1. Ekaterina Makarova v Kristina Mladenovic (US Open, R4)
In the wide open second quarter of the draw, The number 13 seed, Ekaterina Makarova is the highest seed remaining. Heading into the US Open with a heavy cloud of injury uncertainty, Makarova has acquitted herself well to reach the fourth round of the US Open. In the last eight Slams, Makarova has reached the second week on six occasions.
Makarova defeated Elina Svitolina, 6-3 7-5 in the first match on Ashe on Friday. It was a decent match with Makarova rewarded for her willingness to come forward and go for the lines. Makarova finished with superb stats, overcoming a late bout of cramps to seal the win in straights. Makarova tried to call out the trainer at *6-5 40-40 (after she had wasted two match points) for what she later revealed was cramping in her leg, but was refused. Makarova saved a break point and hung on to take the match in straight sets. If she had lost that game, Svitolina probably would have been the favourite to come through. For a full recap of the match, click HERE.
Makarova will play Kristina Mladenovic in the fourth round who has broken new ground at a Slam, expertly taking her opportunities in a dreamy section of the draw. Mladenovic upset Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round, who had been struggling with a leg injury. In the second round, Mladenovic won 11 out of the last 13 games to defeat Bojana Jovanovski, 7-5 6-2. Her third round win over Daria Kasatkina was her most comfortable yet, a 6-2 6-3 victory.
In their two previous matches, Makarova has defeated Mladenovic in three sets. Makarova won 4-6 6-2 6-3 in Sydney in 2012 and 4-6 6-3 6-1 in Rome in 2015. I’m a big fan of Mladenovic and she has had a really encouraging year. She has all the shots there and is finally starting to translate her success from doubles into singles. If I had to pick a surprise name to crack the top ten next year, I’d probably go for Kiki right now. If Makarova recovers in time, she will be the favourite for this one. Her consistent, yet aggressive game and ability to move her opponent around the court will be key. I think it could be a race against time for her with the leg injury. If she can’t close it out in two, Mladenovic is more than capable of gritting out a big win.
Much depends on Ekaterina so I’m putting a caveat on this one!
Prediction: Makarova in 2 (Mlads in 3 if the leg injury flares up)
*NOTE – BOUCHARD HAS NOW WITHDRAWN FROM THE TOURNAMENT DUE TO CONCUSSION… SAD FOR GENIE!*
2. Eugenie Bouchard v Roberta Vinci (US Open, R4)
It’s amazing how fortunes can swing around so quickly in tennis. Just last week Eugenie Bouchard lost in the first round of New Haven in a crushing 6-0 6-1 loss. One week on, she’s won the most matches at a tournament since January and is into the second week of the US Open. It’s been a potential game changer for Bouchard with victories over Alison Riske (6-4 6-3), Polona Hercog (6-3 6-7 6-3) and Dominika Cibulkova (7-6 4-6 6-3).
The Bouchard-Cibulkova match was fascinating throughout its two hours and 48 minute entirety. Bouchard saved five set points, the last two with inspired play, to prevail in a wackadoodle first set tiebreak, 7-6(9). Cibulkova showed terrific resolve to come from a break down to win the second set but Bouchard played a very secure final set, serving particularly well at the end. There were still some tight moments and it’s still hit or miss with her game but there were many encouraging signs, the first time in a while there has been anything encouraging to take away from her game.
In a strange twist, Bouchard will play Vinci again, the player she miserably succumbed to in New Haven. Vinci’s had a beaut of a draw, beating Vania King, Denisa Allertova and Mariana Duque-Marino with the last two matches both going the distance. While it has been a favourable draw for Vinci, credit should go to the Italian player for actually making it this far because her form over the past few years has been such that it wouldn’t have been a surprise for her to lose one of these matches.
This is going to be a super intriguing match. In their New Haven encounter (see full match recap HERE), the second set was much closer than the scoreline suggested with Bouchard having game points in the first four games. Bouchard will be in a much better place mentally than she was a week ago and should take heart from her performances over the last week. If she can find the balance between aggression and consistency, and believe in her game then I think there’s a fair shot she will overturn last week’s result.
Howeverrrrrrrr… in the last day it has come out that Bouchard suffered a head injury in the locker room after her mixed doubles match on Friday. It seems uncertain whether she will play on Sunday and being scheduled last up on Armstrong, the only women’s match not on Ashe, is not particularly promising. I would have gone Genie in three but it seems this could be a retirement…