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US Open Tennis 2013: Americans with the Best Chance of Reaching Week 2

Jeffrey RuthFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2013

US Open Tennis 2013: Americans with the Best Chance of Reaching Week 2

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    There will be Americans in the second week of the 2013 U.S. Open.

    In addition to the fans.

    Douglas Robson of USA Today claims that U.S. men's tennis is in a recession and can't escape it. Likewise, Joe Fleming, also of USA Today, only finds "options" among American women's players in the upcoming U.S. Open.

    They will be proven wrong by the end of the first week in New York.

    No. 1 seed Serena Williams is having one of the best seasons of her career. World No. 16 Sloane Stephens' game is exciting and her results positive. Venus Williams, too, cannot be overlooked. She has the experience of winning it all at the national championships.

    And the men?

    John Isner can't be overlooked this year—and not only for his height. He is seeded No. 13 and is playing even stronger than that. James Blake is more motivated than ever and has experienced some resurgence this summer.

    Those are more than just options or opportunities.

    They are the American players who will make it to the second week of the 2013 U.S. Open.

Venus Williams

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    With Venus Williams' opening-round win over No. 14 Kirsten Flipkens, she has all but assured her spot in the second week of the 2013 U.S. Open.

    How bold is that?

    Consider that Williams came into the Open ranked No. 60 and had only played 18 singles matches all year. In addition, she had just lost to Flipkens in Toronto, 6-0, 4-6, 2-6. Flipkens had 28 match wins under her belt by that point. Per The Associated Press (via Sports illustrated), Williams admitted that she hadn't expected to play that well.

    Nevertheless, Williams upset her in New York, 6-1, 6-2.

    Up next for the two-time U.S. Open champion is Jie Zheng. Their head-to-head is nearly meaningless, as they have only played one time, back in 2004. Williams won that time, on a hard court in Miami, 6-4, 6-4. This year, Zheng has a losing record and a ranking of No. 56. Her last match win came in May at the French Open.

    She won't win against Williams.

    That will bring Williams into the third round against Carla Suarez Navarro, ranked No. 20 and seeded No. 18. As with Zheng, she hasn't played against Williams for a long time. The two played twice, in 2009, splitting them. Suarez Navarro did win her first-round match, 6-0, 6-0, but at the expense of No. 70 Lauren Davis, who has never won in the main draw of the U.S. Open.

    Suarez Navarro will have a much better player across the net from her.

    That player, Venus Williams, will stand right in the way of her getting to Week 2.

James Blake

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    James Blake is currently ranked No. 100 and is ready to make his final run at the 2013 U.S. Open. He will bid farewell to his fans—and to the tournament—in the second week.

    According to Erin Bruehl of USOpen.org, Blake will retire at the close of this final visit to New York.

    As far as my decision, I'd say it was becoming clearer and clearer throughout most of this year. Little things throughout the year made it more clear and more obvious that this was the right time for me. I always wanted to end my career at the US Open.

    The American plays Ivo Karlovic in the opening round. Karlovic, ranked No. 79, may be favored by ranking, but his results have been unfavorable as of late. He failed to qualify in both of the last Masters 1000 tournaments, in Cincinnati and Montreal.

    By contrast, Blake has had a fair amount of success on the hard courts this year. His wins include a stunning defeat of Jerzy Janowicz, 6-1, 7-5, in Cincinnati. The Wimbledon hero was ranked No. 14 at the time.

    After Karlovic, look for Blake to play No. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round.

    Although Blake has yet to defeat the Swiss player, holding a 0-3 head-to-head, Wawrinka's poor play will give him the chance he needs to take the next step. Wawrinka has lost to opponents ranked below him in his last five tournament outings.

    Blake will make that six.

    No. 20 Kevin Anderson of South Africa will be the next to fall to the American. They have only met once, and Blake won that meeting on the hard courts of the 2012 Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

    Memory will serve, and James Blake will make the second week.

Sloane Stephens

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    It is no surprise that Sloane Stephens will make her way into the second week of the 2013 U.S. Open.

    Apart from a loss in July at the hands of Olga Puchkova in Washington, D.C., 5-7, 3-6, she has been tearing up the field.

    Stephens beat No. 3 Maria Sharapova, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-3, in Cincinnati less than two weeks ago. World No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska both needed a tiebreaker to defeat her this past month.

    She is ready to shine in New York.

    Her first-round opponent is No. 110 Mandy Minella. That will be no test for her and she will quickly advance to face Urszula Radwanska. The 15th-seeded American should have no trouble in that match either, as Radwanska has suffered first-round losses in her last two tournaments, both on hard courts.

    The third round will find Stephens playing No. 26 Jamie Hampton, another American who has plans for the second week. Her plans will be canceled, however, by her opponent, who has a 2-1 edge against her. That includes a win for Stephens in their only match on cement.

    There it is, Sloane Stephens' path to Week 2 at the 2013 U.S. Open.

    The fun only starts there. The anticipated showdown with Serena Williams will be the "match of the tournament," according to Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian.

John Isner

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    John Isner showed why he will be around in the second week of the 2013 U.S. Open back in July.

    He won the tournament in Atlanta beating No. 21 Kevin Anderson in a mental and physical test, 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 7-6(2). It was just what the American needed to jump-start his hard-court season.

    Isner went on to the finals in Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati losing to Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal, resepectively. Neither of those is a shabby loss. His wins included one over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. He also avenged his loss by defeating del Potro in their next match, 6-7(5), 7-6(9), 6-3.

    He is ready to continue his hot streak.

    Nicholas McCarvel of The Daily Beast doesn't agree. He calls Isner's 2013 season "lackluster." But here goes:

    In the first round, Isner meets No. 101 Filippo Volandri. The Italian player has struggled to a 5-9 record this year with no notable victories. Isner and Volandri have never met before, and it will not be a memorable occasion for the latter.

    Isner's second-round opponent will be unseeded Gael Monfils. The Frenchman opted not to play at the Masters 1000 warm-up tournaments, playing only the ATP 250 hard-court event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He did win there but was losing the final, 3-6, 1-2, to Jurgen Melzer before he retired due to injury.

    That is not enough recent success to deter Isner's advancement.

    No. 25 Philipp Kohlschreiber will meet Isner in the third round. He does hold a 3-1 head-to-head record against Isner, but he has no momentum on his side like the tall American does. He only won a single match in the Rogers Cup at Montreal and the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

    Isner beats him and will be a strong contender during the second week of the 2013 U.S. Open.

Serena Williams

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    Will Serena Williams lose before the second week of the 2013 U.S. Open?

    No.

    Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News calls her one of the "players to watch." He is right.

    She has made it to the finals of the last three tournaments she has entered, winning two of them and losing in three sets to No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(6), in Cincinnati.

    Williams is not playing the world No. 2 in the first round of the U.S. Open. She is playing veteran Francesca Schiavone, who is ranked No. 54. The good news for Schiavone is that she has beaten Williams before. The bad news is she has never beaten her on a hard court.

    Advantage Williams.

    Her second-round match will be against Monica Niculescu. The No. 42 player has never played Williams. She is also coming off a loss due to injury in the qualifying round at New Haven, Connecticut. That certainly doesn't bode well against the momentum-filled American.

    The third-round opponent will be No. 78 Yaroslava Shvedova. Williams is up 2-0 in their head-to-head but did give up a set against the Romanian player at Wimbledon, 2012.

    She won't get another set.

    Serena Williams will be around in the second week of the U.S. Open. Big surprise? No. The only question is, will she be as happy at the end of that week?

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