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.
Day 2 Recap
The Mirage of American Men’s Success—There was a chance, just a small one but a chance nonetheless, that maybe the contingent of American men would do themselves proud and populate slots in the second and third rounds much like the American women have done at majors in the last few years. Isner usually lives up to his seeding; Querrey can win a match or two before he relaxes too much; and Donald Young had a good summer, as did Jack Sock. Wayne Odesnik stockpiled wins on the challenger circuit this summer. Noah Rubin appeared to be on a dominant streak in the juniors, so what’s to say he couldn’t win a match? Not to be: while Isner and Querrey have both advanced to the second round, the other four players listed (Steve Johnson, who also had a nice US Open Series, will play on Wednesday) all lost in the first round, combining for just one set won and eleven lost (Jack Sock, the one who did win the set, retired after losing the third). Simply put, it’s been an all-around disappointment for the home country’s men thus far.
The Female Contenders Crushed Their Opposition—It may have just been some first day jitters by the ladies’ contenders, as Day 2 of the US Open was a complete turnaround for the favorites. The top-ranked women continued to cruise following Maria Sharapova last night. The day session on Arthur Ashe stadium was over well before 5 PM Eastern time, as Ivanovic (3 games surrendered to Alison Riske) and Kvitova (1 game to Kristina Mladenovic) both made quick work of their potentially tough but overmatched opponents. Petra Kvitova, in particular, appeared to have avoided the normal lapses in concentration she has a history of in New York. Major overachiever Eugenie Bouchard also returned to the winning column with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-1 win in the first round. Finally, in the night match to end Round 1 for the ladies, Serena Williams took on teenager Taylor Townsend in an anticipated match. It took Serena half a dozen or so games to adjust to Townsend’s game, but once the world number one figured out the style of play from Townsend, it was a straightforward match from there.
Two Sizable Upsets—That’s not to say that all of the women’s seeds advanced. In particular, two losses caused a bit of a stir. Bad Man Bureau predicted quarterfinalist Svetlana Kuznetsova fell to Marina Erakovic in a third set tiebreak: 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3). And in a match that was a complete stunner, 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova crashed out to 15-year-old Catherine Bellis 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. For Cibulkova, it ends a major season that started with a surprise run to the Australian Open final but ends on a highly disappointing note, as she failed to reach the second week at any of the other majors.
5 Matches to Watch
(6) Tomas Berdych versus Lleyton Hewitt
Second on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Day Session
Head-to-Head: Berdych 2-0 Hewitt
Last Meeting: 2009 Munich Quarterfinals, Berdych defeats Hewitt 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).
It’s difficult to make heads-or-tails of this match, simply because neither player has a clear advantage in momentum coming into this tussle. Both come into the US Open with a 2-3 hardcourt record, though Hewitt did win the title in Newport on grass. Hewitt is a former champion in New York, but that was almost another lifetime ago. Berdych owns both wins over the Aussie, but as you can see, their last encounter was over five years ago. Expect a drawn-out encounter. I’ll stick with the upset alert I posted in the men’s draw analysis.
Result: Hewitt in five sets.
(14) Marin Cilic versus Marcos Baghdatis
Second on Louis Armstrong Stadium
Head-to-Head: Cilic 4-1 Baghdatis
Last Meeting: 2013 Wimbledon First Round, Cilic defeats Baghdatis 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
There’s no denying that Cilic is the superior player at this point in their respective careers, but this match has the potential for strong crowd interaction. Baghdatis knows how to play to an audience, no more evidenced than his thriller with Andre Agassi in 2006. He played very well this summer on hardcourts, but most of his wins came at the Challenger level. Cilic went on a tear earlier this year on this surface, building his ranking back up from a suspension, but he has cooled off since then.
Result: Cilic in three sets.
(22) Alize Cornet versus Daniela Hantuchova
First on Court 5
Head-to-Head: Cornet 3-3 Hantuchova
Last Meeting: 2009 Stuttgart First Round, Hantuchova defeats Cornet 6-3, 6-1.
Note: We’re disregarding matches outside of regular WTA Tour stops for the head-to-head, hence Hantuchova’s wins over Cornet in the 2009 Fed Cup and 2012 Olympics have been removed. Still, these two have a long history of battling each other, and a trend in the results seems to have appeared: if it’s a blowout, Hantuchova wins. If it’s a close match, Cornet wins. One wrench to that trend is that Cornet has played a lot better than Hantuchova this season, including multiple wins over Serena Williams.
Result: Cornet in two sets.
(18) Andrea Petkovic versus Monica Puig
Third on Court 11
Head-to-Head: Petkovic 0-1 Puig
Last Meeting: 2014 Strasbourg Quarterfinals, Puig defeats Petkovic 6-4, 6-4.
These two have met a couple times outside of WTA main draw matches, which is what the head-to-head above is based on: Puig beat Petkovic last year during Indian Wells qualifying, and Petkovic gave Puig a double bagel at an ITF event. Petkovic played good tennis to start the summer, challenging Serena Williams in Stanford, but since she came down with some sort of stomach illness, her results have dipped. Puig, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to back up her solid 2013 campaign despite winning her first career title earlier this year.
Result: Petkovic in two sets.
Lukas Lacko versus Dominic Thiem
Fourth on Court 7
Head-to-Head: Lacko 0-1 Thiem
Last Meeting: 2012 Vienna First Round, Thiem defeats Lacko 7-6(3), 6-3.
Let’s consider this one a match for the tennis hardcore fans. This match won’t be seen on a television court, and it’s not particularly going to be an exciting match, but fans who do make it out to Court 7 will get to see a bit of a treat. Lukas Lacko is able to crack the ball on his groundstrokes, and he’ll wow the crowds with an occasional shot that blasts by his opponent. Dominic Thiem, on the other hand, has had a breakout 2014, starting with a loss in Rotterdam where he pushed Andy Murray to three tight sets and highlighted most recently with his first career ATP World Tour final in his home country of Austria.
Result: Thiem in four sets.