Carlos Alcaraz says that he does not feel any additional pressure as he continued his attempts to defend a grand slam title for the first time by calmly moving into the quarter-finals of the US Open with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Matteo Arnaldi.
“I didn’t feel anything different,” said the world No 1. “I try not to think about the defending champion. I just try to be focused on my game, on my own game, on what I have to do to put my best level on court. For me, nothing else matters than playing to my level and be happy with the level that I’m playing on court.
“That’s the only thing I care about right now. I put out all the pressure that people put on you, on the defending champions. I just delete it and focus on my own game.”
After four comfortable victories, the next round will almost certainly be the 20-year-old’s biggest challenge so far as he faces either Jannik Sinner or Alexander Zverev, two players who defeated him in grand slams last year.
In the women’s draw, Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova showed her grit and determination by recovering from a set down to defeat the fast-rising Peyton Stearns 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 and record her best result in New York.
Despite the surprise nature of her success in July, Vondrousova has handled the added weight of being Wimbledon champion extremely well, compiling a 9-2 record since then with quarter-finals in Cincinnati and now here.
Vondrousova, seeded ninth, will face Madison Keys, the 17th seed, in the next round. Keys pulled off an enormous win earlier, defeating Jessica Pegula, the third seed, 6-1, 6-3 to reach her 10th career grand slam quarter-final.
It was, however, an emotional day for Vondrousova. She struggled with a shoulder injury throughout the match and she was tearful on court as she took painkillers. In addition to singles, the 24-year-old was supposed to contest her third round doubles with Barbora Strycova. The pair had taken out the top seeds in the previous round.
After coming out of retirement following childbirth in order to have a proper farewell, the US Open is Strycova’s final tournament. Vondrousova’s shoulder injury forced her to retire from their match, meaning that the Czech will not have the benefit of retiring on court.
“Of course it was a bit sad. I cried a bit when I told Barbora,” said Vondrousova. “I had so many injuries that I don’t want to play with some more. She’s a great person, so she told me, ‘It’s OK.’ I was, like, ‘It’s your last tournament. I don’t want to do it.’ She was, like, ‘OK, we have to play 100% or we don’t play.’ So it was OK. She’s a great person.”