This post previews the two last 16 matches from the fourth quarter of the women’s draw. For a round-up of Saturday’s action at the US Open, check out the Set Points recap post here. I’m excited by the line-up and had a bit more time since it’s the weekend so thought i’d do a rare preview! Read on for last 16 previews for matches to be played on Monday.
1. Naomi Osaka vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2nd up on Louis Armstrong)
Ring the bells! Ring the bells! It’s a new match-up alert as Naomi Osaka will play Aryna Sabalenka for the first time on tour. I am super excited by the prospect of this match and it’s a huge one as the winner will not only advance to the quarter-finals of a Slam for the first time in their career but will likely be the favourite to reach the semi-finals.
Osaka came into the US Open with some uncertainty having won just one match during the summer hard court season in Washington. She admitted on social media to being frustrated and depressed in practice, and feeling the pressure and expectation on the hard courts following her title in Indian Wells. Osaka has yet to be troubled at this year’s US Open and sailed through her first three rounds, dropping just seven games and scoring a double bagel win (!) over Aliaksandra Sasnovich in just 49 minutes. You don’t see double bagels very often in the third round of Slams. Osaka has reached the third round at her last six Slams which is the most consistent Slam record of any WTA player (via @jokelley_tennis on Twitter)
Since Eastbourne, Sabalenka has gone on an absolute tear. The Belarusian has had a stunning summer that has seen her win 14 matches up to now including winning her first WTA title in New Haven, seven three set wins, five top ten wins and three wins from match point down. Competing in the third round of a Slam for the first time in her career, Sabalenka beat Petra Kvitova on Saturday night, 7-5 6-1. Sabalenka needed two attempts to serve out the first set, but did so at *6-5 with aplomb. Sabalenka was generally sharper, getting Kvitova on the move and hitting into the corners. Kvitova was vulnerable on serve and looked a little flat. The Czech player threw in a poor game at 5-5 in the first set having worked so hard to get back into contention.
I’m fascinated by this Osaka-Sabalenka match-up and both players have such vibrant personalities off the court. Sabalenka brings the better form into the match. The Belarusian has bundles of confidence but surely weary legs too having played 16 matches in the last 27 days. I think that Osaka almost brings an unknown quantity into this match because she has played so few matches over the summer. She’s looked sharp but has yet to be tested at this tournament. My instinct (oh no) is that Osaka takes this.
2. Lesia Tsurenko vs. Marketa Vondrousova (3rd up on Grandstand)
In the most unexpected of last 16 matches at this year’s US Open, Lesia Tsurenko and Marketa Vondrousova will both also be bidding to reach a first ever Slam quarter-final.
Tsurenko has built on her run from Cincy where she beat Garbiñe Muguruza and Ekaterina Makarova, and is now into the last 16 of the US Open for the second time in her career. Tsurenko knocked out Caroline Wozniacki in the second round and backed it up with her third straight sets win of the week over Katerina Siniakova, winning the last 11 games to prevail, 6-4 6-0.
Vondrousova showed promise during the spring but hadn’t done a great deal between then and the US Open. The Czech player scored her third top 20 win of the year on Saturday, coming from a break down in the third set to beat Kiki Bertens, 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(1). The win had looked unlikely in the second set as Vondrousova’s energy dropped like a stone. Vondrousova rediscovered her energy again in the third set and dazzled again with the drop shots as she eased through the final set tiebreak with Bertens throwing in some uncharacteristic errors.
The pair have never played before on the WTA tour. It’s a huge match, as is the case for any last 16 encounter at a Slam, but especially this one as both are trying to break new ground in their careers. Tsurenko’s health is always a concern as she has retired/withdrawn from four matches in the last five months. The Ukrainian player spoke about an arm injury in her press conference after beating Wozniacki. Vondrousova’s game is much more appealing to me, but I think Tsurenko’s is likely to be more effective on this surface. Barring any injury concerns, i’d probably go for Tsurenko.