US Open 2018 Day 4 Preview: Nishikori vs. Monfils will Light up Armstrong

published: Aug, 30, 2018

by: Ben Stevens

There are upsets, and then there are upsets – in knocking off Garbine Muguruza, world number 202 Karolina Muchova definitely pulled off one of the latter on Wednesday.

Not so much an underdog as an underpup, Muchova’s 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory was just her third match at WTA level, and it certainly looked like it in the early going. Falling behind 5-0 in the first set, she was simply overwhelmed and outmatched by the two-time major champion. The last match on Louis Armstrong, you could hardly be blamed at that point for throwing on your PJ’s and calling it a night.

And yet, suddenly Muchova found her feet, and the real match began. Combining everything from buggy-whipped forehands, deft touch shots and cheeky lobs, to ruthlessly drilled lasers, Muchova was as delightful to watch as she was confounding to Muguruza. The Spaniard simply couldn’t figure the 22-year-old out, and despite her best efforts was sent packing in the second round of a major for the second time this year. I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again: gotta love grand slam tennis.

Here’s your three to see for Thursday in NYC:

Caroline Garcia (FRA) [6] v Monica Puig (PUR) – Second on Grandstand

What at first glance may appear a regular second-rounder for Caroline Garcia, this match takes on an extra element of danger against world no. 72 Monica Puig, who has been nothing less than a bogeywoman for her. The victor in all three of their previous meetings – including last week in New Haven – Puig will come into this one knowing she has the goods to oust the Frenchwoman, and while a lingering ab injury is a concern, she showed no signs of it in a double-bagel destruction of Stefanie Voegele in the first round. Indeed, if the same Puig shows up, she’ll look to stay as close to the baseline as possible and attack anything remotely in her hitting zone – for Garcia, the goal should be to keep the Puerto Rican as uncomfortable as possible, namely by hitting away from her backhand and looking to play sharp angles off of her own forehand. In any case, it’ll be highly entertaining tennis from both women, with more than a few winners between them.

Frances Tiafoe (USA) v Alex De Minaur (AUS) – Fourth on Court 17

Finally through to the second round here for the first time in his career, things don’t get any easier for Frances Tiafoe against fellow young gun Alex De Minaur. A kid with a heart as big as his ears, De Minaur’s Lleyton Hewitt-esque game has already proved troublesome to Tiafoe, taking their first and only meeting in Brisbane in 2017. That said, the Tiafoe we saw against Adrian Mannarino in round one was on another level entirely, and it’s entirely possible the American’s weapons prove too much again here, although with De Minaur sure to make him play the extra ball, he’ll have to do it more often. However it plays out, it should be a very fun match, and hopefully one we get to see plenty more of over the next decade.

Gael Monfils (FRA) v Kei Nishikori (JPN) [21] – First Match, Night Session on Louis Armstrong (7:00pm start)

Just about the best possible matchup you can get at this stage of the tournament, Monfils-Nishikori is guaranteed fireworks. Having played a maximum of twelve sets in their four meetings (Nishikori leads the head-to-head 3-1) and five tiebreaks, the two are very evenly matched, with the only real deciding factor being who can pull the bigger miracle out of their backside. Expect more of the same here, with Nishikori looking to dictate the sure-to-be myriad drawn-out, all-court exchanges, only for Monfils to worm his way back and flip the script with his trademark improvisational brilliance. The only real concern here is whether they can keep it up for five sets, but that shouldn’t deter you from getting your popcorn ready.

Ben Stevens

Contributor to TennisConnected. Long time player, coach and fan. Still waiting on Mark Philippoussis to break through at a major.

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