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Day 3 Recap: Aga falls, Maria fights on

Reigning Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova survived a formidable early test from Alexandra Dulgheru on the grand Arthur Ashe Stadium stage, rallying to win in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
By E.J. Crawford
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Another day, another shocker in the women’s draw. A day after 15-year-old American CiCi Bellis stunned No. 12 Dominika Cibulkova, Chinese veteran Peng Shuai knocked off the first Top 10 seed of this year’s event, eliminating No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska in two surprisingly routine sets on a sweltering New York afternoon.

That was followed in quick succession by No. 21 Sloane Stephens falling to Johanna Larsson and No. 31 Kurumi Nara going down to ascending teen Belinda Bencic. From there, the seeds re-established their supremacy, some with ease (Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams) and some through struggle (Maria Sharapova, Andrea Petkovic).

The men’s action was a far more tame affair, with Tomas Berdych easing past former Open champ Lleyton Hewitt, Stan Wawrinka defeating Thomaz Bellucci and Grigor Dimitrov snapping his three-match losing streak at the Open with a three-set victory over Ryan Harrison.

Here’s a recap of the day that was and a look ahead to Day 4 of the 2014 US Open:

Match of the Day: It wasn’t always pretty, and it wasn’t as dramatic as Kevin Anderson and Joao Sousa winning the first fifth-set tiebreaks of this year’s Open, or Andrea Petkovic rattling off the last four points to take a third-set breaker over Monica Puig. But on a day where three seeded women in her half of the draw fell away, 6-foot-2 Maria Sharapova stood tall, battling the wind, herself and a determined Alexandra Dulgheru to come away with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory that clocked in at a hefty 2 hours and 38 minutes. The victory improved Sharapova’s record in three-setters this year to an enviable 17-6, and it could give her the confidence she needs to make a deep run during this Flushing fortnight.

Player of the Day: It was the most anticipated men’s match of the day: No. 6 seed and 2012 semifinalist Tomas Berdych against 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt. But the Czech drained all the drama from the affair early on, putting on a dominant power display to dispatch the Aussie, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. It was a particularly promising showing for Berdych, who struggled this summer, losing in the third round at Wimbledon and going just 2-3 in Emirates Airline US Open Series events. With a favorable draw, a reinvigorated Berdych is, at the very least, a solid contender for the Open's final weekend once again this year.

Upset of the Day: Agnieszka Radwanska entered the 2014 US Open as one of the hottest women on tour, buoyed by a major title in Montreal and a third-place finish in the Emirates Airline US Open Series Bonus Challenge. But as it turns out, the No. 4 seed won’t be collecting much in the way of bonus prize money this year in Flushing Meadows. She was sent packing Wednesday in straight sets, falling to Chinese veteran Peng Shuai, whose double-handed forehand-backhand combo seemed to confound the Polish star. With the victory, Peng moves into the third round here for the third time in 10 US Open appearances, while Radwanska has yet to advance past the round of 16 in nine trips to New York.

Quote of the Day: “Actually it used to happen when I didn't braid my hair. That's why I started braiding it. Once it gets to a certain length sometimes it can get stuck in the arm or the racquet. It's a first, when it's braided that it's been stuck that good in my racquet. I still tried to hit the ball. Almost took my head off.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after her hair got caught in her racquet during her second-round victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich

Looking Ahead: It’s CiCi Bellis Day. On Tuesday, the irrepressible 15-year-old knocked off No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova to become the youngest player to win a singles match at the US Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996. On Thursday, she is back on court to take on another talented young player, 20-year-old Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, who has already reached the third round at the Australian Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2014. In fact, Bellis is one of nine American women playing on Day 4, a group that includes two-time defending champion Serena Williams, two-time NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs and rising star Madison Keys, the No. 27 seed who is looking to equal her best result at a Grand Slam event.

Also Thursday, the men’s draw kicks off its second round in earnest with former champions Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in action. Elsewhere, 2013 US Open junior champion Borna Coric of Croatia will look to build on his first-round upset of No. 29 Lukas Rosol when he takes on Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic, and Australian sensation Nick Kyrgios takes on Italian vet Andreas Seppi.