The first big name has fallen at the 2020 US Open, with Karolina Pliskova becoming the biggest casualty of the tournament so far after falling to a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Caroline Garcia on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Garcia, formerly a top ten player who has dropped to 46th in the world rankings, set up her victory by racing to a 5-0 lead in the opening set and then winning it 6-1 after striking 15 winners to only one from Pliskova.
But to her credit, Pliskova, who lost her opening match at the Western and Southern Open last week, would fight back in the second set after coughing up a break early on to fall 1-2 behind.
She then held two set points in the tenth game, but Garcia would force a tiebreak, which she dominated by winning seven points to two to seal a straight-sets victory over the top seed.
The Czech right-hander’s second-round departure marks the second first-week exit by a women’s top seed at Flushing Meadows in three years, after Simona Halep crashed out at the first hurdle in 2018.
Being the women’s top seed at the US Open has now somewhat become a poisoned chalice in recent years, with Serena Williams in 2014 the most recent top-ranked player to capture the title, let alone reach the final.
The top seed also hasn’t reached the quarter-finals since 2017 (when Pliskova lost to Coco Vandeweghe), nor the semi-finals since 2016 (when Williams lost to Pliskova in a result that saw her lose the world number one ranking).
Pliskova was one of seven seeded women to fall on the third day; others to fall included Alison Riske, former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, former semi-finalist Anastasija Sevastova and French 30th seed Kristina Mladenovic.
But there were no such problems for former champions Angelique Kerber or Naomi Osaka, who both progressed to the third round with straight-sets victories over Anna-Lena Friedsam and Camila Giorgi, respectively.
Kerber has now seen her path to the quarter-finals open up with Pliskova’s departure, the pair having been projected to meet in the fourth round in what would’ve been a rematch of the 2016 championship match.
The German will not have to face a seed until at least the final eight stage, where she remains on track to face eighth seed Petra Martic, a straight-sets winner over 2009 quarter-finalist Kateryna Bondarenko.
Osaka, meanwhile, needed just 70 minutes to see off the challenge of Giorgi on Arthur Ashe Stadium, and is now the highest seed remaining in the top half of the draw.
Sixth seed Petra Kvitova also avoided the upset bug as she defeated Kateryna Kozlova in straight sets.
Like Kerber, the 30-year-old will also not have to face a seed until the quarter-finals but must face locals in her next two matches: first, Jessica Pegula, and then either Madison Brengle or Shelby Rogers.
On the men’s side, top seed Novak Djokovic dropped the opening set in his match against Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund but fought back to win in four sets to keep his US Open campaign alive.
The Serb was joined in the third round by Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stood tall in his first ever match on Arthur Ashe Stadium with a straight-forward victory over American wildcard Maxime Cressy.
Not only was it the first time Tsitsipas, the reigning ATP Finals champion, played inside the largest tennis arena in the world (albeit in an empty stadium), it was also the first time the 22-year-old has managed to reach the last 32 at Flushing Meadows.
He next faces Croatian Borna Coric, the junior champion here in 2013, for a place in the round of sixteen.
Jordan Thompson, the only Australian in action on Day 3, passed another test when he defeated Egor Gerasimov in four sets to earn himself a shot at Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin in the third round.
The Sydneysider is also into the third round at Flushing Meadows for the first time and will fancy his chances against Kukushkin, especially with the lure of a shot at Tsitsipas in the fourth round waiting in the wings if he can get past the 32-year-old.
Fifth seed Alexander Zverev needed four sets to defeat his opponent for the second match in a row, getting the better of Brandon Nakashima, who took the second set in a tiebreak.
The second round will wrap up this morning (AEST) with a slew of Americans in action, including reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, 23-times Major champion Serena Williams, 2017 champion Sloane Stephens and her victim in that year’s final, Madison Keys.
Should Williams and Stephens win their respective second-round matches, then they will face off in the third round in a battle of former champions.
There is also the all-Belarusian showdown to look forward to between fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka and two-time US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka on Louis Armstrong Stadium, while Garbine Muguruza is up against former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova.
On the men’s side, men’s second seed Dominic Thiem and 2014 champion Marin Cilic will start favourites to set up a third-round showdown against each other when they face Sumit Nagal and Norbert Gombos in their respective matches.
2012 champion Andy Murray will also look to continue his winning ways when he faces Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, while there are three Australians in action, including Alex de Minaur, who is up against France’s Richard Gasquet, and John Millman, who faces local player Frances Tiafoe.
Matches to watch on Day 4
Arthur Ashe Stadium Day session – play starts at 12:00pm (2:00am AEST) Leylah Annie Fernandez (CAN) vs  Sofia Kenin (USA)
Sumit Nagal (IND) vs  Dominic Thiem (AUT)
Night session – play starts at 7:00pm (9:00am AEST) Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) vs  Serena Williams (USA)  Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) vs Andy Murray (GBR)
Louis Armstrong Stadium Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST) Katrina Scott (USA) vs  Amanda Anisimova (USA) Vasek Pospisil (CAN) vs  Milos Raonic (CAN)  Sloane Stephens (USA) vs Olga Govortsova (BLR) Chris O’Connell (AUS) vs  Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
Not before 7:00pm (9:00am AEST)  Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Court 17 Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST) Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) vs  Garbine Muguruza (ESP)  Madison Keys (USA) vs Aliona Bolsova (ESP)
Court 5 Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST) Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) vs  Karen Khachanov (RUS) Sorana Cirstra (ROU) vs  Johanna Konta (GBR)
Court 11 Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)  Alex de Minaur (AUS) vs Richard Gasquet (FRA) Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs John Millman (AUS)