Tuesday, August 27, 2013

US Open Day 2 Matches to Watch

The second day of the US Open might not present too many headline acts, but nonetheless they are some match-ups that cater to the tennis enthusiast.

Lukasz Kubot vs. Jarkko Nieminen

The history of grand slams are riddled with surprise quarter-finalists, but it would be difficult to remember a run to the last eight as unexpected as Kubot's at Wimbledon this year. The story was all the more remarkable considering the fact that Kubot probably has one of the most unremarkable games on tour. Kubot has a huge first serve, but his ground strokes though powerful are extremely erratic. Nieminen himself has been a surprise quarter finalist at grand slams three times, and a more rounded game coupled with a swinging lefty serve, should see him through in four sets punctuated by aces.

Maria Kirilenko (14) vs. Yanina Wickmayer

I enjoy watching Kirilenko, as the Russian isn't overtly reliant on power to win points. An excellent scrambler, Kirilenko can mix up slices and drop shots cleverly ensuring her opponents are always on the run. Wickmayer made the semi finals at the US Open in 2009, and was touted by many as a possible successor to her more esteemed compatriots Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. Unfortunately, the Belgian hasn't elevated her game to the levels expected of her. Nevertheless, at the age of 23 Wickmayer can still improve, and will prove a dangerous opponent for Kirilenko in the first round.

Denis Istomin vs. Nicolas Almagro (15)

Another match between two big servers on the ATP tour. Almagro should have been celebrating a career year at the grand slams, but two horrible meltdowns after being two sets up against compatriots David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo in Melbourne and Paris respectively have resulted in the Spaniard coming to Flushing Meadows with many doubts. Istomin is a tricky opponent, and in addition to possessing a brilliant first serve, is a shot maker capable of hitting winners from ridiculous angles. Almagro has the greater finesse, and the fact that he can generate the same amount of power from either backhand or forehand should ensure a tight win over Istomin in a match that is bound to feature a few tie breaks.

Heather Watson vs. Simona Halep (21)

Watson has had a tough year dealing with glandular fever. It takes a while for a tennis player to get back to their peak after recovering from such a serious illness, but the Brit is a fierce competitor, and would love nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of her compatriot Laura Robson, who had a good win on day one. However, Watson faces a difficult opponent in the 21st seed Simona Halep. The Romanian is coming into the US Open on the back of a fantastic run in Cincinnati, where she beat Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli and followed it up with a win over former US Open champion Samantha Stosur. Impressively, Halep then won the final tune up event at New Haven, brushing aside Petra Kvitova in the final. Watson will probably end up being the better player in the long run, but she might struggle to match her opponent physically in their match up this year, as Halep is extremely adept at extending rallies due to her excellent defence from the baseline. It should make for a nervy cat and mouse encounter, with Halep having the edge due to her current form.

Tommy Haas (12) vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu

Haas' achievements this year are a testament to his fitness and determination, reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and the round of 16 at Wimbledon, only to lose to Novak Djokovic on both occasions. With his backhand still purring at the age of 35, Haas remains one of the most aesthetically pleasing players to watch. Mathieu has never lived up to his potential, with the Frenchman sadly not able to overcome mental hurdles in the middle of matches. At one time, a shot maker with a penchant for flair, Mathieu now relies on his defensive qualities to stay in matches. Expect some great rallies in this match, but ultimately Haas should prevail after three sets of good committed tennis.
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