With the first few days out of the way at the 2014 U.S. Open, the fun really starts to begin.
Getting into a Grand Slam tournament can be hard in the first round because you're seeing a bunch of players of whom you've never heard. It's hard to be emotionally invested in a match when you're unaware of one or maybe even both competitors.
Now, most of the weak have been trimmed from the herd. However, plenty of unseeded players remain to pull off memorable upsets.
Thursday should be another great day in Flushing, New York.
Schedule (courtesy of USOpen.org)
|Arthur Ashe Stadium|
|11 a.m. ET|
|Christina McHale vs. Victoria Azarenka (16)||-|
|Serena Williams (1) vs. Vania King||Not Before 1 p.m. ET|
|Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu||-|
|7 p.m. ET|
|Matthias Bachinger vs. Andy Murray (8)||-|
|Sorana Cirstea vs. Eugenie Bouchard (7)||-|
|Louis Armstrong Stadium|
|11 a.m. ET|
|Karolina Pliskova vs. Ana Ivanovic (8)||-|
|Jan-Lennard Struff vs. John Isner (13)||-|
|Aleksandra Krunic vs. Madison Keys (27)||-|
|Peter Gojowczyk vs. Milos Raonic (5)||Not Before 5 p.m.|
|Kei Nishikori (10) vs. Pablo Andujar||-|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9) vs. Aleksandr Nedovyesov||-|
|Petra Kvitova (3) vs. Petra Cetkovska||-|
|Timea Babos (7)/Kristina Mladenovic (7) vs. Serena Williams/Venus Williams||-|
Andy Murray Will Move Past Sluggishness
What's going on with Andy Murray right now? With plenty of doubts surrounding the two-time Grand Slam winner, he looked far from convincing in a four-set victory over Robin Haase. Making matters worse was the fact that Murray was forced to overcome cramping from about the second set on, per The Guardian's Kevin Mitchell:
'There's nothing I can do,' he said. 'This is the shape I'm in for the tournament. I felt extremely good before the match and I did train very, very hard to get ready. For me it was unexpected and, therefore, quite difficult mentally to deal with. Sometimes it can happen in one area of your body. But when it starts to go everywhere, you don't know exactly where it's going to creep up next. When you stretch one muscle, something else then cramps, too.'
Murray receives little respite, with Matthias Bachinger on deck on Thursday. The 26-year-old German is a bit of an unknown quantity, which could play in his favor against somebody who's battling both a crisis of confidence and health problems.
It's interesting watching on as Murray and Roger Federer have largely switched roles. Whereas Federer was once looking up at a glass ceiling, Murray looks to be good but some distance off Federer and Novak Djokovic.
The 27-year-old should regain his old form and run through Bachinger in straight sets. Sooner or later, Murray's gonna wake up and realize he's still one of the best tennis players in the world.
Eugenie Bouchard Will Take One Step Closer to Her Fourth Grand Slam Semifinal
One day after Sloane Stephens was upset by Johanna Larsson, Eugenie Bouchard will be in action against Sorana Cirstea. You can compare the differing fortunes of the two young stars.
Stephens, 21 years old, made an Australian Open semifinal and Wimbledon quarterfinal in 2013 but has since failed to advance past the fourth round of a Grand Slam. Bouchard, 20 years old, made the Australian Open and French Open semifinals this year and followed that up with a runner-up finish at Wimbledon.
Bouchard continues to rise, while Stephens is stuck in neutral.
The phrase "force of nature" is sometimes overused, but that's exactly what the young Canadian is. When she's at her peak, Bouchard is so hard to handle.
Grantland's Louisa Thomas spoke with Bouchard's coach, Nick Saviano, who praise her ability to remain cool under pressure:
On the court, that translates into an ability to not only swing freely in big moments, but also to play her own style regardless of the situation. Bouchard has played her best tennis on the biggest stages, the most prestigious and most exciting tournaments, where other players tend to tighten up, restricting their movements and altering their swing. She is aggressive and agile, and it can seem like she somehow dominates the space she’s in. She doesn’t change her strategy, regardless of the situation.
Sorana Cirstea will be a tough opponent in the second round. Bouchard didn't make it past the second round in any of the three tournaments she entered before the U.S. Open, so it's not like she's on a pristine run of form, either.
However, you can't look past her Grand Slam performances so far this year. Bouchard is somebody who plays up to the stage. With the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights on bright, she won't disappoint.
Upset Alert: Christina McHale vs. Victoria Azarenka (16)
Victoria Azarenka is ripe for the picking for some unseeded player looking to make a name for herself. Although the 26-year-old has made back-to-back U.S. Open finals, she's struggled after making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. In the five tournaments in which she played entering the U.S. Open, she advanced past the second round once.
Not only that, but Azarenka had a heck of a time putting away Misaki Doi in the first round, winning three sets after dropping the first.
Granted, aside from a win against Stephens, Christina McHale's best results of 2014 have been three-set losses to Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki.
McHale will be getting a lot of support from a partisan crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, though:
Expect this one to go three sets either way, but don't be surprised if the 22-year-old American walks away victorious.