Each day during the US Open, we'll preview and predict three must-see matches.
Here’s a rare case at this year’s Open of two seeds, and two pre-tournament dark horses, who have made it as far as they were supposed to. With five titles in 2017, Svitolina has been one of the WTA’s players of the year, while Keys is still someone most prognosticators believe will win majors someday. With news of Serena Williams’ potential 2018 return making the rounds, Keys and Svitolina must feel as if they need to make some Grand Slam hay while the sun is still shining on them. They’ve played just once, in New Haven in 2015, and Keys was up a set and a break when Svitolina retired. This match will rest mostly on the American’s racquet. If she’s inspired enough by playing in front of a Labor Day home crowd, she could roll. But if she’s off at all, the workmanlike Svitolina, who has grown in confidence with each passing month this season, will be ready to take advantage.
Call this the rematch of the non-match. Thiem and Del Potro were scheduled for a much-anticipated fourth-rounder in Ashe last year, but the blockbuster went bust when Thiem was forced to retire with an injury. The Austrian and the Argentine both appear to be in better shape physically than they were 12 months ago, and both have made their way through the draw with quiet efficiency—Delpo hasn’t dropped a set, while Thiem has surrendered one. Game-wise, Del Potro, who has won this tournament, and who won his only completed match with Thiem last year on clay, may be the slight favorite. But so far at the Open, Thiem has been refusing to lose sets that he seems destined to lose. That would seem to bode well.
Dolgopolov is a dangerous opponent for Nadal at the moment. The Ukrainian has been involved in several testy exchanges with reporters over his possible involvement with gamblers, and he appears determined to prove his legitimacy on court. He upset Tomas Berdych in four sets and pummeled Viktor Troicki with the loss of just five games. Dolgopolov is a certified talent, enough of one to have two wins over Nadal in eight meetings. As Rafa said on Saturday, he’ll need to play “long”—i.e., deep in the court—to keep Dolgo from putting on his shot-making show: The guy can do anything with the ball; maybe too many things. Nadal said he’s going to work on his forehand ahead of this match; he’s going to need it.
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