2012 US Open Day 6: Five Matches To Watch

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The first weekend of the tournament sees the Men’s third round matches begin and the Women’s third rounders continue. Here are my top five picks for the day.

[4] Serena Williams (USA) vs Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) Arthur Ashe Stadium (H2H 1-1)

Ekaterina Makarova rose to prominence in Melbourne this year when she defeated Serena in a fairly comfortable 6-2 6-3 fourth round encounter. Since that disappointing performance, Serena has been almost unstoppable aside from her disappointing early exit in France and said of the encounter yesterday how it kick-started her year and only five losses since suggest it is hard to argue with. A heavy favourite here, she wasn’t all that impressive against Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez aside from her strong first serving numbers. Unless Makarova appears in inspired form tomorrow, it is hard to see a repeat of the Melbourne clash with Serena gunning for revenge. When Serena wants something, she will usually get it and the third round is about the right time for her to step up a gear like she so often does when progressing through tournaments.

Sloane Stephens (USA) vs [12] Ana Ivanovic (SRB) Arthur Ashe Stadium (H2H Ana Ivanovic 1-0)

A repeat of their encounter at the same stage last year, these two have been granted the honour of playing in the night session which is quite surprising giving their respective rankings. With an extra years experience, Sloane will have learnt from her mistakes and has the potential to shock Ivanovic who may not be too happy with being so heavily favoured to win. This section has completely opened up and Ivanovic can make her first quarter final for years with two more victories. While Ana terrific forehand helped her to a fairly straight forward victory over Sofia Arvidsson, it was much more difficult for Stephens in the last round. The unorthodox style of Tatjana Malek looked to have bamboozled and frustrated her for long parts of the match with over 60 errors far from ideal.

[12] Nicolas Almagro (ESP) vs [WC] Jack Sock Grandstand

With victories over Florian Mayer and Flavio Cipolla so far, it is fair to say Jack Sock is making a bigger name for himself, especially as both wins were so comfortable, not dropping a set in either match. Almagro will be a much tougher test but the Spaniard has not covered himself in glory, struggling past Radek Stepanek and Philipp Petzschner in four and five sets respectively. Whoever wins will make the fourth round for the first time, a record which is very surprising for Almagro despite his preference for clay courts. The other main courts than Arthur Ashe have had great atmospheres and the American players have definitely felt a boost from it but it will definitely be tough here.

[WC] James Blake (USA) vs [16] Milos Raonic (CAN) Grandstand (H2H Milos Raonic 1-0)

This is a match I am surprised is only on Grandstand. James Blake is more than proving he was worthy of the wildcard handed out to him with comprehensive victories in the first two rounds. He put in an almost perfect performance against Marcel Granollers last time out and the forehand was on point all match which the Spaniard could just not live with. If he plays like that he is more than capable of troubling his younger opponent. Raonic was totally dominant on serve against Paul Henri Mathieu and cut out the double faults that plagued his first round match. The Canadian is still seen as a dark horse for the tournament but I think both players if on form are more than capable of troubling Andy Murray in round four if he goes through as expected.

[12] Marin Cilic (CRO) vs [19] Kei Nishikori (JPN) Court 17 (H2H Kei Nishikori 2-1)

This should be an exciting encounter between two of the younger players in the top 20. Nishikori has made light work of two qualifiers in Tim Smyczek and Guido Andreozzi but it should be much tougher here. The duo have met here once before in a five set epic that Nishikori edged from 2-1 down and it would not be surprising at all if it went five again. Cilic hasn’t looked at his best in struggling past Marinko Matosevic and Daniel Brands and will definitely need to improve as he cannot rely on Nishikori collapsing like his last two opponents.

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