Hype is one thing, delivering is another.
More than anything else, that was the main takeaway from day 3 at the US Open, as Alexander Zverev succumbed to the moment, while Denis Shapovalov managed to triumph.
Both dealing with new found levels of expectation – Zverev, at 20, a strong favourite to run through his half of the draw, Shapovalov, at 18, playing under the lights of Ashe for the first time, fans hoping for a repeat of his Montreal heroics –it was fascinating to see their differing responses. Zverev, cutting a frustrated figure against Borna Coric, saw myriad chances to get back into the match come and go, Shapovalov simply stepped on the gas against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and never let off, showing a big-game mentality that far belied his age.
That said, in the long run, this can only be a good thing for both players, as well as tennis fans. Even if his time hasn’t come quite when we expected it, Zverev still isn’t going anywhere, and will undoubtedly continue to learn, while in two weeks Shapovalov has doubled the brightness of the future of men’s tennis, and that’s something we desperately needed. Maybe the post-big-4 era won’t be so desolate after all.
Here’s your three to see on day 4 of the US Open.
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)  vs Sorana Cirstea (ROU) – 1st on Louis Armstrong
It’s not been easy to know what to make of Ostapenko’s play since her French Open triumph. A Wimbledon quarterfinalist, she seemed to avoid the dreaded post-title blues, but her back-to-back losses to qualifiers in Toronto and Cincinnati, and her strange 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 first round win over Lara Arruabarrena tell a different story. Against Cirstea she’ll be playing someone largely her equal in erraticism, and while obviously not as highly regarded, the Romanian knows how to hit-out and will give her trouble if she allows it. Given Ostapenko was in the same quarter as the now-departed Angelique Kerber, the path is relatively clear for another run at a major, but she’ll have to raise her game considerably, and handling Cirstea would be a good start.
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP)  – 3rd on Court 13
Part-time boyband members and stalwarts of Spanish tennis’ golden era, Lopez and Verdasco offer an entertaining match in prospect, even if they’re well into the twilight of their careers. In a rivalry that goes back to 1999, the two have played each other nine times over the years, with Lopez leading the head-to-head 5-4, albeit with Verdasco holding the advantage in hard court encounters, 3-2. Presenting a rare lefty-on-lefty matchup, the two are still capable of playing some highly entertaining tennis, and against each other they make for a fascinating contrast in styles, with Verdasco’s two-handed backhand and power baseline game against Lopez’s single-hander and finesse oriented style. Regardless of who wins, expect plenty of back-and-forth and one very tired Spaniards.
Taylor Fritz (USA) vs Dominic Thiem (AUT)  – 3rd on Louis Armstrong
When people find out about 19-year-old American Taylor Fritz, their first reaction is usually: “wait, that dude is married with kids!?”, but once they get past the initial shock, they notice a big serving, big hitting player with gobs of potential. Having made his name with a three-set win over Marin Cilic at Indian Wells this year, the 6’4 Fritz projects as a better version of compatriot Sam Querrey (especially as he already has better footwork), but already possesses enough punch to trouble high level opponents, especially someone like Thiem who could give him plenty of height to work with. Of course, Thiem comes in a heavy favourite, but there’s room for both men to tee off, and that should make it a highly entertaining encounter.