Sep 02, 2023

2023 US Open Men's & Women's Round Three - Saturday Matches 🐢

Men’s Singles
Alcaraz vs Evans

As these events progress, you get to see a little more of the top players. In the last round, we got our first look at the power Alcaraz can generate on his forehand. It was a lopsided match, but Lloyd Harris played some decent tennis and at some point, you’re playing for the crowd as much as you are for yourself, so it was great to see him dig in in the third and make it all the way to a tiebreak. For Alcaraz, most matches are projected to be easy for him just because of his best attributes. He’s a baseliner that hits the ball harder than everyone else. It just gives him a huge edge in rallies, and when you add in that he’s in the top 5 fastest guys on tour, it becomes questionable what the real approach should even be against him. Dan Evans is tasked with figuring that out, and I guess so am I if I want to accurately call Alcaraz’s matches late in the tournament.

Evans was in trouble early against Botic Van De Zandschulp, but Botic only had one set of red-line tennis in him and he used it in the first set, winning 6-1. The rest were fairly comfortable wins for Evans, who has been having a terrible year. Watching Bonzi thrive randomly at the US Open though, I’m reminded that the tour has a way of finding good results for everyone in the top 100. Simon used to be clearly crashing off tour and then somehow he’d make a finals. Andujar would lose first round in most events but he’d manage to win 2 clay titles every year. Paire seems to have infinite Zelda hearts and barely makes an effort in his strings of losses, but when his opponents finally get to like -400 against him, he starts winning again and snags a Challenger. It’s not to say that Evans isn’t a great player, but it’s really hard to gauge when the slumps will end. For now, Evans is playing great, but the way he’s winning makes me wonder if he has a chance against Alcaraz.

Evans is extremely quick, and when he’s playing well, it’s mostly his footwork that makes him a problem. If he’s reading your shots he’s able to redirect very well since his forehand is a quick and easily repeatable swing. His backhand slice is great, but it’s just a defensive tool. This is a problem because Alcaraz is likely to win the forehand exchanges, and his backhand is really only an issue when he tries to take it down the line (this isn’t likely his shot choice against a cross-court slice). Evans beat Botic by rushing him and making the game into a cross-court sprint drill. Alcaraz is more than happy to engage in those, so I feel like this will be wildly entertaining, but Evans will be losing a lot of even-looking points trying to match power on the final shot.

The hope for Evans here lies in the early round play that Alcaraz displayed in the lead-up. He wasn’t really 100% focused on winning each point, choosing instead to go for the shot he felt was right or the shot he wanted to go for. This led to a number of errors and some close matches. With his team’s professionalism, there’s no guarantee that that will be available for Evans at a major, so this is uphill. Evans will have to serve well and play his absolute best tennis just to win a set, and I think at this point in his career the crowd is on Alcaraz’ side unless the match is over and they want to see more tennis. Should be good. Alcaraz in 3-4.

Arnaldi vs Norrie

Tennis is a frustrating game when players are very close in level. It almost feels like the choice to play your game or play a little more conservative on big points is one you can’t win, because any L just makes you feel like you caused it. For Arnaldi Fils, this was the case. The match really could have gone either way, but Fils was a little more prone to attempting a skill shot on a 30-30 point, and Arnaldi went almost exclusively with power and consistency. A few slices that went long late in the fifth really hurt Fils, and some of the early dropshot attempts and well-crafted forehands clipped the tape. It’s just hard to create when your opponent is hitting the ball hard, and credit to Arnaldi he took full swings from 0-0 til the end of this 4 hour clash (3:57 to be exact, because clearly Arnaldi is a Cam’ron fan).

Norrie took a page out of Arnaldi’s book in round two and turned into a wall. Now if you know anything about British walls, you know that if you truly believe, you can run right through them. That is exactly what Hsu attempted, and despite bouncing off, he stuck with it. The result was a wildly entertaining baseline battle that only saw Cam start missing late in the third set. Norrie in a good rhythm means Arnaldi is Arthur Fils in this match. He’ll have to find a way out of rallies because trading endlessly probably makes him an underdog to win. Working for Arnaldi is a powerful serve, and a good control of the dropshot courtesy of his clay-court background. The best attribute of Norrie though is that he is paying attention. This means it’s hard to catch him with a dropshot because he’s watching you hit. His training is solid also and he resets after he’s stretched from the center of the court. Norrie’s backhand remains hard to watch, but these courts are good for flat hitting so it’s almost a strength here. I’m expecting Arnaldi to be very competitive but to run out of gas as this match gets to the finish line. Norrie in 4-5.

Zverev vs Dimitrov

Last time these two played, I got fooled. Dimitrov was in great form and Zverev was Zverev, so I thought Grigor would finally beat him. Bigtime nope. Dimitrov folded up almost immediately, and held this armadillo strategy until the umpire told him it was safe to leave. I expected Dimitrov to feel pressure against Murray in the previous round, and to force offense and miss the way he did against Molcan. No such thing occurred. Oddly, the pressure all seemed to be on Murray. He was breathing through his mouth in only the fourth game, and to be fair the first 4 games took almost 40 minutes, but still for a guy I expected to be the rock out there, it was a very bad sign.

For the past few seasons I’ve been fading Murray for the simple reason that he has no wheels. I don’t think his stamina is terrible, but the guys on tour who are a step slow with their lateral movement just can’t win without great serves. His recent recovery and play made me think it was possible to recover, but Dimitrov made it pretty clear that once he got a forehand, he was able to find the open court faster than Murray was able to move. Murray forced shots, and yelled at his box, and moped, and lost. The role he played against Moutet suddenly became Dimitrov’s, and in this third round, the wall role will flip again.
Zverev took 4 sets to get there, but he dragged Altmaier down. He’s serving well, and playing some of the best ball he has since returning from his ankle injury. He’s never lost a match to Dimitrov, and him having such a great backhand and also being a great mover is likely the reason. Dimitrov will have to win this with his forehand, and last time they played, that shot disappeared. Zverev in 3-4.

Wawrinka vs Sinner

This was a big win for Stan. Etcheverry was playing well, and looked poised to really dominate Wawrinka just on stamina after he won the second set, but Wawrinka kept hitting huge. Being able to battle Etcheverry for four sets is one thing, but being able to close out 6-3, 6-2 is brilliant. No joy for Wawrinka fans though, as he plays a guy who’s getting chatter about being a dark-horse, and also playing extremely well. Sinner won easily against Sonego, and he’ll be a big favorite against Wawrinka. There’s no quick path past Stan with the way he’s hitting the ball, but Sinner trades power well, and he adds elements that Etcheverry lacks. He has a pretty good serve, and he has a lot more variation in his offense. He’s also one of the better second-tier returners on tour, so the “Wawrinka is going to get tired and lose a long one” situation that loomed against Etcheverry is likely to actually occur here. I’d expect the early sets to be very close, but if Sinner gets one of those he should win in 4. His backhand should break down Stan’s and I really only like Wawrinka in overtime in most sets, where Sinner might tense up a bit as the favorite.

Medvedev vs Baez

O’Connell made a late charge in the third and managed to take this match into overtime, much to the delight of the slightly intoxicated crowd. I missed it, but O’Connell called a MTO at one point and was administered a steroid of some sort to assist with his breathing. After the dose, he seemed to play much better. Medvedev called for a MTO after the third set, and asked for whatever O’Connell had gotten. The physio asked Medvedev what his symptoms were, and he said “I lost the set”. He’s a lil biatch when he’s losing, but Medvedev is genuinely funny. If he’s feeling spicy at all, this next match should see some entertaining celebrations and blowups.

Sebastian Baez got a pretty good gift in skipping the final set against Meligeni Alves, who seemed to be having an issue with his left leg and eventually retired. It’ll be a tough matchup against Medvedev, with neither player having a real excuse to bail out of rallies. Baez hits a little bit harder, but not enough to really bother Medvedev. Daniil will have a big edge on serve, as Baez shouldn’t really be able to ace him very often, but Medvedev has been having some issues with double faults. These might just be because he’s playing easy matches and is in a rush to finish, but habits can carry over into matches sometimes. It’s really easy to just assume Medvedev rises to the occasion here and wins, but Baez’s recent run came against good quality players and he’s carried that over here. If Medvedev had straight-setted Coric, it would indicate a good level of tennis from him, so I think this will be close. Slight edge to Med because he has the serve to fall back on as the match drags out, but we’ll see his patience tested here. Medvedev in 5.

Jarry vs De Minaur

I managed to watch all 3 of Michelsen’s losing sets, but I probably didn’t have to because they were identical. He played fine in this match, but threw in a handful of consecutive errors on an early service game in each set. They weren’t even particularly difficult shots, but it shows how much bigger he was forced to hit in this one since Jarry brings a lot of pace. Michelsen shanked some overheads he’d likely make normally, he put some swinging volleys into the net with the court wide open, and once 0-30 loomed he just seemed very out of sorts about what shot to choose. A good win for Jarry, and now a David vs Goliatch situation in which the big fellow gets to be David.

I thought Yibing Wu would be able to push De Minaur a bit, but not even close. Wu took a MTO or two and seemed to be struggling a bit, but De Minaur has really stepped up a level this year and it’s not just about snagging sets and matches from guys ranked above him. He also seems to be playing more offense against the lower ranked guys which is great for his career since ending points quickly means more physical and mental reserves in the later rounds of a tournament.

De Minaur will start as a favorite against Jarry here, and since he’s displaying new elements in his game, it’s fitting that he’ll face his general kryptonite, which is players with a ton of power. Early in his career Alex got washed by Berdych, and since then he’s had trouble with players like Struff and other big hitters. Since he hits a flat ball and plays with depth more than power, it can be tough for him to redirect against big hitters. Jarry is likely to be able to hold a good chunk of the time if he gets an early lead also, so this could be the first match where De Minaur is actually in trouble. I did think Michelsen had a decent chance last round if he had held his composure, so De Minaur is a big ask for Jarry. He has all the tools, but De Minaur has been able to expose his opponents lack of lateral movement for a while, and Jarry can only get across the court at top speed about twice before he’s going to be late to the next shot. This should be a competitive scoreline but with a De Minaur in 4 result.

Mmoh vs Draper

Mmoh me up, Mmohttercup baby, then ya Mmoh me down, and Mmoh me around! Down 2 sets against a red-hot Isner and seeing absolutely no looks on his opponent serve, Michael Mmoh won what was probably one of the most important matches of his career. He’s beaten guys like Zverev and Khachanov, and gotten deep runs at smaller tournaments, but digging in and making a huge comeback shows a huge mental strength and it proves that his offense is reliable in a big moment. The third set tiebreaker was extremely close, but Mmoh found a way to keep his passing shots low until Isner finally missed one. The fifth set tiebreaker was the same, and Mmoh saved several break points in that set admirably with powerful second serves. In the end, Mmoh won 10-8 and John Isner retired. I don’t know of a more powerful and frustrating serve to try to return, and I wish him luck trying to dribble a pickleball between his legs or whatever he chooses to do in retirement.

Mmoh now represents a tricky out for Draper, but he’ll have to drag the match out to get there. Jack is serving great, and despite being a big guy he plays very solid from the baseline. It can be tough to adjust also after playing Isner, so Mmoh might be a little passive in rallies in the early-going. Luckily, I don’t think he was going to win the early sets anyway. Draper, when healthy, is top 20. He beat Hurkacz easily, and should win this one. The tricky part is that if Mmoh can win one of the early sets, Draper’s fitness becomes a concern, and we know Mmoh can play all day. Should be interesting. Draper in 3-4 or Mmoh in 5.

Rinderknech vs Rublev

Rinderknech won’t be happy with his second round win, as it came at the expense of Matteo Berrettini injuring his ankle. It appeared to be a ligament issue, as Berrettini’s ankle bent a little bit completely backwards in the second set. He was able to walk, but not continue, which generally indicated a ligament tear more than a bone break. I like Rublev’s chances here, because he’s just played a similarly effective server with a much stronger baseline game. He was upset at losing a set to Monfils, and generally was upset throughout much of the match, but he closed out the fourth well. Gael played solid, but Rublev is just a bigger and more consistent hitter so it was hard for him to escape long rallies.

Rinderknech is a big underdog here, but he was expected to lose to Diego, expected to lose to Berrettini, and he won both those matches (he didn’t technically beat Berrettini but he did win the first set and he was playing well). There’s a chance that Rinderknech’s serve-volley style will also disrupt Rublev’s style somewhat. Andrey is pretty uncomfortable in the frontcourt, so Rinderknech does have a chance here. Rublev also is pretty open about his emotional state, which can energize a larger deer-like human like Rinderknech. I actually just heard today that Rinderknech played college tennis at Texas A&M, so maybe he’ll have a little bit of extra crowd support? Probably not, but I feel like I underestimate him so I’ll be a bit cautious here. Rublev in 4.

WTA Singles
Stearns vs Boulter

This one’s easy to call because they just played at the Australian Open. I’ll just load up the match results and … fudge. Stearns and Boulter is likely to be a war. They played three tiebreakers at the AO this year, and there is very little to separate them. Heading into this match, I think Boulter has displayed a slightly higher level, but she played a very long match against Wang and there could be a slight hangover. While her and Wang were playing one of the more skilled affairs of the second round, Stearns was getting a bit of a gift. Tauson really never got into this match, and 19 unforced errors almost sounds low considering the stretches I saw. It just seemed like Tauson wasn’t willing or able to play long rallies, and Stearns just had to keep the ball in play to get to the finish line.

Stearns won the Australian match, but I think Boulter might be the pick here. She’s shown improvement, and has been faring a little better on tour recently than Stearns. Katie had ample chances to win the last match, and sometimes that revenge tour can really give you added motivation. There will be a ton of long rallies in this, and I don’t know that there’s a real big difference between them. Both are solid on both wings, both move their serve well despite not having a huge delivery, and they cover well on defense also. Boulter’s win against Wang really impressed me, so I’d give her a slight edge. Boulter in 3.

Alexandrova vs Vondrousova

Alexandrova finally gets her win against Tsurenko! It was odd for the win to be so lopsided when it finally came, but I’m sure she’ll take it. Similarly quick was Vondrousova’s win against Martina Trevisan. It sets up a classic offense vs defense match. Vondrousova’s lefty patterns won’t necessarily work here because Alexandrova’s backhand is probably her stable wing, but stability is not generally here thing. She can struggle with unforced errors at times, and since Marketa tends to take your time away and give you a lot of different looks, this is a tough spot for her. The Tsurenko match is good prep though, because getting to dominate a tired opponent is good hitting practice. I’m just not sure that the serving edge here isn’t largely in Vondrousova’s favor. In the past she’s struggled with consistency week to week but this year seems noticeably different. They played at the AO and Vondrousova won in three, and I’d expect a similar outcome here. Alexandrova can dominate things, but if Vondrousova hangs in eventually she’s able to produce her game more reliably. Vondrousova in 3.

Samsonova vs Keys

It’s getting to that time in the draw where the depth of the WTA and the variety of winners makes it really hard to point to a clear edge in matches. Samsonova and Keys are both playing tremendous, and both dispatched worthy opponents in the previous round in fairly easy fashion. Keys’ match was over so quick I didn’t even get to catch any of it. I remember saying “after the Etcheverry tiebreak I need to check that out” and she won 3 games in the time that took. Keys definitely is the more reliable serve here, but Samsonova’s more likely to recover her level quickly if she starts making errors. Keys is basically at her best, or can’t beat anybody, so the challenge for Liudmila is to give Madison a lot of looks to see if she starts to miss. Their last meeting went three sets, with Keys winning, so the fact that Keys played so well last round is a little scary here. The hometown crowd will really get behind Madison if she’s playing well, so I think she has a small edge here. Usually when I believe in Keys against a top opponent I have a very stressful day, but Keys in 3.

Svitolina vs Pegula

Ooo. Pegula and Svitolina is likely to be a tremendous match, but it almost didn’t take place. Pavlyuchenkova had good chances to win in the three set battle with Svitolina, and she really showcased her professionalism and experience on big points in the second round. To Svitolina’s credit, she kept fighting even when double faults became an issue, but it was the type of struggle that makes me wonder if she can beat a steadier and faster player in Jessica Pegula. Pegula won their earlier meeting in Washington in 3, but the crowd here is likely to be a larger factor. It’s scheduled for 2 pm so it’s not as likely the crowd will be over the top, but Svitolina and Pegula will likely have to play a ton of long rallies in this one and it’s hard to keep digging when the crowd is giving your opponent energy.

I wouldn’t count Svitolina out of any match, pre-pregnancy she had a chance against anyone on tour, and Pegula has lost some tense matches at the majors. This will be a good sign of whether Pegula is ready to make a big step at the majors, because despite the big names still being in, she’s in the mix for this title. I think fatigue will become a factor here for Svitolina, as she struggled late against Pavs. Pegula in 3.

Jabeur vs Bouzkova

So in round one I was told Jabeur was having nausea and breathing issues. In round two I expected Noskova to win as a result. Nope. Jabeur is clearly not at her best out there, but she keeps winning. Noskova had long stretches of dominance, but she’s just not consistent enough yet to put together an entire match of offense. She can win, yes, but the amount of shots she needed to make even against a tired Jabeur was heavy. I thought Jabeur’s ability to land serves was a bit of an edge, and also her willingness to draw Noskova into the frontcourt. I’m not sure if it’s the illness or training, but Ons looks thinner than usual this tournament. It makes it very tricky to guess what is going to happen next. She was clearly there for the taking, but Noskova didn’t have the offense. Now Bouzkova in rare form enters, but she doesn’t really have the firepower that Linda did.

Bouzkova beat Martic in under an hour and it was a very lopsided match. There’s just not much hope that she’ll be able to roll Jabeur in the same fashion, but Bouzkova’s style might make things tougher on Ons here. Bouzkova will extend rallies, and challenge Jabeur to score. She doesn’t really dominate things with her forehand, but she leans into her backhand well and Jabeur can get a little careless at times on that wing with dropshots and slices that she plays rather than moving to her two-hander stance. Problems for Bouzkova are going to include her serve and her lack of power. If she’s not landing first serves, Jabeur can just blow her off the court. I’m hesitant that I’m reading too much into Ons’ physical limitations, and overlooking how much she wants to win and how much better she still is than her opponents. No, no, I’ll just keep announcing Jabeur’s demise until I get it right, or jinx her into winning the US Open. Either one is okay. Bouzkova in 2.

Zheng vs Bronzetti

Interesting. Lys seemed to indicate she had also caught whatever bug is going around at the US Open, but Bronzetti brings the heat whether an opponent is there or not. It’s a great result for her, and she’s not necessarily out of the tournament yet. Zheng had a good match against Kanepi, and was able to hold off a second set charge from Kaia and get it done in three. Against Bronzetti, the requirement is just patience. Lucia is not going to miss on her backhand, and she moves the ball well on her forehand. She’s a tough out, but her serve is not that good. Zheng has a big edge in that department, so if she’s able to remain composed, she should win this match. Zheng won their previous meeting in Monterrey 6-3, 6-2, but playing at the US Open is a way different situation and Bronzetti probably has more composure and resolve. I still like Zheng, but since her best game is a threat to anyone in the draw and her mid-level can lose to a lot of the good baseliners, the outcome of this one and her level has big implications for the tournament. Zheng in 2-3.

Kasatkina vs Minnen

When Kenin was off-tour, I kinda forgot she existed. Now that she’s back, I’m absolutely loving it. Her and Kasatkina played a match that was so good it could have been a finals. The energy was electric, and the play was furious. 20 shot rallies felt like the average, and Kenin looked for a good chunk of this match like the old Kenin. Forget marching around between points, she was so excited she was skipping around after rallies. I feel for her in losing this one, but Kasatkina is just a tremendous competitor. She doesn’t miss, and when you finally ease off and go for a moonball or defensive shot of your own, it could be set point against her and she’ll go for a clean winner or a line.

Up next Kasatkina will play a player who has come a long way. Greetje Minnen has always had a good serve, but in the past her baseline game was fairly unreliable. Against Vickery, she absolutely played her best tennis. Vickery managed to get to a third and it looked like she was returning enough to win, but Minnen won the extended exchanges at the end with good power off both wings. It was great to see, and she’ll likely be competitive in the scoreline for at least one set against Kasatkina. The problem is that Kasatkina is much more versatile defensively than Vickery, who tends to just go with topspin on both wings. Kasatkina should finish this in two, but since there is a big disparity in serving here it could be tricky.

Burel vs Sabalenka

Well, I thought Burel could be tricky, but I was wrong. She went ahead and decided to be dominant. She’s beaten Rybakina after she won a slam, beaten Pliskova in decent form, and now she gets another giant in Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka in through after a quick win against Burrage, and she seems like she’s in good form. Pliskova’s lack of mobility makes her force the issue a bit more than Sabalenka, so Burel will lose a little advantage there. The serving is about the same, but Sabalenka’s average delivery is a heavier ball than Karolina’s. Pliskova is just the offensive shell that is overlaid on the Rybakina-esque baseliner than Sabalenka can be. It’s a really hard match for Burel, but this will (I think) look similar to Kasatkina Sabalenka. The smaller player will be willing to give up a little control, and try to force the ball into difficult spots to produce from. I just think that currently Sabalenka is able to produce from everywhere on the courts, because she’s not going for such small and immediate targets that she’s really going to miss her way out of a match. Good run for Burel, but Sabalenka in 2.