Just days after women’s top seed Karolina Pliskova bid adios to Flushing Meadows, Stefanos Tsitsipas has become the biggest casualty in the men’s draw so far, wasting six match points as he crashed out of the US Open in spectacular fashion.
Tsitsipas, who is the reigning ATP Finals champion, took the first set in a tiebreak, took a two-sets-to-one lead and was seemingly on his way to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the first time when he led 5-1 in the fourth set.
But this is where it started to fall apart.
He held six match points at separate stages in that set, but Borna Coric would win the final six games of the fourth set to win it 7-5 and force a one-set shootout.
Tsitsipas managed to break early in the final set, but Coric would break back not long after, and then had to fight off several breakpoints in the ninth game before a tiebreak was ultimately used to ultimately settle the outcome.
Coric would claim the tiebreak 7-4 to seal the biggest upset in the men’s field thus far and progress to a fourth-round clash with Australia’s Jordan Thompson, who claimed a straight-sets victory over Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin.
After the match, Tsitsipas could not front the media to explain his capitulation, but instead posted this on Twitter:
This is probably the saddest and funniest at the same time thing that has ever happened in my career!
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) September 5, 2020
His third-round exit now means he has not reached a Grand Slam quarter-final in his past five appearances.
In other men’s matches, Novak Djokovic continued to plough through the draw, thumping German Jan-Lennard Struff for the loss of just seven games to advance to a last-16 showdown with 2017 semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.
12th seed Denis Shapovalov also had to come back from the brink to defeat 19th seed Taylor Fritz, having trailed by two sets to one and looking in trouble as Fritz served for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set.
However, the Canadian managed to break back in the ninth game and then clinch the fourth set in a breaker before running away with it 6-2 in the last, winning the final five games without reply.
Shapovalov’s next assignment for a berth in his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final is Belgian sixth seed David Goffin, who was barely made to sweat having defeated Serb Filip Krajinovic in straight sets.
Fifth seed Alexander Zverev dropped the first set in his match against Adrian Mannarino, but still won in four sets to advance to the last 16 for the second consecutive year.
In the women’s draw, fourth seed Naomi Osaka remains on track to reach the quarter-finals in New York for the second time in three years after she outlasted young Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in a three-set marathon, winning in just over two-and-a-half hours.
The Japanese star won the first set easily and was on track for a straight-sets victory, but then endured a mini-meltdown after dropping the second set in a tiebreak and seemingly losing her composure.
Kostyuk then had the chance to break for 3-1 in the final set, but Osaka won the final five games unabated to advance to the last 16 and a clash with 14th seed Anett Kontaveit.
Osaka’s potential quarter-final opponent, Petra Kvitova, had it much easier in her third-round match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, dismissing Jessica Pegula from the tournament with a straight-sets victory.
Standing in the way of the 30-year-old and a last-eight berth is a clash with another American, Shelby Rogers, who defeated countrywoman Madison Brengle by a scoreline of 6-2, 6-4.
Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia couldn’t back up her momentous victory over top seed Karolina Pliskova, crashing to a straight-sets defeat at the hands of 28th seed Jennifer Brady, who advanced to a fourth-round engagement with 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.
Kerber, for her part, defeated another American, Ann Li, and is now the favourite to reach the semi-final from the quarter of the draw that was decimated by Pliskova’s second-round exit.
The highest seed remaining in that quarter, eighth seed Petra Martic, defeated Varvara Gracheva in straight sets to reach the last 16 for the second straight year. Next for the Croat is Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.
The third round wraps up this morning (AEST) with the headline match being that between former champions Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens in what will be their second engagement at Flushing Meadows after the former won in straight sets in 2013.
Three of the four matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium will feature an American, with a match between third seed Daniil Medvedev and local wildcard Jeffrey John Wolf to precede the highly-anticipated Williams-Stephens showdown.
The other features seventh seed Madison Keys up against Alize Cornet, while another heavyweight clash between 2014 champion Marin Cilic and second seed Dominic Thiem rounds out the evening session.
An intriguing clash between rising stars Maria Sakkari and Amanda Anisimova will be the headline act on Louis Armstrong Stadium, with the winner of that match to face either Serena Williams or Sloane Stephens in the last 16.
A day after being knocked out in the doubles, Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin will return their focus to the singles component when they face Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur in their respective third-round matches.
The match between Jabeur and Kenin will be the pair’s second meeting at a Major this year, after the American registered a straight-sets victory in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open back in January.
Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova will also look to back up her upset victory over tenth seed Garbine Muguruza when she comes up against last year’s quarter-finalist, Donna Vekic, on Court 5.
One of only two Australian men remaining in the draw, Alex de Minaur will face Russian 11th seed Karen Khachanov, while eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut is up against Milos Raonic’s second-round conqueror, Vasek Pospisil.
The winners of those two matches will then face off in the round of 16.
Matches to watch on Day 6
Arthur Ashe Stadium Day session – Play starts at 12:00pm (2:00am AEST) Jeffrey John Wolf (USA) vs  Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
Not before 2:00pm (4:00am AEST)  Sloane Stephens (USA) vs  Serena Williams (USA)
Night session – play starts at 7:00pm (9:00am AEST)  Madison Keys (USA) vs Alize Cornet (FRA)  Marin Cilic (CRO) vs  Dominic Thiem (AUT)
Louis Armstrong Stadium Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)  Maria Sakkari (GRE) vs  Amanda Anisimova (USA)  Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs Vasek Pospisil (CAN) Marton Fucsovics (HUN) vs Frances Tiafoe (USA) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs Iga Swiatek (POL)  Ons Jabeur (TUN) vs  Sofia Kenin (USA)
Court 5 Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST) Salvatore Caruso (ITA) vs  Andrey Rublev (RUS)  Alex de Minaur (AUS) vs  Karen Khachanov (RUS)
Not before 3:00pm (5:00am AEST)  Donna Vekic (CRO) vs Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL)