Riske rediscovering Grand Slam success on Australian Open Day 3

January 18, 2017 10:52 AM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Alison Riske reached three Tour finals in 2016, but her success didn’t translate to match wins at the Grand Slam level. Less than three weeks into the new year, the American is proving she belongs on tennis' biggest stages.

The 26-year-old booked her place in the third round of the Australian Open with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 win over No. 20 seed Zheng Shuai on Wednesday. Riske will now meet Sorana Cirstea of Romania on Friday in the round of 32, with the winner facing either reigning French Open champion and No. 7 seed Garbiñe Muguruza or No. 32 seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Riske was one of five Americans to secure safe passage to the third round on Day 3.

In the men’s draw, No. 23 seed Jack Sock beat Karen Khachanov and 31st-seeded Sam Querrey stormed past Aussie wild card Alex De Minaur, each in straight sets. Sock will take on French No. 12 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next. Querrey’s reward is a third-round tussle with world No. 1 Andy Murray.

On the women’s side, No. 13 seed Venus Williams made light work of Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele, 6-3, 6-2, and CoCo Vandeweghe toppled Pauline Parmentier of France, 6-4, 7-6. Williams, who pulled out of the doubles competition, where she was scheduled to partner with sister Serena, will meet Ying-Ying Duan, while Vandeweghe will face Canada's Eugenie Bouchard.

Of the eight women’s third-round matches in the top half of the draw, Riske’s upcoming contest with Cirstea is one of just three featuring two unseeded players. On paper, world No. 42 Riske enters as the favorite against the 78th-ranked Romanian, and a Riske win would see her match her deepest Grand Slam run.

Riske broke through in the summer of 2013, reaching the third round of Wimbledon and the fourth round of the US Open. She won her first title in Tianjin, China, to start 2014, but ended the season with a first-round exit in Flushing Meadows, the first of nine consecutive opening-round defeats at majors.

The Tennessee native began turning things back around in 2016, reaching the finals of two hard-court tournaments in China in addition to a grass-court Wimbledon tune-up event in Nottingham. That momentum carried into 2017, where she reached the final in Shenzhen to enter the Australian Open on a high note.

In Melbourne, Riske has now posted solid wins over fellow American Madison Brengle (on Day 1) as well as her Day 3 victory over Zheng. In doing so, Riske advanced to the third round for the second time in four years and assured herself of a new career high when the next rankings come out at the end of the month.

Elsewhere on Day 3, a number of Americans fell to top seeds. Qualifier Noah Rubin gave a good accounting of himself in a straight-sets loss to 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and Samantha Crawford pushed Muguruza in a 7-5, 6-4 defeat. Julia Boserup lost to 11th-seeded Elina Svitolina, Steve Johnson went down to defending US Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Ryan Harrison fell to No. 10 Tomas Berdych.

In other action, Shelby Rogers, who upset fourth-seeded Simona Halep on Day 1, lost to Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and top-ranked American man John Isner lost a five-set thriller against Mischa Zverev.

Day 4 sees seven Americans in singles play, including No. 2 Serena Williams in second-round action against Lucie Safarova and Frances Tiafoe against fellow rising teen and No. 24 seed Alexander Zverev.