The fourth and final major of the 2014 tennis season is set to begin. The players are in New York; the draw has been set; and the fans are getting prepared to stream into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Bad Man Bureau will be with you from first ball to the final trophy presentation, giving you a preview of tennis matches you might want to watch and recaps of some of the action from the prior day’s events.
Some Seeds Get Surprisingly Tested…
While some matches were predicted
to be tight, long affairs–Venus versus Kimiko Date-Krumm, Benneteau versus Paire–other matches stretched out into difficult encounters. Simona Halep suffered a surprising first set loss to Danielle Rose Collins, a player who as of now has no WTA ranking. Andrea Petkovic got all she could handle from qualifier Ons Jabeur for two sets, ekeing out a three-set victory, and sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber was pushed deep into the third set in her first round match.
Simona Halep struggled early but survived a test from an unranked wildcard. (Source: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America)
For the men: Andy Murray, who knows the kind of danger Robin Haase can bring, found himself embroiled in a match with multiple momentum swings but pulled out a win in four sets after being behind a break much of that last set. Fernando Verdasco survived a five-set test from Blaz Rola, a player who had an underrated hardcourt summer.
…While Others Had Next to Zero Trouble. With all the drama going around elsewhere, it was a bit surprising to see some of the other seeds to clamp down on their opponents and deliver painfully lopsided results. Agnieszka Radwanska dropped just one game to her opponent; Sloane Stephens routed Annika Beck–so much for that portend of things to come!–and gave up just three games. And despite the potential for a great match, Jelena Jankovic dismissed fellow countrywoman Bojana Jovanovski to a scoreline of 6-2, 6-3. Even an intriguing matchup during the night session turned out to be a dud, as Maria Sharapova came back from an early break to storm past fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko.
Novak Djokovic, the top seed on the men’s side, had about as much difficulty as you would expect (very little) taking on Diego Schwartzman, a player who was playing his first main draw tour-level hardcourt match. Meanwhile, Tommy Robredo had a relatively easy time of it against Edouard Roger-Vasselin, a player ranked just outside the Top 50. Leonardo Mayer got a pass from much time on court; his opponent retired during the second set, and Milos Raonic advanced in straight sets against qualifier Taro Daniel.
Upset Results: Nick Kyrgios, the Aussie youngster who is appearing to develop a bit of a history of overperforming at the majors, eliminated 21-seed Mikhail Youzhny in four tight sets: 7-5, 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(1). In the matchup of the two Frenchmen that was discussed as match to watch, Benoit Paire found the magic to push and eventually knock out 24-seed Julien Benneteau in five sets: 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. And in a slight surprise (only because she had been playing so poorly), 25th seeded Garbine Muguruza was dismissed by qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3, 7-6(4).
Nick Kyrgios beat Mikhail Youzhny but nearly defaulted himself out of the match. (Source: Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)
5 Matches to Watch
(3) Petra Kvitova versus Kristina Mladenovic
3rd on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Day Session
Head-to-Head: Kvitova 1-1 Mladenovic
Last Meeting: 2013 Paris Indoors Quarterfinal, Mladenovic defeats Kvitova 6-3, 6-4.
Petra Kvitova comes in with confidence, having just won the Connecticut Open last week, but can she overcome her aversion for Flushing Meadows? The Wimbledon champion has performed the worst at the US Open of all the majors, and the last time she came into the US Open with the Venus Rosewater Dish in her possession, she crashed out in the first round. It’s also somewhat important to note Mladenovic’s win over Kvitova. Though Mladenovic is streaky, that win in the quarterfinals came on Kvitova’s best surface: an indoor hardcourt. I picked this as an upset in the women’s singles draw analysis
, but since then Kvitova has won her second title in New Haven. Now? I’m not so sure.
Result: Kvitova in three sets.
(1) Serena Williams versus Taylor Townsend
2nd on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Night Session
Last Meeting: First Meeting.
Taylor Townsend gets her Arthur Ashe debut against Serena Williams. (Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
It’s already being hyped as a match between the now and the future, as even Serena has made comments about Taylor’s potential in the coming years. These two have never met, and Taylor is almost certain to get nerves playing her first US Open main draw match under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium against the defending champion and world number one. Serena will be out to make the match as short as possible, but she’s also going to find that as the beatdown continues, the fans will start to get rather loudly behind Taylor to prolong the night session.
Result: Serena Williams in two sets.
(12) Richard Gasquet versus Denis Istomin
2nd on Court 17
Head-to-Head: Gasquet 3-1 Istomin.
Last Meeting: 2014 Eastbourne Semifinals, Gasquet defeats Istomin 6-4, 6-2.
As was mentioned in the draw analysis
, chalk this one up to a hunch. Istomin prefers the hardcourts, reaching all of his finals in singles and doubles on the surface. He also plays fairly well in New York, reaching the fourth round last year before falling to Andy Murray. Gasquet does have the advantage in the head-to-head, and on a regular day the Frenchman would have the advantage. Denis can play to the fact that his one win over Richard came on a hardcourt and that Richard may not be coming in fully healthy–the Frenchman withdrew from Toronto with an abdominal strain mid-tournament and then didn’t play in Cincinnati. It may have totally been precautionary… or it could be something more serious.
Result: Denis Istomin in four sets.
Bernard Tomic versus Dustin Brown
4th on Court 5
Last Meeting: First Meeting.
This match was highlighted in the men’s singles draw analysis: two players who have the ability to add quirky shots and unconventional play styles in today’s game are facing off for the opportunity to play in the second round. For the Aussie, Bernard employs various cuts and slices on his shots to keep his opponents off balance and to show different paces and depths during a point. For the German (who originally played under the Jamaican flag), it’s a serve-and-volley style game, using his big serve and his net rush to take time away from his opponents and to force them to hit shots they don’t normally in today’s homogeneous baseline rally game.
An entertaining match for fans–but frustrating one for Bernard Tomic and Dustin Brown (not pictured)–could await on Day 2. (Source: Mike Groll/Associated Press)
Result: Bernard Tomic in four sets.
(28) Guillermo Garcia-Lopez versus Yen-Hsun Lu
1st on Court 6
Head-to-Head: Garcia-Lopez 2-1 Lu
Last Meeting: 2009 New Haven First Round, Lu defeats Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-2.
Considering the last time these two have met came over five years ago, we should probably dismiss their head-to-head, as both players have grown and refined their games since then. Garcia-Lopez got dealt a tough first rounder here, as the two currently are separated by just one ranking spot; Garcia-Lopez is ranked 33, while Lu is ranked 34. They both had a solid week at their last event, the Winston-Salem Open, with Guillermo reaching the quarterfinals and Lu reaching the semifinals. Both are pretty good on hardcourts, and with neither one necessarily struggling coming into the US Open, there’s a good chance this one could go five.
Result: Garcia-Lopez in five sets.