NEW YORK – As the ball sailed past the baseline, 21-year-old Aleksandra Krunic threw her hands in the air and collapsed onto the court at Louis Armstrong Stadium. As she lay on her back, the capacity crowd rose to their feet. The applause lasted a full two minutes.
Krunic, who had to play her way into the main draw during the qualifying week, had just knocked off 3-seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-4.
“Of course I didn’t expect to win. I was hoping to just win a set,” Krunic said during an on-court interview moments later. “It is an honor for me to be on the same court as Kvitova. She’s such a great champion.”
She is a two-time Wimbledon champion, but Kvitova has struggled in her seven U.S. Open appearances. The last time she advanced beyond the third round was in 2009.
After dropping the first set 6-4 on Saturday, it looked like she was staging a comeback. She rallied from 2-4 to even the second set at 4-all, and she seemed to be in control. But when Krunic broke her to go up 5-4, the writing was on the wall.
Krunic is the second qualifier to pull off an upset in the third round. On Friday, 32-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni ousted No. 2 Simona Halep. In both matches, the fans loved the underdogs.
“I didn’t expect you cheering as much as you did today,” Krunic said to the crowd after the match.
As she finished the interview, you could hear the cheers of the crowd in the adjoining stadium, the Grandstand. There, Victor Estrella Burgos and No. 5 Milos Raonic were battling for every point in their third round match. Estrella Burgos is the oldest man to make a U.S. Open debut, and the first man from the Dominican Republic to win a match here. Raonic is the best Canadian to play in more than 40 years and has advanced to the fourth round here the last two years.
Their first set went to a tiebreak, with Raonic prevailing. They traded breaks in the second set before once again going to tiebreak. Again, Raonic bested Estrella Burgos 7-5, to take a 7-6, 7-6 lead in the match. In the third set, another tiebreak. This time, Raonic came out on top 7-3. Game, set, match. It was a straight-set victory, but the hardest fought loss this tournament has seen thus far.
Earlier Saturday, American Nicole Gibbs lost 4-6, 0-6 to No. 11 Flavia Pennetta of Italy. Pennetta was a semi-finalist here in 2013.
John Isner is the last American remaining in the draw, after Sam Querrey fell to No. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
No. 13 Isner will face No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. Isner leads the head-to-head 4-2, but Kohlschreiber’s two wins have been big: both came in the third round of this tournament. They meet in the third round for the third year in a row.
And later today, Serena Williams faces her third fellow American in as many rounds. Williams and Varvara Lepchenko are up third on Ashe.