US Open 2014: The Top Storylines to Follow in Week 2 at Flushing Meadows

Will MedlockFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2014

US Open 2014: The Top Storylines to Follow in Week 2 at Flushing Meadows

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    Peter Morgan/Associated Press

    The second week of the U.S. Open will have its work cut out to cultivate storylines on the same scale as those witnessed in the last seven days.

    Yet CiCi Bellis' sensational dispatching of Dominika Cibulkova at Flushing Meadows may be matched by fellow qualifier Aleksandra Krunic's sudden penchant for upsetting the odds.

    The Serbian will hope her Grand Slam run continues against Victoria Azarenka on Monday.

    Novak Djokovic's quest for a second title at the Arthur Ashe Stadium progressed steadily during Week 1. However, Milos Raonic, at the head of an exciting crop of young players, continues to lead his own, almost inevitable, charge towards a major.

    A semi-final berth at Wimbledon will give Raonic hope of pushing for his first major title in what promises to be an enthralling second week.

    The following slides will detail which storylines demand close attention as the season's final major reaches fever pitch.

     

     

     

Serena Williams Holds Key to American Singles Success

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    USA TODAY Sports

    North America invaded the All England Club with vigour last month, as prolific doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan contested the Wimbledon final against first-time pairing Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil.

    However, the region's success in the singles at the US Open is still in the balance.

    Aleksandra Krunic, Sara Errani and Philipp Kohlschreiber all failed to read the American script last week. Madison Keys, Venus Williams and John Isner were the casualties, placing singles success on the capable shoulders of the woman ranked top of the WTA rankings.

    Serena Williams brushed aside Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-3 to move into the fourth round. 

    Having already gone further at the tournament than at the previous three Grand Slams of the year, it is hard to see a 17-time Grand Slam winner choking under pressure. 

    Brian Lewis of The New York Post described the fallen home candidates as "American flavors of the month." 

    In this mood, Williams seems set to leave a flavour of the bitter variety in the mouths of her opponents and a sweet aftertaste for the home fans.

    The fate of the other Americans in the past week means that Flushing Meadows may be unwise to expect glory, but it can certainly hope.

Andy Murray's Body Must Hold Up

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It may sound strange to the uninformed to suggest that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will want Andy Murray to give a repeat performance of his win over Robin Haase when the pair meet in the fourth round.

    However, Murray's admission that his "body failed" him against Haase will have left the Frenchman longing for déjà vu.  

    Two years on from Grand Slam success in New York, Murray appeared dangerously close to the exit door in his opening encounter. After winning the first two sets, cramp set in and Haase took the third 1-6.

    A similar occurrence against a more ruthless opponent, such as Tsonga, may prove fatal for Murray, who has not won an event since Wimbledon last summer.

    Speaking to Piers Newbery of BBC Sport in the wake of his win over Haase, Murray conceded, "I don't really know how I managed to get through."

    While it's unclear whether Murray will suffer a repeat, any progression he makes in the tournament will be accompanied by this most intriguing of subplots. 

     

Aleksandra Krunic Priming Herself for More Upsets

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    CiCi Bellis defied her age to beat Dominika Cibulkova last week, but Aleksandra Krunic has set about defying another number in her pursuit of a most unlikely tournament win.

    No. 145-ranked Krunic upset Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round, winning 6-4, 6-4. 

    Despite Kvitova's stature, both physically and on tour, Krunic was able to cleverly deceive the Czech on numerous occasions. The 21-year-old repeatedly found the smallest of gaps as Kvitova moved menacingly towards the net, flashing forehands across the court to break her distinguished opponent.

    Krunic may have assumed the role of antagonist as she beat Madison Keys in Round 2, but the progression of a relatively unknown qualifier is sure to warm American hearts.

    Victoria Azarenka lies in wait for Krunic, meaning she will happily continue to adopt the "outsider" tag, according to USA Today's Bobby Chintapalli. 

    Azarenka's record at the majors this year has been patchy. A quarter-final spot at the Australian Open was followed by a withdrawal at Roland Garros and a second-round exit at Wimbledon.

    If the game were played on paper, the fact that Krunic didn't even qualify for the previous Grand Slams should give Azarenka a slight psychological advantage.

    However, as Keys and Kvitova would both testify, Krunic shredded the paper in their encounters. This week, her agenda involves tearing up the history books.

     

     

     

     

Milos Raonic Pushing for Grand Slam Progress

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    On the topic of players challenging the established order, Greg Garber wrote for ESPN.com that Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic are among those pushing.

    Garber's belief is a common school of thought, yet, as he alluded to, it should be remembered that these players are entitled to time.

    Raonic, possessor of a thunderous serve, reached the third and second rounds respectively at Roland Garros and Wimbledon last year. This year, he stormed to the quarter-finals in Paris and the semi-finals in London.

    It's also worth bearing in mind that Roger Federer reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2001 before being knocked out in the first rounds of both the following year.

    Allowing the next generation time is paramount.

    That isn't to suggest that Raonic won't want to use Flushing Meadows as an opportunity to improve on his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon. Indeed, Raonic and Dimitrov are the closest of the young stars to breaking into the most exclusive of clubs.

    Raonic's win over Victor Estrella Burgos in the third round required three tie-breaks, prompting Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian to question whether he is "championship material."

    However, the Canadian found a way to win, and that is all that will matter to him. Kei Nishikori awaits in the fourth round as Raonic fronts one of the most fascinating storylines heading into the final week.

     

Donald Young and Taylor Townsend Eye Mixed Doubles Success

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    The lack of success attained by American singles players in New York meant victory for Donald Young and Taylor Townsend in the mixed doubles couldn't have come at a better time.

    As alluded to earlier, Serena Williams is the only American left in the singles. Indeed, it was Williams who dismantled Townsend 6-3, 6-1 in the first round.

    The mixed doubles appeared to offer a glimmer of hope for the home nation. However, after being drawn against the No. 2 seeds Alexander Peya and Andrea Hlavackova, the spirit of those inside the Grandstand may have been dampened slightly.

    Following their individual exertions at Roland Garros, Stephanie Myles of Yahoo Sports labeled the American duo "poster kids for finding your own path to success."

    It is fair to say that what followed against Peya and Hlavackova, one half of last year's mixed doubles champions, did the "poster kids" image no harm.

    A 6-3, 6-3 win will allow home pride to swell once more, particularly if they can see off Ashleigh Barty and John Peers in the quarter-finals.

    Young and Townsend will be aiming to emulate the last Americans to win the mixed doubles at Flushing Meadows in 2011, Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin.

    The stage is theirs.