Gracious after the last singles match of her career, Kim Clijsters looked relieved to enter the next stage of her life. We will return after the tournament with thoughts on Kim’s career, but meanwhile we move forward to consider the next day in New York.
Ivanovic vs. Arvidsson: Curiously scheduled the Ashe, this collision of close friends assumes greater significance for Ivanovic in the wake of losses by Wozniacki and Schiavone. Without any notable figure in her section of the draw, the Serb plausibly could reach her first major quarterfinal since winning Roland Garros four years ago. The largest stadium in tennis could awaken a few nerves, however, although Ivanovic shone under the lights there last year against Sloane Stephens, whom she could meet again in the next round. To secure that appointment, Ana also must overcome the difficult dynamic of defeating someone whom she may struggle to view as a foe, and a previous meeting on grass in the Netherlands unfolded in bizarre fashion as she lost the first set but then just one game thereafter. A heavy hitter more dangerous here than at any other major, Arvidsson has scattered a handful of respectable wins this year against opponents such as Kirilenko, Peng, and Vinci. As happened in their last meeting, the first serves of both women should play a critical role in a match filled with short points.
Kerber vs. Venus: Clearly the most anticipated match of the day, it features a seven-time major champion against the world #7 and the WTA leader in matches won this year. Two of Kerber’s victories came at the expense of Venus on the blue clay of Madrid and—painfully—on the grass of Wimbledon where the veteran forged her legendary career. Since that latter contest ended in two tiebreaks, like Robson-Clijsters on Wednesday, Venus certainly can remind herself that a few points in the other direction could have produced the opposite outcome. Kerber seems undaunted by any challenge before her, whether related to opponent or setting, so she should not unravel in the first Arthur Ashe night session of her career. To the contrary, she shone in night quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Cincinnati, both against higher-ranked foes, and she successfully served out a match against Serena this month. The German’s reactive style, sometimes reminiscent of Wozniacki, theoretically should leave her at a disadvantage on this fast court against one of the WTA’s best servers. Moreover, the day of rest between matches should allow Venus to restore her energies, and the New York crowd will do everything in its power to carry her past a tenacious opponent. But Kerber’s poise in such moments, such as against Bartoli in Paris and Wozniacki in Copenhagen, suggests that the home hope must rely only on herself. Having reached the final and semifinal in Cincinnati, respectively, both women bring outstanding recent form to what should prove a thrilling encounter.
Shvedova vs. Vinci: After some of the tepid tennis that the women’s draw has featured so far, this clash should sizzle between two women fresh from playing their best tennis in many months. While Shvedova showed no mercy to her doubles partner Vania King, Vinci wasted little time in dispatching the highly promising Urszula Radwanska. Comfortable everywhere on the court, both women have earned many of their most significant laurels in doubles, so they might approach more often than many of their rivals. Shvedova’s heavier serve should give her a crucial advantage on these fast courts, and she swept aside Vinci’s compatriot Errani at Wimbledon with historic decisiveness. Thus, Vinci shoulders the burden of disrupting her more powerful opponent’s rhythm, seemingly a specialty of Italian women.
Fish vs. Davydenko: With their best tennis behind them, these two veterans have rebounded from significant health issues in the hope of revitalizing their high-risk styles of tennis. Whereas Davydenko never quite recovered from wrist surgery in 2009, Fish has hinted at a resurgence following his disturbing heart problems earlier this year. Into the second week of Wimbledon soon after his return, the American should feel less pressure now that he has relinquished his top-10 status and his position as the leading man from his nation. Neither of these men has enjoyed the spotlight for lengthy sequences, in fact, and both have flirted with but never quite embraced their potential. Watch their sparkling two-handed backhands and returns of serve, which should balance each other crisply. Although Davydenko has reached two US Open semifinals, Fish has enjoyed greater success at his home major recently.
Granollers vs. Blake: Stirring memories of the flamboyant athlete who engaged in many notable duels here, Blake delighted the Grandstand audience by overcoming the respectable Lukas Lacko in four sets. Essentially a part-time player now, he has not played outside North America this year except at majors and for a clay exhibition. Sinking outside the top 100 as a result, Blake played well above that ranking in the first round and invariably gains an extra jolt of energy from the fans who support him so enthusiastically. Ninety places higher in the rankings, Granollers shines more on clay and slow hard courts that reward his elongated swings. The Spaniard sometimes verges on gamesmanship in his tactics against superior players, but he should feel sufficiently confident to play this match straightforwardly. If Blake can keep the rallies short and his focus intact, he has an outside chance to score the upset.
Mathieu vs. Raonic: Tasked with a difficult opening assignment in Santiago Giraldo, Raonic lost two of the first three sets before clawing back to victory. His toils arose in part from an indifferent second serve, normally a weapon of its own, which generated fifteen double faults. Rallying from even further behind was the Frenchman who won the epic five-setter over Isner at Roland Garros. Mathieu dropped the first two sets to the tireless Andreev and hovered a tiebreak from a straight-sets loss, only to steadily reverse the momentum in a fine display of perseverance. Prepared for the challenge with the Isner match, he can profit from the same strategies against the parallel game of Raonic, such as probing his opponent’s deficient backhand with his superior two-hander or varying the placement on his serve.