Before Jack Sock took on 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the third round, the 23-year-old American acknowledged that, a couple of years ago, simply making it that far would have satisfied and excited him.
Now Sock wants more. He thinks his game and mindset are ready for deep Grand Slam runs. And the way he overwhelmed No7-seeded Cilic 6-4 6-3 6-3 in a little more than 90 minutes yesterday to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the first time, who would doubt Sock?
"Just all around, I think I'm putting things together, better and better," said the 26th-seeded Sock, who reached the semifinals of this year's ASB Classic in Auckland. "I definitely feel more confident out there in everything I'm doing."
Rightly so. Against Cilic, who followed up his title with a semifinal appearance a year ago, Sock won all 14 of his service games, never facing so much as one break point. Not much of a surprise there on a hard court for a guy whose game is best known for two parts -- "serving and forehand is what I hear all the time", he said with a hint of a smirk.
But on this windy afternoon, Sock showed off other improving parts of his repertoire. His second career appearance in the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament -- the other came at the 2015 French Open -- will come against No9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open runner-up, moved on yesterday with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (4) victory over No 23 Kevin Anderson.
Other men into the round of 16 included No1 seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, No10 Gael Monfils, No24 Lucas Pouille and 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, who ended the career-best showing of US qualifier Ryan Harrison by beating him 6-3 7-6 (4) 1-6 6-1.
At night, Rafael Nadal produced a spectacular 'tweener lob' with his back to the net on the next-to-last-point of his 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov. Nadal returned to the fourth round at the US Open for the first time since winning in 2013.
Djokovic did not expend much energy again, playing for only 31 minutes before his opponent Mikhail Youzhny stopped because of a strained left hamstring while trailing 4-2. On Thursday, the man Djokovic was supposed to play in the second round, Jiri Vesely, withdrew before the match even began because of an arm injury.
That will be against 84th-ranked Kyle Edmund of Britain, who had never been as far as the third round at a major tournament until this week. The 21-year-old Edmund will play Djokovic with a quarterfinal berth on the line after getting past John Isner of the US 6-4 3-6 6-2 7-6 (5).
Yesterday's most stirring turnaround came in the afternoon, when No8 Madison Keys of the US was down 5-1 in the third set before edging Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka 7-5 4-6 7-6 (3). Asked whether she considered this the top comeback of her young career, the 21-year-old Keys replied: "For sure. Hands down."
She'll now face two-time US Open runner-up and former No1 Caroline Wozniacki, whose ranking is down to 74 after a series of losses and injuries but followed up her win over 2004 champion and No9 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova by defeating Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-1.
Other women to win included No7 Roberta Vinci, who stopped Serena Williams' Grand Slam bid a year ago in New York, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, No13 Johanna Konta and Anastasija Sevastova, the player who beat French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the second round. No 12 Dominika Cibulkova lost 3-6 6-3 6-4 to Lesia Tsurenko.
? Of the four New Zealanders playing doubles at the US Open, only one has so far made it through to the third round.
Marcus Daniell and American Brian Baker beat the experienced pair of Rohan Bopanana (India) and Frederik Nielsen (Denmark) 6-2 7-6(5).
Artem Sitak and Dutchman Robin Haase, a scratch pairing, were beaten by France's Pierre-Hughues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-3 6-4, while Marina Erakovic and Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja lost to Chinese 11th seeds Saisai Zheng and Yifan Xu 6-3 7-6(5). Michael Venus and regular partner Mate Pavic of Croatia play their second round doubles today against fifth seeds Jean-Julian Rojer (Netherlands) and Horia Tecau (Romania). AP