1. Ana Ivanovic v Dominika Cibulkova (USO, R1)
As first round matches go, Ana Ivanovic drew a bit of a stinker. The number seven seed will play Dominika Cibulkova in what should be a cracking match-up for the neutrals… but perhaps not for Ana and Domi fans! Ivanovic reached back-to-back quarter-finals in Toronto and Cincy although she only had to win three matches to get there with byes and withdrawals helping her cause. A come-from-behind victory over Sloane Stephens in the third round of Cincy was an excellent result and arguably, one of her best wins of the year.
Cibulkova has been making steady progress since coming back to the tour in June having spent a couple of months on the sidelines recovering from Achilles surgery. Cibulkova has played five tournaments since Wimbledon but it took her until New Haven to score back-to-back wins at the same tournament. Cibulkova showed her fighting spirit, winning through two tight three setters against Tsvetana Pironkova and Kristina Mladenovic, before eventually succumbing in another close one to Lucie Safarova, 7-5 in the decider. Cibulkova spent eight hours and 53 minutes on court in her three matches. She needed the matches though and improved through each match.
Ivanovic and Cibulkova are tied at 2-2 in their head-to-head. Ivanovic has won their last two matches which both took place in 2013. This is a 50/50 match for me. If Ivanovic can get off to a good start, she can probably ride the momentum home but if she starts slow and edgy, Cibulkova can really get stuck in. Expect plenty of ajdes and pomes. This should be a treat…
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Cibulkova in 3 sets
2. Kristina Mladenovic v Svetlana Kuznetsova (USO, R1)
Svetlana Kuznetsova heads into the US Open having played just one match since Wimbledon. The 30-year-old Russian has been struggling with a leg injury… is it me or are all WTA players struggling with their legs?! Kuznetsova will play Kristina Mladenovic in the first round. After an encouraging few months on the clay and the grass, Mladenovic’s form has simmered somewhat on the hard courts, winning just two matches during the US Open Series. Mladenovic scored a mightily impressive win against Sara Errani in New Haven but just came up short in her second round match against Cibulkova. She has all the tools at her disposal but tactics wise, isn’t quite there in terms of choosing the right shot for the occasion. Against Cibulkova, she started well with some patient, yet aggressive play but became more erratic as the match wore on. Mladenovic has done reasonably well at the Slams this year, taking out a seed in the first round of the Australian Open and the French Open, and reaching the third round at Wimbledon. Against Kuznetsova, a player who never seems to hit the ground running after a break, she has an opportunity to make a decent run…
Prediction: Mladenovic d. Kuznetsova in 2 sets