US Open 2014 Day 9 Preview: Dimitrov and Monfils will certainly steal the show

September 2, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

It was another humid and windy day in New York, but the muggy conditions didn’t bother Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray, who set up a quarter-final clash with straight sets victories on Day 8.

Day 8 Recap

Since losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round of the 2009 French Open, Novak Djokovic had made 21 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals, and on Day 8 the Serb made it 22 major quarter-finals in a row, saving a set point in the second set en route to a 3 set victory over the German.

Andy Murray booked his place in the last 8 by recording his first win over a top 10 player since winning Wimbledon last year, the Scot overcoming Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a tight 3-setter. Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka blasted 75 winners on his way to a 4 set win over Tommy Robredo, overcoming a tumble into spectators in the third set, some cramps and some generally anxious moments against the veteran Spaniard to advance to the quarter-finals.

In the women’s tournament, Italian eleventh seed Flavia Pennetta overcame Casey Dellacqua, claiming a tight first set before pulling away in the second set. Top seed Serena Williams stopped the run of giant-killer Kaia Kanepi to set up a meeting with Pennetta, which will see the 2 oldest players in the women’s draw go head to head.

Two-time US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka was forced to fight all the way to see off the challenge of Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic, the former world number one forced to come from a set down to register a victory over the world number 145.

Azarenka will play Russian Ekaterina Makarova for a place in the semi-finals after Makarova ended Eugenie Bouchard’s 2014 streak of making the semi-finals or better at each Grand Slam. Bouchard was visibly distressed in the humid conditions, having her blood pressure checked and putting ice on her neck and shoulders in an attempt to cool down. It was to no avail however, as the seventeenth seeded Makarova recorded a 7-6(2) 6-4 win.

Matches of the Day – Day 9

1. Belinda Bencic vs. Shuai Peng

17 year old Belinda Bencic is undoubtedly a player of the future, but I’ve been amazed at how well the Swiss player has been able to transition to the WTA Tour this season. Bencic has shown maturity and composure beyond her years and has been tactically very sharp to boot.

The powerful Peng, who hits double-handed forehands and backhands, has had a brilliant tournament to date, upsetting the likes of Radwanska and Vinci en route to the quarter-finals. Peng has greater experience, but if Bencic can move Peng around the court and expose her lack of reach out wide, then I think the teenager can continue her fairytale run. Bencic in 3.

2. Grigor Dimitrov vs. Gael Monfils

If you are a fan of tennis, then it’s hard not to be excited about this match-up. Dimitrov has a textbook game, with a classical one-handed backhand and compact swings which have drawn comparisons with Roger Federer. Monfils, on the other hand, is flamboyant and electrifying, capable of utilising his incredible athleticism to hit a range of shots that are most definitely not from the textbook.

Monfils is usually very erratic, but the Frenchman has been impressively consistent to date in New York this year, not dropping a set so far and dismissing compatriot Richard Gasquet in style in round 3. Monfils beat Dimitrov at the 2011 US Open, but was forced to retire in Bucharest earlier this year when trailing the Bulgarian. Dimitrov has had the more consistent season, and I’ll back him for this reason, but you simply never know what Monfils will bring to the court. Dimitrov in 4.

3. Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Roger Federer

When you think of Spanish tennis players, names such as Nadal and Ferrer instantly come to mind, along with veterans such as Robredo and Lopez. However, Roberto Bautista Agut is an emerging player on the ATP Tour and another Spaniard who may continue the country’s proud tennis traditions in the years to come.

The lanky Spaniard has a powerful game and showed by knocking Del Potro out of the Australian Open in January that he can mix it with the best. This will be his first match against Roger Federer and I think he will put up a good fight against the 17-time major winner. That said, Federer looks in top shape right now and I can’t see him dropping this one. Federer in 4.

4. Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sara Errani

Since Wimbledon, Caroline Wozniacki has given various indications that she is getting back to somewhere near her best, which of course saw her sit atop the world rankings for 67 weeks. The Dane scored one of her best wins in the last few years by beating Maria Sharapova in the previous round and her training for the New York Marathon appears to have provided her with plenty of stamina.

Errani is a similar player to Wozniacki, covering the court well and counterpunching effectively, but I think the Italian’s weak serve is where Wozniacki will really attack today. Look for the Dane to jump all over the Errani second serve and race to a relatively comfortable straight sets victory. Wozniacki in 2.

5. Tomas Berdych vs. Dominic Thiem

Tomas Berdych has had success in New York before, having made it through to the semi-finals of the 2012 US Open, defeating Roger Federer before losing to eventual champion Andy Murray on a very windy day at Flushing Meadows. Berdych has fallen away a bit after a strong start to the 2014 season, but I think the courts in New York suit his game to a tee.

Thiem is a rising star on the ATP Tour and showed great composure and stamina to upset good friend Ernests Gulbis in round 2. However, at this stage I don’t think the young Austrian has the raw power to match Berdych in this clash. I’ll take the Czech in a close one. Berdych in 5.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Tennis Elbow: 2014 US Open: A study in contrast at Flushing Meadows

September 1, 2014

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first week of the 2014 US Open through the eyes of his favourite match so far.

The leg cramps started in the middle of the fourth set for Nick Kyrgios.

At around midnight local time, the ushers had let the crowd from the upper deck come down to sit closer to the court and the action. It had all the makings of a classic night at the US Open, the kind that we remember because they produce memorable moments and last until the wee hours of the night. Think along the lines of the match between Andre Agassi and James Blake in 2005, or the one between John Isner and Philipp Kohlschreiber in 2012.

Up to that point, Kyrgios and Tommy Robredo had been playing quality tennis, too, but right around midnight is when it stopped. Or rather, when the Australian’s level dropped. Or rather, it’s right where Robredo finally managed to exert his will.

At 4-1 and on his serve, Kyrgios started cramping. He was broken, and the match would end only much earlier than the 2 a.m. time that had seemed a given just a set earlier. It was a fitting end, given that the match had started with the Australian jumping out to a 5-0 lead after barely 15 minutes of play. Considering that beginning, why shouldn’t it have ended this way, as a mirror image? Sometimes, the classics don’t happen, and it’s fine because the tennis that we did get was remarkable.

After two hours and 28 minutes and a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) and 6-3 win, the Spaniard was through to the fourth round, where he will meet the other Swiss guy Stanislas Wawrinka.

In more ways than one, this Kyrgios and Robredo class was a study in contrast.

On one side of the net, there was the brash exuberance of young Kyrgios. It’s easy to dismiss the 19-year-old as overhyped, or as too foolish to know what exactly it is that he has accomplished this season, but Kyrgios is neither. He’s young, as evidenced by his one (flashy) earring, and has all the talent in the world.

Most importantly, if he’s brash it’s usually not for negative purposes. He’ll talk to himself, even commenting on the happenings of a match, but it’s not deconstructive in the same way that it used to be for, say, Marat Safin. He’ll scream between points, to himself and for himself, because for the most part it helps him. It helps him forget the previous point and focus for his next forehand.

The throne atop the ATP World Tour will quite possibly be Kyrgios’s before long, as he has all the shots. He has the powerful grounstrokes, the effortless serve and the technique you need to succeed—not to mention that he has a sense for the moment. It’s swag, the kids would call it, and oh is Kyrgios all “swagged out”! There’s the earring, but it’s so much more than that. At 6-5 in the third set and just after the changeover and Robredo about to serve, Kyrgios just looked into the camera. He also thanked a ball boy, because he had done his job. Kyrgios is a star, and he already knows it.

On the other side, there was experience. Robredo has been on the Tour seemingly 74 years (i.e. it’s actually only been 16 years), but it’s silly to describe his play against Kyrgios as simply experience talking. Once he had settled, and had let Kyrgios’s play catch up to him a bit after his blistering start, the Spaniard went toe to toe with one of the sport’s young upcomers and for large portions of the match, even dominated him.

Robredo is a versatile player who doesn’t miss much, but he took it to new heights in this match—in the pivoting third set, the Spaniard made 0 unforced errors. (That’s as many as you and I, and we were sitting on the couch in our respective living room.) For Kyrgios, this must have felt even worse than hitting the ball against the wall, because at least the wall will not try to beat you. The wall only bounces the ball back, but Robredo had plenty of pop and aggression in his shots.

But of course, Robredo is experienced, and a wily veteran would have an easier time to bounce back from a one-set, 0-2 and 0-40 deficit. If the Spaniard managed to do that, he has his forehand to thank, as it’s that side that inflicted most of the damage against Kyrgios. The 32-year-old also understands that Kyrgios is walking a fine line every time he screams to himself. It tends to be positive, but it isn’t always. And it’s then that Robredo makes things worse by giving Kyrgios yet another sliced backhand to hit back, or by attacking once more with his forehand.

In the end, Robredo broke Kyrgios physically. For one night in Flushing Meadows, experience trumped youth—you know, while it still could. We didn’t even need to stay up that late to watch it.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

US Open 2014 Day 8 Preview: Tsonga vs. Murray plus Raonic vs. Nishikori

September 1, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Day 7 saw second seed Roger Federer overcome a rain delay and the loss of the first set to beat Marcel Granollers and book his spot in the round of 16.

Day 7 Recap

After being surprised by the Spaniard Granollers in the opening set, Federer regrouped in sensational fashion, dropping just 3 games across the next 3 sets to set up a clash with another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut, in the fourth round. Tomas Berdych eased past the Russian Gabashvili and will now face rising star Dominic Thiem, who continued his good run by upsetting Spanish seed Feliciano Lopez.

Fourth seed David Ferrer was stunned by Gilles Simon, the Frenchman claiming a 4 set win over a surprisingly lethargic Ferrer, whilst Marin Cilic overcame the big-serving Kevin Anderson in 4 sets. Gael Monfils has yet to drop a set this tournament, the flashy Frenchman dismissing his higher-ranked compatriot Richard Gasquet on Day 7. Monfils will next face Grigor Dimitrov, who survived a test against the Belgian David Goffin.

In the women’s tournament, Day 7 saw former world number one Caroline Wozniacki score a superb fighting win over fifth seed and former champion Maria Sharapova. The Dane overcame the loss of the second set, staying aggressive in the decider to claim the win. Wozniacki will next face Italian Sara Errani for a spot in the semi-finals, after the former French Open finalist took down qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in 3 sets.

Meanwhile, the giant-killing run of Shuai Peng continued on Day 7, the Chinese player taking down Wimbledon semi-finalist Lucie Safarova to advance to her first ever quarter-final in New York. There, she will play teenager Belinda Bencic who upset ninth seed Jelena Jankovic in the night session on Sunday.

Matches of the Day – Day 8

1. Flavia Pennetta vs. Casey Dellacqua

Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta is looking to emulate her terrific run in New York last year, when she made it through to the semi-finals. Pennetta is a very solid all-court player, strong on serve and from the back of the court and, as a result of her doubles success, very capable at the net.

Aussie Casey Dellacqua is in the best form of her life, making the round of 16 at Melbourne Park earlier in the year and this month having broken into the world’s top 30. The leftie is a quality shotmaker who will always give her all on the court. I suspect Pennetta might be too strong in this one, but the plucky Aussie will make the Italian earn the win. Pennetta in 3.

2. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Andy Murray

I’m really looking forward to this clash between former champion Murray and recent Toronto winner Tsonga. The Frenchman showed by winning in Toronto that he still has what it takes to compete at the very highest level, although I wonder if Tsonga can stay focused mentally for multiple 5 set matches at Grand Slam level.

It’s been a sluggish year for Murray, who has been unable to string a number of good performances together at any stage of the season. Tsonga beat the Scot in Toronto and, while I expect this match to be very close, I think the bigger firepower of Tsonga, combined with Murray still not being back to his best, spell a win for the Frenchman. Tsonga in 5.

3. Kei Nishikori vs. Milos Raonic

Behind the Big Four in men’s tennis is a new breed of players eager to take over from the likes of Federer and Djokovic. Nishikori and Raonic are 2 such players, with each player helping put tennis on the map in his country and producing some outstanding performances across the last few seasons.

Nishikori started 2014 in wonderful form, but the Japanese star has struggled with injury in more recent months. Raonic, on the other hand, has gone from strength to strength this season, an appearance in the Wimbledon semi-finals being the high point of his season to date. At his best, I would say Nishikori would be too strong in this one, but on current form I have to go with the big-serving Canadian. Raonic in 4.

4. Serena Williams vs. Kaia Kanepi

Fresh from knocking off seeds Sam Stosur and Carla Suarez Navarro, Kaia Kanepi now attempts to claim the biggest scalp of them all, 17-time major winner Serena Williams. The Estonian counterpuncher is super-solid from the baseline and will take down any opponent who is not on their game.

Williams has suffered enough upsets in the Grand Slams this year to be highly attuned to the threat Kanepi poses, and I can’t see the American giving Kanepi too many free points in this encounter. Look for Williams to dominate with her serve and to keep the rallies short against Kanepi. Williams in 2.

5. Novak Djokovic vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber

After surviving the ballistic serve of John Isner for the third successive year in New York, Philipp Kohlschreiber now faces an even bigger hurdle – world number one Novak Djokovic. Kohlscreiber upset the Serb at the 2009 French Open, but has lost their other 4 matches, including both contests on hard-courts.

The talk leading in to the tournament was of Djokovic being underprepared, but that gossip appears overdone now that the Serb has cruised into the round of 16 without dropping a set. The top seed was at his ruthless best against Querrey in round 3 and I think he will be too good for the German today. Djokovic in 4.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 7 Preview: Sharapova by day, Dimitrov by night

August 31, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was a shock casualty on Day 6, the third seed going down to unheralded Serbian Aleksandra Krunic in straight sets.

Day 6 Recap

Flushing Meadows has never been a happy hunting ground for Kvitova, with the two-time major winner having never been past the round of 16 at the tournament. That streak has now continued, with the qualifier Krunic recording her first ever win over a top 30 player with the 6-4 6-4 victory. Krunic will now face two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka, after the former world number one showed glimpses of her best tennis in a 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Elena Vesnina.

Carla Suarez Navarro was another seed to fall on Day 6, the Spanish clay-court specialist ousted by Estonian Kaia Kanepi. Kanepi next faces Serena Williams, who eased past Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets. Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta booked a round of 16 showdown with Aussie Casey Dellacqua, after Pennetta saw off American Nicole Gibbs and Dellacqua overcame Ivanovic’s conqueror, Karolina Pliskova, in 3 sets.

Eugenie Bouchard survived another testing match, this time overcoming Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in 3 sets. The Canadian’s reward is a fourth round encounter with Ekaterina Makarova, a straight sets winner over the Kazakh Diyas.

In the men’s tournament, Novak Djokovic sizzled on Centre Court, the top seed thrashing American Sam Querrey in straight sets in less than an hour and a half. The world number one will now play Philipp Kohlschreiber, who won 3 tiebreakers across 4 sets to defeat John Isner in New York for the third straight year. Meanwhile, Andy Murray set up a blockbuster clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the Scot displaying an impressive net game as he saw off the Russian Kuznetsov in 4 sets and the Frenchman proving too strong for Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.

Stan Wawrinka waltzed into the fourth round when his opponent Blaz Kavcic was forced to pull out of their round 3 match due to a right foot injury. The Swiss star will next face Tommy Robredo, who overcame whiz kid Nick Kyrgios in a tight 4-setter. Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic set up a mouthwatering round 4 match-up by defeating Leonardo Mayer and Victor Estrella Burgos respectively.

Matches of the Day – Day 7

1. Maria Sharapova vs. Caroline Wozniacki

After being the top-ranked player in the world for the best part of 2 years, but having to endure the scrutiny associated with having never won a major, it was almost a relief for Caroline Wozniacki to tumble down the rankings and avoid the media spotlight for a little while. Wozniacki seems back to her best tennis following a few inconsistent seasons and I think she will push Sharapova all the way in this one.

Sharapova will be the aggressor in this contest, but as we saw in the Venus Williams – Sara Errani clash, if the aggressor makes too many unforced errors then she will ultimately go down. Like Errani, Wozniacki will use her excellent court coverage skills and adept retrieval abilities to draw the Russian into error. I think Sharapova will be too good ultimately, but if she is wasteful with her chances then Wozniacki will make her pay. Sharapova in 3.

2. Belinda Bencic vs. Jelena Jankovic

Young Swiss star Belinda Bencic was a two-time junior Grand Slam champion and the 17 year old has made a successful transition to the WTA Tour in 2014, breaking into the top 100 on the back of a run to the semi-finals in Charleston and now upsetting German seed Angelique Kerber in New York.

Bencic is mainly coached by her father, but also gets input from Martina Hingis’ mother, Melanie Molitor, and the similarities with the game of Hingis are striking. Like Hingis, Bencic is a master of out-positioning her opponent and using their power against them. Jankovic is a gritty competitor and a consistent counterpuncher, but I think the teenager can record another upset in this one. Bencic in 3.

3. Grigor Dimitrov vs. David Goffin

It’s hard to believe, but until this year seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov had never won a main draw match at Flushing Meadows. The Bulgarian has quickly corrected that anomaly this tournament, but he faces a stern test in round 3 against Belgian David Goffin, who has lost just once in his last 28 matches.

After a miserable 18 months which saw him plagued by poor form and injuries, Goffin has gone on a spectacular run in the last couple of months, winning a trio of Challenger events and then claiming his first ATP Tour title in Kitzbuhel. Goffin is full of confidence, as he demonstrated in dumping Joao Sousa out of the tournament in straight sets in round 2, but Dimitrov’s power game and overall class should prove the difference. Dimitrov in 4.

4. Gilles Simon vs. David Ferrer

Fourth seed David Ferrer should be fresh for this contest after receiving a walkover in his previous match against Bernard Tomic. Ferrer and Simon are fairly similar players, both essentially being counterpunchers who rely on consistency and court coverage to overcome their opponents.

Ferrer is a little bit stronger than Simon in all departments, having a greater weapon in the form of his forehand, and hitting with more power from the back of the court. Simon is capable of challenging Ferrer, but I’ll back the plucky Spaniard to come through this one. Ferrer in 4.

5. Marin Cilic vs. Kevin Anderson

South African seed Kevin Anderson did well to overcome former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz in the previous round, but the big server faces another big test in the form of Marin Cilic.

Goran Ivanisevic has done a great job so far with Cilic, adding power to his serve and instilling in his charge the belief that he can truly compete with (and beat) the world’s top players. Anderson might steal a set or two, but Cilic should be in control from the baseline and will ultimately prevail. Cilic in 5.

Put your house on: Tomas Berdych. The sixth seed should be in cruise control against Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili today.

Upset alert: Fresh from upsetting good friend and training partner Ernests Gulbis in round 2, I think young Austrian Dominic Thiem could spring a surprise against Spanish seed Feliciano Lopez.

Likely to go the distance: Countrymen Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils square off today, and I think the Frenchmen will be at it for some time. I’ll back Monfils to come out on top in a deciding fifth set.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 6 Preview: Kygrios looks to light up the night; Djokovic, Murray in action

August 30, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

It was a day of upsets in both the men’s and women’s singles events on Day 5, with the big names to depart the tournament including second seed Simona Halep, former semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, Italian seed Fabio Fognini and French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis.

Day 5 Recap

Former teen prodigy and Wimbledon semi-finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, now 32, turned back the clock on Friday, claiming a terrific 7-6(6) 6-2 win over French open finalist Simona Halep. Sixth seed Angelique Kerber fell at the hands of the precocious Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, as two-time winner Venus Williams succumbed to Italian Sara Errani in a topsy-turvy 3-setter.

Shuai Peng backed up her upset of Agnieszka Radwanska with a win over Italian seed Roberta Vinci, but there were no problems for seeds Sharapova, Jankovic and Wozniacki, each of whom booked a spot in the round of 16 with a straight sets win. Wimbledon semi-finalist Lucie Safarova also progressed to the fourth round, overcoming Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in a tight 3-set duel.

On the men’s side, second seed Roger Federer dismantled the big serve of Sam Groth, overcoming a 142 mph serve and 4-2 deficit in the third set to notch a straight sets win. Federer next faces Marcel Granollers, who ousted giant Croat Ivo Karlovic in 5 sets. Meanwhile, Grigor Dimitrov crushed Dudi Sela to set up a clash with David Goffin, who continued his recent hot streak with a win over Portguese seed Joao Sousa.

Tomas Berdych was forced to 5 sets to survive the challenge presented by Martin Klizan, with fellow seeds Monfils, Gasquet, Bautista Agut, Simon and Cilic all progressing in more routine fashion. David Ferrer had the easiest day of them all, progressing courtesy of a walkover when Bernard Tomic opted not to risk doing any further damage to his troublesome hip.

Good friends and frequent training partners Ernests Gulbis and Dominic Thiem, both coached by Günter Bresnik, squared off in the second round, with Gulbis shooting out to a 2 sets to love lead before the 20 year Thiem reeled in the Latvian, eventually prevailing in what was Thiem’s first ever 5 set match. Joining Gulbis on the sidelines on Friday was fifteenth seed Fabio Fognini, who went down meekly to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets.

Matches of the Day – Day 6

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Sam Querrey

Big-serving Sam Querrey is a former top 20 player and the American will derive plenty of support from the parochial New York crowd in this match today. Querrey has been in good form of late, making the semi-finals in Winston-Salem coming into New York, and toppling Spanish seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

Unlike most players outside the top 10, Querrey has notched a previous win over Djokovic, upsetting the Serb in 2012. Djokovic, however, has claimed their other 7 meetings and over a best of 5 set match I can’t see the American maintaining the extremely high level of tennis that would be required in order to beat Djokovic. Djokovic in 4.

2. Nick Kyrgios vs. Tommy Robredo

When it comes to Grand Slams, is there anything that Aussie teenage Nick Kyrgios can’t do? First, it was a shock win in Paris last year over Czech veteran Radek Stepanek. Then it was the upset of the year at Wimbledon this year, when Kyrgios beat Nadal en route to the quarter-finals. Now Kyrgios has triumphed over Mikhail Youzhny and Andreas Seppi to make it through to the round of 32.

Robredo has enjoyed plenty of success in New York in the past, with last year proving his best effort to date as the Spaniard toppled Roger Federer on his way to the quarter-finals. The key to this match will be Robredo’s ability to handle the Kyrgios serve. From the baseline, Robredo should be able to dictate play and retrieve plenty of balls, but Kyrgios will be relying on his huge serve to ensure the Spaniard’s break point chances are limited. I think the Aussie will put in another gutsy performance, but I suspect that Robredo will hang tough and grind out the win. Robredo in 5.

3. Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. John Isner

It must feel like Groundhog Day in New York for John Isner.  For the third consecutive year, the thirteenth seed will face Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round of the US Open. In both previous matches in New York the German has prevailed, although Isner holds a 4-2 record overall against Kohlschreiber.

Last year in New York Isner became frustrated at the crowd for cheering on his second round opponent (who, admittedly, was the electrifying Gael Monfils) but, against Kohlschreiber, Isner should get plenty of support as he seeks to overcome his Flushing Meadows bogey-man. Kohlschreiber is a complete and very compact player, who will obviously come into this match confident after his wins in 2012 and 2013 at this stage of the tournament, but if Isner gets his serve going I think he can overcome his hoodoo. Isner in 5.

4. Andy Murray vs. Andrey Kuznetsov

Murray looked much more assured in round 2 than he did in the opening round, and just as well, as he faces somewhat of a test against up-and-coming Russian Andrey Kuznetsov. He may only be ranked just inside the world’s top 100, but the Russian has claimed some impressive wins on tour this year, dismissing David Ferrer at Wimbledon and overcoming Fernando Verdasco to set up the clash with Murray.

Kuznetsov is a former junior Wimbledon champion and has an attacking baseline game, but I think that the Scot should be a little bit too sharp in all departments for the Russian. No doubt Murray already has one eye on a potential fourth round clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but the former champion needs to stay focused and get through this match with Kuznetsov before the Tsonga clash can eventuate. Murray in 4.

5. Eugenie Bouchard vs. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

Bouchard was tested all the way in the second round against Sorana Cirstea, eventually emerging victorious in a lengthy 3-setter. That workout was probably exactly what Bouchard needed after some patchy form post-Wimbledon. The All England Club finalist will probably like the match-up against Zahlavova Strycova better than the one against Cirstea, as the Czech player is more of a retriever and less of an explosive hitter than Cirstea.

Bouchard has won both previous encounters with Zahlavova Strycova, claiming straight sets wins on both occasions. I’ll back the Canadian to come through this one with another relatively straightforward win and book her spot in the second week of the tournament.

Put your house on: Serena Williams. Once again, the top seed faces another American (this time, Varvara Lepchenko) and once again, the 17-time major winner will be too good for her compatriot.

Upset alert: Fresh from ousting former champion Sam Stosur, Estonian Kaia Kanepi will look to claim the scalp of another seed in her third round meeting with Carla Suarez Navarro.

Likely to go the distance: Pencil in 5 sets for the clash between Argentine Leonardo Mayer and tenth seed Kei Nishikori. Mayer, who is much improved this season, is likely to push the Japanese star all the way in this encounter.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 5 Preview: Does Groth have any game for Federer?

August 29, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka showed on Day 4 that she is still a force to be reckoned with, rallying from an early deficit to defeat American Christina McHale on another warm day in New York.

Day 4 Recap

Down 0-3, 0-40, Azarenka orchestrated a dramatic turnaround against crowd favourite McHale, the Belarusian winning 12 of the last 14 games to seal a 6-3 6-2 victory. Meanwhile, Serena Williams was at her ruthless best against Vania King, allowing her compatriot just one game for the match. Among the other seeds winning on Day 4 were Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Italy’s Flavia Pennetta and Aussie Casey Dellacqua.

Eighth seed Ana Ivanovic was knocked out of the tournament by the Czech Karolina Pliskova, whilst local hero Madison Keys and former champion Sam Stosur were other seeds to exit the tournament on Day 4, with Stosur losing a gripping third set tiebreaker against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.

In the men’s tournament, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray cruised to straight sets victories in their second round matches, with American John Isner also progressing courtesy of a 3 set win. Isner was joined in round 3 by countryman Sam Querrey, who upset Spanish seed Guillermo Garcia Lopez.

Toronto champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Canadian star Milos Raonic were others to record victories on Day 4, as the Grand Slam success of teenager Nick Kyrgios continued, the Wimbledon quarter-finalist claiming the scalp of former top 20 player Andreas Seppi in the second round to set up a round of 32 clash with Spanish seed Tommy Robredo.

Matches of the Day – Day 5

1. Sara Errani vs. Venus Williams

It was in New York 3 years ago that Venus Williams first realised the extent of her health problems, forced to pull out of her match against Andrea Petkovic due to Sjögren’s Syndrome, an automimmune condition that forced the 7-time major winner to radically alter her diet, training schedule and entire lifestyle.

It took Williams a couple of years to get back on track, but the veteran appears to be healthy at present and is certainly back in form, winning in Dubai earlier this year and recently beating sister Serena en route to the Montreal final. Errani is a crafty player and former Roland Garros finalist, but if the Williams power game is clicking then I favour the American to come away the victor. Williams in 3.

2. Bernard Tomic vs. David Ferrer

These 2 players could not be more different. Ferrer is the consummate professional, maintaining exceptional fitness levels and giving his all in every match. Tomic, on the other hand, often adopts a laid-back approach to training and is prone to wild form swings.

It’s been another unusual year for the Aussie, with injuries and a form slump bookended by a finals appearance in Sydney and a tournament victory in Bogota. A slide in the rankings meant Tomic needed to rely on a wildcard just to get into this tournament, but he duly delivered in the opening round, recording a good win over Dustin Brown. Against Ferrer however, I think Tomic simply won’t have the mental strength or the discipline to fight for 5 sets. Ferrer in 4.

3. Sam Groth vs. Roger Federer

Fresh from dumping Marinko Matosevic out of the tournament, second seed Roger Federer now faces another Aussie in the second round in the form of Sam Groth. The unheralded Groth holds the world record for the fastest first serve ever recorded (at a whopping 263km/hr) but until this year the Australian had spent most of his career toiling in second-tier events. Groth has had a string of good results in 2014, highlighted by a semi-final showing in Newport last month, and if he is not overawed by the occasion then he can swing freely against Federer, knowing that he has nothing at all to lose.

Federer, of course, has shown throughout his career that he is particularly effective at breaking down the main weapon of big servers, and I think the Swiss star will underline his abilities in this regard again today. This should be a great experience for Groth, but a relatively straightforward match for Federer. Federer in 3.

4. Maria Sharapova vs. Sabine Lisicki

I’m intrigued by this match-up between fifth seed Maria Sharapova and former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki. The German has a far better record at the All England Club than she does at any of other Grand Slam venues, and if this match were being played in London then I would give her a big chance.

But on hard-courts, Lisicki’s serve is not quite as effective as it is on grass, and Sharapova has shown superb consistency this season and plenty of endurance in deciding sets of matches. After a shaky match against Dulgheru in the previous round, Sharapova will want to get through this one as quickly as possible. Look for Lisicki to cause some nervous moments, but for the Russian to pull through in 2 tight sets. Sharapova in 2.

5. Andrea Petkovic vs. Caroline Wozniacki

This match-up pits French Open semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic, a powerful shotmaker, against former world number one Wozniacki, who is a classic counterpuncher in the mould of Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario or Lleyton Hewitt. Wozniacki is a former US Open finalist, whilst Petkovic has enjoyed a fine season after a raft of injury problems leading into 2014.

Petkovic should dictate play in most of the rallies, but Wozniacki has been in terrific form over the last few weeks and will make the German play plenty of extra balls. I’ll back the Dane to squeeze through in the decider. Wozniacki in 3.

Put your house on: French seed Richard Gasquet to overcome Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi with a minimum of fuss.

Upset alert: Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz has a very similar game to that of South African seed Kevin Anderson, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pole score an upset in this one.

Likely to go the distance: I think that rising star Belinda Bencic might cause some anxious moments for German seed Angelique Kerber on court today, and I can see the young Swiss player stealing a set at least.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 4 Preview: Djokovic & Murray should breeze into Rd 3

August 28, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Maria Sharapova was forced to 3 sets by Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru on Day 3, but the fifth seed and reigning French Open eventually prevailed, collecting a 4-6 6-3 6-2 win to move into the third round of the tournament.

Day 3 Recap

The news was not so good for fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who extended her mediocre record at Flushing Meadows courtesy of a straight sets defeat at the hands of China’s Shuai Peng. Sloane Stephens was another seed who exited the tournament on Day 3, the American falling to Sweden’s Johanna Larsson in a lengthy 3-setter.

Among the other winners on Day 3 was veteran Venus  Williams, second seed Simona Halep and former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic, whilst fellow seeds Andrea Petkovic, Alize Cornet and Angelique Kerber also recorded wins.

On the men’s side, Tomas Berdych bested Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets, with the veteran Aussie left to rue several missed opportunities to extend the match. Stan Wawrinka overcame the Brazilian Bellucci in 4 sets under lights, as Marin Cilic and Feliciano Lopez benefited from their opponents’ retirements in advancing. French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis was a straight sets winner on Day 3, as was Wimbledon semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, whilst South African seed Kevin Anderson needed 5 sets to get past Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.

Matches of the Day – Day 4

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Paul-Henri Matthieu

Much has been made of Djokovic’s patchy form since Wimbledon, but I think the Serb will go deep in this tournament despite not exhibiting his best form during the North American hard-court swing to date. Winning Wimbledon in a gripping final against Roger Federer triggered a huge outpouring of emotion for the top seed and, having since been married and with a child on the way, there is plenty that has been happening for Djokovic off-court. To my mind, the early exits in Toronto and Cincinnati may prove to be blessings in disguise.

Matthieu is a talented player who has been ranked as high as 12 in the world, but that was more than 6 years ago and the Frenchman is now officially a veteran of the tour. Look for Matthieu to compete strongly but for Djokovic to be slightly stronger in all departments. Djokovic in 3.

2. Matthias Bachinger vs. Andy Murray

World number 235 Matthias Bachinger was lucky to get into the qualifying tournament at Flushing Meadows but the German has made the most of his opportunity, earning a spot in the main draw and then upsetting Czech Davis Cup star Radek Stepanek in round 1. Bachinger now faces two-time major winner Andy Murray, a former childhood adversary of the German’s.

Murray looked shaky at times against Robin Haase in the opening round, battling cramps and a tricky opponent, but I think the Scot will be far more assured today. Bachinger is exactly the sort of player whom Murray can out-think and out-position on the court, and I think the former US Open champion will breeze through this match in straight sets. Murray in 3.

3. Sorana Cirstea vs. Eugenie Bouchard

Romania’s Sorana Cirstea is a renowned giant-killer, who always seems to produce her best tennis on the sport’s biggest stages. However, Cirstea is not enjoying a good year to date, entering the tournament having won just one-third of her matches in 2014. Cirstea did enjoy a fine win in round 1, hammering Heather Watson 6-1 6-1, but I don’t think she will be able to match Bouchard’s consistency.

As with Djokovic, I think Bouchard needed to have some time out of the sport after her run to the Wimbledon final, which left her emotionally drained and with a nagging knee complaint. I think the Canadian seems refreshed and raring to go deep into the tournament, and I think she will overcome the big-hitting of Cirstea today. Bouchard in 2.

4. Christina McHale vs. Victoria Azarenka

American Christina McHale has a glorious opportunity to capture a huge scalp on Centre Court today when she takes on former world number one and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian has had a frustrating year to date, being bothered by a lingering ankle problem that has caused her to miss a myriad of tournaments and suffer a slide in the rankings as a result.

Azarenka enjoyed a hard-fought win in the opening round and will eager to salvage something from the 2014 season with a deep run into the second week in New York. McHale has had a solid year to date, despite a poor record in the Grand Slams, but I can’t see her outhitting her higher-ranked opponent today. Azarenka in 3.

5. Sam Stosur vs. Kaia Kanepi

The last few years have seen former US Open champion Sam Stosur unable to return to the heights of 2011, when she famously upset Serena Williams in New York to claim her one and only Grand Slam title to date. However, Stosur is always a threat at Grand Slams, courtesy of her atomic forehand and her heavy kicking serve. If she can survive the first week of the tournament, Stosur is a chance to do some damage in the second week.

Kanepi is a tenacious opponent for Stosur today, with the Estonian a former top 20 player who has made the quarter-finals of multiple Grand Slams. Kanepi, however, is more of a counter-puncher than an attacker, and I would expect Stosur to dictate the majority of the rallies in this one. If the Aussie has her eye in, she should come out victorious. Stosur in 2.

Put your house on: Serena Williams. The top seed will be far too good for compatriot Vania King.

Upset alert: Big-serving Sam Querrey has a big chance against the seeded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who is more at home on clay-courts.

Likely to go the distance: Pencil in 5 sets for the clash between German seed Philipp Kohlschreiber and French veteran Michael Llodra. I’ll back the German to edge past his opponent in the decider.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 3 Preview: Grigor looks for NYC glory

August 27, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

With basketball legend Michael Jordan watching in the stands, Roger Federer eased past Marinko Matosevic in straight sets in the night session on Day 2 to book his place in round 2. Federer will face another Aussie and the world’s faster server in the second round, Sam Groth.

Day 2 Recap

Joining Federer in the winners’ circle on Day 2 was fourth seed David Ferrer, local hope John Isner, Frenchmen Richard Gaquet, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils, and Japan’s Kei Nishikori. There were also wins for veteran Ivo Karlovic and Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who needed 5 sets to overcome Andreas Haider-Maurer. Meanwhile, 17 year old Borna Coric won his first ever Grand Slam match, with the 2013 US Open junior champion dumping Czech seed Lukas Rosol in straight sets.

In the women’s tournament, the big names put in blockbuster displays, with Ivanovic, Kvitova, Serena Williams and Bouchard dropping just 11 games between them. Last year’s runner-up Victoria Azarenka was forced to 3 sets by Japan’s Misaki Doi but eventually prevailed, whilst Flavia Pennetta scored a 3 set win over Julia Goerges.  And if you thought Coric’s win was impressive, it was outshone by the amazing victory of 15 year old American Cici Bellis, who surprised twelfth seed and Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in 3 sets in front of an adoring crowd.

Matches of the Day – Day 3

1. Lleyton Hewitt vs. Tomas Berdych

After a fine start to the year, which saw him make the Australian Open semi-finals, win the title in Rotterdam and make the final in Dubai, sixth seed Tomas Berdych was endured something of a slump, falling in the third round of Wimbledon and achieving just a 5-5 win-loss record in his last 10 matches.

Berdych’s game is made for the bouncy hard-courts of Flushing Meadows, but he will need to boost his confidence if he is going to be a contender at this year’s tournament. Hewitt showed by winning the title in Newport last month that he is far from a spent force on the ATP Tour, and last year the former world number one ousted Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the round of 16 in New York.

Berdych has won both of his previous clashes with Hewitt but, with the last of those wins coming in 2009, it would be foolish to read too much into that record. That said, if he can serve well and be aggressive from the baseline, I think Berdych will prevail courtesy of his superior power. Berdych in 4.

2. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Thomas Bellucci

I was impressed by Stan Wawrinka’s opening round win over Jiri Vesely, with the third seed successfully negotiating the Czech leftie’s big serve and playing the big points well. That marks a big change from Roland Garros, where Wawrinka seemed overawed by the pressure associated with being a recent Grand Slam champion and crumbled in his opening round match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Wawrinka faces another leftie today, in the form of Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci. The Brazilian has been ranked as high as 21 in the world, but that was back in 2010, and Bellucci has struggled for form since then, winning just a handful of matches at Grand Slam level since 2011. Look for Wawrinka to get out to an early lead and to never relinquish his advantage. Wawrinka in 3.

3. Shuai Peng vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska proved by winning the recent Masters event in Montreal that she remains a leading Grand Slam contender on the women’s side. The 2012 Wimbledon runner-up was in ruthless form in the opening round, dropping just one game, and she will be keen to notch a similarly comprehensive win today.

Peng is a tough competitor, who has been inside the world’s top 20 and who reached the round of 16 at the All England Club last month. I think this match might prove difficult for Radwanska, as Peng is almost as good a mover around the court as Radwanska and has more power to boot. However, in the clutches I think Radwanska will be too consistent. Radwanska in 3.

4. Marin Cilic vs. Marcos Baghdatis

After returning to the ATP Tour following his suspension last year for failing a drugs test, Marin Cilic has certainly made up for lost time, with the Croat reclaiming his spot in the world’s top 20 and ousting Tomas Berdych en route to the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July.

The partnership with Goran Ivanisevic appears to be paying dividends for Cilic, with the Croat gaining confidence and additional pace on his first serve. Baghdatis remains a wonderful shot-maker, but the Cypriot doesn’t have the runs on the board this season to truly contend in this one. I can see him competing strongly for a couple of sets, but I suspect Cilic will run away with the match down the stretch. Cilic in 4.

5. Grigor Dimitrov vs. Ryan Harrison

One has got to feel sorry for young American Ryan Harrison, who seems to have perpetually bad luck when it comes to Grand Slam draws. For the eighth consecutive time, Harrison has drawn a seed in the first round of a major and, as was the case at Wimbledon, the American must play Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

Such wretched luck explains, in part, Harrison’s slide down the rankings in the last couple of years, but if Harrison is to live up to his potential then he needs to start winning these matches sooner or later. Dimitrov took a while to adjust to the burdens placed on his shoulders, but the Bulgarian seventh seed showed in his run to the Wimbledon semi-finals that he is the real deal. Dimitrov took care of Harrison in straight sets in London, and I think it will be a similar result in New York today. Dimitrov in 3.

Put your house on: Maria Sharapova. The former US Open champion should make short work of Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru.

Upset alert: Former top 30 player Ivan Dodig has beaten Rafael Nadal in the past, and Nadal’s countryman Feliciano Lopez will need to be on guard against the competitive Croat in their opening round clash today.

Likely to go the distance: Slovakian veteran Daniela Hantuchova is still capable of high quality tennis, and I suspect that she will push French seed Alize Cornet all the way in their match today.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 2 Preview: 26 The return of Darth Federer

August 26, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Men’s stars Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka all progressed to the second round on a warm and sunny opening day of play in New York, with women’s seeds Sharapova, Radwanska and Kerber also making it through to round 2.

Day 1 Recap

Whilst Djokovic was clinical in recording a straight sets win over Diego Schwartzman, and Wawrinka impressed in a 3 set victory over Jiri Vesely, Murray was made to fight all the way in his win over Robin Haase. The Scot battled cramps, and was lucky to see Haase squander a chance to take the match to a deciding set, with Murray eventually scoring a scrappy 4 set win.

Among the other men’s seeds in action on Day 1, there were wins for Raonic, Robredo and Tsonga, whilst Julien Benneteau was upset by his countryman Benoit Paire. Meanwhile, Wimbledon star Nick Kyrgios claimed another scalp, beating two-time US Open semi-finalist Mikhail Youzhny in a tight and heated 4-setter which saw the young Aussie on the brink of being disqualified.

In the women’s tournament, Simona Halep and Venus Williams each battled back from a set down to book a place in the second round, as Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and Caroline Wozniacki were also stretched to 3 sets before progressing. Agnieszka Radwanksa underlined her title credentials, losing just one game in her opening round match, whilst Maria Sharapova was impressive in defeating Maria Kirilenko in straight sets.

Matches of the Day – Day 2

1. Serena Williams vs. Taylor Townsend

Young American Taylor Townsend, along with other rising stars Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, is being groomed as one of the successors to Serena Williams in terms of the next generation of American women’s tennis, but Townsend’s game is very different to the one employed by the current world number one.

Whereas Williams’ game is all about power, with very little subtlety about it, Townsend is a crafty player who has enjoyed plenty of success at junior level by employing a diverse game incorporating deft touch and sublime angles. Townsend made it through to the third round of this year’s French Open, but it’s fair to say that she still has plenty of work to do before she establishes herself on the WTA Tour. This should be a great learning experience for Townsend, but I fear that Williams will show little mercy on her younger opponent. Williams in 2.

2. Petra Kvitova vs. Kristina Mladenovic

New York has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for Petra Kvitova. Whilst the two-time Wimbledon champion has reached the semi-finals or better of each other major, at the US Open the Czech star has never made it past the round of 16. However, Kvitova showed by dominating the field in New Haven last week that her Wimbledon hangover has well and truly evaporated.

Former world junior champion Mladenovic is a talented player, who knocked Li Na out of this year’s French Open en route to the round of 32. That said, I don’t think the Frenchwoman has the stroke-making artistry or the raw power of her opponent today, and if Kvitova is on song then the third seed should run out a comfortable winner. Kvitova in 2.

3. Roger Federer vs. Marinko Matosevic

Marinko Matosevic is becoming better known for his unusual antics (check out his victory roll after winning his first ever Grand Slam main draw match in Paris earlier this year, or his tirade of abuse at an umpire in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago), rather than for his tennis, but the Aussie is a former top 40 player and a natural born competitor.

But whilst Matosevic will literally throw everything at Federer, the unflappable Swiss star should have few worries in overcoming his opponent today. The 17-time major winner is in a rich vein of form, and Matosevic doesn’t have the kind of raw power that can hurt Federer. Matosevic is usually very solid on serve and from the back of the court, but that’s not enough against a player of Federer’s calibre. Federer in 3.

4. Madison Keys vs. Jarmila Gajdosova

To my mind, this is one of the most intriguing matches of the day, pitting up-and-coming American Madison Keys against the erratic but talented Jarmila Gajdosova. Keys has forced her way into the world’s top 30 as a result of a string of strong performances, including a third round appearance at the All England Club last month. In front of her home crowd, Keys will be desperate to do well at a venue where she has collected only one main draw win previously.

Gajdosova has had some injury troubles and various other off-court issues over the past couple of years, but the Aussie is a former top 30 player and has made the round of 16 at both the French Open and Wimbledon in the past. A brilliant ball-striker, Gajdosova has nothing to lose in this encounter and will go out all guns blazing. This should be a close one, but Keys’ recent good form should propel her to victory. Keys in 3.

5. Flavia Pennetta vs. Julia Goerges

The past 12 months or so have seen veteran Pennetta make a stunning return to tennis following a lengthy injury-induced lay-off. A semi-final appearance at New York last year, along with a trip to the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Open, has Pennetta on the cusp of the world’s top 10 again, and the Italian will be eager to replicate her 2013 efforts at Flushing Meadows this year.

Goerges is a talented and hard-hitting player who has been ranked as high as 15 in the world. However, the past couple of years have not been kind to the German, who has won just a pair of Grand Slam matches since her run to the fourth round of the 2013 Australian Open and seen her ranking slide outside the world’s top 50 as a result. With Goerges down on form and confidence, I’ll back Pennetta to come through this one without too much trouble. Pennetta in 2.

Put your house on: David Ferrer. The fourth seed should be too steady for Damir Dzumhur. The Bosnian made history by reaching the round of 32 at Melbourne Park earlier this year, but I can’t see him getting past the tenacious Spaniard.

Upset alert: Denis Istomin could cause twelfth seed Richard Gasquet some anxious moments in their opening round match, whilst young Aussie Ashleigh Barty could surprise Czech seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Likely to go the distance: The clash between Germany’s Dustin Brown and Aussie Bernard Tomic should not only be highly entertaining to watch, but should also be mightily close. I’ll back the Aussie to prevail in the decider.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Tennis Elbow: 2014 US Open: This is America, man

August 25, 2014

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks at a few of the more compelling North American players competing at Flushing Meadows.

Everything is better, or at least bigger, in North America—and that includes the tennis.

The US Open is the final Grand Slam of the season, and every year it also seems as if it’s ending the season. (But that’s probably more due to the fact that I live in Canada and because as soon as the tournament has crowned a champion, most of Canada starts anticipating the NHL season.)

As depressing as the conclusion of the US Open feels every year, in 2014 it’s double the trouble. Already, Rafael Nadal has pulled out the tournament, leaving the men’s draw with one fewer worthy foe. It’s too bad too, because the Spaniard is the one who pushes the ATP World Tour to its maximum.

That all said, let’s take a look at a few of the Canadians and Americans who seem poised for a great showing in New York—or whose play of late make for a great narrative. Because it’s really the latter that I’m looking for.

Men’s singles championship

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic must be relieved. He’s seeded No. 5, and the draw put him at the 64th position, in the top half of Novak Djokovic rather than that of Roger Federer. The young Canadian has lost in this matchup against the Swiss all six times that they’ve played it—and if that unfortunate streak reaches the lucky 7, then at least it will mean that Raonic has reached the first Grand Slam final of his career.

By any measure, the 23-year-old has been a revelation this season, as he’s reached a career-high of No. 6 on the ATP World Tour. And yet, his problem now is to figure out how to keep progressing. It’s great to make the quarterfinals here, the quarterfinals there, but that’s not how you reach the top. You have to win major tournaments, otherwise you’re stuck being Tomas Berdych. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Raonic would disappoint all Canadians if he’s content with being Berdych.

Vasek Pospisil/Jack Sock

Can the tag team duo do it again? There wouldn’t be the mythical story this time, or the text messages. There would just be Canadian Vasek Pospisil and American Jack Sock taking New York by storm. (There’s your elevator pitch for the movie.) Flushing Meadows is sure to fall under the spell of the PopSock mania, at least to the extent that a doubles match ever does do it anymore in today’s tennis.

Can’t you see it already, the rowdy New York crowd at night on Arthur Ashe Stadium? Let’s hope they last until the second weekend, and beyond.

John Isner

This is it for John Isner. After seven years on Tour, this US Open is one of the remaining legitimate chances he has to make a splash. Though truth be told, at 29 years of age, it’s probably too late. Isner will forever be the tall American who couldn’t quite reach the height on the courts that his stature hinted at.

Yet, we tend to undervalue him a little bit. Since 2007, he has amassed a little under $7 million in prize money as well as nine titles. His career-best of No. 9 would also be the envy of many other players… but despite that, Isner’s legacy will forever be his five-set win at Wimbledon in 2010 against Nicolas Mahut. Now that I think about it, I mean, it could be worse.

Women’s singles championship

Serena Williams

Serena Williams took the week off, because what else might she have accomplished by playing tennis so close to the start of the US Open? In winning the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Williams showed that she was as ready as she could be for the US Open. She played five matches against players ranked No. 22 (i.e. Samantha Stosur) or better, and she only lost one set. Why play at another event when she could rest instead and gun for a sixth title in Flushing Meadows, and a third in a row?

Just write her name down on one side of the draw and wait to see who meets her in the ultimate match.

Eugenie Bouchard

Well, the good news is that Eugenie Bouchard has finally won a match again. After suffering three losses in a row dating back to her disappointing Wimbledon performance in the final against Petra Kvitova, the Canadian hadn’t won a match. This week in New Haven for the Connecticut Open, Bouchard won a match. (The bad news, of course, is that she lost the very next match she played, 6-2 and 6-2 against Stosur.)

I’ve tackled her very real struggles just last week in this column, and I have only one more question. Can Bouchard make her fourth Grand Slam semifinal (or better) in 2014? That would give her probably a better haul than anyone else on this season—and yet, unless she wins in New York, you’d almost have to look at her season as a disappointment. So close, yet so far—though since July, she’s mostly been so far.

Coco Vandeweghe

It’s not so much that I believe Coco Vandeweghe can reach the semifinals in New York, or anything like that, because I don’t. If she even manages to make it through Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round, Vandeweghe would likely play Stosur, and then Serena Williams. What’s much more likely is that she wins one or two matches, but that’s all.

See this, rather, as overdue praise for the American’s great showing in Montreal, where she beat both Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic on her way to the quarterfinals. Vandeweghe has been playing well of late, and has a career-high ranking of No. 38 to show for it. In a sport where we tend to celebrate only the superhuman, it’s good to remember that most are just like us—happy to be playing and trying their damn hardest to win a match or two.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

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