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US Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

With a chance of thunderstorms on Monday in New York, some of today’s fourth round singles matches may be decided under a closed roof.

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Rafael Nadal (@usopen on Twitter)

Thankfully, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center now has two stadium courts that can be shielded from the rain.  And with all eight singles matches scheduled on those two stadiums, play should not be interrupted for any considerable length of time.  Arthur Ashe Stadium will be the place to see the day’s best matchups, which include 18-time Major champion Rafael Nadal, defending champion Naomi Osaka, and Canadian sensation Bianca Andreescu.

 

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Marin Cilic (22)

It’s a three-time US Open champion against the 2014 champion.  Nadal owns a 6-2 record over Cilic, with Marin’s only victories coming 10 years ago in Beijing, and last year at the Australian Open.  Nadal retired down 2-0 in the fifth set of that quarterfinal in Melbourne, though it was still a thoroughly deserved win where Cilic showed a lot of grit.  That’s something that’s been missing from Marin’s game of late, as he’s struggled to hold leads in matches. Cilic is just 25-20 since last year’s US Open, and hasn’t gone beyond the quarterfinals of any event during that time.  His serve has been quite a liability of late, as evidenced on Saturday as he served 17 double faults against John Isner. He was lucky the No.1 American let him off the hook by only converting one of 14 break points in the match.  But a service performance like that won’t hold up against a healthy and in-form Nadal, who is a strong favorite to advance to his ninth quarterfinal in New York.

Naomi Osaka (1) vs. Belinda Bencic (13)

Enough can’t be said regarding Osaka’s classy and touching behavior after her dominating win over Coco Gauff two days ago.  Naomi played aggressive and decisive tennis in that match, but Bencic should provide a bit more resistance today. The 22-year-old from Switzerland has put together a solid year after her career was sidetracked by injuries at a young age.  Belinda started the year by winning the last Hopman Cup with Roger Federer, then won the title a month later in Dubai, where she defeated four top 10 players. And she is 2-0 against Osaka, with both of those wins coming this year (Indian Wells, Madrid).  She’s on the verge of returning to the top 10 for the first time in over three years. But Belinda hasn’t had the strongest of summers. She was only 2-2 in the US Open Series, and had to retire at the Rogers Cup due to a left foot injury. Bencic also benefitted from Anett Kontaveit withdrawing ahead of their scheduled third round match on Saturday.  Based on all that, as well as Osaka’s level from two days ago, Naomi should finally get her first win over Belinda.

Bianca Andreescu (15) vs. Taylor Townsend (Q)

What a tournament it’s been for 23-year-old American Taylor Townsend.  She was a few points from not even getting into this event in qualifying.  Just a few days later, she upset the Wimbledon champion on the sport’s biggest court in a third set tiebreak.  And as hard as it must be to come back and play after the biggest of your career, Townsend followed it up by defeating Sorana Cirstea in straight sets.  Her serve-and-volley play harkens back to yesteryear, and is refreshing at a time when baseline rallies are so common. But today she runs into the best WTA hard court player of 2019.  19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu already claimed titles this year at Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup, and eased her way through this draw. This will be the first Major round of 16 for both women.  The late night crowd in Ashe will surely be rooting for Townsend, though I doubt it will be enough to overcome the all-court game and fighting spirit of Andreescu.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Diego Schwartzman (20)

Sascha Zverev must be exhausted.  He’s played 14 out of a possible 15 sets to survive this far, and has already spent 10 hours on court through three rounds.  With little confidence and some serious serving issues, he deserves credit for battling his way to this stage. And while his opponent today is nearly a full foot shorter than him, he’s one of the best battlers on tour, who rarely defeats himself.  Schwartzman has clocked nearly 50% less time on court than Zverev, and Diego is yet to lose a set. That being said, he’s also yet to face a seeded opponent. They’ve split two previous meetings, though Schwartzman’s victory was over five years ago on clay.  More relevantly, Zverev prevailed last year at the Paris Masters on a hard court. However, I just don’t see Sascha having one more great escape in him this fortnight. I like Diego to reach his third Major quarterfinal.

Matteo Berrettini (24) vs. Andrey Rublev

Berrettini has rather quietly made his way through the draw, and into this second consecutive round of 16 at a Slam.  As per the ATP, Matteo is playing to become only the second Italian man to reach the US Open quarterfinals, and the first in over 40 years.  The 23-year-old missed out on the hype of being one of the ATP’s much-hyped Next Gen stars, having only made his Major debut last year. Berrettini has really come into his own in 2019, with 37 match wins at all levels (including five at the Challenger level).  And he’s proved to be a threat on all surfaces: he won the Phoenix Challenger on a hart court, Munich on clay, and Stuttgart on grass. He was suffering from an injury after Wimbledon and didn’t win a match this summer on a hard court. By contrast, Rublev only rediscovered his form this summer after battling an injury of his own, which sidelined him for much of 2018.  He hasn’t looked back since upsetting Roger Federer in Cincinnati, taking out both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios at this event. They’ve played twice before, and each been victorious once. In a very open section of the draw, where the winner will face either Gael Monfils or Pablo Andujar to make the semifinals, the difference today may be Rublev’s experience. He’s the one who’s been to a Major quarterfinal before, and that was right here two years ago.

Other notable matches on Day 8:

Donna Vekic (23) vs. Julia Goerges (26).  Vekic is yet to drop a set, and is vying for her first Major quarterfinal.  Goerges was a semifinalist last year at Wimbledon, defeating Vekic in the fourth round of that event.  Julia leads their head-to-head 3-0.

Gael Monfils (13) vs. Pablo Andujar.  Monfils survived a thrilling five-setter on Saturday night against Denis Shapovalov.  This is Andujar’s first time in a Slam fourth round. The 33-year-old Spaniard only owned two match wins on a hard court this season prior to this run.  The ATP has a great look at Pablo’s inspiring journey here.  Monfils leads their head-to-head 3-0.

Elise Mertens (25) vs. Kristie Ahn (WC).  The 27-year-old American had never won a match at a Major before last week, but defeated two French Open champions to get here, and hasn’t dropped a set yet.  The WTA details her journey here.  Mertens is not only yet to drop a set, but hasn’t dropped more than three games in a set.

Cocomania may be over, but McCocomania is still running wild.  In a blockbuster women’s doubles match, it’s the undefeated team of Coco Gauff and Katy McNally (WC) vs. Victoria Azarenka and Ash Barty (4), two Major singles champions.

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (7) vs. Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow.  Mike Bryan and Jack Sock were the men’s doubles champions here a year ago, but only one will advance to the quarterfinals.

Order of play (singles matches only)

Arthur Ashe Stadium (5pm BST start)

Naomi Osaka (1) vs Belinda Bencic (13)

Alexander Zverev (6) vs Diego Schwartzman (20)

From 12am

Marin Cilic (22) vs Rafael Nadal (2)

Taylor Townsend vs Bianca Andreescu (15)

Louis Armstrong Stadium (4pm BST start)

Donna Vekic (23) vs Julia Goerges (26)

Andrey Rublev vs Matteo Berrettini (24)

From 12am

Kristie Ahn vs Elise Mertens (25)

Gael Monfils (13) vs Pablo Andujar

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Former Champions Nadal, Halep Headline Monday’s Play

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Simona Halep after her first round victory (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are both currently on 10-match win streaks.  Nadal has won his last 10 matches overall, going back to his 22nd Major title run in Paris.  Halep has won her last 10 matches at Wimbledon, going back to her title run in 2019.  On Monday, both face seeded opposition on Centre Court.  Rafa takes on one of the sport’s fastest-rising players of the last 12 months, Botic van de Zandschulp, while Simona faces the No.4 seed Paula Badosa.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Nick Kyrgios vs. Brandon Nakashima – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Kyrgios helped create yet another circus during his four-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last round, in a match where both players behaved quite terribly.  But Nakashima is a player who will not fall for Nick’s theatrics, as he is extremely composed on court.  The 20-year-old American was ranked outside the top 100 a year ago, yet is projected to debut inside the top 50 with this result, his deepest run at a Major.  Brandon collected 45 match wins at all levels last season, with two Challenger titles and two ATP-level finals.  Nakashima is a consistent player, with strong groundstrokes off both sides.  But he does not possess the serving prowess of Kyrgios, nor the experience on big stages.  And there’s no bigger stage than Centre Court, Wimbledon.  Nick has fond memories on this court, as it’s where he made his Major breakthrough eight years ago with an upset over Rafael Nadal.  That remains only one of two Slam quarterfinals Kyrgios has achieved.  But in his first career meeting against Nakashima, he’s the favorite to reach that stage at a Major for the first time in over seven years.


Alize Cornet vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Second on No.2 Court

Cornet became the player to end Iga Swiatek’s 37-match win streak, and she did so with a comprehensive straight-set win.  This is the Frenchwoman’s 18th season of Grand Slam play, and she finally achieved her first Major quarterfinal six months ago in Australia, where she took out both Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.  Tomljanovic achieved the same milestone a year ago at this event, when she defeated Emma Raducanu, Jelena Ostapenko, and Cornet.  On that day, Ajla prevailed over Alize 6-3 in the third.  Overall they have split four previous meetings.  Neither player was having a stellar season prior to this tournament, with both owning losing records on the year.  But on this surface, and in a highly-important matchup, I give the spunky competitive spirit of Cornet the slight edge.


Paula Badosa (4) vs. Simona Halep (16) – Second on Centre Court

Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this season in Madrid, where Halep was easily victorious by a score of 6-3, 6-1.  And while Badosa possesses the better ranking at this time, Halep actually has a better record on the year.  And Simona is now 9-1 on grass in 2022, which was the same record she had on grass in 2019, when she last played on this surface.  The two-time Major champion missed this event last year, as well Roland Garros and the Tokyo Olympics, due to a calf injury.  Neither player has dropped a set this fortnight, with Badosa taking out another two-time Slam champ, Petra Kvitova, in the last round.  That was a high-quality affair, with both Paula and Petra effectively applying their aggressive nature on this surface.  While Halep is the much more accomplished grass court player, I favor Badosa’s strong baseline game to again be rewarded on Monday, and to even her head-to-head with Halep.


Amanda Anisimova (20) vs. Harmony Tan – Third on No.1 Court

Both of these players already achieved phenomenal wins during the first week.  Anisimova came back from a set down to defeat Coco Gauff, while Tan prevailed over Serena Williams after over three hours of play.  Tan had never advanced beyond the second round of a Major, but followed up the biggest win of her career with two straight-set victories.  Anisimova is vying for her best result at a Slam since her 2019 run to the Roland Garros semifinals.  And it was during that run when her only previous matchup with Tan took place, with Amanda prevailing 6-3, 6-1.  Anisimova is in the midst of a strong season, with a record of 28-10.  Her outstanding backhand should allow her to dictate play and earn another win over Tan, despite Harmony’s diverse game filled with guile, drop shots, and tweeners.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp (21) – Third on Centre Court

This is a rematch from the third round of the last Major, when Nadal won in straight sets at his beloved Roland Garros.  Rafa did not look his best during his first two rounds here, but upped his level significantly in a comfortable victory over Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday.  Van de Zandschulp’s rise the last 12 months in his mid-20’s has been remarkable.  He reached the US Open quarterfinals as a qualifier, and has now advanced to the third round or better at the last four Slams.  And just a few weeks ago on grass at Queen’s Club, Botic was a semifinalist.  He may provide Nadal with his sternest test of this tournament yet, but defeating the 22-time Major champion, and ending Rafa’s bid for the calendar-year Grand Slam, would be extremely surprising.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Cristian Garin – De Minaur has only dropped one set to this stage, though he’s yet to face opposition ranked higher than 80th in the world.  Garin is into the fourth here for the second straight year, and also has only lost one set.  Alex leads their head-to-head 3-0, which includes a grass court contest right before this event in Eastbourne.

Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Petra Martic – Every set Rybakina has played in these Championships has been a tight one, but she’s yet to lose one.  Martic has also claimed all her sets thus far, which includes a victory over the eighth seed, Jessica Pegula.  Both players are vying for their second Major quarterfinal.  Elena is 1-0 against Petra, as she prevailed in two tiebreak sets a couple years ago in Dubai.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Jason Kubler (Q) – Fritz is on a seven-matchwin streak, dating back to his title run a week ago in Eastbourne.  Across the last two weeks, his serve has only been broken four times.  Kubler is a 29-year-old Australian who has been plagued by a heredity knee condition throughout his career.  He was 2-6 in the main draws of Slams prior to this fortnight.  At the 2018 US Open, Fritz was up two-sets-to-one over Kubler when Jason was forced to retire.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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WIMBLEDON: Day Five Talking Points Cameron Norrie and Heather Watson through to week two

It was double delight for British tennis fans as Cameron Norrie and Heather Watson are into the second week.

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Cameron Norrie (@atptour - Twitter)

Friday day five of Wimbledon saw joy for Britain as both Cameron Norrie and Heather Watson recorded impressive wins.

 

It marks their furthest appearance at a Grand Slam.

Norrie, on Centre Court, comprehensively beat American Steve Johnson in straight sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-0.

The loss of just one game in the final two sets, with a bagel final set.

The British number one must surely fancy himself as the dark horse at this year’s tournament.

With the overwhelming support of the home crowd, surely, he has every chance.

And then Heather Watson, now 30, has also broken new ground.

She beat 21-year-old Kaja Juvan of Slovenia on Court One in straights 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.

The former British number one clinching a tight first set proving decisive.

Alcaraz and Sinner continue to impress

The world of tennis often looks forward to assess which players can carry the game into the future.

And two stars haven’t failed to impress this week.

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, possibly not on his strongest surface, has performed well on grass.

He overcame Germany’s Oscar Otte in a comfortable straight sets victory 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.

Italy’s Jannik Sinner also looks at home on the grass.

After John Isner had impressively overcome Britain’s Andy Murray on Wednesday, this appeared to be a difficult match for the young Italian.

But Sinner came through unscathed in two hours and 20 minutes, taking a straight sets win 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

And defending champion Novak Djokovic enjoyed a very easy win against countryman Miomir Kecmanović.

His opponent playing a poor first set without winning a single service game.

Djokovic winning 6-0, 6-3, 6-4.

It was also a good day for the American’s Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Jack Sock who all made it through.

Shocks – Sakkari and Kerber out

A huge shock occurred on the women’s side as Greece’s Maria Sakkari was beaten by 34-year-old Tatjana Maria.

The veteran German winning in straight sets 6-3, 7-5.

But it was contrasting fortunes for Germany’s Angelique Kerber, champion four years ago, as she was beaten by Elise Mertens.

The Belgian triumphing 6-4, 7-5.

But impressive grass-court performers Caroline Garcia and Jeļena Ostapenko made it through to round four with assured victories.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Saturday Features Several Blockbuster Matchups

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Coco Gauff during her second round match on Thursday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Saturday’s Order of Play boats many high-profile matchups.  No.4 seed Paula Badosa faces two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.  Roland Garros finalist Coco Gauff takes on a former RG semifinalist Amanda Anisimova.  And another RG finalist, Stefanos Tsitsipas, will do battle with Nick Kyrgios

 

And that’s not even to mention Rafael Nadal going for his 17th consecutive match win at a Major this season, or Iga Swiatek playing for her 38th consecutive win overall.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Coco Gauff (11) vs. Amanda Anisimova (20) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

This is a rematch from the 2017 US Open girls singles final, when Anisimova defeated Gauff 6-0, 6-2.  At the time, Amanda was 16-years-old while Coco was just 13.  Gauff avenged that loss last year in their only professional encounter, when she prevailed 6-3, 6-3 on clay in Parma.  That tournament was Coco’s last title run, with last month’s Roland Garros being her first final since.  Coco is 11-2 since the start of the French Open, which is the same as her current record at Wimbledon (including qualifying rounds).  She is yet to fail in advancing to the fourth round here, though she’s yet to advance farther.  By contrast, Anisimova is only 3-2 lifetime at The Championships, with this being her first appearance in the third round.  Gauff struggled significantly in her first round, but recovered strongly on Thursday, dropping only five games.  At this event, where Coco made her memorable run to the fourth round as a 15-year-old, Gauff is the favorite to prevail. 


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Alize Cornet – Second on No.1 Court

Swiatek has not lost a match since February 16th of this year.  During that time, she has collected six titles, including her second French Open crown.  But Cornet knows all about upsetting top players at Wimbledon.  In 2014, she overcame Serena Williams in this same round.  And a year ago, she dismissed Bianca Andreescu.  Alize is coming off a semifinal appearance last week in Bad Homburg, and earlier this year achieved her first Major quarterfinal.  She has a grass court game that can draw errors off the racket of Swiatek, who played a subpar match on Thursday.  In their first career meeting, Iga remains the favorite, but an Alize upset would not be shocking.  Swiatek’s remarkable win streak will likely come to an end sooner than later, and grass has been her worst surface to date in her young career.


Paula Badosa (4) vs. Petra Kvitova (25) – Second on Centre Court

Two-time champion Kvitova is on a seven-match win streak of her own, after winning her first title in over a year just last week on grass in Eastbourne.  Badosa is a solid 26-12 on the year, but she hasn’t claimed a title since the beginning of the season in Sydney.  And she arrived at this event just 5-7 on grass in her career.  Yet Paula has easily advanced to this stage, dropping only eight games across her first two matches.  Their only prior matchup also occurred at a Major, when Kvitova prevailed 7-5, 7-5 two years ago at the Australian Open.  It’s been a long time since Petra has made a deep run at The Championships.  She reached the quarterfinals or better every year between 2010 and 2014, but has not done so since.  And before the grass court season, she was only 10-13 in 2022.  Yet on grass, a rejuvenated Kvitova should be favored.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Third on No.1 Court

These two men just played a couple weeks ago on grass in Halle, where Kyrgios was victorious 6-4 in the third.  Nick is actually 3-0 against Stefanos, with his other two wins coming on hard courts.  Kyrgios barely survived his opening round contest, but played some of his best tennis in a straight-set win on Thursday over an in-form Filip Krajinovic.  Tsitsipas was only 3-4 at Wimbledon ahead of this fortnight, and was on a three-match losing streak here, but has dropped only one set through two rounds.  And just last week, he was a champion on grass in Mallorca.  To many, Kyrgios appears to be the favorite.  However, he is only 1-5 in his last six appearances in the third round of a Major.  And as per Tennis Abstract, he hasn’t defeated a top five player since 2019 (Stefanos just re-joined that group this week).  Also, Kyrgios will know many expect him to win this match, and pressure is something Nick often reacts to poorly on court.  Tsitsipas is looking fully comfortable on grass, and I have a feeling he’s primed to earn his first victory over Kyrgios.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (27) – Third on Centre Court

Nadal is yet to reach his top level this week, but survived his first two matches in four sets.  He is now an outstanding 32-3 this season, and is on a nine-match win streak.  Sonego has now advanced to the third round of all three Majors this year, and reached the round of 16 here a year ago.  While he does own two career victories over top five opposition (Djokovic, Thiem), he does not possess the offensive weaponry to threaten the 22-time Major champion.  Assuming the condition of Nadal’s foot does not worsen, his form should improve as his first tournament on grass since 2019 progresses.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Harmony Tan vs. Katie Boulter (WC) – Both of these players already earned the biggest wins of their careers this week: Tan upset Serena Williams, while Boulter took out Karolina Pliskova.  This is a first-time meeting between the two.

Barbora Krejcikova (13) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Both players reached the second week of this event a year ago, but only one will in 2022.  This is another first-time encounter.

Botic van de Zandschulp (21) vs. Richard Gasquet – Van de Zandshulp is into his fourth straight third round at a Slam, just a year after he was ranked well outside the top 100.  Gasquet is a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist, though this is his first time advancing to the third round since 2016.  This is a rematch from this January’s Australian Open, when Botic prevailed after Richard retired mid-match.

Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Liam Broady (WC) – De Minaur defeated another British wild card, Jack Draper, on Thursday.  Broady is a 28-year-old who won two five-setters this week to achieve his first appearance in the third round of a Major.  These players met last year on grass in Eastbourne, with the Australian prevailing in straight sets.

Simona Halep (16) vs. Magdalena Frech – Halep is on a nine-match win streak at SW19, dating back to her title run in 2019.  Frech is a 24-year-old who defeated Camila Giorgi in the first round.  Simona has claimed both of their previous matches in straight sets, including earlier this season at the Australian Open.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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