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US Open Fast Forward: Day 3 Preview

Aug 28th 2013

The latest edition of US Open Fast Forward takes you through the close of the men’s first round and the start of the women’s second round on Wednesday.

Urszula Radwanska vs. Sloane Stephens:  Although she improved to 13-3 at majors this year, Stephens fell far short of the level expected from a top-20 player.  The pressure of the surroundings at her home major may have troubled the young American in a narrow escape  after she trailed 4-2 in the final set.  Still, Stephens has won 11 of her last 12 three-setters as her tenacity in those situations has stiffened.  She takes aim at the younger sister of the world’s fourth-ranked woman, a former junior finalist at the US Open.  Urszula has upset three former No. 1s this season eased past Sloane at Indian Wells.

Lleyton Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt vs. Brian Baker:  Two battle-scarred warriors collide in a match of two crisp two-handed backhands.  Hewitt has reached three semifinals in his last five tournaments, looking more sprightly than expected for a 32-year-old who has undergone multiple surgeries.  Facing the former US Open champion is an American also dogged by a series of crippling injuries.  Baker has played only four matches since his latest injury at the Australian Open, recording a solid win over Denis Istomin. 

Eugenie Bouchard vs. Angelique Kerber:  The German lefty’s breakthrough came at the US Open two years ago, when she reached the semifinals despite ranking barely inside the top 100.  While she has entrenched herself around the edge of the top 10, Kerber has declined over the last 12 months.  The tight three-setters that she won so regularly in the first half of 2011 now often tilt away from her.  Young Canadian phenom Bouchard just won one of those epic affairs in the first round, which may have built her confidence moving forward.  She defeated former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic at Wimbledon.

Daniel Brands vs. Kevin Anderson:  Giant-killer Brands is the only man who has won sets from both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal this year.  Nearly claiming a two-set lead against Nadal at Roland Garros, he bombed his way past Federer on Swiss clay last month.  Brands tends to play to the level of the competition, so an opener against a seeded opponent should inspire him.  A finalist in Atlanta, where he held championship points, Anderson has reached at least the third round at every major in 2013.  Look for the two men to trade massive serves in a match where tiebreaks should loom.

Jamie Hampton vs. Kristina Mladenovic:  Both the American and the Frenchwoman swing for their shots with abandon, littering the stat sheet with both winners and unforced errors.  Fueled by a massive serve, Mladenovic upset Petra Kvitova this spring and won the Wimbledon mixed-doubles title this summer.  A foot injury contributed to a dismal recent stretch in which she lost seven of eight matches, but she weathered veteran grinder Anabel Medina Garrigues on Monday.  Hampton looked much sharper in her first match, visibly drawing on the energy of her home fans to ignite her shot-making. 

Jelena Jankovic vs. Alisa Kleybanova:  Fans who attended the Rogers Cup a few years ago, as I did, will recall the relentless three-hour slugfest between these two women.  Kleybanova won that meeting but will enter the sequel as a heavy underdog, barely scraping through her first match against Monica Puig.  That victory represented her first at a major since the 2011 Australian Open.  While Jankovic has not contended at the US Open since reaching the 2008 final, her impressive results on American hard courts this year include semifinals at Miami and Cincinnati. She eased past a rusty Madison Keys and should grind down Kleybanova without much more difficulty.

Laura Robson vs. Caroline Garcia:  Two future stars from opposite sides of the English Channel square off as Robson seeks to defend fourth-round points.  In fact, the British lefty may have become a star of the present rather than the future after defeating a group of elite opponents from Kim Clijsters and Li Na to Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Ana Ivanovic.  The less developed Garcia has no such upset to her credit at this stage, a three-setter against Maria Sharapova her main claim to fame.  Yet her weapons may mature to rival those of Robson, who shares her chronic struggles on serve.

Nicolas Mahut vs. Mikhail Youzhny:  Serve-volley expert Mahut did on grass this summer something similar to what Fognini did on clay, winning the first two titles of his careers at the Dutch Open and Newport.  Fans will remember him for battling John Isner for three days in the longest match ever.  The fading but still polished Youzhny also shone this summer by reaching two finals and the second week at Wimbledon.  A high-quality match between two veterans with graceful games should lie ahead.

Rajeev Ram vs. Fabio Fognini:  The suave Italian owes his rise in the rankings to a tremendous month of July, when he reached three clay finals in three weeks and won two of them.  Fognini’s success declined when he ventured to North American hard courts in August, undermined by an unreliable serve.  He seems ripe for an early upset, and doubles specialist Rajeev Ram might have enough explosiveness to secure it.  Look for Ram to try to shorten points as Fognini aims to extend them.