Three to See, US Open Day 3: Murray's & Thiem's tests; Venus v. Giorgi

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Tennis Channel Live at the US Open: The Williams sisters win on Day 1

[31] Fernando Verdasco vs. Andy Murray

Historically, Murray has dominated Verdasco: the Spaniard is 1-13 against the Scot. The matchup is a tough one for Verdasco, whose lefty slice serves and silky smooth forehands funnel a lot of his shots right into the Murray backhand—one of the game's best ever. Luckily for the veteran Verdasco, his opponent is wounded: Murray missed 11 months with a right hip injury. A hip injury for a tennis player is one of the worst to deal with, like an Achilles injury in basketball. Some players never quite recover—see Hewitt, Lleyton.

Neither of these players is at their apex right now, but Murray is further removed from his peak. Verdasco knows this is the weakest version of Murray he may ever play, and despite their lopsided record, he is capable of putting him away. No matter what happens, both players have a flair for the dramatic, so be sure to bring your popcorn.

The Pick: Verdasco

[9] Dominic Thiem vs. Steve Johnson

A Top 10 mainstay at age 24, Thiem is in danger of approaching “clay-court specialist” status. The industrial-strength Austrian’s career record on a non-clay surface hovers just above .500. His opponent in the second round is Southern California legend Steve Johnson, the most decorated college tennis player of all time. According to Peter Smith, his old college coach at USC,  Johnson has “a golden right arm.” In addition to his forehand, Johnson owns one of the best second serves in the world; he should be able to serve his way to a set, maybe even two, against the Austrian.

But can he get three? It may be too tall an order. Both players have fantastic slice backhands, but Thiem can blast the ball with heavy topspin from both wings. This is something the American, who frequently opts for the one-handed running backhand passing shot, á la Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, can’t quite do.

The Pick: Thiem

[16] Venus Williams vs. Camila Giorgi

Williams took down two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the longest three-set match of the tournament so far. Thankfully the 38-year-old will get a full day off for what's expected to be another scorching day at Flushing Meadows. She will need every minute of rest before she faces the super-fit Italian Camila Giorgi. The last time these two played, at the 2015 Australian Open, Giorgi was just two points from victory before ultimately succumbing to Williams' supreme power.

Giorgi is a very streaky player, but so is Williams. Expect an excess of clean winners accompanied by plenty of unforced errors. Williams will need to serve well again, as Giorgi feasts on weak second serves, regularly ripping down-the-line return winners. And then there's this: a likely matchup with Serena looms in the third round. The fans, and Venus, know that.

The Pick: Williams


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