U.S. Open Tennis 2010: Top 10 Steamy Storylines for Thursday

JA AllenSenior Writer ISeptember 2, 2010

2010 U.S. Open: Top Ten Steamy Storylines For Thursday

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01:  Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is tended to by medical personnel on the court after she collapsed during her second round women's singles match against Gisela Dulko (seen standing at the bottom of the frame) of Argentina on day thr
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    There have been many stories so far at the U.S. Open but the weather seems to be leading them all. 

    Victoria Azarenka, the No. 10 seed on the women’s side, collapsed in her second round contest against Gisela Dulko while playing on the Grandstand Court. Temperatures soared to over 90 degrees while they played.  

    Azarenka trailed Dulko 5-2 at the time. Tournament officials were quick to assert that other factors were in play besides the heat, but you had to know the conditions on court were horrendous.

    Croat Ivan Ljubicic, who lost to American teenager Ryan Harrison, blamed the heat for his loss, calling it his biggest opponent. He pointed out that in Australia if it is too hot, players do not play.

    On court temperatures soared over 100 degrees for the third day in a row. 

    Thursday does not look to be any better. Friday, however, promises rain and declining temperatures.

    American Andy Roddick lost his night match to Janko Tipsarevic. Last year’s sweetheart, Melanie Oudin is also out of the Open. Neither of these losses, however, had anything to do with the heat.

    Thursday’s action on court also promises to be hot and heavy.

Second Round: Sabine Lisicki (Germany) Vs. (7) Vera Zvonareva (Russia)

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    MONTREAL, QC - AUGUST 23:  Vera Zvonareva of Russia returns a shot to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during the semifinals of the  Rogers Cup at Stade Uniprix on August 23, 2010 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Sabine Lisicki and Vera Zvonareva are first up on Arthur Ashe Stadium at 11 a.m. 

    The Russian is finally playing at a level to showcase her capabilities, reaching the finals of Wimbledon where she lost to Serena Williams. 

    She also played in the finals of the rain-delayed Rogers Cup, losing to Caroline Wozniacki just prior to the U.S. Open.  

    The hard-hitting German Lisicki is a streaky player and can catch fire, especially if she is serving well. She has a wickedly potent serve. 

    However, she is currently ranked No. 94 being sidelined with injury most of the year. A year ago she was ranked world No. 22. 

    Without much match play, it will be hard to imagine the German can ruffle the feathers of Zvonareva. The two have never played each other. Zvonareva should advance to the third round.

Second Round: Roger Federer (2) (Switzerland) Vs. Andreas Beck (Germany)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 30:  Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts after a point against Brian Dabul of Argentina during the Men's Singles first round match on day one of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2010 in
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Roger Federer, the No. 2 seed will meet German Andreas Beck on Arthur Ashe stadium in the third match of the day in the second round of the U.S. Open

    Federer enters the second round with little expectation that he will lose this match against Beck, ranked 104, who generally makes his way into events through the qualifying rounds.

    Still, all eyes will be on the No. 2 seed urging him forward, hoping to see him play again––ending eventually in the finals where most want Nadal to be waiting. 

    But of course, that is far in the future. 

    Federer will focus on this 24 year old from Germany who should enjoy, if not wilt under, his moment in the sun. Expect Federer to win this one easily.

Second Round: Caroline Wozniacki (1) (Denmark) Vs. Kai-Chen Chang (Taipei)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 31:  Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark reacts after a point against Chelsey Gullickson of the United States during her first round women's singles match on day two of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 1 seed will meet Kai-Chen Chang of Taipei at 1 pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium in a second round contest.

    Coming into the match, Wozniacki has been lighting up the courts during the American hard court season, winning both in Montreal and New Haven. 

    The only question for the 20 year old is––has she been playing too much tennis and does she have enough in reserve to win it all?

    Wozniacki met Kai-Chen Chang at Wimbledon and defeated her in the second round 6-4, 6-3. They will meet on Thursday, again in the second round, in the heat of the day.

    Chang is ranked No. 84 in the world and gets into regular tour events normally through qualification.  

    It is hard to imagine that Wozniacki will not move onto round 3 at the conclusion of this match.

Second Round: Novak Djokovic (3) (Serbia) Vs. Phillipp Petzschner (Germany)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 31:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating Viktor Troicki of Serbia in his first round men's single's match on day two of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2010 in the Flus
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    Novak Djokovic, the No. 3 seed will face Phillipp Petzschner on Arthur Ashe Stadium for the second evening match.

    Playing at night when the extreme heat has subsided should be a big plus for the Serb.

    Nonetheless, Djokovic has an imposing opponent waiting for him. Petzschner took Rafael Nadal, the No. 1 seed, to five sets at Wimbledon, before finally losing that match in the third round.

    It was quite a scare for the No. 1 seed who went on to win the Wimbledon Championship.

    The German has done nothing to announce he is dangerous on the hard courts but Petzschner is streaky and can sneak up on a higher ranked opponent, especially if he senses weakness or uncertainty.  

    Depending on the weather, Djokovic may be vulnerable. Viktor Troicki, also of Serbia, took Djokovic to five sets in his opener where it looked many times like the No. 3 seed would be upset. 

    While Djokovic survived, it showed he is vulnerable. If the excessive heat continues into the night session on Thursday, this could be another tricky match for the surviving Serb.

Second Round: Iveta Benesova (Czech Republic) Vs. Maria Sharapova (14) (Russia)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 31:  Maria Sharapova of Russia serves against Jarmila Groth of Australia during her women's singles first round match on day two of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2010 in the Flushing
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic will face the No. 14 seed, Russian Maria Sharapova during the first evening session on Aurthur Ashe Stadium.

    Many predict that Maria Sharapova has a good chance of winning this tournament, duplicating her run to the U.S. Open finals of 2006 where she defeated Justine Henin to win the crown.

    The Russian has certainly played well coming into the U.S. Open, making it to the finals in Cincinnati where she fell to Kim Clijsters 2-6, 7-6, 6-2. 

    That was her last match before New York because she withdrew from the Rogers Cup. Sharapova also made it to the finals of Stanford, falling to Azarenka 6-4, 6-1.

    Sharapova and Benesova have met twice before. In 2006, they faced each other during the French Open when the Russian won in the second round 6-4, 6-1. They met again in Tokyo on the hard courts with Sharapova winning 6-4, 7-5.

    Coming into the Open, Benesova made it to the round of 16 in Montreal where she lost to Marion Bartoli. This was after Benesova dispatched Jelena Jankovic in the round of 32. 

    Still, based on the Russian's play, you must predict that Sharapova will advance easily to the next round where the competition gets a little stiffer.

Second Round: Nikolay Davydenko (6) Russian Vs. Richard Gasquet (France)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 30:  Nikolay Davydenko of Russia returns a forehand against Michael Russell of the United States during the Men's Singles first round match on day one of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Nikolay Davydenko, seeded No. 6, faces Frenchman Richard Gasquet. They are up second on the Grandstand Court.

    This is a very intriguing second round match and should go along way to demonstrating whether the seeming eternal Russian Davydenko is fully returned from injury. 

    Davydenko faces the multi-talented but erratic Frenchman Richard Gasquet, whose history in the game is peppered with unexpected and often unfortunate results.  

    The two have met twice, both times on clay, both in 2005––splitting their wins. Not much can be gleaned from their head to head history. 

    Gasquet has not shown much during the American hardcourts, losing in the third round to Mardy Fish in Cincinnati and in the opening round of the Rogers Cup.

    Davydenko lost in the quarterfinals of Cincinnati to Roger Federer in straight sets.

    The nod must go to Davydenko to win this match. Gasquet, who has all the tools to win these important matches, seems uninspired of late.  

Second Round: Svetlana Kuznetsova (11) Vs. Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 31:  Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia serves against Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan during her women's singles first round match on day two of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2010 in the Flus
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded No. 11, will face Anastasija Sevastova on Louis Armstrong Stadium in the second match of the day. 

    Kuznetsova has been playing well on the American hard courts, winning in San Diego over Agnieszka Radwanska in the finals 6-4, 6-7, 7-6. It was a hard-fought final with the Russian coming through to win it in the final set tiebreak.  

    Kuznetsova also advanced to the semifinals in Montreal where she fell to Wozniacki 6-2, 6-3. She enters the U.S. Open with rebuilt confidence.

    Sevastova met Kuznetsova during last year’s U.S. Open in the round of 64, where the Russian dictated play winning 6-4, 6-2. 

    The Latvian is primarily a clay court player and has little hard court match play coming into this year's tournament. "Kuzzy" should win this one fairly easily, moving onto round three.

Second Round: Robin Soderling (5) (Sweden) vs. Taylor Dent (USA)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 30:  Robin Soderling of Sweden serves against Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria during the Men's Singles first round match on day one of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2010 in the Flus
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Playing on the Grandstand Court in the third match of the day, No. 5 Robin Soderling will face American Taylor Dent for a spot in the third round.

    Soderling struggled mightily in his opening match against Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria, finally pulling it out in five sets. 

    After taking the first two sets, Soderling let his young opponent back in the match––gaining confidence the longer the match lasted. 

    Taylor Dent, on the other hand, defeated his opponent Alejandro Falla of Columbia in straight sets.

    So who is better prepared for the second round? Did the five-setter prime Soderling to go out and take care of business? 

    Taylor Dent certainly must be serving exceptionally well to win this match. 

    The two contrasting styles of play are always interesting to watch. 

    But Soderling should win this one more easily, however, than his opening round match.

Second Round: Jelena Jankovic (4) (Serbia) vs. Mirjana Lucic (Croatia)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 31:  Jelena Jankovic of Serbia reacts after defeating Simona Halep of Romania during her first round women's single match on day two of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2010 in the Flus
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Third up on Louis Armstrong Stadium, the Serb Jelena Jankovic must face Mirjana Lucic of Croatia.

    Since making the semifinals of the French Open, where she suffered defeat at the hands of Samantha Stosur, Jankovic has limped into the hard court season after retiring during her fourth round match with Vera Zvonareva at Wimbledon.

    The American hard courts gave the Serb no reason to enter New York with any degree of confidence. 

    No one talks openly about Jankovic winning the championship or even hint at it. She struggled to win her opener against Simona Halep, finally winning in three long sets.  

    Thursday, Jankovic faces Lucic, who has more weapons and perhaps more confidence than Halep did on Monday. 

    Lucic is making a comeback, of sorts, but still is ranked only 150. She should, however, give Jankovic as much or more than the Serb wishes to handle. 

    Nonetheless, Jankovic should win this match, obviously.  But will she?

Second Round: Marin Cilic (11) (Croatia) Vs. Kei Nishikori (Japan)

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 30:  Marin Cilic of Croatia waves to the crowd after winning match point against Illya Marchenko of the Ukraine during the Men's Singles first round match on day one of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Cent
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Stuck out on Court 13, Marin Cilic of Croatia will meet Kei Nishikori as the first match of the day.

    Both men had easy opening rounds in contrast to many on court today. Nishikori benefited by a retirement leading 7-6, 5-2 when his opponent Evgeny Korolev gave up. 

    Cilic won in straight sets defeating Illya Marchenko of Ukraine 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.

    Both men are hoping for breakout seasons ahead. 

    Nishokori spent much of last year suffering from an elbow injury. His aggressive style of play is entertaining and his fiery determination on court attracts fans. 

    The 6‘6 Cilic towers over his opponent and delivers a powerful serve and owns a massive forehand. But Nishikori returns well and scampers with amazing foot speed. 

    It promises to be the most entertaining match of the day. Cilic should dominate but never count the young man from Japan out.