Well, at least she made it past the first round…

Simona Halep, reigning Wimbledon champion, is out of the 2019 US Open, courtesy of former “next big thing” Taylor Townsend.

With Petra Kvitova also falling to Andrea Petkovic, the second quarter of the women’s draw is now totally up for grabs. Could Caroline Wozniacki or Jelena Ostapenko made a return to grand slam prominence? What about Bianca Andreescu or Elise Mertens? Maybe even Townsend or Petkovic? Whoever it is, Thursday has assured a surprise semi-finalist.

Here’s your three to see on Friday at the US Open:

Kei Nishikori (JPN) [7] v Alex de Minaur (AUS) – First on Grandstand

You’ve got to feel for Kei Nishikori. So far in 2019 he’s made the quarterfinals at all three majors, only to get there and be bounced out by a different member of the big three, with his own body doing him no favours either. Now at the US Open, the poor bloke gets one of the few players on tour who can match him heart-for-heart in Alex de Minaur, and that means this is likely to be the sort of taxing affair Nishikori really doesn’t need at this stage of the tournament. That said, it’s certainly good for us spectators, as de Minaur simply won’t go down easily, and between the Aussie’s slapped forehand, Nishikori’s beautiful backhand, and the sure-to-be myriad side-to-side exchanges, it should be quite an entertaining contest.

Ashleigh Barty (AUS) [2] v Maria Sakkari (GRE) [30] – Second on Louis Armstrong

In the driver’s seat for the no. 1 ranking post-US Open, Ash Barty’s quest to regain the top spot hits its first real obstacle here in the dangerous Maria Sakkari. As we saw in Barty’s 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 win over Sakkari a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, the Greek has the ability to match her from the baseline, and even though she couldn’t sustain it then, she has to be given consideration again here. Really it all comes down to whether Sakkari’s backhand holds up – when it does, she can answer Barty’s offense with her own, when it doesn’t she gets pushed off the baseline – but even if the world no. 2 picks up where she left off in Cincy, you’re going to get some quality tennis using every angle on the court.

Serena Williams (USA) [8] v Karolina Muchova (CZE) – Second on Arthur Ashe (Not before 1:30pm)

It’s hard to know what to make of Serena Williams’ US Open so far – sure, she stomped all over Maria Sharapova in her opener, but then she was made to seriously work by 17-year-old Caty McNally in the follow-up. Now she gets Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova, whose all-court, high-pressure game is not too dissimilar from McNally’s – albeit with far more polish – which makes her an even more dangerous foe for the 23-time major champion. If Serena struggles early once again, Muchova might put her on a hole that she can’t climb out of… then again, it’s Serena, so maybe she goes Super Saiyan and obliterates the Czech in straights – either way, it should be a good one.


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