2021 US Open ATP & WTA Round of 16 Predictions
Djokovic vs Brooksby :
I wouldnt stand near the edge of a pool around Jenson, because he is a pusherrrrrrrr. With a Monfils-like ability to appear completely exhausted yet never stop running, Brooksby has just snatched another victory from a player who had complete control of the match for all five sets. Karatsev’s level earlier in the event had been a bit lower, but he found his range on his forehand in this match, and he ran Brooksby around from start to finish. With a potential hip issue, and a look on his face like a man who’s about to give up during a hot-dog eating contest, Jenson Brooksby somehow clawed through this match. His serve is solid, and when he does redirect the ball down the lines he has good measured ability. This run puts him squarely on the tour, and so for once the USTA won’t have to prop up one of their young players with wildcards. Playing Novak will be a treat, but Brooksby has looked exhausted since the 3rd set of his first round. No one has been able to knock him over, but Novak is likely to have a field day with him. Novak had a slow start against Nishikori, but I expect him to play himself into form this week. It was noted in the DC chat that not having played any warmup events is likely the reason he’s struggling a bit to find dominance, but a few more rounds is more than enough time to set him up to play his best tennis. Djokovic in 3.
Otte vs Berretini :
Just when Gilles Simon disappears from the tour, Oscar Otte appears? A lanky, stylish European dude who wins in dazzling fashion and hops when he hits his forehand? I’m not a conspiracy theory guy, but it’s pretty clear that Gilles was tired of getting typecast as a pusher and has reinvented himself as a serve-volley mastermind. You say no, but I say, you are probably right, and perhaps I am a bit stir-crazy from watching 80 hours of tennis this week. Oscar Otte, who continues to refuse my letters asking him to change his name to Otto, is on fire. He has looked like his legs will give out every round, but he continues to win behind his serve and he continues to sprint at the net like he’s late for a pancake luncheon with none other than Bill Murray. Fun fact, Bill is short for Billiam. What’s that? You would rather hear about tennis? Fine. Otte had a clear edge on serve against Seppi, and what he did that others didn’t is take his time away. Seppi had his usual spot serving, and some very pretty passes, but Otte’s sheer volume on attempts to move forward made Seppi miss and wore down his legs as things progressed. Seppi’s outlast-you style during rallies was effective earlier, but against Otte it allowed the slightly less powerful man to hang in on the backhand wing and play from a similar court position to Seppi (form a few feet behind the baseline, Seppi can’t really hurt you). The result was a dominant and straightforward victory, and a match that is likely the end of the road.
If you are looking for the guy who’s played the trickiest matches so far, it’s Matteo Berretini. Chardy was a nightmare on serve. Moutet was a ton of running. Ivashka is a great addition to the tour, and played and returned extremely well which was good enough to be in position to profit when Berretini finally shanked a few forehands. Clutch play has been Berretini’s hallmark though, and he had the goods when this match got towards the end. His slice backhand may seem like half a liability, but I often think it allows him to move a bit slower out to the left side of the court since there’s less footwork and certainly less impact. This might be giving a boost to his ability to serve, but it’s hard to really say for sure. Berretini and Otte is a serving matchup, and in those I tend to side with the player whose baseline game is better. It is unlikely that Otte will be able to run down Berretini’s forehand, and I’m picturing a match very similar to Bublik Sock, where Bublik ended up having to guess very often when Sock had time on his forehand. This is likely Berretini’s easiest match so far even with Otte’s great serving. I don’t think Otte will have a drop in level, but I think he will get outdueled even if he gets to tiebreakers. Berretini in 3.
Zverev vs Sinner :
I have a problem today. Zverev did something good. After a fun match against Jack Sock that ended in Sock forfeiting with an injury, I stayed tuned to Zverev’s interview. Zverev took the time to laud Sock’s play, and made some good humble jokes about how soundly he was beaten in the first set. He followed this up by ignoring the interviewer’s question, and pointing out how great it is to see Sock playing well again on tour, and how he fought from injuries before, so he hopes his injury is nothing serious and he’ll be back soon. He followed that up by answering a question about his own game, by pointing out how well everyone left in the draw is playing, and that even though he is playing decent, it’s anybody’s game. I don’t like this new eloquent humble Zverev, but I’m told this has been his mood since winning the Olympics. Winning makes gentleman out of many scoundrels, so I will tentatively say that he may be growing a tiny bit. His game is tremendous at this point, and he’s a deserved favorite against Sinner.
Sinner had a big time match with Monfils, and had it put away time and time again. Monfils is playing as well as he possibly could, and the slice-heavy lackadaisical approach that I often doubt him for that. There was none of that today. He hit his backhand flat every time, and his forehand was a literal laser. Down 4-0 in the 4th, this match looked over, yet somehow Monfils won 6 games in a row. The crowd loved it, and Sinner did not. He held his composure though, and despite a very error-heavy performance, Sinner was able to win the big points and put enough returns in play to break at the beginning of each set. Monfils’ comebacks were impressive, but the physical toll seemed to induce him into impatient shots. As many errors as Sinner was making, it would have been prudent for Monfils to actually play a bit more defensive, but this match could have gone either way.
For Sinner, he needs to serve well. Zverev’s movement and defending look to be a next level thing now, and Sinner made a number of errors against Monfils during long points. The shots he did make are unreal, and he has a win against Zverev so he’ll feel confident, but Zverev’s serving will let him apply pressure to Sinner. The regression to the mean for Zverev would be understandable, but if he carries his current level into this match he should sadly win in 4.
Opelka vs Harris :
There weren’t cleaner 3rd rounds than these two matches. Opelka played Basilashvili, and managed to erase a mini-break in the tiebreaker in the first set, and a break in the second set, to run away with this. He hasn’t dropped a set yet, and his serve is just unreturnable. Basilashvili actually struggled in rallies as well. Since Opelka doesn’t move well, the move is to guide the ball around and force him into errors. Since Basil hits such a big ball though, it’s difficult for him to play safe, and when you play a big server you actually can’t afford baseline errors. The result was Basil’s forehand decelerating, and him trying to pull the trigger on shots when he didn’t need to.
Shapovalov and Harris was a really high level match, but Shapovalov has some work to do. He has a great serve, but doesn’t get many unreturned balls. He has great power and can hit the ball anywhere, but he can’t seem to hit one past his opponents. In the first set against RCB, it honestly looked like Shapo would make errors because the ball just kept coming back. He tends to play at one speed, and then frantically comes to net when that stops working. It looks like he’s just in too much of a rush to win, and Harris’ solid defending is not the thing to employ this strategy against. Harris is averaging something like 20 aces a match, and is in a great service rhythm. He recovered breaks in two sets, and despite Shapovalov dictating most of the points, it looked like he was clawing at Harris’ legs as he slowly sunk into the Sea of Lloyd, to be slowly nibbled at by tiny turtles. Fun fact : I ate an entire bag of Goldfish today in one sitting #athlete #nibbler. Anyway, in this next match, Harris has a big edge. He hasn’t been losing rallies to guys like Khachanov and Shapovalov, so he isn’t going to lose them to Opelka. He also will have a very good chance of holding serve just as easily as Opelka. This puts pressure on the big server, and I think he can win a set, but not the match. Harris in 3-4.
Tiafoe vs Auger-Alliassime :
Tennis is a tough sport sometimes. The two losers of these matches did not play poorly at all, but they were just completely unable to capitalize on the big points. Tiafoe play at home in the US is always a big draw, but the crowd and his serve are the main reason he won his match. He was able to serve his way out of trouble it seemed like every single game against Rublev, and in between this he was stuck in lung-busting rallies where Rublev crushed the ball left and right with ease. Rublev’s ability to stabilize on the run towards his backhand and go down the line is something I really only see Djokovic doing with a similar skill-level, and he hits it harder. Rublev’s forehand was the better of the two despite Tiafoe hanging just about even in rallies and hitting a bunch of winners. Rublev lost this match though because his second serve is extremely predictable. He just kicks it in, and it lands in the same spot over and over. In a key spot, you can’t really take a big risk, but this is why it is important to utilize variety and take some risks early. One, to warm up the ability so your important attempts later aren’t your first. Two, so that your opponent can just walk forward the way Tiafoe did. Rublev’s baseline game and timing are so good that his second serve doesn’t really cost him matches in general, but it is exhausting to have to hit seconds to a guy standing inside the baseline with the entire crowd willing him to win and you to disappear.
Tiafoe did perfect work in this match. He asked the crowd early to get into it. They already would have, but it helps to feel like you’re part of the team. He celebrated but never got cocky. It was a willed and gutsy performance, and he emoted openly throughout. I can say I’ve never seen his backhand better, and trading with Rublev is not easy so the routine ones he hit into the net are more admissible than they are when he misses them against a Munar or Simon. Where he contrasted well with Rublev, and what his best attribute is right now, is his variation on the serve. He has a cannon, but he slices a bunch out wide by taking pace off, and he also at times takes something off and adds spin to his T serve which makes it really difficult to return clean. He had shots that he botched, like the bailout dropshots he hit in long points, but rather than just guessing he always shows his opponent vague movement as he approaches and waits til they drop their eyes to the ball to make his final move. He has great speed, but also good anticipation and gamesmanship. It was the best performance of his career. Tennis is tough though, because it involves so much cardio that these dudes can’t really get big. Tiafoe’s shirt off flex reminds me a little bit of when you tell a little kid to show you da. He’s in insane shape don’t get me wrong, but tennis players always look a bit tinier than you expect (not you Sakkari pls don’t hurt me).
This match was the most exciting of the day, but Felx Auger-Alliassime put on an even more impressive performance. Bautista Agut played 6 perfect sets of tennis in the first two rounds, yet entered this matchup at even odds. I was a bit surprised, but the first set quickly explained the price. Felix, who apparently has the #3 fastest forehand on tour, has the #3 fastest forehand on tour. He played two middling matches, but brought out his best when he needed it. RBA gives you nothing in rallies, doesn’t make unforced errors, and puts clear winners back in difficult spots. He returns extremely well, and served decent, but all of that was negated by FAA’s right arm. He served out wide from the ad side, and his forehand was able to apply real pressure to RBA even when he was in position. The result was RBA devolving into only hitting the Felix’s backhand, but that held up very well in this match. He has a way of adding height to the shot that keeps opponents from really creating angles, and he doesn’t hit a great percentage, but goes down the line often enough to keep them honest. RBA, true to form, did not give up. His level always stayed the same, and he looked like he’d run away with it after winning sets 4 and 5. It made it even more impressive though when FAA was able to break and hang onto it.
For this next match, Tiafoe will once again have the crowd, but he won’t have a villain. The NY crowd isn’t going to just shout at everyone who plays an American, and the same way RBA’s calm demeanor and play brought the NY crowd to his side and didn’t let Kyrgios get any momentum, FAA’s easygoing nature and niceguy style will keep them from getting too rowdy. This should be a high quality affair, since both are forehand dominant players who have sneaky good speed and defending. At this point, I think Felix has played the better level of tennis. It isn’t that Rublev was a simple out, but RBA tested every single inch of Felix’s game and still lost. Felix is less aggressive than Rublev, but moves a lot better, so that removes the dropshots as an option, and will allow Felix to put more returns in play. For Tiafoe, the plan is the same. Keep points short, get as many forehands as possible, and continue serving well. There shouldn’t be a ton to separate them, but in my mind Felix is a bit more stable, and the height he uses on both wings will offer a different look for Tiafoe. This event is going to be one of the best in a long time despite the names missing from the draw, and with the performances we’re seeing thus far and the matchups we’re getting now between these players in their breakout performances, we’re going to get to see the evolution of some real champions. FAA in 5.
Gojowczyk vs Alcaraz :
When are we gonna start to belieeeeeeeeve? Peter Gojowczyk continues to prove himself. I thought Laaksonen would offer a tighter contest, but Gojo was really able to pull away as this went. He’s scoring a bunch on his serve, and in rallies when the ball has any height at all he’s able to batter the fuzzy lil nugget and end the rally. Thus far we’ve seen players hang in there on their serve, but Peter has really been able to avoid getting broken once he has the lead. His opponent here is a guy who is extremely talented, and whose future is already bright enough without this US Open run. Even three weeks ago I was saying Alcaraz’s hardcourt game wasn’t quite there yet, but his performance against Cam Norrie in round one flipped that. His forehand is as fluid a swing as you will see on tour, and his backhand is a bit errant at times but his focus on clean hitting is good enough that the only real liability is he tries to go for a bit too much a bit too soon. Tsitsipas will not be pleased with this loss, but public sentiment against him this week just made him up against it and it might be a good time to head home for some time off and a mental reset. He has a great game but he doesn’t get the value out of his tools that he should. Predictable shot patterns are just not useful on hardcourt, and him and Shapovalov tend to telegraph their shots a bit too much.
Alcaraz is the hero, and his run should continue. Gojo’s offense is good enough to steal a set, and if you saw Rinderknech and Alcaraz you know that his returning isn’t up to par yet, but he just did the job against the #3 player in the world, and Tsitsipas wasn’t playing terribly. Alcaraz’s forehand will stretch Gojo in rallies, and his own serve is good enough. The kid has an incredibly high ceiling, and he’s starting to test it already. Alcaraz in 4.
Van De Zandschulp vs Schwartzman :
Botic is a household name at this point. If you ask your kids what they want for dinner, they all shout “PIZZA!!!!!” But if you ask your kids who the coolest kid in town is, it’s big homey Botic. In a third round of tricky and lengthy matches, Van De Zandschulp won quickly. It’ll afford him some good rest, which he’ll need since an older time-travelling version of him has already lost to Schwartzman in a previous round. Diego looks very hard to beat, and Botic’s serve is not as good as Anderson’s. His movement is better though, and his forehand is way more effective. The question here is what Botic’s ceiling is. Every win is a big step for him, but Diego is beyond what he’s done so far because he requires you to beat him in the rally, and he makes every effort to extend these rallies. It’s strange to watch a player play with the intent to wear you down, but it isn’t fun to face them either. This is a slightly smaller version of FAA/RBA. BVDZ needs to play near perfect tennis, and that will juuuuust get him to the finish line. I do expect Diego to win this though, much to the dismay of your respective kids. Schwartzman in 4.
Medvedev vs Evans :
If you are collecting Pokemon (and you should be or you’ll be severely outmanned in the Apocalyptic Pokemon Wars), then you know that a Medvedevans is the most rare. It’s level 7, or whatever level is good for Pokemon. In all seriousness, OMG DID ROGERS JUST MISS THAT? Sheeeeeesh that was a Djokosmash. Woof. Ok, Medvedev has been the best player through 3 rounds. I’m not kidding at all. He has not allowed anyone to win rallies, let alone make progress in games. The easy matches are letting him execute different shots and get in a really good rhythm, and now that he’s entering a more difficult section of the draw, he’s likely to continue rolling. Add in a bunch of upsets, and the bottom of the draw looks like a nice play to be. Add in Novak looking a little bit suspect (I always fall for this) and Zverev having the brainpower of two conceited carrots, and Medvedev might have a good chance at his first major.
For Evans, this round is a luxury. He was down two sets in the previous round and genuinely outgunned against Popyrin, so a more consistent and better defensive version of Popyrin in Medvedev is a huge ask. Like Tiafoe though, Evans’ skillset matches up better against top players than the mid-level of the tour. His variety and speed will let him fare well in baseline exchanges against Medvedev, but it’ll be hard for him to hold serve as well as Med is returning. Medvedev feels like the quiet kid in gym class who leans against the wall, but when you pick him for basketball he dunks on you and then pats you on the head. The dude is playful yet ruthless. It makes him a very entertaining watch. Even though Evans is a classy competitor, he isn’t at the caliber to stop Medvedev. Medvedev in 3.
Rogers vs Raducanu :
Ash Barty at -900 was impressive, but oddly enough this moved to -600 before the match began. This kind of large line movement is always interesting, and it appears someone had a good idea because Shelby Rogers has just pulled off the upset of the tournament. Barty helped by starting off the match in very subpar form. Rogers hits a heavy and straight ball, and this does make it somewhat difficult to create angles. It’s the same gamestyle as Keys and Stephens, and it seems to do well on these courts. In the second Barty appeared more like herself, and ran away with things for a 6-1 lead. Down 5-2 in the third, this looked over. Somehow, Rogers found her best tennis, and Barty slowly faltered. She didn’t make too many outright errors, but her serve left her, and it seemed like Rogers was just in a much better rhythm. The tiebreaker was tense, but throughout this comeback it just seemed like Rogers was getting the good breaks. Her reaction after the match was genuinely sweet, and Barty was very classy in defeat.
Raducanu and Tormo was a match where I wasn’t sure what to expect. Tormo is one of the tour’s toughest defensive tests, and was in good form. Raducanu is a bright spot and is clearly going to be a tour player, but it wasn’t clear to me yet how big she hits the ball. There are no more questions about that after her performance today. She zipped someone whose entire game is built around not getting zipped. It was supremely impressive from start to finish and I think it was good enough to make her a favorite in this match. Rogers shouldn’t beat the #1 seed and then lose quickly, but Raducanu barely missed a shot during her match and seems to have very clean ballstriking on both wings. It’s strange for a junior player to have such a complete game already, but I’m here for it.
Rogers’ power will be the key for her to get through here. Raducanu tends to play a very steady game but she looks to hit the ball hard on most shots. If Rogers can take away her time, she might be the first person in this event to slow Emma down. After that last round though, I don’t see it happening. Barty’s slice backhand was a safehaven for Rogers and it is somewhat natural to have an emotional letdown after a huge win. It feels dangerous to say Raducanu is better already, but I think she just might be. Raducanu in 2.
Bencic vs Swiatek :
Belinda Bencic was very solid today. Jessica Pegula has been outlasting a lot of players on tour by being steady. She moves well enough to extend rallies, and she hits solid enough that it’s tough to really create off of her shots. Her serve is decent, and this formula has let her capitalize on errors and lapses in quality from some of the tour’s top players. Today though, Bencic had no lapses. She sent the ball back with interest on every shot and never stopped hitting to the open court. It’s the same style of play that she had at the Olympics and she’s likely to continue in this round. Is it enough to best Swiatek?
I was bullish about Kontaveit but Swiatek did not start this match at the level she did against Ferro. Kontaveit’s power seemed to be enough to play even, but not enough to end rallies against Swiatek. The difference in this match was slight, but it was Iga’s ability to defend. Many rallies ended with Kontaveit forcing a shot she perhaps shouldn’t have gone for, but when you’re playing tennis things are a lot different than when you’re watching tennis. When you’ve already run 6 times across the court, hitting a backhand down the line seems more like the correct decision. Swiatek didn’t serve very well, but she did win most of her forehand exchanges and she kept her temper from affecting her play despite a number of “this isn’t going my way” outbursts. Bencic has better offense than Kontaveit, and more variety on her backhand. She serves a bit better also, and that makes this a fairly even contest. I want to say Bencic will win, but Swiatek just redirects and defends on her backhand in a very similar manner to Medvedev which is worth a lot. Add in how powerful her forehand is, and I’ve noticed opponents seeming relatively unsure about where to go during baseline rallies. The urge to just try to end things abruptly is what Bencic will have to fight, as she does have the consistency and footwork to hit the 3-4 shots that it takes to win a rally against Swiatek. For Iga, she’ll need to serve better here. Bencic has momentum and form heading in, and Swaitek is just finding hers. Bencic in 3.
Pliskova vs Pavlyuchenkova :
For two rounds I’ve been vaguely expecting Pliskova to falter. Despite her serve being the big weapon though, her forehand has been the thing winning her matches. Tomljanovic made her play a ton of balls, but Pliskova was able to dictate rallies. Against Anisimova, she also moved the ball great. I would go ahead and learn my lesson, but I’m currently watching Pavlyuchenkova play her best tennis. Pavs has beaten Pliskova in their past two meetings, and the heavier ball that she hits seems to really bother some of the players on tour. Her serve isn’t know for aces, but the delivery is also well placed and powerful. Watching Pavs against Schmiedlova who hit with no pace, she looked all out of sorts. Against Gracheva tonight who hits the ball pretty hard, she thrived and moved the ball in an expert manner. Tomljanovic had break points, and so did Anisimova. The key with Pavs is that she is a very mentally strong and experienced player. When she has opportunities, she will take advantage of them. Pavlyuchenkova in 3.
Sakkari vs Andreescu :
I don’t want to pick a winner here, and I actually would like these two to play 3/5. Both of these players are extremely exciting right now, and for different reasons. Sakkari has been hinting at a major title run for a while, and this week her draw has been extremely tough, yet she’s been cruising through. Kvitova has been a nightmare matchup for her, with a few almost wins but nothing great to show for it. Today, she solved the problem and was so good on serve that she never got reeled back in. On the flipside, Andreescu is a major champion who seemed like she’d dominate the tour for years, then disappeared due to injuries. Her return has seen a lot of L’s and tired performances, but this week she’s found her best tennis. She found it courtesy of Golubic, and she’ll need more than that here.
Sakkari is better defensively, and will have a big edge in stamina. That makes the goal for her very simple. Play her normal game, and expect to win. For Andreescu, a bit key here will be to limit unforced errors. There will be extended rallies, and both players will likely get looks at break points. Andreescu’s match with Davis was a good consistent performance, but it took a lot of running and Davis was able to get ahead breaks in both sets. Sakkari will likely not be as forgiving and there is a decent chance she will break at least once in each set. Andreescu is world class, but Sakkari should be a slight favorite here because of all the extra tennis she’s played over the past year. Sakkari in 3.
Halep vs Svitolina :
Halep wasn’t exactly the Halep of old against Rybakina, but she won mainly with her experience and grit. Rybakina had leads, and she had an edge in hitting during rallies. She really should have won this match, but Halep is a really long test, and Rybakina’s game is still evolving. This sets up a fun and long match with Svitolina. I was surprised to see that Svitolina won their last contest, but Halep is not exactly as good as she used to be. Her serving is the main thing that I think is holding her back from dominating in this event, and it seems she’s aware of the rust in her game as well as she’s lashed out at her box a handful of times. The “stand up and cheer” protest from a player is a cringeworthy moment, but also why are the people in the players box not constantly boosting their players? The fans lifted Tiafoe to a win against a top 10 player that he likely would not beat in any other circumstances or conditions, and a boisterous players box could have a big impact. Is it why Halep missed the shot though? No, probably not.
Svitolina was dominant against Kasatkina and it really shows that there are levels to this game. Kasatkina is a crafty baseliner and will run forever, but her power is lacking and Svitolina just seemed like a stronger version of her. This match will be interesting because while Halep is not the sharper player, there isn’t a lot that Svitolina can do to just dismiss Simona. Rybakina’s offense is bigger by a few notches than Svitolina’s, and so this is likely to be one of the longest encounters of the 4th round. Levels coming into this favor Svitolina, and I’d expect them to carry through since Halep is not exactly confident in her game yet. Svitolina in 3.
Kerber vs Fernandez :
Angelique Kerber had a good match with Stephens, but she has proved too consistent for her opponents thus far. I like the new partnership of Stephens with Darian King, because she seems to be doing a lot more physical training for the tour. If she takes this motivation into the offseason (it’s closer than we think considering she loses first round in every small event) then next year should be good. Kerber’s win has been rewarded here with an upset in the women’s draw in the shape of Fernandez beating Osaka. Osaka and Fernandez had a pretty good match, and I did expect Osaka to struggle during rallies at some point in this event simply because she hasn’t been playing tennis. Halfway through the first, Osaka looked clearly uncomfortable with the outfit she was wearing, and decided to put a dress on over it. Not a huge issue (we all try new things and change our mind), but it’s just a bundle of distractions for Osaka at the moment, and knowing that everyone knows that compounds things. She started thinking, or rather she started focusing her attention there, and what resulted was a very surprising but inevitable comeback from Fernandez. Osaka had chances to win, but in her career it seems that once she feels off on the court, she doesn’t fully commit to her shots.
After the match Osaka had a press conference (thank glob) and seemed pretty down (understandably). She indicated she might take a break from tennis and that she wasn’t feeling good when she won and was struggling with losses and didn’t think that was normal. Honestly, that is not only normal, but natural. She’s played a lifetime of tennis, and too much of anything is too much of anything, even a sport you love. Getting burnt out is real, and winning often just means not having to think about losing. if you’re looking for joy in external sources, that joy will always be finite. A break will be good, but she needs someone around her who can contextualize this stuff. A retired pro who’s been in similar spots, or some kinda internet turtle who’s a part-time monk. Either way, Osaka needs some people in her camp to slow things down. The outfit, the Met Gala, the commercials, the documentary, the instagram, the tour, the titles, the interviews, the relationships, the family, the friends, the training. None of this stuff is bad, but you tell me how this person (who’s never had a break from tennis since the time she was like 6) is not going to be burnt out, and you tell me that most people wouldn’t reach their bandwidth quickly if they started to not enjoy all that stuff. She’s in too many directions, and mental and physical fatigue are natural. Sometimes you need to put everything down so you can take a look at what you actually want to pick up.
This Kerber Fernandez matchup is very good because Kerber doesn’t put people away. She isn’t some dominant offensive talent, and Fernandez’s speed and ability to move the ball around the court are exactly what the doctor ordered in this spot (I apologize if you are currently spending so much time on facebook that you no longer follow doctor’s orders, but this used to be an expression). Kerber should have a big edge in power, and her defending is world-class, but Fernandez is not an easy out. She’s won a title already this year, and her confidence will be real high in this spot. I still suspect Kerber has been a bit better, and I would have expected her to beat Osaka as well. Kerber in 3.
Krejcikova vs Muguruza :
Krejcikova has just beaten everyone easily, and it reminds me a bit of Medvedev’s performance thus far. Easy power, constant shots, and honestly, grace have been the main tenets of her game. She also has just beaten her opponent in Cincinnati in the third set, so she’ll feel comfortable here. Muguruza definitely has had the harder 3rd round, coming through a really high quality contest against Azarenka, who seemed like she had the ability but not the power to stop Muguruza. When Garbiñe is playing well, she has such incredible shot combinations and she hits her forehand down the line with excellent precision. Krejcikova is the most consistent performer this year, and the trouble for Muguruza here is that she hits a bit bigger than Azarenka. In a round full of very close matches, this is probably the one I see going the distance for sure. The price reflects this as well. Krejcikova won the last one, but Muguruza on a win streak tends to improve as she goes. In the end, I lean slightly towards whoever wins the second set. Muguruza’s power and serving make her an excellent momentum player, and if Krejcikova is able to win after dropping the first it means Muguruza has lost range and Krejcikova is too solid to allow an offensive player to refind that. If the match ends in straight sets, then I also like whoever wins the second set 🐢.
Mertens vs Sabalenka :
Mertensssssssssss. I’m going to try to stay relaxed, but Elise Mertens (whose first name I recently learned I’ve been pronouncing wrong) played great against Jabeur. I didn’t expect her to beat the talented Tunisian on such a fast surface, but she was solid throughout. This brings up a similar quality offense in Aryna Sabalenka. There was a lot of hype surrounding Danielle Collins for this match, and she started it off as if she had done just absolutely mondo amounts of cocaine. I know this is a PG column, but the pace Collins played at and the way she marched around in between points makes Sofia Kenin look lazy. Unfortunately, her quality play did not create errors. She had looks at breaks, and she moved Sabalenka around, but nowhere in this did she begin to force Sabalenka to miss shots. When Sabalenka keeps the ball in the court, she’s nearly unbeatable. Mertens and Sabalenka have been doubles partners and friends for a long time, but Mertens has only notched 2 wins in 7 attempts. These two wins were also in 2018, when Sabalenka was not quite as consistent.
In this spot, Mertens has a really good chance because these quick courts are letting her hit the ball through the court. The problem, and it’s the same problem Collins had, is finding a way to defend her serve. Sabalenka’s ability to hit unreturned serves just gives her ample opportunity to tee off on the serves of less powerful opponents. It’s the same equation that’s letting Pliskova dominate in early rounds, and this is a tough tough match. Since I am a Mertens fan (I also enjoy the work of her brother Finn) I am excited about her bringing her best tennis into this match. Sabalenka is a deserved favorite but I expect it to be close. Sabalenka in 3.