NEW YORK — World number one Carlos Alcaraz surged into the last 16 of the US Open as second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka advanced safely in the women’s draw.
Jessica Pegula beat Elina Svitolina 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, setting up a fourth-round matchup against fellow American Madison Keys.
Alcaraz overcame Britain’s Daniel Evans with a 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-3 win, surviving his first real challenge of this Open.
The top-seeded Spaniard breezed through his opening matches at Flushing Meadows and at first appeared on track for another easy win but had to find his best form after Evans mounted a third-set comeback.
Alcaraz moved through the first set like a freight train, winning the first four games, and the 26th-seeded Evans failed to convert any of his three break points in the eighth game.
Evans did let out a roar as he broke Alcaraz with an unreturnable backhand down the line in the second game of the second set but the Spaniard broke back immediately and the Briton helped his opponent to another break in the fifth.
Alcaraz broke Evans again with a well-executed drop shot to close out the second set. However, Evans upped his level in the third set, channeling his frustration into a superb game seven where he broke with a backhand winner.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz tapped into his superior speed and agility to tame Evans, 13 years his senior, in the fourth set, zipping back and forth along the baseline before breaking with a sublime forehand winner in the sixth game.
He finished the entertaining clash with a forehand winner, one of 27 in the match, prompting cheers of approval from the rapt crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Alcaraz also produced one of the shots of the tournament to clinch a decisive break in the fourth set, curling a logic-defying forehand up the line past Evans for a 4-2 lead.
“He’s a tricky opponent,” Alcaraz said. “I think when we play each other it’s a show on the court. We made great points, great shots, a lot of different kinds of situations.”
Alcaraz, who will surrender his world number one ranking to Novak Djokovic at the end of this tournament, admitted he was motivated by matching Federer in defending his crown.
“Obviously defending the title is a goal for me,” he said. “I’m looking for that. Nobody’s done it here since Roger so I’d love to be part of tournament history with him.”
Sabalenka speeds through
In the women’s draw, Australian Open champion Sabalenka maintained her dominant start to the tournament with a 60-minute demolition of France’s Clara Burel, winning 6-1, 6-1.
“I’m super happy with the performance today,” Sabalenka said afterwards. “I think I played great tennis today.”
The Belarusian right-hander will play Russia’s 13th seed Daria Kasatkina on Monday in the last 16. Kasatkina booked her place in the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Belgium’s Greet Minnen.
“Always tricky matches against her,” Sabalenka said. “I have to be focused and I don’t have to overrush things against her.
“I just have to stay calm and just wait for the opportunity and take it.”
Meanwhile 17th seed Madison Keys became the second American woman into the last 16 after Coco Gauff with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over Russian 14th seed Liudmila Samsonova.