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Tennis-Pegula and Keys into last 16 as American buzz builds at U.S. Open

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By Steve Keating

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jessica Pegula fought past Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 6-4 4-6 6-2 to reach the U.S. Open fourth round on Saturday and next faces compatriot Madison Keys as the American buzz continued to build heading into the second week of the year’s final Grand Slam.

With four American men already in the last 16 and a chance for the same number to make it through in the women’s draw, the home fans can dream of a Flushing Meadows trophy sweep no matter how far fetched that idea might seem.

Not since 2002 when Pete Sampras and Serena Williams were crowned U.S. Open champions have Americans hoisted both trophies but, with Pegula, Coco Gauff, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe all top 10 seeds and in the last 16, the chance will be there.

Seeded third and carrying momentum from a solid run in to Flushing Meadows that included a win at the Canadian Open, Pegula is rated the top U.S. hope and has performed as expected, only dropping one set on her way to the fourth round.

After straight set romps in her first two matches, Pegula received her first test in the form of gritty veteran Svitolina, a U.S. Open semi-finalist in 2019.

Pegula had the only break in a tight opening set but that would be all she needed for a 1-0 lead.

In the second it was Svitolina finally getting her first break chance and making the most of the opportunity to pull level.

The deciding set also looked ready to swing on a single break and it went to Pegula who broke the 26th seed to go 3-2 up, sweeping four straight games to clinch her spot in style.

The last time Flushing Meadows had a chance to celebrate a homegrown women’s champion was in 2017 when Sloane Stephens beat Keys in an all-American final.

Keys is back and making another run after taming 14th seed Liudmila Samsonova 5-7 6-2 6-2 to set up the clash with Pegula.

Sixth seed Gauff was the first to book her spot with a win over Belgian Elise Mertens on Friday, while Peyton Stearns will have a chance to join her compatriots when she takes on Britain’s Katie Boulter later on Saturday.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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