Simona Halep believes she deserved the blunt criticism after coach Darren Cahill labelled the Wimbledon champion a "disgrace" during her WTA Finals defeat to Karolina Pliskova.

World number five Halep slipped to a 6-0 2-6 6-4 loss on Friday, as her season came to an end in disappointing fashion.

During a courtside discussion with her coach, midway through the deciding set, Cahill condemned the 28-year-old's performance by saying: "The last three games you have been an absolute disgrace on court."

Cahill's tough words did not have the desired effect, with Pliskova going on to progress to the semi-finals where world number one Ashleigh Barty awaits her.

Halep, however, has conceded her coach was right to be so harsh on her.

"I'm pretty sure that I deserved it because I was not calm," Halep said in a news conference, according to WTA Insider.

"I changed something in my attitude.

"Everyone knows that I'm working on that. I was a little bit p***** at myself that I did that. I'm sure that I made him p***** also."

Since her superb run to Wimbledon glory, former world number one Halep has failed to find her best form, only making it into the last eight in one of the five tournaments she has participated in since July.

Simona Halep was branded an "absolute disgrace" by coach Darren Cahill as Karolina Pliskova came out on top in a crucial round-robin WTA Finals clash to reach the last four.

Pliskova and Halep went into the last Purple Group contest in Shenzhen on Friday knowing the winner would face top seed Ashleigh Barty at the semi-final stage and the loser's season was over.

Halep fought back following the humiliation of a first-set bagel, but Pliskova came from a break down in the final set to win 6-0 2-6 6-4.

The Wimbledon champion rallied following some words of wisdom from Cahill at the end of the first set, but the Australian said she had been "an absolute disgrace" over a critical three-game spell during another on-court coaching session after she squandered a lead in the final set.

Second seed Pliskova blew away an out-of-sorts Halep in the first set, the Czech losing just two service points after an aggressive start.

A forehand into the net put Halep a break down and Pliskova continued to return with vigour, toying with the Romanian as she took just 21 minutes to wrap up the set.

Halep heeded Cahill's advice by using more spin and taking pace of the ball as she broke in the opening game of the second set and showed character to edge a break up at 3-2 after Pliskova got back on serve.

Pliskova was unable to halt Halep's momentum and the fifth seed levelled the match with an ace before taking a 2-0 lead in the decider.

Yet Pliskova responded by winning five games in a row, peppering Halep with searing ground strokes and coming to the net at every opportunity.

Cahill's harsh words at 3-2 failed to prompt a positive reaction from Halep, and although she was able to get back on serve at 5-4, she was broken for the third time in the final set and bowed out when Pliskova had fortune with a netcord winner.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina earlier made it three wins out of three with a 7-5 7-6 (12-10) defeat of alternate Sofia Kenin and will take on Belinda Bencic for a place in the final.

Bianca Andreescu failed to shake off a knee injury as she fell to a third straight defeat and departed the WTA Finals, where defending champion Elina Svitolina advanced from the Purple Group.

US Open champion Andreescu, still just 19, had been enjoying an incredible 17-match winning run on the WTA Tour until coming up short in a gripping encounter against Naomi Osaka at the China Open.

The Canadian did not play again until this week's year-end Finals, making a losing return in a narrow defeat to idol Simona Halep.

And any hopes of Andreescu arresting that mini-slump were ended by an issue with her left knee in Shenzhen as she bowed out to world number two Karolina Pliskova.

Andreescu, needing to win to stay in the tournament, broke in the first game of the match but was soon limping, retreating to her seat and calling a medical timeout.

Heavy strapping was applied to the teenager's knee, yet she continued to move uneasily as she sought to continue, seeing Pliskova break back immediately.

Andreescu told Sylvain Bruneau she "heard a crack" and was struggling to bend her knee but insisted she was still capable of beating Pliskova despite the advice of her coach.

"I don't want to stop," she said. "If it was against Simona, then okay. But [Pliskova] misses."

Andreescu showed grit to then hold after saving three break points, but it was only a temporary reprieve as Pliskova sent down a backhand return to seize the advantage in her opponent's next service game.

Pliskova held to take the set 6-3 and Andreescu finally gave in, retiring for a defeat that sees her out of the competition as the Czech faces Halep for a place in the last four.

Halep had wasted an opportunity to book her spot in the semi-finals early on Wednesday when she was beaten 7-5 6-3 by Svitolina.

The Wimbledon champion battled back from 3-0 down early on but then missed the chance to break in front with a poor call on a drop shot, subsequently losing the opener with an error-strewn final service game.

Having been behind throughout the first set, Halep led in the second with a break to love but was quickly pegged back, soon complaining to coach Darren Cahill that she felt unable to disrupt Svitolina's game.

Svitolina, who defeated Sloane Stephens in the 2018 final, preyed on more Halep mistakes to break in front and wrapped up a relatively comfortable triumph in straight sets.

Simona Halep came from a set down to claim a gripping 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 victory over Bianca Andreescu at the WTA Finals.

Halep was forced to hang in the contest as Andreescu breezed her way to the opener and was afforded match point before the second set went to a tiebreak.

But 28-year-old's trademark tenacity gradually pulled the argument in her favour as her ebullient foe was compromised by back problems down the stretch.

Andreescu had spoken of her excitement at facing Halep for the first time in her career but this did not extend to reverence of any sort during the contest.

The 19-year-old's blistering ground strokes were to the fore, but she also played with a variety that never allowed Halep to settle during an opening set she won in 39 minutes.

Halep secured an early break in the second but ceded it when Andreescu pulled level at 4-4 – the game after the Wimbledon champion was seemingly irritated by her opponent pulling off a through-the-legs tweener shot.

Andreescu was unable to take a match point at advantage on the Halep serve and the Romanian raced into a 3-0 lead in the tie-break.

Halep then converted her third set point, after which Andreescu received treatment for the first time.

When the trainer came on again immediately before a break for Halep, Andreescu's race appeared to be run – only for her to stunningly get back on terms to 15.

A third straight break followed, however, and Halep would not be denied, clattering home the first of three match points to conclude a captivating two-and-a-half hours.

Up next for Halep in the Purple Group is Elina Svitolina, who began the defence of her title with a straight-sets win over Karolina Pliskova, a titanic first-set tie-break proving pivotal to a 7-6 (14-12) 6-4 win.

Pliskova broke in the opening game but too often produced lackadaisical tennis as she failed to build upon the advantage, not least when Svitolina took the second of two break points for 2-2.

A breaker of epic proportions was eventually taken by Svitolina, the frontrunner throughout converting a seventh set point having only had to save one conceded to Pliskova.

The Czech won three straight games from 2-0 down in the second but Svitolina broke back for 3-3 and came through some stern examinations of her serve before sealing victory when Pliskova sent a return into the net.

Simona Halep is looking forward to testing herself against rising star and US Open champion Bianca Andreescu at the WTA Finals.

At the 2016 Rogers Cup, when Andreescu was still a junior, the Canadian of Romanian descent met Halep, already an established name, and asked her for advice.

Andreescu subsequently turned professional but has not had the opportunity to take on her idol on the WTA Tour ahead of the Finals in Shenzhen, where they have been drawn together and will face off on Monday.

Romanian Halep has been impressed by Andreescu's progression and now, tasked with playing one of the tour's outstanding performers of 2019, she hopes to measure up.

"It's amazing what [Andreescu] has done," Halep told reporters. "To win a grand slam at 19, play few tournaments and win them, it's a great, great job.

"I just want to tell her that she deserved it because she played really well these tournaments.

"I'm excited also to face her. It's going to be a big challenge for me because this year was up and down a lot. I just have a very big up during the Wimbledon [winning her second major], and the rest was not that great.

"I'm not thinking about winning or losing here. I just want to be able to play the matches."

Andreescu, the youngest player at the Finals, is one of three debutants - alongside Ashleigh Barty and Belinda Bencic.

Petra Kvitova, the oldest player in the draw, sees this as part of the changing face of women's tennis, and she expects each of the three women new to the event to regularly visit the end-of-year showpiece.

"I just realised that I'm the oldest one of them, which feels pretty weird," said 29-year-old Kvitova. "But I'm going to take it.

"I spoke with Simona, she's just one year younger, and we made some fun of it. There are people here for the first time, but not the last time probably.

"We are going to see them often, I think. Yeah, I mean the new faces are coming. It's normal that the generation is just changing."

World number one Ashleigh Barty has been drawn to face Naomi Osaka in the round-robin stage of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

French Open champion and top seed Barty will come up against two-time grand slam winners Osaka and Petra Kvitova, along with seventh seed Belinda Bencic in the Red Group.

Barty was on Friday announced as the winner of the Race to Shenzhen ahead of Karolina Pliskova and hopes to celebrate by being crowned champion in her singles debut at the season-ending tournament in China.

"It was already an honour to qualify for the WTA Finals, but to also finish the Race to Shenzhen on top is an achievement I'm incredibly proud of," the Australian said. 

"This is a special tournament for myself and my team and I’ll be fighting hard to finish the WTA season with the Shenzhen title."

Pliskova will take on defending champion Elina Svitolina, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu in the Purple Group.

US Open champion Andreescu and 22-year-old Swiss Bencic will be making their debuts in the tournament.

Osaka and Kvitova meet in the first match of the event on Sunday.

Bianca Andreescu's first match since her US Open triumph went to plan despite a brief wobble against Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Monday.

The Canadian secured a 14th straight win on the WTA Tour as she defeated Sasnovich 6-2 2-6 6-1 at the China Open.

Andreescu proved her mental strength time and again en route to her maiden grand slam success and was required to do more of the same in Beijing, seeing a straightforward opener give way to a gruelling second set.

The fifth seed recovered her composure and raced to victory in the third, setting up a clash with Elise Mertens, who gave her a real test in the Flushing Meadows quarter-finals.

"I felt like in the second set I was too tense. But she was playing really well," Andreescu said. "I think I was just getting down on myself too much.

"I think I play my best tennis when I'm a little bit more relaxed. In the third set I just wanted to stay as positive as I could and just stay relaxed, to continue going for my shots."

Mertens eased past Petra Martic 6-3 6-3 to book that match-up, but there were surprises elsewhere.


HALEP HOPES ENDED

It was announced on Monday that Andreescu and Simona Halep had secured their places in the WTA Finals.

But where Andreescu celebrated with a win to start the final Premier Mandatory tournament of the year, Halep – still troubled by a back issue – came unstuck, the sixth seed beaten 6-2 6-3 by Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Alexandrova reflected: "It was a pretty tough match, but I think she didn't play that well.

"I remember when we played last time in Cincinnati, it was tougher. But I tried to stay focused for the whole match because I knew she could play just amazing."

Jelena Ostapenko upset Karolina Pliskova on Saturday, but her run was also ended as she fell 6-2 6-1 to Katerina Siniakova.


WOZNIACKI WINS OPENER

Caroline Wozniacki has endured a tough 2019, but she marked her return to Beijing with a dominant defeat of Lauren Davis.

The Dane has won the China Open twice - including 12 months ago at the end of an outstanding season - and began her latest bid by beating Davis 6-1 6-3.

Kiki Bertens was another seed to avoid an upset, overcoming teenager Dayana Yastremska 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.

"It was tough," Bertens said. "I hadn't played her before but, of course, she hits the ball so hard, so you never really know what you're going to get."

Elina Svitolina battled back impressively in both sets against Wang Yafan to progress courtesy of a pair of tie-breaks.


BENCIC BATTLES BACK

Venus Williams saw her campaign ended by US Open semi-finalist Belinda Bencic.

The 39-year-old took the opener but went down 3-6 6-3 7-5 in the final match of the day.

Madison Keys defeated Karolina Muchova to set up an all-American meeting with Jennifer Brady, who beat 18-year-old compatriot and French Open semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova

Sofia Kenin is set to face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who sunk fellow Russian Veronika Kudermetova 6-0 3-6 7-6 (7-4).

Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina eased their way into the second round of the China Open, though Venus Williams had to battle to secure her place.

Fresh from her victory in the Pan Pacific Open, Osaka overcame Jessica Pegula 6-3 7-6 (7-5), while Wimbledon champion Halep made light work of Rebecca Peterson.

Third seed Svitolina found matters slightly more taxing against Anastasija Sevastova, coming from a set down to win 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-2.

Angelique Kerber, too, needed three sets to get the better of Chinese number two Zheng Shuai, though it was former world number one Williams who had the toughest test.

The 39-year-old was 5-3 down to Barbora Strycova in the final set, but clawed her way back to triumph 6-3 4-6 7-5.

Williams' compatriot Sloane Stephens also made it through, while one of China's main hopes - world number 16 Wang Qiang - retired hurt against Ajla Tomljanovic.

FAVOURITES PILE THROUGH

Having seen second seed Karolina Pliskova dumped out by wildcard Jelana Ostapenko on Saturday, Osaka, Halep and Svitolina took no chances in their respective matches.

Two-time grand slam winner Osaka failed to really press home her advantage in the second set against Pegula, though two errors on the bounce from the American handed the former world number one the win.

"I just felt like this match, I was kind of living in the moment every point. I wasn't really thinking too much in the future, too much in the past," said Osaka.

Halep - who had to withdraw from the Wuhan Open with a back injury - found life much easier against Peterson, though Svitolina did have to come from behind to get past Sevastova and set up a round-two tie with Wang Yafan.

WILLIAMS BATTLES BACK FROM THE BRINK

It looked as though Venus Williams would be heading home early when Wimbledon semi-finalist Strycova took a 5-3 lead in the third set, after the Czech had come from behind in their encounter.

Williams had started strongly but faded in the second set, with Strycova winning five straight games to claim it 6-4.

A Williams break looked set to have handed the veteran the edge, but Strycova fought back with a three-game winning streak.

However, despite twice going within two points of victory, Strycova failed to capitalise, Williams clinching a hard-fought win with her second match point. Belinda Bencic awaits in round two.


FORMER CHAMPIONS FALL

Dayana Yastremska stormed into the second round, taking just 55 minutes to beat 2017 Beijing champion Caroline Garcia 6-1 6-1.

Another former winner - Svetlana Kuznetsova - also fell at the first hurdle, with Christina McHale triumphing 6-0 1-6 6-3.

With Garcia and Kuznetsova out and Garbine Muguruza having been defeated by Sofia Kenin on Saturday, only defending champion Caroline Wozniacki - who faces Lauren Davis on Monday - remains of the four previous winners to have featured in the main draw this time around.

There will be no blockbuster semi-final between world number one Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep at the Wuhan Open after the Wimbledon champion retired from her third-round match with Elena Rybakina.

Halep had been on a collision course with French Open champion Barty in the last four having been placed in the same half of the draw.

However, Halep's tournament came to an end on Wednesday as a back injury forced her retirement when trailing 5-4 in the first set to Rybakina, who will next face defending champion Aryna Sabalenka.

Barty came through in relatively comfortable fashion against Sofia Kenin, but there was a shock in the other half of the draw as Dayana Yastremska knocked out Karolina Pliskova, who can now not claim top spot in the rankings at the end of the week.

BARTY BREEZES THROUGH

A tougher test may have been expected against one of the rising stars of the WTA Tour in Kenin, but Barty needed only an hour and 26 minutes to dispatch the 15th seed 6-3 7-5.

The Australian had been a break down in the second set and saved a pair of set points, avoiding a decider to complete a third win in four meetings with Kenin this season.

Assessing her performance, Barty said: "I can sit here and pick my game apart and be super critical, but I also have to be able to take away the really good stuff, the good times that we've been able to get out of these matches - particularly the last 20-odd points today. I felt like I got on a real run there."

Petra Martic awaits Barty in the quarter-finals after seeing off Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets.


SABALENKA ROARS TO FIRST WIN OVER BERTENS

Sabalenka had never previously beaten Kiki Bertens in four attempts before their meeting in Wuhan, and she appeared in danger of throwing away a commanding position as she let slip a 5-1 second-set lead.

The Belarusian spurned four match points but recovered her composure to save a Bertens set point and win the decisive tie-break. 

Her 6-1 7-6 (11-9) success means Sabalenka has won 15 straight sets in Wuhan, rediscovering her enjoyment of competition after travelling to the recent Zhengzhou Open without coach Dmitry Tursunov.

"The tiger is back," she said. "I'm just playing freely, not afraid of anything and just going for shots. Every time before the match I can't wait to go out and to play, and I'm so happy to feel this again."


YASTREMSKA CLAIMS FIRST TOP 10 SCALP

Teenager Yastremska has enjoyed an excellent 2019, winning titles in Hua Hin and Strasbourg while reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon and the third round at the Australian Open and US Open.

She added to an increasingly impressive resume by stunning second seed Pliskova to claim the first top-10 win of her fledgling career.

The 19-year-old needed only 64 minutes to surge to a 6-1 6-4 win. Yastremska did not drop serve and hit 26 winners to just 15 unforced errors to put Pliskova's hopes of displacing Barty on hold.

Yastremska will face Petra Kvitova for a place in the semi-finals after the two-time champion overcame Sloane Stephens 6-3 6-3. The other quarter-final will see Elina Svitolina take on Alison Riske after their wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Wang Qiang respectively.

Simona Halep revealed a back injury led to her retirement against Elena Rybakina in the Wuhan Open third round on Wednesday.

The Romanian world number six was trailing the wildcard 5-4 when she retired at the WTA Premier event.

Halep, who suffered a back injury late last year, said she felt pain during the ninth game of the match.

"It's a lower back [injury]. I think it's more muscle, but I don't know yet because I didn't check it properly," she told reporters, via the WTA.

"[At] 4-4, 0-30, with the backhand. I had a sharp pain.

"I don't know yet [if it's the same as the previous injury]. It looks a little bit different but it's still the same zone."

Halep has enjoyed a fine 2019 season, including winning the Wimbledon title in July.

Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep all progressed on a day of few shocks at the Wuhan Open.

There were occasional scares for the big names, with world number one Barty worked hard by Caroline Garcia, but only Belinda Bencic came up short out of the seeded players.

Elina Svitolina was also triumphant, beating 2015 finalist Garbine Muguruza in straight sets.

 

BARTY GETS REVENGE

​Barty – then playing just her third WTA Tour final, was beaten by Garcia in the 2017 Wuhan championship match – belatedly got her revenge, as top seed, on Tuesday.

It looked for a time as though the Australian might be in trouble again, as she dropped the first set and faced a break point in the first game of the second.

But Barty showed grit to come through that lengthy game, pinching the set at the last and then easing to a 4-6 6-4 6-1 win.

"I had to make some small adjustments in the second set," she said. "[The first set] was just kind of ebbing and flowing a little bit. Caro played the bigger points better.

"It was just about me being a little bit smarter with my serving and trying to be in control in those first couple of points."

 

HALEP LOOKING FORWARD

Halep improved to a 6-0 head-to-head record against Barbora Strycova in a comfortable triumph, 6-3 6-2.

The Romanian said: "It's never easy to play against her, but I'm confident every time because I have a few matches won against her, so it's a good thing for me.

"It's a good start," Halep added. "I'm looking forward to the next one."

Pliskova was also ultimately comfortable against Amanda Anisimova, recovering from being broken in her first service games of either set to beat the dangerous teenager 6-3 6-3.

 

BERTENS, KENIN ALSO RALLY

​​Barty was not the only star required to dig deep on Tuesday, as Kiki Bertens and Sofia Kenin each also came from a set down to progress.

Bertens avoided a shock against Bernarda Pera, winning 3-6 6-4 6-2 to set up a meeting with defending champion Aryna Sabalenka, while Kenin saw off Elise Mertens in three.

Sloane Stephens needed three sets to get through, as did Alison Riske, Petra Martic, Elena Rybakina and Veronika Kudermetova, who upset Bencic 2-6 6-3 6-4 in the final match of the day.

There were wins elsewhere for Wang Qiang, Dayana Yastremska and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Simona Halep has announced Darren Cahill will return to coach the Wimbledon champion for the 2020 season.

Cahill split with Halep last November to take a one-year coaching hiatus, enabling him to spend more time with his family in Australia.

Two-time major winner Halep on Thursday revealed that long-time coach Cahill will be back in her corner next year.

The Romanian posted on social media: "I have some exciting news to share with you. After a year without him on my team, I'm happy to announce that Darren will be back by my side next season."

Halep added: "So, D, last time I killed you, and I'm playing to kill you again. I can't wait to finish what we started. See you soon!"

Former world number one Halep had a short spell working with Thierry van Cleemput after Cahill opted to take a break.

Halep won her first major title at the French Open last year and doubled her tally at the All England Club in July.

 

 

Serena Williams' quest for a 24th grand slam title continues after she succumbed to an inspired performance by teenage sensation Bianca Andreescu in the US Open final.

The 19-year-old Canadian capped an extraordinary rise in 2019 by clinching the final slam of the season at Flushing Meadows with a 6-3 7-5 victory, maintaining her incredible run of having never lost to a top-10 player.

While it was Andreescu this time around, it was Naomi Osaka who beat Williams at Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2018, with the 37-year-old having been stuck on 23 victories – one shy of Margaret Court's record – since January 2017.

For a spell in a dramatic second set, it looked as though Williams had the upper hand, but Andreescu held firm to condemn her opponent to a fourth successive grand slam final defeat.

KERBER PROVES TOO MUCH AT WIMBLEDON

Williams was around eight weeks pregnant when she won the Australian Open against her sister Venus in January 2017 and, after pulling out of the Indian Wells and Miami Opens, the then world number one confirmed she was expecting her first child.

She returned to tennis in 2018, making her grand slam comeback at Roland Garros. However, it was at Wimbledon that Williams got back into her grand slam stride, until she met Angelique Kerber, who was in no mood to give up on a chance to clinch a maiden Wimbledon crown and won 6-3 6-3. 

"To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried," said an emotional Williams, just 10 months after giving birth.  

CONTROVERSY OVERSHADOWS OSAKA'S TRIUMPH

Osaka's sensational triumph should have been the main story from the 2018 US Open final, but unfortunately Williams stole the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Williams' tournament ended in controversy, as she received a game penalty in the second set after she had reacted badly to a code violation issued by the chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

She demanded an apology from Ramos, who Williams accused of being a "liar" and a "thief" after she received a further two violations for smashing her racket and abusing the umpire.

HALEP SHOWS NO MERCY

After a quarter-final defeat in Melbourne and a round-of-32 exit in Paris, Williams returned to grand slam contention as she charged to the final at Wimbledon earlier this year.   But former world number one Simona Halep put in one of the best – if not the best – performances of her career to brush her opponent aside 6-2 6-2, taking just 56 minutes to do so.   "I don't think it's a surprise for anyone to play great against me," Williams said. "When someone plays lights out, there's really not much you can do. You just have to understand that that was their day today."

NO FAIRYTALE IN NEW YORK

A chance at Flushing Meadows redemption came in Saturday's final. Osaka had been reduced to tears at the end of the 2018 final, in part it seemed due to the partisan crowd in Williams' favour that day, with the youngster apologising for beating the fan favourite.

However, despite equally vociferous support at Arthur Ashe, Williams could not muster enough to beat the exceptional Andreescu.

A stunning recovery seemed on when Williams fought back from 5-1 down to draw level in the second set, but Andreescu – who was not born when Williams won the 1999 title – regained her composure to seal a memorable victory on her major final debut.

Simona Halep suffered a huge shock at the US Open at the hands of Taylor Townsend as Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka booked a mouth-watering third-round clash in New York.

Halep had been considered one of the favourites for the women's singles title but saw a one-set lead snatched away by Townsend, who produced a thrilling comeback to claim the biggest win of her career on Thursday.

Townsend will face another Romanian, Sorana Cirstea, next but the match of the third round pits defending champion and world number one Osaka against 15-year-old Gauff, who once again delighted the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd by winning a brutal battle with Timea Babos in two hours, 23 minutes.

She becomes the youngest woman to reach round three since 1996 will face a champion in fine form after Osaka made short work of Magda Linette as her defence continued at pace.

Osaka's hopes of retaining the crown have been boosted by Halep's exit, and sixth seed Petra Kvitova has also been removed as a potential obstacle after her loss to Andrea Petkovic.

 

HALEP SHORT ON INSPIRATION

Townsend came to the net over 100 times against Halep, an aggressive tactic that worked superbly in her stunning 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) comeback.

Halep, though, felt a difference in inspiration levels was key. She told a media conference: "She was very inspired of every ball. She came a lot to the net and didn't miss much. It's unbelievable.

"I was not inspired at all today, but I fought. I thought when I came back that I will take it and I will win it. But sometimes it goes the other way."

Kvitova was also left to reflect on what might have been after her 6-4 6-4 defeat to Petkovic, while ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka was knocked out 6-3 7-6 (7-3) by Yulia Putintseva, who followed up her Wimbledon win over Osaka to knock out a top-10 seed for the second straight slam.

Seventh seed Kiki Bertens, however, is through after a 7-5 6-4 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Belinda Bencic and Anastasija Sevastova were three-set winners over Alize Cornet and Iga Swiatek respectively and Johanna Konta thrashed Margarita Gasparyan 6-1 6-0.


HOME HOPES SPRING ETERNAL

Townsend's success was the headline act of a day defined by victories for young Americans on the women's side.

It was Gauff, though, who closed out the day's action and did so in typically engrossing fashion. The teenager again went the distance and willed her way to a 6-2 4-6 6-4 triumph, showcasing her incredible movement, repertoire of shots and composure to a raucous home crowd.

Sofia Kenin dished out a bagel in her 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 win over Laura Siegemund, while Kristie Ahn needed eight match points to complete her 6-2 6-3 defeat of Anna Kalinskaya.

Danielle Collins threatened an upset against two-time Flushing Meadows finalist Caroline Wozniacki, but eventually went down 4-6 6-3 6-4 as the 2018 Australian Open champion set up a match with another of the game's brightest talents, Bianca Andreescu, who beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-3 7-5.

"I kind of know what to expect if I play her. I know that she's an incredible fighter," Andreescu said of Wozniacki. "She runs every ball down, and I know that it's not going to be easy. I'm just going to go out there and play my game."

 

BENCIC ASKS QUESTIONS OF VEKIC

Donna Vekic had to wait for the reporters to be ready for her in the media room after her 7-5 6-3 victory over Kaia Kanepi, giving Bencic the chance to put her through her paces in an impromptu interview.

The Croatian has plenty of reasons to be cheerful after reaching the third round in New York for only the second time.

Joining her in round three is Karolina Muchova, who eliminated 29th seed Hsieh Su-Wei 6-1 4-6 7-6 (7-2) but will now have to recover quickly as she faces 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams on Friday.

Maria Sakkari will have a similarly quick turnaround in facing second seed Ashleigh Barty after overcoming Peng Shuai 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-2.

Elsewhere in the draw, Wang Qiang overcame Alison van Uytvanck, Anett Kontaveit fought back against Ajla Tomljanovic and Elise Mertens, Petra Martic and Julia Goerges were also victorious. 

Taylor Townsend believes her stunning second-round US Open victory over Simona Halep was a "monumental moment" in proving to herself that she belongs on the biggest stage.

Townsend came from a set down to produce a thrilling comeback and eliminate the Wimbledon champion 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The 23-year-old qualifier, once a world number one in the junior ranks, has faced criticism over her inability to progress from that point.

Townsend suffered a heart-breaking defeat to Kiki Bertens at Wimbledon, spurning match point with a poor drop shot, and was visibly emotional after claiming her third match point against fourth seed Halep to earn the biggest win of her career.

"Just to be able to get over the hump, it's such an amazing feeling because, like, I mean, after Wimbledon, I was devastated after I lost to Bertens after having a match point," Townsend told a media conference. "That, like, woke me up out of my sleep. Oh, drop shot.

"I put my head down and just worked really hard and just tried to take the positives away from it, just continue to press forward. I think for so long that's been kind of my whole thing, is just continue to press forward and just realise that I belong on this level. I've had a lot of people doubting me being able to break through, quote unquote.

"It's just confirmation more for myself that I'm on the right path, doing the right things. You keep your head down and keep working and you see what happens.

"I just feel like this was a huge, monumental moment. It was a very defining moment for me to realise that I belong here."

Afterwards Halep revealed Townsend had asked her for advice after the Romanian emphatically beat her in Miami.

"My heart was beating through my chest when I talked to her because I'm not that kind of person at all. That's just not anything that I would do," Townsend said of their conversation.

"She gave me some good advice. Honestly, she didn't really tell me anything I didn't know, but it was good to hear it from another player, someone I just played, played a couple of times. Especially someone who is at such a high level, has accomplished so much.

"I don't know why I did it, but I did it. It kind of stuck with me. I'm not saying that everything she said I implemented into my training, but it was definitely in the back of my head to remember what she said and also remember why I asked, what drove me to ask that question, kind of that hunger and desire to get better."

"I think I kind of turned that into more of a positive to say, Hey, you can continue to learn and grow."

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