As the 2014 U.S. Open enters its fourth day, it feels like we're still right back where we started the tournament.
All of the big names remain, and the general hierarchy still stands. It's too early for anybody new to have established themselves as favorites, while the actual favorites have done nothing to prove that they're not the top contenders to win.
Maybe that will change on Thursday, with many stars entering the second round.
Schedule (courtesy of USOpen.org)
|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)||-|
|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||-|
Matthias Bachinger vs. Andy Murray (8)
At this point, it's anybody's guess as to what will happen with Andy Murray. He's still immensely talented, but between injuries and a mental block, the gulf between himself and the duo of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer has grown. How many people are seriously mentioning Murray as a favorite to win the U.S. Open?
It's no secret that Murray is struggling to close out matches. Now, he's got to worry about health issues after cramping up in his win over Robin Haase in the first round.
ESPN.com's Greg Garber wrote the 27-year-old is a shell of the player who won the 2012 U.S. Open:
Clearly, Murray was uncomfortable, berating himself on numerous occasions, clutching at various parts of his cramping body and looking anything like the champion he was here only two years ago. There were times when he seemed to be channeling his slumping, woe-is-me body language circa, say, 2010.
Murray said he had never felt that bad on a tennis court -- after going 90 minutes without any problems.
'It was unexpected, and that made it difficult mentally to deal with,' Murray said. 'But, yeah, I'm happy to get through. I could have very easily lost that match.'
Perhaps I'm giving too much credit to Murray, but he should regain something close to his old form on Thursday. Matthias Bachinger is ranked 235th in the world, and at some point, Murray should come to the realization that he's one of the best players on the planet.
Expect this match to be similar to Federer's win over Marinko Matosevic in the first round. Federer hardly broke a sweat, and despite some competitive games, he never looked like he was headed for an upset.
Murray will beat Bachinger in straight sets, but he'll have a few frustrating moments.
Murray wins, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2
Jan-Lennard Struff vs. John Isner (13)
John Isner is American tennis' best hope to have a male win the U.S. Open. Andy Roddick in 2003 was the last American to win a men's singles title in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In total, only three American men remain alive at the tournament, which is the lowest total ever in the second round, per Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour.com:
Isner, Querrey and Smyczek are now the only American men left in the 2014 US Open: fewest to reach the second round in tournament history.— Josh Meiseles (@jmeistennis) August 27, 2014
It's also a sad state of affairs that U.S. fans are pinning their hopes on somebody who's never advanced past the quarterfinal of any Grand Slam tournament, and that came three years ago.
Isner is a good player, but he always runs into trouble when somebody either neutralizes his massive serve or fights fire with fire and boasts a massive serve as well.
The good news for Isner and U.S. tennis is that Jan-Lennard Struff shouldn't pose much of a threat on Thursday. Here's a brief comparison of how well the two serve and return serve.
|Aces||Double Faults||1st Serve||1st Serve Pts. Won||1st Serve Return Pts.|
Isner seems to love tiebreakers, so expect at least one in this match. Struff picking up a set isn't out of the question, either, but the 29-year-old should come up victorious in the end.
Isner wins, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
CiCi Bellis vs. Zarina Diyas
How much longer can the magic of CiCi Bellis continue?
Bellis' upset of 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova will be one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. At 15 years old, she's the youngest American to win at the U.S. Open in nearly three decades, per Numbers Never Lie:
Meet 15-year-old CiCi Bellis. The youngest American to win US Open match in last 28 years. pic.twitter.com/MUI5Y0vqWt— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) August 27, 2014
With that win has come an extraordinary amount of attention for the teenager, certainly more attention than she's ever felt during her brief professional tennis career. Now all of a sudden, Bellis is a star with expectations.
Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote that this kind of thing used to be more common in tennis and that Bellis isn't letting the occasion get to her:
She seems like an anachronism, like one of those kids from decades ago who used to come from nowhere and take on the older women without blinking. There used to be a boatload of those, from Tracy Austin to Martina Hingis. Then the top women grew more powerful, the rackets bigger and the game much faster. The last teenager this young to win a match at the Open was Anna Kournikova in 1996, which is a cautionary tale in itself.
But Bellis said on Thursday that she was ready for this next match, and that she was reveling in the occasion. She practiced in the morning, before the gates opened at the center, and would hit again later off the grounds. Two practice sessions, after a three-set match the evening before.
Zarina Diyas won't roll over and be the next stage in the Bellis underdog narrative. She's the 48th-ranked women's player in the world. Diyas also won't be surprised in the way that Cibulkova was in the first round.
As great as it would be for Bellis to continue her run, Diyas should pick up the win.
Diyas wins, 6-4, 6-2
Note: All stats are courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com.