Sunday, September 6, 2015

Top 10 Takeaways: 2015 US Open 3rd Round

You can read my 1st round and 2nd round Top 10 Takeaways for American players at the 2015 US Open.

1. Serena is on track. Like at Wimbledon against Heather Watson, Serena Williams again found herself in a tricky situation in the third round of a major, but again fought back as only she can:

Serena Williams, photo (c) WTA, via Twitter
That was in late in the third set of her 3-6 7-5 6-0 win against Bethanie Mattek-Sands and is at this point the iconic image of her final leg of her quest for the calendar slam. 24 down. 4 to go.

2. #YIMLife Goes On. You're in New York and you're served a bagel that you didn't order. How do you respond? If you're Donald Young, you go on a tear, wining the final three sets against Viktor Troicki to earn your second career win from a two-set deficit. Both have been at this tournament, both against seeded players, both on smaller courts (first Court 17, today on Grandstand). It has to be the feel-good story of the first week, watching this former child prodigy, who has survived a 17-match losing streak in his career and who has had his issues with the US tennis establishment, finally arrive. Again.

Next up is Stan Wawrinka, whom Young beat in the 2nd round of his only other 4th round major run (the first time he "finally arrived"), the 2011 US Open, in a 5th set tiebreak. But that was pre-This Stan. The now-2-time major winner will be a heavy favorite, having not lost a set through 3 matches despite playing below par, per reports. And the match will no longer be on a heavy-fan-involvement court. Monday's showdown will, instead, be on Ashe or Armstrong. Hopefully the stage doesn't intimidate Young, and he brings his all and then some.

Just imagine: Donald Young in a major quarterfinal.

3. Madison Keys into the 4th round. Lost in the hubbub of Serena's win was Madison Keys' first-ever appearance in the 3rd round of the US Open, facing one of her biggest nemeses: Agnieszka Radwanska, who had beaten her in all four of their previous matches.

Looking at the stats, Madison going 11/15 in net points is huge for her. And her return game was exactly what you want from Madison Keys: aggressive, going for big targets, executing. On second serves, especially, the point was immediately in Keys' favor.
In fact, Radwanska won a total of ... hold on, let me check that again ... oh. ZERO POINTS on her own second serve.


That's tough to do.

The last game was a great example of what Keys did well. Having been broken serving for the match at 5*-1, she started her return game with a deep reply off a first serve, earned a short ball and smacked a forehand winner. One the second point, she stepped around a 2nd serve to hit a clean inside-out forehand winner. Then two points in which Radwanska targeted Keys' backhand, which she hit solidly but didn't try to manufacture winners, and drew Aga errors.

So that sets up Keys/Serena. Will be fun.

4. Venus shines. Venus Williams played wonderful tennis to "upset" Belinda Bencic and reach the 4th Round. I use the scare quotes because Bencic is the higher ranked player but Venus has absolutely dominated their head-to-head, winning now all four matches they've played without dropping 5 games in any set. It was the elder future Hall of Fame sister's first time getting to this level at Flushing Meadows since 2010, and marks her third major 4th round of the year. It was her first match of the tournament in which she didn't drop the second set, specifically in a tiebreak. She'll get Anett Kontaveit, who coolly dispatched Madison Brengle with bagel third set.

And of course if she wins, and her sister wins, we'll have one of the all-time most anticipated major quarterfinals on Tuesday.

5. Isner stands tall. (GET IT?) So yeah. Usually this weekend would be the time we'd start talking about his annual 3rd round loss to Philipp Kohlschreiber but not this time. For once, the draw gods looked kindly upon John Isner and he rewarded them with a 6-3 6-4 (ret) win over a less-than-100% Jiri Vesely. Per Jeff Sackman, the US Open marks the first time in his career Isner has won 8 consecutive sets without losing 5 in any set. He gets Federer next - if he can extend that statistic by 3 he will be sitting pretty. While standing tall. (Because he's very tall.)

6. Varvara crashes the party. The top quarter of the women's singles draw has 3 Americans into the 4th round. Those 3 thought they might be on the verge of being the lone representatives from the US as their compatriot Varvara Lepchenko was down 1-6 to Mona Barthel in 23 minutes. But in the second game of the second set, she grabbed a 2-0 lead and then held on, saving three break points along the way.

The two started the third set trading breaks. After that they held until Lepchenko served at 3-4, when a fabulous 18-point, ten-minute game took place. In that game, Lepchenko had 4 game points that she couldn't convert, followed by having to face 3 break points that would have allowed Barthel to serve for the match. But she dispatched those with aplomb, then broke the German thanks to a couple of double faults and Barthel errors, and then served out the match at 30, with a great cross-court forehand winner to seal the deal.

Lepchenko gets Azarenka next.

7. Mike Russell hanging around. In between his impressive 2nd round win and dramatic 3rd round win, Young took time to partner with his friend Michael Russell (in the latter's final professional tournament) and beat the #14 seeds Cabal/Farah in straight sets. He's now in the 3rd round of a major for the first time in singles or doubles since 2001. Here's a nice piece on Iron Mike's last chapter.

Next up for Russell/Young are the giant killers Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, who beat Leander Paes and Fernando Verdasco 7-5 4-6 6-3. That's 40 men's doubles titles they've beaten in two rounds. And now it looks like they'll be a possible doubles team against Uzbekistan in Davis Cup later this month. Great that they're getting this work in in advance.

Also into the 3rd round of men's doubles are Eric Butorac & Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram (with Raven Klaasen).

8. Kops-Jones/Spears walk over into 3rd round. In women's doubles, Raquel Kops-Jones & Abigail Spears were the beneficiaries of a walkover when Eugenie Bouchard had to withdraw from both doubles competitions after hitting her head on Friday night in the locker room. They'll face Flavia Pennetta & Sara Errani, who have already taken out two all-American teams: Irina Falconi & Anna Tatishvili (who had a 2-0* lead in the 3rd and game point for 3-1*).

It was a coulda/shoulda been situation for Taylor Townsend & Nicole Gibbs were were up in the 3rd set 4-1* and had 15-40 on Arruabarrena/Klepac's serve but then fell 7-5. But one other American is still in women's doubles: CoCo Vandeweghe, who teamed with Anna-Lena Groenefeld to beat #10 seeds Anastasia Rodionova/Su-Wei Hseih to reach the 3rd set.

9. Lisa Raymond's last volley. A fantastic career came to an end as Lisa Raymond and Jamie Murray lost their 2nd round mixed doubles match 5-7 6-2 [10-8] to 6 seeds Shvedova/Cabal. I have soft spot in my heart for Lisa, who is among the most successful pros who played women's college tennis. She'll now go on to be part of Keys' coaching staff. She'll surely thrive in that role as well.
Next up for Shvedova/Cabal are Querrey & Mattek-Sands, in the quarterfinals. They are surely a threat to win this tournament. Into the 2nd round are Young & Taylor Townsend and Kops-Jones (with Klaasen). Frances Tiafoe & Sachia Vickery fell in their 2nd round match 5-7 5-7 to Hsieh/Kontinen.

10. Juniors up now. Jeff Wolf qualified in the boys main draw while Amanda Anisimova, Carson Branstine, and Natasha Subhash qualified for the girls main draw. Top two seeds in boys singles are Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh with Tommy Paul at #5 (in Mmoh's bottom half) and Reilly Opelka at #6 (in Fritz' top half).

Top American seeds in girls singles are Usue Arconada at #8 and Sofia Kenin at #9.

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