This post previews the two last 16 matches from the third 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 had a bit of time this morning so felt compelled to write a few previews since I probably won’t have much time in the week. Read on for last 16 previews for matches to be played on Monday.
1. Carla Suárez Navarro vs. Maria Sharapova (1st up on AA night session at 7pm local time)
Playing for the first time in over three years, Maria Sharapova and Carla Suárez Navarro will reignite their rivalry on tour on Monday. While Suárez Navarro has needed three sets to win all three of her matches this tournament, Sharapova has yet to drop a set in New York.
Suárez Navarro came from a set down for the second time this week to knock out the number six seed on Saturday, Caroline Garcia, 5-7 6-4 7-6(4). The Spaniard was sharp on serve, holding her last 11 service games and not losing any points on her serve in the third set tiebreak. Garcia will have been disappointed not to have made more of an impact on return.
Sharapova has improved with each match and had a surprisingly straightforward win over Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round, 6-3 6-2. This didn’t seem likely after a nine-deuce opening game. Ostapenko played a poor match, hitting 41 unforced errors in just 82 minutes of play. Sharapova was simply better on serve and held her position in the rallies with Ostapenko frequently the first player to miss.
Sharapova leads Suárez Navarro, 4-1 in their head-to-head. Sharapova won their last match in the final of Rome back in 2015, coming from a set down to win, 4-6 7-5 6-1. This will be a different match-up for Sharapova having played big hitters for the last two rounds. Sharapova will be forced to retrieve a lot of balls and that could be a concern for the Russian player who had taping on her forearm in her third round match.
Suárez Navarro has quietly had an excellent summer. I’d still probably go for Sharapova in this match because she can make things happen with her powerful groundstrokes. She’s in trouble if they are not firing and the serve is off, but generally I tend to think she will have too much weaponry for the Spaniard to handle.
2. Madison Keys vs. Dominika Cibulkova (1st up on AA day session at 12pm local time)
Last year’s US Open finalists are both still in this year’s draw. Madison Keys is now the highest ranked player in the third quarter of the draw and gets Dominika Cibulkova in the last 16.
Keys hasn’t set the world alight with her tennis this week but she has been making steady progress through the draw. Keys came from a set down to beat Aleksandra Krunic on Saturday, 4-6 6-1 6-2. It took some time for Keys to figure out Krunic, but she did so it in time, eventually overpowering Krunic in the final two sets. It was the third time this summer that Keys has come from a set down to win in three.
Cibulkova is rounding into form at a Slam again after an excellent Wimbledon. Cibulkova fought for over three hours to beat Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round in what she described as being one of her most memorable victories in her press conference. Cibulkova carried that confidence into her third round match where she claimed her first top ten win since beating Angelique Kerber in the final of the WTA Finals in 2016… by beating Kerber again! Cibulkova came from a set down and dominated with her fearsome forehand to win, 3-6 6-3 6-3 in what was a great contest.
Keys leads Cibulkova, 4-0 in their head-to-head and has not dropped a set. This is clearly a good match-up for Keys and based on how well her kick serve was working against Krunic, i’d expect a similar result. I like the way that Keys is figuring things out what to do in these matches and generally playing with a bit more margin. Cibulkova’s level at the last two Slams has felt pretty close to her peak from 2016. I guess Keys will be relieved not to have to play Kerber in the fourth round, but she will need to stayed very focused to hold off an in-form Cibulkova.