Day 3 of the US Open is a couple of hours away, and I look at some interesting match-ups today.
Andy Murray (1) vs. Michael Llodra
In truth you can see only one winner in this match. Murray is a serious contender to defend his maiden grand slam title, and the deco turf at Flushing Meadows is his favourite surface. Nevertheless, there is a curiosity amongst tennis fans to see how Murray plays in the first week at the US Open, after a less than stellar hard court season so far. Llodra is one of the few players on tour who relies exclusively on serve and volley tennis, and it should make for many entertaining points agains the best returner in the game. The night session crowd will enjoy seeing Murray go through in an artistic match.
James Blake vs. Ivo Karlovic
Neither of these players are at the level they once were, but the match provides intrigue in light of Blake announcing his retirement after the US Open. Blake has been involved in some classics at Flushing Meadows, always managing to get the crowd involved whether he plays at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium or Grandstand. Karlovic retains a fearsome first serve, but other aspects of his game have tailed off badly, and while there might be a tie break or two, Blake should win in front of his adoring fans, especially if his backhand fires.
Eugenie Bouchard vs. Angelique Kerber (8)
The young Canadian is one of the rising stars on the women's tour, and many are expecting this US Open to be the stage where she her announces her arrival in the big time. Kerber has failed to maintain consistency this season, after a breakout year in 2012. Her serve has been extremely inconsistent this season, and if Bouchard can take advantage with her heavy ground strokes on the return, she has a genuine chance of causing an upset. I have a strong feeling this match is going to be determined by which player holds it together in the big moments.
Stanislas Wawrinka (9) vs. Radek Stepanek
A match between two supreme shot makers. Wawrinka has one of the best single-handed backhands going around, and on form is a superb tactician on court. The wily veteran Stepanek is one of the craftiest players in the game, and you get the sense while watching the Czech play that winning isn't always as important as entertaining. Expect some ridiculous drop shots and slices, and brave approaches to the net from Stepanek, but Wawrinka's consistency from the baseline should see him through in four tough sets.
Jelena Jankovic (9) vs. Alisa Kleybanova
Jankovic made a strong statement with her fantastic opening win against Madison Keys. The former world number one is positioning herself as a dark horse in the tournament, and excluding Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, the other top players won't fancy playing the Serb. She should have too much in her arsenal for Kleybanova, but I still think its important to highlight the feel good story of the Russian, who is making a determined comeback after recovering from Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Kleybanova can generate lots of power from the baseline as witnessed in her marathon win against Monica Puig in the first round, but fatigue may play a part and it will be hard for her to get past Jankovic's outstanding defence allied with supreme movement all across the court.
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