It’s one of the more curious quirks in recent US Open history – no men’s champ has gone back-to-back since Roger Federer in 2008, and the trend is set to continue, with Novak Djokovic sent packing on Sunday.

Bested by both Stan Wawrinka and his own body, it’s apparent that for all his success in the past fourteen months, there is a toll which even the famously-fit Djokovic can not avoid paying.

That said, I’m sure the Serb will be back to his best by the Australian Open, if not sooner, and in the meantime, congrats to Stan, who has made his second major quarterfinal of 2019 after a long road back from injury. He faces local hero Daniil Medvedev next, and beyond that, possibly a date with Roger Federer…

Here’s your three-to-see on Monday in NYC:

Naomi Osaka (JPN) [1] v Belinda Bencic (SUI) [13] – First on Arthur Ashe

Fresh off a fantastic win over the precocious Coco Gauff, things are seemingly looking up for reigning champion Naomi Osaka, and yet that might change awfully quickly against Belinda Bencic. Leading the head-to-head 2-1, with both her wins coming this year (and Osaka’s all the way back in 2013), Bencic has every right to feel she can stop the no. 1 in her tracks, and it will be up to the Japanese to find a way around her. What Bencic does so well is counter Osaka’s aggressive power with aggressive timing, particularly on the backhand wing, and that can cause the Japanese to go for too much as a result – if things are to be different this time, she’ll need to content herself with the occasional long rally, looking to attack with width and redirection instead of pace and depth. Certainly Osaka is capable of doing so, but sustaining it over three sets will be a big ask, and that makes this one a must-watch.

Andrey Rublev (RUS) v Matteo Berrettini (ITA) [24] – Second on Louis Armstrong (Not before 12:30pm)

He may look a tad emaciated, but if there’s one thing Andrey Rublev is not starving for, it’s big-time scalps, having just added Nick Kyrgios to his list of recent impressive victories. Now the only thing standing between him and a return to the US Open quarters is Matteo Berrettini, who is looking to cap off what has been a very impressive year for the 23-year-old. Splitting the head-to-head one match apiece, both men will like their chances, even if Rublev’s recent surge will make him a clear favourite in the eyes of the public. Who wins this one will come down to whether the vicious topspin of Berrettini’s forehand is enough to elicit weak responses he can punish, or if Rublev can do as he did against Kyrgios and wear his opponent down with his tenacity and own strong-sided missiles. In any case, it should be a real slugfest featuring two of the ATP’s brightest young stars.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2] v Marin Cilic (CRO) [22] – First on Arthur Ashe (Night Session)

It’s kind of odd to see a former US Open champion go under-the-radar just a few years later at the same event, but here we are, having heard hardly a peep from Marin Cilic so far in New York. Naturally, that’s going to change when he squares off with Rafael Nadal for a spot in the quarterfinals in a match that marks their first slam-meeting since Nadal was forced to retire down 0-2 in the quarters of the 2018 Aussie Open. Assuming health isn’t a problem here, Nadal’s 6-2 head-to-head advantage makes him a definite favourite, but Cilic undoubtedly has the game to cause the Spaniard problems with the way he can flatten-out the ball off both wings. Whether he can sustain it over the requisite five sets, we’ll have to wait and see but regardless, it should represent an immense test for Nadal in a half that would seem his to lose.


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