US Open 2018: Elise Mertens battles past Barbora Strycova for last 16 spot

US Open 2018: Elise Mertens battles past Barbora Strycova for last 16 spot

The Belgian notched her 43rd win of the season as she reached the last 16 in Flushing Meadows for the first time.

John Lupo

In what figured to be a close affair, 15th seed Elise Mertens held off the feisty Barbora Strycova, the 23rd seed, 6-3 7-6 in the third round of the US Open to kick off play at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

The Belgian continued her impressive year that saw her reach the semifinals at the Australian Open as she faces defending champion Sloane Stephens on Labor Day. Mertens knocked Stephens out of Cincinnati just two weeks ago.

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Belgian wins opening set with steady play

Mertens was looking sharp early on, earning a break point in the second game of the match only to see Strycova battle her way out of trouble to hold.

In a matchup that figured to produce long, grinding games, Mertens held and used the momentum she gained to break the Czech's serve for a 3-1 advantage after Strycova missed a volley. 

The 23rd seed would soon hold and break to rally to 4-3, but her own sloppiness cost her as she double-faulted twice in the eighth game to hand the initiative back to the Belgian.

Mertens served for the set and finished it off with her 11th winner to move halfway to the second week of a major for the third time this year.

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Mertens claims up-and-down second set to seal victory

The Belgian needed to save a break point in the second game of the second set to level the score at 1-1. It was the Czech who cracked next, losing three of the next four games to hand Mertens a seemingly comfortable lead.

In a set that was suddenly producing many twists and turns, the 23rd seed ran off three consecutive games, saving three break points in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead.

Mertens successfully served to stay in the set twice, saving a trio of set points to force a tiebreaker. Jumping out to a 3-1 lead, Strycova missed an easy volley in what was a series of errors that ultimately led to the Belgian claiming six of the final seven points to set up a showdown with Stephens.