Day 4 Recap
-Andy Murray suffered quite a scare from Adrian Mannarino, needing to rally from two sets down to advance to the third round. Murray’s forehand was off target early and Mannarino made him pay with timely breaks at the end of the first and second sets. The 2012 champion’s fitness served him well, as he immediately broke in the third set to start the comeback and was never truly in danger from then on, especially once Mannarino struggled a bit in the humid conditions.
-Speaking of the conditions, the all-time high of retirements continued, as American Jack Sock was forced to abandon a likely win after he fainted on the court. It was a disappointing end to Sock’s breakthrough season (especially because he and partner Vasek Pospisil are already out of the doubles), but it was comforting to simply hear he was all right, as he could initially barely walk while being tended to on the court.
-After a flood of early upsets, the favorites on the bottom half of the women’s draw have brought stability. Though Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza capped a disastrous summer by losing (to England’s Johanna Konta), Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka, Angie Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and 2011 champion Sam Stosur took care of business, with all prevailing in straight sets. (Morning edit: Caroline Wozniacki was upset in the last match of the night by Petra Cetkovska, who saved four match points with brilliant shotmaking. If you hear it was a choke from Wozniacki, that’s dead wrong.)
-Roger Federer kicked off the night session with a demolition of Steve Darcis. His countryman Stan Wawrinka needed three tiebreakers to dispatch intriguing prospect Hyeon Chung, though he also won in straight sets. They are joined in the third round by third tier contenders John Isner (whose unusually straightforward wins could portend his most successful U.S. Open result) and Tomas Berdych.
-One player who will not be advancing alongside them is Lleyton Hewitt, whose final run in New York came to an end. He predictably made a massive comeback against fellow Aussie Bernie Tomic, rallying from two sets down to the point where he served for the match. However, just as predictable as his comeback was his inability to finish the job. He was broken once when serving for the win, and then again when serving to force a fifth set tiebreaker and stay in the match.
The former world No. 1 ends his career having made five U.S. Open semifinals, of which he won two. He claimed the 2001 trophy in straights over Pete Sampras and fell shy in 2004 as a young Federer thumped him, 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-0.
Day 5 Marquee Matches
-Rafael Nadal (8) vs. Fabio Fognini (32)
This one could go late into the night, but if it does, it’ll be worth it to stay up. It’s the fourth match between the pair this season, which saw Fognini score his first ever wins over the King of Clay on the red dirt in Rio (a match known for its ridiculously late start time, as well as the controversy of Nadal not being allowed to reverse his shorts without being issued a time violation) and later in Barcelona, a clay tournament Rafa has owned in his career.
Nadal later got back on track with a contentious win in the Hamburg final, a post-Wimbledon clay tourney. A notorious hothead, Fognini went on a fairly nonsensical rant against Nadal, who simply told the Italian to stop because they are fine off the court and to not make something out of nothing. This one features variance due to Fognini’s, shall we say, inconsistent effort. That the match is on hard court gives Nadal a sizable edge.
Prediction: Nadal in four if Fognini tries, straight sets if he doesn’t.
-Belinda Bencic (12) vs Venus Williams (23)
Nearly double her opponent’s age (35 to 18), Venus will need to turn back the clock to upset the rock solid Bencic. The teenager was on the ropes in round two against a dangerous opponent, Misaka Doi, even facing match points (and her emotions after a few poor calls went against her), which she saved before going on to win a tiebreaker and, subsequently, the third set.
The elder Williams has won all three meetings, though all came before Bencic’s latest surge, which saw her run a gauntlet of opponents, including a victory over the younger Williams, to claim the Toronto title. Venus may be fatigued after consecutive three set matches.
Prediction: Bencic in two sets
Aga Radwanska (15) vs Madison Keys (19)
If this were a pitching matchup, Radwanska would be the starter who throws just 89-91 but features a wicked arsenal of off-speed pitches, while Keys would be the developing flamethrower still learning how to locate pitches and manage a game. There’s always the potential for Keys to blow Aga off the court, but Radwanska did outfox the young American in their meeting at Wimbledon (making her 4-0 in the head-to-head). The Arthur Ashe crowd is an added variable, though it’s possible the home soil pressure might be more of a hindrance for Keys.
Prediction: Radwanska in three sets
Also in action:
Serena Williams (1) vs Bethanie Mattek-Sands; One-way traffic for Serena.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs Andreas Seppi (25); Seppi may have upset Federer in Australia, but he does not have the weapons to test Djokovic.
Milos Raonic (10) vs Feliciano Lopez (18); While Lopez himself admitted he should not have been able to defeat Mardy Fish, he could easily find himself in the fourth round if Raonic’s back continues to act up.
David Goffin (14) vs Roberto Bautista Agut (23); Both are coming off five-setters. Though Goffin struggled in the heat, he’s the favorite to earn the right to get shredded by Djokovic in the round of 16.
Ekaterina Makarova (13) vs Elina Svitolina (17); Despite casual fans being unlikely to recognize the names, this is an important one. Makarova is attempting to back up last year’s semifinal result, while Svitolina has an open path to the big breakthrough she missed out on at Roland Garros. If Serena were to get upset, the winner here would have a puncher’s chance at making the final.