Osaka takes a drink and looks at a sheet of notes. “Break back, pronto,” it probably doesn’t read.
A slightly wobbly hold to 30 from Osaka, and now we reach the crux: can Bencic hold her nerve for a stunning victory? She leads 5-4 and is a set up.
Vekic and Goerges are inseparable at 3-3 in the third, incidentally.
It may well be Osaka’s knee injury – her left one, which is strapped – that forced her to miss Cincinatti, that’s troubling her. At 30-0 to Bencic she defies any pain to slam down a winner but Bencic comes out on top and needs to win just one game now.
Osaka is taken from 40-0 back to 40-30, via a lovely feathered touch at the net by Bencic and an unforced error, but holds for 3-4. The crowd are in the mood to get right behind her – and she’ll need them now.
Bencic eases her back in with a double fault. But the Swiss recovers to win the match’s best rally so far for 15-15, and then goes on – via some more huge hitting from both women – to take arguably the most important hold so far. 4-2 to the Swiss, and a set up.
Play will continue now. I’m not quite sure what all that was about.
The physio is on to see Osaka and I wonder if it’s more a useful time for the defending champion, who is on the edge of tumbling out here, to take a bit of a time out. There’s currently more conversation than treatment going on.
Bencic breaks Osaka’s serve and she is now well in control of this match! Osaka misjudges a volley with most of the court gaping and sees it swatted past her for 0-40 … then she double faults and it’s 3-2 to Bencic, with a break, and a set up!
Osaka holds again and then gets a glimmer on Bencic’s serve at 15-30. She can’t make it count, just when Bencic was starting to look a little wobbly. 2-2 in the second, and as you were.
Osaka makes short work of her first service game in the second set and will hope to continue in that vein. Bencic then does similar.
And Vekic has levelled the match against Goerges, coming back from the very, very edge to win the second set 7-5. A thriller there – I gather Goerges served three double faults when the match was there to be won! Incredible.
Bencic takes the first set against Osaka, 7-5! And what credit you have to give her here. It came at the second time of asking, after she double faulted first time out. She seemed to have crumbled after that great start but stayed in the set doggedly and then rediscovered her best form towards the end. The reigning champion has a problem here!
Well, well, well! Bencic breaks Osaka with a fine, clean backhand. That was her at her assertive best from earlier; she leads 6-5 in the first, and a break up!
Two more holds in Bencic-Osaka to make it 5-5. After a fast start it’s settled down now, with both players having their moments but looking strong on serve.
Vekic has saved two match points and levelled the second set against Goerges! 5-5 and game on.
Holds for both players here in a fairly uneventful phase. 4-4 in the first set.
Now Bencic holds serve and she needed that. Goerges, meanwhile, leads Vekic 5-3 in the second and is on the verge of going through.
Bencic is starting to get a little rash, while Osaka is producing some awesomely powerful strokes. On serve, it’s now 3-2 to Osaka.
That last game must have cleared Osaka’s head because now she earns two break points. She takes the first through a Bencic error and levels the set – 2-2!
Goerges has kept that break against Vekic. She leads 3-1, and by a set.
Bencic earns another break point, with Osaka yet to get going at all. It’s fended off well, and then another one is too, but what about a third? That’s saved too but, my word, Bencic is striking the ball well. A fourth break point is then saved and Osaka is really at full stretch early on here. Eventually she gets out of the hole and off the mark – to some relief. It’s 2-1 Bencic, with a break.
Osaka serves first and Bencic shows instantly that she’ll be assertive, winning the first point via a deep forehand. Then she forces a break point with a superb, radar-like backhand … and takes it after Osaka double faults. Some start here! 1-0 Bencic.
I can tell you, before we get stuck into Osaka-Bencic, that Goerges has gone a break up in the second – it’s 2-0 and she looks set fair for victory.
We’re into the second set but Osaka and Bencic are about to get underway and we’re going to head over to that for the time being. I’ll keep you posted on how this one is panning out!
Goerges fired down seven aces in that first set, and 22 winners! Her opponent? No aces and five winners. But Goerges made 16 unforced errors to Vekic’s seven.
She takes it! Goerges wins the first set 7-6 (7-5) and yells with delight.
Goerges whips out a sensational backhand winner down the line on Vekic’s serve, and has a set point at 6-5!
Then a cross-court shot from Goerges on the Vekic serve is called good by the umpire, overruling the line judge, and now she has the mini-break. Can she take advantage? No – she double-faults too!
Vekic gets a mini-break but then double-faults and it’s 3-3 at the change of ends. That’s a golden chance wasted.
Goerges powers through another service game, leaving us to wonder where it all went wrong mid-set. She can have another nibble at Vekic now, and takes it to deuce with her eighth forehand winner so far … but Vekic responds appropriately and we have a tie break!
Decent hold from Vekic to 15, her first serve purring at the moment. It’s 5-5 and might well go the distance.
Back to her earlier form from Goerges there though, hitting her 14th winner down the line for 40-0 and then serving it out to put pressure on Vekic’s serve at 5-4.
Vekic, now looking the stronger player, holds to 15 for 4-4 and you wouldn’t bet against her going on to win this set now.
Vekic again holds comfortably and finds a nice pass on Goerges’ serve for 15-15. Then she forces her first break point of the match … and takes it! Vekic levels to get things back on serve, it’s 4-3 to Goerges.
Goerges holds well for 4-1 and they’ll now change ends. Vekic needs to step things up considerably on her opponent’s serve here.
Rich writes in: “He was obviously injured from the match before last but consistently refused to answer media questions about it, in fact saying more than once that he was good and ready to play. We fans base our decisions to invest a lot of time and money on these statements. Also the sports culture here in the US demands more transparency about injuries. So yes, boo to Novak (as great as he is) for intentionally misleading us.”
I do take this point but it just seems a bit habitual from that particular crowd.
Much, much better from Vekic here. She finds a few sweet groundstrokes to hold for love and get off the mark. She’s still a break down though at 3-1.
Goerges is serving superbly and holds for 3-0, via a failed challenge from Vekic who thought an ace should have been called out.
Well, well – Goerges breaks Vekic at the first time of asking, doing so to love. She has started very assertively indeed and leads 2-0.
And we get underway! Goerges serves first and moves 30-0 up with a sweet double-handed backhand winner. But Vekic is hitting the ball well too and pulls to 30-30, before Goerges serves it out to go 1-0 up.
Vekic and Goerges are out on court at Louis Armstrong. Neither player has ever gone beyond this stage at a US Open before, and Vekic hasn’t reached a grand slam last-eight at all. What gives this time?
Where Bencic and Osaka are concerned, we’re reminded that Bencic leads the head-to-head 2-1. That starts in about an hour and I think there is every chance it might go all the way …
We won’t see Johanna Konta today – but if she has her way we’ll get several more chances over the rest of the week!
Vekic is yet to drop a set at this US Open; Goerges has dropped one, in her opening-round win over Natalia Viklyantseva. It should be a very close match given that, in terms both of ranking and seeding, you can barely separate them.
Play in the Vekic-Goerges match starts in around about 40 minutes. You can send in your emails and tweets to the addresses above if you’d like to provide your observations, on that tie or any other aspect of the US Open so far!
Afternoon order of play
Arthur Ashe Stadium (12pm local/5pm BST)
Naomi Osaka (Jpn, 1) v Belinda Bencic (Sui, 13)
Alexander Zverev (Ger, 6) v D Schwartzman (Arg, 20)
Louis Armstrong Stadium (11am local/4pm BST)
Donna Vekic (Cro, 23) v Julia Görges (Ger, 26)
Andrey Rublev (Rus) v Matteo Berrettini (It, 24)
Kristie Ahn (US) v Elise Mertens (Bel, 25)
Gaël Monfils (Fr, 13) v Pablo Andújar (Sp)
That does exactly what it says on the tin! I wonder if we’ll see the kind of drama we got yesterday, when Novak Djokovic was booed off at Arthur Ashe after retiring hurt against Stan Wawrinka. They like an entirely unreasonable boo there, don’t they? But anyway, lots of positives in store today: we’ll see how Naomi Osaka and Gael Monfils do in their fourth round clashes, for one thing. Arguably the biggest match of the day comes much later on, when Rafael Nadal faces Marin Cilic. I’ll be tucked up in bed by then and you might, too! So feast on the above we will.