US Open 2016: Roberta Vinci back in New York and still winning

    Story highlights

    • Vinci advances to fourth round
    • Joined by Novak Djokovic, Madison Keys, Jack Sock
    • Keys rallies from 5-1 third-set deficit
    • Djokovic wins via retirement

    (CNN)Unless she wins this US Open, Roberta Vinci couldn't possibly top last year's outing in New York. Twelve months ago the charismatic Italian with the throwback style pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tennis history by defeating Serena Williams in the semifinals.

    Out went Williams' bid to become the first player since 1988 to achieve the calendar year grand slam. A devastated Williams quickly left the grounds after the match ended, not wanting to linger at Flushing Meadows.
      Even though Vinci lost the final to countrywoman Flavia Pennetta -- a good friend since childhood -- that wasn't the end for a player in her early 30s, when it might have been.
      Indeed Vinci's appetite for success grew further and she maintained the momentum in February by becoming the oldest woman -- at the age of 33 -- to reach the top 10.
      Vinci isn't a power player but instead relies on a wicked backhand slice, effective forehand and court smarts to get the better of opponents.
      Her game was in good enough working order Friday as the seventh seed kept alive her chances of making another final by beating Germany's Carina Witthoeft 6-0 5-7 6-3 in the third round. Defending men's champion Novak Djokovic didn't need to play that long to advance -- after benefiting from a walkover in round two -- while Madison Keys engineered a great escape.
      Though still hot in New York, the humidity waned, providing respite to both players and fans alike.
      Vinci breezed through the opener, then failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second but rebounded in the third, breaking at 3-3 after her younger foe held a game point.
      She'll be the favorite in the next round, too, since Vinci meets Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko. Tsurenko, one of those who does have a power game, upset Dominika Cibulkova 3-6 6-3 6-4.
      For Vinci, the pressure in New York this year is both a positive and negative.
      "Now I'm 7 in the (seedings), a lot of points to defend," Vinci, dealing with a slight foot injury, told reporters earlier in the week. "But probably the key is don't think about this. Just play every single match. Stay positive. Just think about the opponent, about my game. Don't think that I have points.
      "And then, of course, it's better to be No. 7 than 43 in the world, of course," she added, referring to her ranking at last year's US Open.
      Speaking of pressure, Keys has some because she is considered the next big thing in US tennis. Already a grand slam semifinalist, the 21-year-old is one of the hardest hitters -- if not the hardest -- in the women's game.
      Consistency, however, is an issue in her young career.
      Keys was two points away from losing in straight sets in the first round and on Friday trailed another player with great pace on her groundstrokes, Naomi Osaka, 5-1 in the third. The inexperience of Osaka subsequently showed and Keys prevailed over the 18-year-old Japanese 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-3).
      "I really just kept telling myself, just try to stay in it," Keys told reporters. "I just knew I was going to have to step up. It was one of those things where it was either step up or lose, so, you know, I knew I had to stay calm in that moment."
      Keys' all-out attack meets twice US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki -- a counterpuncher -- in the round of 16.
      Johanna Konta, the 13th seed who fell to the court suffering from the heat on Wednesday before downing Tsvetana Pironkova, coasted past Belinda Bencic -- hit by injuries in 2016 -- 6-2 6-1. Konta next battles Anastasija Sevastova, the conqueror Wednesday of French Open winner Garbine Muguruza.

      No sweat for Novak

      Djokovic nursed wrist and arm injuries in the first round but got a lucky break when his second-round foe, Jiri Vesely, withdrew hurt.
      The world No. 1 -- aiming to win three majors for the second straight season and lift his overall tally to 13 -- got more good fortune when Mikhail Youzhny retired Friday with a leg injury when trailing Djokovic 4-2.
      There was no such luck for 2014 champion Marin Cilic, who entered the U.S. Open with high hopes after beating Andy Murray to win the first Masters title of his career in Cincinnati two weeks ago.
      American Jack Sock overturned a two-set deficit against Cilic in the Davis Cup in July and kept the ball rolling Friday, winning 6-4 6-3 6-3 to set up a clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.