Three to See, US Open Day 1: Venus v. Kuznetsova, Dimitrov v. Wawrinka

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Daily Serve—Breaking down the 2018 US Open draws:

Each day, we'll preview three must-see matches from the US Open.


Stan Wawrinka vs [8] Grigor Dimitrov

Dimitrov is officially unlucky. The Top 10 pro will face three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament for the second consecutive major. But despite his high ranking, the Bulgarian super-athlete has not impressed in 2018. He has a small case of the yips on his second serve and can’t seem to string together a whole tournaments' worth of quality matches.

Dimitrov is graded on a different scale than his peers because his talent is obvious. He was nicknamed “Baby-Fed” for a reason; he and Federer's stroke production is almost identical. Their point construction, however, is not. Dimitrov has all the shots in the book, but so often he plays without a game plan, relying on his freakish speed, flexibility and talent to prevail—or fail.

That will not work against Wawrinka, who won the title last time he played at Flushing Meadows in 2016. He will play his game: chip returns to start the point and then crushing groundstrokes from both wings. I suspect Dimitrov will be frustrated; look for the other Swiss champion to blast his opponent off the court with his unparalleled power from the backhand wing.

The Pick: Wawrinka

[16] Venus Williams vs Svetlana Kuznetsova

Fifteen years ago, at the 2003 Australian Open, future hall-of-famers Williams and Kuznetsova played for the first time. They both rank in the Top 5 in total career match wins among active players, and have a combined 42 years of professional tennis experience. But this matchup presents a phenomenal clash of styles. Venus will look to play first-strike tennis and move forward, using her length and power to frustrate the rock-solid Russian.

At this point in their careers, Kuznetsova is the more nimble player; she will look to extend the rallies and use her heavy, high-bouncing forehand to pull Venus off the court. The two veterans have played each other ten times and have split those entertaining matches. This match is a toss-up—and one to savor—but I expect Kuznetsova to outlast the aging American legend in three sets.

The Pick: Kuznetsova

[28] Denis Shapovalov vs [Q] Felix Auger-Aliassime

When the draw came out on Thursday, 28th-seeded Shapovalov was probably quite pleased with his first-round opponent, the previously unnamed “Qualifier”. But one the 16 qualifiers were slotted into the main draw, the young left-handed Canadian was no longer thrilled. Shapovalov will play fellow Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime, perhaps the most gifted young player in the tournament. Auger-Aliassime breezed through the qualifying draw, losing just four total points in his final set against Gerald Melzer on Friday.

This match is must-see for tennis fans, providing a glimpse into the future of the sport. The talent level between these two players is off the charts. Denis will use his lefty slice serve and crosscourt forehand to locate the much weaker (but still good) Aliassime backhand. In the first of many match-ups to come, expect the slightly more experienced Shapovalov to prevail in a tight four-set battle.

The Pick: Shapovalov


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