6-1, 5-1 collapse at Open; Djokovic opts for home over hotel

Kristina Mladenovic, of France, returns a shot to Varvara Gracheva, of Russia, during the second round of the US Open tennis championships, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Novak Djokovic has earned more than $140 million in prize money over his accomplished career, plus plenty of other millions in endorsement deals, so there wasn't much of a question in his mind when the possibility was offered to rent a private home during the U.S. Open.

The cost? $40,000. The convenience? Priceless.

''As soon as there was a chance for us to choose to be in a house, we took it right away -- without thinking. I'm glad we did,'' the top-ranked Djokovic said after improving to 25-0 this season and reaching the U.S. Open's third round with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Kyle Edmund on Wednesday.

''Any player had that opportunity. It's not the privilege of the top guys or girls. Anyone that wanted to spend money and stay in the house, he or she could have done that,'' Djokovic said. ''I know there's very few players that have chosen to stay in a house, but it is a personal choice.''

Most players competing at Flushing Meadows amid the coronavirus pandemic this year opted for the official tournament hotel options. The U.S. Tennis Association paid for one room for each player, who then would need to pony up if they wanted a second for members of their entourage.

Serena Williams and Milos Raonic were among the eight players who, like Djokovic, opted for one of the Long Island homes the USTA made available instead.

Why did Djokovic go that route?

''Well, I think it's obvious. Being in a hotel, you're unable to open the window in the room. You constantly have to be with a mask indoors, outdoors, everywhere. You can't really go out, spend time in the garden, maybe, outdoors,'' he said. ''I saw the hotel. The hotel is not in a best position in terms of having nature around. It's very close to the highway.''

COMEBACK OR COLLAPSE?

Well, this was quite a comeback ... or quite a collapse.

Depends on the point of view.

No. 30 seed Kristina Mladenovic served for the victory while leading 6-1, 5-1 against Varvara Gracheva in the second round of the U.S. Open -- and not only couldn't close the deal there or when she held four match points soon thereafter, but also somehow, some way, she lost the match.

Eventually, Gracheva -- a Russian who is ranked 102nd and is a month past her 20th birthday -- came all the way back to win 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-0.

''Definitely,'' Mladenovic said, ''the most painful match and loss I've had in my career.''

Her match points came while ahead 5-2 in the second set as Gracheva served. Three came at love-40, and another came at Ad-Out. Mladenovic never got that close again.

Gracheva will move on to meet No. 8 seed Petra Martic for a berth in the fourth round.

''She was brave and she went for it,'' Mladenovic said about her opponent, who is participating in her first Grand Slam tournament.

''From 5-2, slowly I started feeling like I was crashing down,'' Mladenovic said. ''I just collapsed. I had nothing left in the tank.''

Mladenovic was one of the players who were allowed to remain in the tournament but were placed under stricter COVID-19 protocols after they came in contact with Benoit Paire, the 17th-seeded Frenchman who tested positive for the coronavirus.

After her first-round win, Mladenovic said the whole episode was hrd to deal with.

After what happened Wednesday, she said: ''Physically and mentally, I'm completely completely drained. It's just worse and worse.''

ANYBODY'S GAME

Shelby Rogers pulled off an upset, even though she doubts there is such a thing these days in women's tennis.

Rogers defeated No. 11-seeded Elena Rybakina in the second round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday, 7-5, 6-1. Two other unseeded Americans, Ann Li and Madison Brengle, also beat seeded opponents.

Given the depth in the women's game and the year's disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic, such results are no surprise, Rogers said.

''Maybe it's belief. Maybe it's opportunity,'' Rogers said. ''But I think the playing field is even now. It's anybody's game any day. I joke around that I don't believe in upsets anymore. I think anybody can win on any day. It's pretty amazing.''

By advancing to the third round, Rogers matched her best showing at the U.S. Open. She's ranked 93rd.

The 20-year-old Ann Li defeated No. 13-seeded Alison Riske 6-0, 6-3. Li, who is ranked 128th, now has two career victories over players ranked in the top 75, and the wins have come in her two matches this week.

Brengle, ranked 84th, eliminated No. 19-seeded Dayana Yastremska 6-2, 6-3. Brengle first played at the Open in 2007, and matched her best showing by reaching the third round.

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AP Sports Writer Steven Wine contributed to this report.

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