high No. 42 in the ATP Rankings, Jarry diffused Isner's power with world-class shotmaking of his own, launching 61 winners. A semi-finalist in Hamburg and Kitzbuhel last month, he staved off five break points at 3-all in the fifth set, but Isner's experience proved critical in moving the American across the finish line.
The North Carolina native will next face Dusan Lajovic, after the Serbian triumphed 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 over Cameron Norrie. Lajovic, who never previously won a match at the US Open, is into a Grand Slam third round for just the second time (2014 Roland Garros). Isner leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1, including a fifth-set tie-break win in Davis Cup earlier this year.