World number one Carlos Alcaraz surged into the last 16 of the US Open on Saturday as second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka advanced safely in the women’s draw.
Alcaraz, looking to become the first man to successfully defend the title since Roger Federer in 2008, polished off British 26th seed Dan Evans 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in 3hr 11min.
It was another stylish victory for the 20-year-old Spaniard, who will face Italy’s Matteo Arnaldi in the fourth round on Monday.
The Spaniard kept Evans on the back foot with his booming forehand while delighting the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd with several of his signature forehand drop shots.
Alcaraz also produced one of the shots of the tournament to clinch a decisive break in the fourth set, curling a logic-defying forehand up the line past Evans for a 4-2 lead.
“He’s a tricky opponent,” Alcaraz said. “I think when we play each other it’s a show on the court. We made great points, great shots, a lot of different kinds of situations.”
Alcaraz, who will surrender his world number one ranking to Novak Djokovic at the end of this tournament, admitted he was motivated by matching Federer in defending his crown.
“Obviously defending the title is a goal for me,” he said. “I’m looking for that. Nobody’s done it here since Roger so I’d love to be part of tournament history with him.”
Alcaraz’s win keeps him on track for a repeat quarter-final against Italy’s Jannik Sinner, a year after the two men dueled in an epic five-hour five-setter that finished at 2.50am, the latest finish in US Open history.
Sixth seed Sinner did his part to keep the rematch on course Saturday with a stylish 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Swiss veteran Stan Wawrinka.
Alcaraz’s last-16 opponent Arnaldi, meanwhile, advanced after upsetting 16th-seeded Briton Cameron Norrie, winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in just under two hours.
Arnaldi, 22, had never played in the main draw of a Grand Slam before this season, with a brief run to the second round at Roland Garros his best performance in a major championship.
“It was a bit crazy,” Arnaldi said. “I’m a bit speechless. But I think I played really, really well. I mean, we planned to do what I did and it worked for all the match.”
There was better luck for another member of Britain’s US Open contingent elsewhere though, with Jack Draper reaching the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time with a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over American world No.89 Michael Mmoh.
The win was especially sweet for the 21-year-old Briton, who was forced to withdraw with an injury at the same stage of the tournament last year.
“It was a tough match,” Draper said of Saturday’s victory. “I knew it would be a real challenge and I was proud of the way I came through.”
Draper will face eighth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Rublev, a quarter-finalist at last year’s tournament, defeated France’s Arthur Rinderknech 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 to advance.
– Sabalenka speeds through –
In the women’s draw, Australian Open champion Sabalenka maintained her dominant start to the tournament with a 60-minute demolition of France’s Clara Burel, winning 6-1, 6-1.
“I’m super happy with the performance today,” Sabalenka said afterwards. “I think I played great tennis today.”
The Belarusian right-hander will play Russia’s 13th seed Daria Kasatkina on Monday in the last 16. Kasatkina booked her place in the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Belgium’s Greet Minnen.
“Always tricky matches against her,” Sabalenka said. “I have to be focused and I don’t have to overrush things against her.
“I just have to stay calm and just wait for the opportunity and take it.”
Meanwhile 17th seed Madison Keys became the second American woman into the last 16 after Coco Gauff with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over Russian 14th seed Liudmila Samsonova.
Keys will play compatriot and third seed Jessica Pegula in the last 16.
Pegula outfought Ukraine’s 26th-ranked Elina Svitolina 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the fourth round.
“I knew no matter what she wasn’t going to go away,” said Pegula, a quarter-finalist at five of the past seven Grand Slams.
China’s Zheng Qinwen meanwhile matched her best result at a Grand Slam — a fourth round appearance at last year’s French Open — by rallying to beat Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
Zheng will face either Tunisia’s fifth seed Ons Jabeur or Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in Monday’s fourth round.