US Open Day 2 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 2 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Kim Clijsters, Andy Murray and both of the Williams sisters begin their campaigns today.

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Serena Williams at Media Day (usopen.org).

Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters will play her first Grand Slam match in eight years.

 

That same year at this event, Andy Murray won his first Major.  Today he will vie for his first win at a Slam since the 2018 US Open.  Also on Tuesday, both Williams sisters will be in action, with Venus having a tough draw in a top 20 seed.  And the two men who have come closest to ending The Big 3’s reign at the Majors, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev, will begin their 2020 US Open campaigns.

Ekaterina Alexandrova (21) vs. Kim Clijsters (WC)

Kim’s retirement came here in 2012 at the hands of Laura Robson, at an event she was champion of three times.  Her return began earlier this year, with respectable losses to Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta.  She then played and impressed last month in World Team Tennis.  Kim had to pull out of the Western & Southern Open last week with an abdominal injury, but reportedly should be good to go today.  Her opponent is far from an easy draw.  25-year-old Alexandrova was one of the hottest players on tour before the pandemic shutdown.  She was the champion in Shenzhen, and a semifinalist in St. Petersburg.  However, Ekaterina has a losing record in her career at the Slams.  Based on how well Kim was hitting the ball in World Team Tennis, I give the slight edge to the four-time Major singles champion.

Karolina Muchova (20) vs. Venus Williams

Venus is playing in her 22nd US Open singles draw.  In her 21 previous appearances, she has never lost in the first round.  But with only two wins since last year’s event, she’s unseeded and thus faces a top 30 player in her opening round.  Muchova was a quarterfinalist at last year’s Wimbledon, and claimed a hard court title last September in Seoul.  Karolina possesses a lot of variety in her game, and may prove to be a frustrating opponent for a rusty Venus.  With a lack of recent wins, and the lack of a partisan crowd cheering her own, Venus will need to call upon the fighting spirit she’s so often displayed over her long career to avoid an opening round loss.

Roberto Bautista Agut (8) vs Tennys Sandgren

Bautista Agut was a semifinalist last week, and was just a few points away from handing Novak Djokovic his first loss of the year.  The 32-year-old veteran continues to improve his level of play, and is the rare Spaniard that excels on hard courts.  Likewise, Sandgren has found success on this surface, having reached the Australian Open quarterfinals two of the last three years.  He infamously failed to convert seven match points against Roger Federer this past January in Melbourne.  This first round encounter could be grueling, between two players who are prone to long best-of-five matches.  Bautista Agut is the favorite to advance, in a tough section of the draw where red-hot Milos Raonic may be waiting in the third round.

Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Jannik Sinner

This is one of the most appetizing first round matchups, featuring two big, up-and-coming ball-strikers.  24-year-old Khachanov had a breakout 2018 season, highlighted by his Masters 1,000 title victory in Bercy.  19-year-old Sinner was the champion at last November’s ATP Next Gen Finals, defeating Alex de Minaur in the final.  Their first career meeting today will likely be the first of many to come.  The experience of Khachanov should be enough to advance here, as Sinner only has one career match win at a Major.  But early in his career, Jannik has already shown off some flashy play mixed with grit, and is capable of the upset to start the day out on Court 8.

Grigor Dimitrov (14) vs. Tommy Paul

This is a rematch from the last Major, when the American claimed this biggest victory of his career.  On that day, Paul let a two-set lead slip away, but managed to persevere and win in a fifth set tiebreak.  That was on the heels of an impressive fall on the Challenger circuit, where Tommy accumulated 17 match wins from September to November.  Dimitrov was a semifinalist here a year ago, but is just 8-6 this season.  And Grigor battled COVID-19 earlier this summer, derailing his training for a significant amount of time.  Dimitrov received some unfair blame for the spread of the virus amidst the mess that was the Adria Tour.  In a match that feels like it could go either way, Dimitrov’s eagerness to avenge his previous loss, and to show that he’s fully recovered from the virus, may be the deciding factors.

Other Notable Matches on Day 2:

23-time Major champion Serena Williams (3) vs. Kristie Ahn, who made a surprise run to the fourth round here a year ago. 

2012 champion Andy Murray vs. Yoshihito Nishioka, who has not played a match since February.

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (2) vs. Yanina Wickmayer, who reached the US Open semifinals back in 2009.

Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem (2) vs. Jaume Munar, a 23-year-old from Spain ranked outside the top 100.  Thiem lost in the first round of the US Open a year ago, as well as his opening match last week.

Last year’s finalist, who became the villain of the fortnight, Daniil Medvedev (3) vs. Federico Delbonis, a 29-year-old veteran who has only won four hard court matches at Majors in his career.

Order of play (All times local, -5 hours from BST)

Arthur Ashe Stadium

From 12:00pm:
Andy Murray (Gbr) v Yoshihito Nishioka (Jpn)
Kristie Ahn (USA) v (3) Serena Williams (USA)

Not before 19:00pm
(20) Karolina Muchova (Cze) v Venus Williams (USA)
Federico Delbonis (Arg) v (3) Daniil Medvedev (Rus)

Louis Armstrong Stadium

From 11:00pm:
Nao Hibino (Jpn) v (10) Garbine Muguruza (Spa)
Jaume Munar (Spa) v (2) Dominic Thiem (Aut)
Yanina Wickmayer (Bel) v (2) Sofia Kenin (USA)
(7) Madison Keys (USA) v Timea Babos (Hun)
(14) Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) v Tommy Paul (USA)

Court 4

11:00:
MacKenzie McDonald (USA) v (30) Casper Ruud (Nor)
Lauren Davis (USA) v Alize Cornet (Fra)
Corentin Moutet (Fra) v Jiri Vesely (Cze)
Salvatore Caruso (Ita) v James Duckworth (Aus)
(15) Maria Sakkari (Gre) v Stefanie Voegele (Swi)

Court 5

11:00: (16) Elise Mertens (Bel) v Laura Siegemund (Ger)
Heather Watson (Gbr) v (9) Johanna Konta (Gbr)
Thiago Seyboth Wild (Bra) v (23) Daniel Evans (Gbr)
Victoria Azarenka (Blr) v Barbara Haas (Aut)
Frances Tiafoe (USA) v Andreas Seppi (Ita)

Court 6

11:00:
Andrey Kuznetsov (Rus) v Sam Querrey (USA)
Claire Liu (USA) v Sara Sorribes Tormo (Spa)
Feliciano Lopez (Spa) v Roberto Carballes Baena (Spa)
Ivo Karlovic (Cro) v Richard Gasquet (Fra)
(18) Donna Vekic (Cro) v Kristyna Pliskova (Cze)

Court 7

11:00:
Sorana Cirstea (Rom) v Christina McHale (USA)
(31) Marin Cilic (Cro) v Denis Kudla (USA)
Katerina Siniakova (Cze) v Kaia Kanepi (Est)
(5) Aryna Sabalenka (Blr) v Oceane Dodin (Fra)
John Millman (Aus) v (22) Nikoloz Basilashvili (Geo)

Court 8

11:00:
Jannik Sinner (Ita) v (11) Karen Khachanov (Rus)
Vera Zvonareva (Rus) v Leylah Annie Fernandez (Can)
Christopher O’Connell (Aus) v Laslo Djere (Ser)
Viktoria Kuzmova (Svk) v Catherine McNally (USA)
Sachia Vickery (USA) v Taylor Townsend (USA)

Court 9

11:00:
Margarita Gasparyan (Rus) v Monica Puig (Pur)
Norbert Gombos (Svk) v Radu Albot (Mol)
Anna Kalinskaya (Rus) v Nina Stojanovic (Ser)
Marcel Granollers (Spa) v Kamil Majchrzak (Pol)
Bernarda Pera (USA) v Zarina Diyas (Kaz)

Court 11

11:00:
Ysaline Bonaventure (Bel) v (25) Shuai Zhang (Chn)
Jeremy Chardy (Fra) v (10) Andrey Rublev (Rus)
(8) Roberto Bautista Agut (Spa) v Tennys Sandgren (USA)
(21) Alex De Minaur (Aus) v Andrej Martin (Svk)
Kim Clijsters (Bel) v (21) Ekaterina Alexandrova (Rus)

Court 12

11:00:
Sumit Nagal (Ind) v Bradley Klahn (USA)
Taro Daniel (Jpn) v Gregoire Barrere (Fra)
(27) Ons Jabeur (Tun) v Katarzyna Kawa (Pol)
Iga Swiatek (Pol) v (29) Veronika Kudermetova (Rus)
Yuichi Sugita (Jpn) v Ugo Humbert (Fra)

Court 14

11:00:
Emil Ruusuvuori (Fin) v Aljaz Bedene (Slo)
Vasek Pospisil (Can) v Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger)
Jil Belen Teichmann (Swi) v Aliona Bolsova (Spa)
Gianluca Mager (Ita) v Miomir Kecmanovic (Ser)
Vitalia Diatchenko (Rus) v Olga Govortsova (Blr)

Court 15

11:00:
Tsvetana Pironkova (Bul) v Ludmilla Samsonova (Rus)
Natalia Vikhlyantseva (Rus) v Katrina Scott (USA)
(29) Guido Pella (Arg) v Jeffrey John Wolf (USA)
Marton Fucsovics (Hun) v Hugo Dellien (Bol)
Patricia Maria Tig (Rom) v Kurumi Nara (Jpn)

Court 17

11:00:
Viktoriya Tomova (Bul) v (22) Amanda Anisimova (USA)
(15) Felix Auger-Aliassime (Can) v Thiago Moura Monteiro (Bra)
Leonardo Mayer (Arg) v (25) Milos Raonic (Can)
(26) Sloane Stephens (USA) v Mihaela Buzarnescu (Rom)
(6) Matteo Berrettini (Ita) v Go Soeda (Jpn)

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US Open Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud Play for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Carlos Alcaraz at the end of Friday’s semifinal (twitter.com/usopen)

History will be made on Sunday at the US Open.  In an unprecedented men’s championship match, the winner will not only earn their first Major title, but also become the World No.1 for the first time.  So much is on the line for both 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 23-year-old Casper Ruud.

 

Alcaraz comes from humble beginnings, growing up in a small village called El Palmar in Murcia, Spain.  His father was a semi-professional tennis player, and Carlitos picked up the game from a very young age.  In 2018, he joined the tennis academy of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who quickly recognized the talent and potential of Alcaraz, and has been his primary coach ever since.  His idol is fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

Ruud is the son of former top 40 player Christian Ruud, who also serves as his coach.  Casper grew up in Oslo, Norway, and continues to set new records for Norwegian players: the first to win an ATP title, to reach a Major final, and to be ranked in the top 10.  And like Alcaraz, his idol is Rafael Nadal.


Casper Ruud (5) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Alcaraz is looking to become the youngest World No.1 in history, and the first teenager to ever achieve that feat.  He is the youngest men’s finalist at a Major since Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005.  Just last year, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100.  But since last summer, he has skyrocketed up the rankings.  He leads the tour with 50 match wins in 2022, and is 5-2 lifetime in ATP finals.

Ruud, currently ranked No.7, is looking to make the biggest rankings jump to No.1 of all-time.  This is his second Major final out of the last three, after being a surprise finalist three months ago in Paris.  In that championship match, he was routed by Nadal 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.  Overall, Casper is 9-4 in finals.

Alcaraz is 2-0 against Ruud, having claimed both those matches in straight sets.  They occurred a year ago on clay in Marbella, and six months ago in the final of the Miami Masters on a hard court. 

It’s hard to fathom Carlitos will be close to 100% physically on Sunday.  He is coming off three consecutive five-set wins that went late into the night or the morning, and even had to save a match point in his especially epic five-setter against Jannik Sinner.  As per Ravi Ubha, Alcaraz is the first player since Andre Agassi in 2005 to win three straight five-setters in the round directly before a Major final.  However, the youngster is remarkably fit, and continues to recover surprisingly well from his grueling five-set battles.

The second half of Ruud’s road to this championship match was considerably less complicated, spending over four hours less on court than Alcaraz since the fourth round.  Casper will be the much fresher competitor, yet even though he possesses previous experience in a Major final, he has much less experience in defeating top players.  He is 0-5 at Slams against top 5 opposition.

Unlike Ruud, Alcaraz has a favorable record against the top 10, having claimed seven of his last nine matches.  His incredible mix of speed and power make his game nearly impenetrable when he’s at his best.  And considering his comfortable victories over Casper in the recent past, Carlitos is the favorite to win his first Major title and become the new World No.1.


Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship match will be played at 1:00pm local time.  It’s Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (3) vs. Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend.  Krejcikova and Siniakova are vying for their sixth Major as a team, and their third of the season.  This title would complete their career Grand Slam.  McNally was a finalist at last year’s US Open alongside Coco Gauff.  Townsend is a two-time Slam semifinalist, including earlier this season at Roland Garros.  This is only Katy and Taylor’s second event as a team.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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US Open Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur Play for the Women’s Singles Championship

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Iga Swiatek during Thursday’s semifinals (twitter.com/usopen)

The championship match in women’s singles at the last Major of the year is fittingly between the two best players of 2022.  They are also two of the sport’s most likable competitors, with plenty of flair and aggression in their games.

 

Iga Swiatek 56-7 this season, with six titles, all of which were accumulated during a 37-match winning streak.  The world No.1 has more than double the points of all other players this season.  And the two-time Roland Garros champion has now achieved her first Slam final on a hard court.

Ons Jabeur is 44-13 on the year,with two titles.  She will reach a career-high ranking of No.2 based on this result, her second Major final this summer.  Ons is the first woman to achieve back-to-back Major finals since Serena Williams in 2019.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Swiatek’s best tennis has often escaped during her this event, and she’s spoken openly regarding the court speed and tennis balls not being to her liking.  But she has still advanced to this final fairly economically, dropping only two sets through six matches.  Iga has now claimed her last nine matches against top 10 opposition, and is a perfect 9-0 in tournament finals within the last two years, claiming all nine of those in straight sets.

Jabeur was only 10-8 this season on hard courts prior to this fortnight, and went just 2-3 on this surface in August after her highly disappointing loss in the championship match at Wimbledon, where she won just four of the last 16 games after securing the first set.  However, she dropped only one set in her first six rounds, and dominated a red-hot Caroline Garcia in the semifinals by a score of 6-1, 6-3.  Ons is 2-3 in finals this year, and only 3-6 lifetime.

Swiatek and Jabeur have split four previous meetings, and split their two encounters on hard courts.  They played once before at a Major, with Ons prevailing in three sets in the round of 16 at last year’s Wimbledon.  When they met this season, in the final of Rome on clay, Iga was comfortably victorious 6-2, 6-2.

Swiatek will look to dictate play from the baseline, but will need to cut down on her unforced error count.  In all of her six matches this tournament, she has struck more errors than winners, averaging a -8 differential.  Jabeur is an excellent server, especially for her height, but will need to dramatically increase her first serve percentage.  In her semifinal against Caroline Garcia, it was only 43%.  Iga’s aggressive returns would easily exploit that on Saturday.

Based on her play this year, as well as her outstanding record in finals, Swiatek is the favorite to win her third Major title.  But regardless of the outcome, if these two competitors both play anywhere near their best tennis, they could create one of the most memorable finals in recent memory.


Also on Saturday, the mixed doubles championship match will be played at 12:00pm local time.  It’s the Aussie team of Storm Sanders and John Peers (4) vs. Kirsten Flipkens and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.  Peers and France’s Roger-Vasselin have both previously won a men’s doubles titles at their respective home Slams.  Flipkens retired from singles after this year’s Wimbledon.  Her and Sanders are both vying for their first Major title.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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US Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals (twitter.com/usopen)

The men’s semifinals feature four players all vying for their first Major title.  Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud is the only remaining man who has previously played in a Slam semifinal.  Carlos Alcaraz, Frances Tiafoe, and Karen Khachanov are all making their debut at this stage of a Major.  And both Ruud and Alcaraz have a chance to leave New York as the new world No.1 if they win the title, or if one reaches the final and the other loses in the semifinals.  Which two men will advance to Sunday’s championship match, and which one will become a first-time Slam champ? 

 

Also on Friday, the men’s doubles final will be played.  And it is a blockbuster between the top two seeds.


Karen Khachanov (27) vs. Casper Ruud (5) – Not Before 3:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Ruud has reached this semifinal rather efficiently, dropping only three sets.  And in the one five-setter he played, he comfortably claimed the fifth set 6-0.  Casper previously had the reputation of being a clay court specialist, but he’s now 17-6 this season on hard courts, and was a finalist at the Masters 1000 event in Miami.

Khachanov was a two-time Major quarterfinalist before this fortnight, yet those results came on clay and grass.  He had never previously advanced beyond the third round of a hard court Slam.  None of his matches at this event have been easy, as he lost at least set in each.  Karen is coming off consecutive five-setters against Pablo Carreno Busta and Nick Kyrgios.

Their only prior encounter occurred two years ago on clay in Rome, with Ruud prevailing 6-1 in the third.  And Casper looked extremely sharp in the last round against another big server, Matteo Berrettini, returning aggressively and breaking the Italian five times across three sets.  Ruud will also be the fresher competitor on Friday, despite each player having two full days of rest.  Casper should be favored to reach his second final out of the last three Majors.


Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe (22) – Not Before 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

These are two of the sport’s most exciting, charismatic young stars.  But only one will reach their first championship match at a Major this week.

Tiafoe has exhilarated the New York audience, and dropped only one set through five matches.   He is a perfect 6-0 in tiebreaks during this tournament, and spent significantly less time on court than Alcaraz.

Carlitos has played consecutive epics that ended early in the morning.  In the fourth round, he came back from a set down in the fifth to defeat Marin Cilic.  In the quarterfinals, he played for five hours and fifteen minutes, and until nearly three in the morning, to overcome Jannik Sinner in what was easily the best match of the year to date. 

Tiafoe and Alcaraz have only played once, a year ago on clay in Barcelona, with Frances winning in straight sets.  Even though that was only 17 months ago, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100 at the time, and he’s now the ATP’s winningest player in 2022.  However, while he’s one of the fittest athletes in the sport, he can’t possibly be 100% coming into this semifinal.  Even by five-hour match standards, that quarterfinal with Sinner was incredibly taxing, with an extremely high level maintained throughout the match.  And that will be a huge advantage for a confident Tiafoe, who also thrives playing in front of big crowds, and in night matches in his home country.  I like Tiafoe’s chances of becoming the first American man to reach a Major singles final since Andy Roddick.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (2) – Ram and Salisbury are the defending champions, while Koolhof and Skupski are easily the best men’s doubles team of 2022, with six titles.  These teams split two meetings earlier this year on hard courts.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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