US Open Day 3: Zhang and Stricker strike

Wednesday was wild, jam-packed with historic and milestone moments in New York.

Zhizhen Zhang / 2e tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The opening two days of action at Flushing Meadows were absorbing, well, Day 3 was a another treat at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center too.

Here's what you may have missed from around the grounds at a very busy US Open with third round tickets up for grabs.

Zhang and Stricker blast past stars

Towering Zhang Zhizhen gained Roland-Garros revenge to pull off an almighty upset. 

The world No. 67 fell in four sets to Casper Ruud in Paris earlier this season, but turned the tables 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 0-6, 6-2 to oust the 2022 US Open runner-up.

Zhang's biggest career moment means he's the first Chinese man to earn a win over a Top 5 opponent. What a way to do it.

"I believed in myself. If not, the fifth set is going to be different result," stated Zhang, who also needed five sets to navigate past J.J. Wolf in the first round.

"In the end of the match, finish the last point, I don't really celebrate, not super happy. But it is happy like inside, but it just didn't show up."

Earlier on Grandstand qualifier Dominic Stricker also pulled off a seismic upset.

The world No. 128, Roland-Garros boys' champion as recent as 2020, clattered 78 winners to blaze past No. 7 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Five sets, four hours, three tie-breaks, it was exhilarating from start to finish for a 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-3 scoreboard.

"Great performance. I enjoyed it from the first moment on," stated the Swiss youngster, breaking new ground at Grand Slams.

"I was down break in the fourth, came back. Actually, a bit speechless what happened today.

"So for sure the confidence for myself is increasing, and it's just great to see that I have this level over five sets."

Dominant Swiatek and Djokovic stroll on

Defending champion Iga Swiatek assembled another complete performance 6-3, 6-4 over the net from Australian Daria Saville.

"It wasn't easy but I'm happy I tried to play my game and play aggressively with a lot of intensity and I'm just happy to be in the third round."

The world No. 1 advances to meet her "best friend on tour," Slovenian Kaja Juvan in the Last 32. The duo even shared dinner earlier this week…

"We already played couple of times against each other. Last time in Roland Garros, 2021," said Swiatek, who won that contest 6-0-, 7-5 in Paris.

"I think we both can kind of cut off the off-court friendship and just play our game, and then we are friends back. At least there's nothing crazy is going to happen.

"It's a tricky situation, but I think we both know how to be professional."

Three-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic steamrolled world No.76 Bernabe Zapata Miralles to the loss of just six games to book a third round encounter with his compatriot Laslo Djere.

The Serbian, chasing a men's record-extending 24th major, was in a jovial mood during his on-court interview.

"I still feel like I can play better but I'm happy to be back playing in New York. That's what gives me strength at 36 years of age," said Djokovic, after moving to 22-1 on hard courts in 2023.

"I still have the hunger and the desire to play my best tennis on this court… I'm still moving pretty well for an old fella.

"Every single match I play myself the most, in my mind. If I win this battle, then I win the battle outside against the opponent."

Novak Djokovic, round 2 / US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Comeback of the day

Home hope Tommy Paul has been touted as a dark horse for the title. However, the No.14 seed was forced to battle back from the brink on Wednesday.

Paul reeled in Wimbledon quarter-finalist Roman Safiullin 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 to escape for a Last 32 tussle with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

"It was so much fun. I didn't really give them (the crowd) too much to cheer for the first two sets. Everyone was getting a little frustrated. I was getting frustrated," admitted Paul.

"I knew I it wasn't a highlight reel kind of day. I was like, I'll give them something to cheer about with just extending points and heart for the rest of the match. It was definitely a really cool atmosphere."

Coco leads Team USA contingent

Teenage sensation Coco Gauff continued to bolster her title hopes with a standout 6-3, 6-2 passage past rising star Mirra Andreeva.

The No.6 seed was exceptional across the board and she'll meet Belgium's Elise Mertens in the Last 32. Mertens has well and truly earnt her spot having saved five match points across her opening two matches.

Elsewhere for the stars and stripes, 2022 semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe dismissed Sebastian Ofner in straight sets and his compatriot Taylor Fritz motored past past Juan Pablo Varillas 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Taylor Townsend soared towards an intriguing clash with Roland-Garros runner-up Karolina Muchova with a finely-poised 7-6(1), 7-5 triumph over Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Ben Shelton advanced in unfortunate circumstances, with 2020 champion Dominic Thiem retiring just after the American prodigy had claimed a thrilling opening set tie-break.  

A brilliant showing from wild card Benjamin Bonzi broke American hearts. The Frenchman edged ailing Chris Eubanks 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(7) to chalk up his finest US Open to date.

Comebacks continue for two

Caroline Wozniacki last played the US Open in 2019 due to an extended maternity leave, Jennifer Brady's injury-maligned recent history has denied her a home Slam showing since 2020. 

They're both on the comeback trail and both flourishing at Flushing Meadows.

Former world No.1 Wozniacki, US Open finalist in 2009 and 2014, put in a "dream" display to defeat No.11 seed Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6(5) under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium.  

"Three years ago if you'd asked me, I didn't think I was ever going to play on one of those courts again in the US Open," said the Dane.

"It just feels pretty incredible to be out there and winning a match like that." 

As for Brady, the 2020 semi-finalist built momentum with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 win over Poland's Magda Linette.

Shot of the day

The skillset of Adrian Mannarino is unique and pretty unorthodox.

How about this stunning front-facing tweener during his second round triumph? Check out the picture below.

The Frenchman went on to win this point en route to a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 scoreline versus Fabian Marozsan. Next up for the No. 22 seed, Tiafoe!

Stat of the day

Czech qualifier Jakub Mensik will be in the spotlight for his third-round encounter with American Fritz.

On Wednesday, the 17-year-old protégé edged France's Titouan Droguet in four sets to become the youngest man to reach the Last 32 in New York since Fabrice Santoro in 1990.