US Open 2014: Americans with the Best Chance of Reaching Week 2
It would appear even to the untrained eye that Americans have lost their grip on the grand sport of tennis.
On the men’s side of the U.S. Open draw, there isn’t much hope for anyone under 6'10". But at least the women can lay claim to the No. 1 overall seed.
The sport of tennis has spanned the globe starting in the southern hemisphere summer (Australian Open) and ending in the northern hemisphere summer in Flushing Meadows.
Serena Williams, our women’s No. 1 seed, has the greatest and surest chance of the Americans to reach the second week. While she’s the brightest ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak and desolate wasteland, there are others who could surprise and find the fourth round.
Read on to see which Americans could crack into the round of 16.
Venus Williams should move into the second week of this tournament. She is, if nothing else, well rested.
In her latest prep for the U.S. Open, the Western and Southern Open, she lost in the first round to Lucie Safarova in three sets. This was after Williams defeated her sister in the semis in Montreal (where Venus Williams eventually lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in the final).
After Williams’ loss in Cincinnati, she said, per Eurosport: "It was definitely a quick turnaround [from Montreal to Cincinnati], maybe would have been a little better to play a little later in the day. But [Radwanska] just played so well. No matter what shot I hit she hit a winner, or if I hit it really deep she somehow managed to control it down the line."
As for the U.S. Open, Williams may run into Italy’s Sara Errani, the 14th-ranked player in the world. Williams is 3-0 against Errani, but the two haven’t played since the round of 16 in Cincinnati in 2012.
Throw this one onto the Hail Mary pile. Aside from John Isner, the American men have little chance of second-week representation. To find the American with the best chance (outside of Isner) to reach Week 2, you have to look at the guy who will face the No. 1 seed in Novak Djokovic.
That’s how dismal the men’s side is in this sliver of history. The crazy sliding Michael Chang isn’t walking through that door.
Querrey, to his credit, has defeated Djokovic in the past. Granted it was just once in eight meetings, but it was on a hard court and it was in an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris. Querrey needed three sets, but he did beat Djoker in the round of 32.
Querrey has reached the second week at Flushing Meadows twice in his career, and to do so again will be a big test and a huge boon for Roger Federer, the No. 2 player in the world, if Querrey can pull off the upset.
When will Sloane Stephens have a breakout Grand Slam? Stephens, 21, has never been deeper than the fourth round in any Grand Slam. One of those fourth-round appearances, for what it’s worth, happened at Flushing Meadows in 2013.
Outside of that, she reached the fourth round in this year’s Australian and French Opens. Stephens was bumped in the first round at Wimbledon.
Chrissie Evert, winner of 18 Grand Slams, told ESPNW back in May: "She's clearly a big-match player, but one thing she has to improve on is that sense of urgency, focusing and being intense every single point. She realizes the importance of the Grand Slams, and for some reason, she gets that adrenaline going a little more for the big tournaments."
Will that translate into a berth in Week 2? In order to do so, she’ll probably face Jelena Jankovic, the 10th-ranked player in the world and a thorn in the side of Stephens this year.
Jankovic most recently defeated Stephens in straight sets in Cincinnati in the final tuneup for the U.S. Open. Before that, Jankovic beat Stephens in Montreal. That’s twice in the past month.
Stephens will have to get over her 0-3 career record against Jankovic if she is to get a whiff of the second week. Otherwise, it’ll be back-to-back Week 1 exits in Grand Slams for Stephens.
John Isner is No. 1 in something. According to The New York Times, Isner is the No. 1 server in the tournament. For a guy whose best U.S. Open appearance was in 2011 (where he reached the quarterfinals), it must be the serve that carries the tallest player on tour (6'10") to Week 2.
He has the best shot of any American man to reach the second week, but he’s only done it once in three Grand Slams in 2014. He lost in the first round in the Australian Open and the third at Wimbledon. Oddly, the one surface that tends to neutralize big servers (clay), was the surface he advanced the farthest on, this being the fourth round of the French Open.
Rafi Kohan of the New York Observer wrote:
Indeed, watching him serve at close range is a privilege, like bearing witness to Dominique Wilkins—another former Bulldog—throwing down dunks in his prime. Isner is well aware that he wins the majority of his matches as a direct result of his ability to overpower opponents. In 2013, he led the tour with 979 aces. “If they slip up one time, the set, the match could be over,” as he puts it.
Isner likely faces Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round. Isner has the 4-2 advantage head-to-head, but the German bounced Isner from this very tournament the past two years in the round of 32.
So, to advance to the second week, he needs to get by this nemesis.
The curious case of Serena Williams continues at the 2014 U.S. Open, where she is the two-time defending champion. She appears to be a lock to reach the second week of the tournament, but everyone has said that about her this year in the Grand Slams and only once has she reached Week 2.
Christopher Clarey of The New York Times wrote:
Serena Williams, the top-ranked woman, has won five titles and all eight of her matches against top-10 players, but she has been upset in the fourth round, second round and third round this year at the Grand Slam tournaments. She also staggered about the grass during a doubles match at Wimbledon before bowing to reason and reality by calling it a day, later saying a virus had caused the strange and unsettling scene.
To get to Week 2, Williams likely will meet 32nd-ranked Shuai Zhang of China. Williams hasn’t dropped a set to Zhang in two career matches.
A berth in Week 2 appears guaranteed, and Williams has eyes for 18 career Grand Slams to tie Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova.
Williams told The Associated Press, “Obviously just getting closer to tying with Chris [Evert] and Martina [Navratilova]," she said. "But been doing that all year and still hasn't happened. Not going to stress out about it anymore."