Three to See, US Open Day 7: Del Potro v. Coric; Stephens v. Mertens

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[17] Serena Williams vs. Kaia Kanepi

Williams dispatched her sister in barely over an hour Friday night, and the performance was without a doubt the best she has put together since her pregnancy. Assuming her ankle is fine, she will play the red-hot Kanepi in the fourth round—a player she has beaten four times in straight sets.

Kanepi, perhaps the most dangerous unseeded floater in the draw, has yet to drop a set. That includes a straight-set victory over world No. 1 Simona Halep. Both players prefer playing first-strike tennis and can rip huge winners from anywhere in the court. Serena’s defense is markedly better than Kanepi’s, but with such a heavily taped ankle, she can’t rely on her defensive ability. Serena will need to gain control as early as possible in the rally so she can remain comfortably on balance, placing less strain on her ankle.

The deciding factor in this match, just like every Serena match, is the serve. Serena has one of the best serves of all time. Her service motion is flawless, a thing of beauty, the most effective weapon the women’s game has ever seen.

The Pick: Williams

[3] Juan Martin del Potro vs. [20] Borna Coric

How can you not love del Potro? The Argentinian is one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors. A fan favorite every time he walks on the court, Delpo plays the crowd like a fiddle. He also owns one of the most feared weapons in the history of tennis, his forehand.

His opponent, 21-year-old Coric, is playing the best tennis of his life. Now No. 20 in the world, Coric will use his speed, fitness and lethal two-handed backhand to stave off the Thor-like hammer that is Delpo’s forehand. The forehand disparity between the two players is gigantic. Coric will need to play mindful tennis, as any weak reply to the Del Potro forehand simply means that the point is over.

The two have never played before—Coric will need some time to adjust to the relentless pace of Delpo. Once he does, this will not be an easy match for gentle giant from Argentina. But it will be a successful one.

The Pick: Del Potro

[3] Sloane Stephens vs. [15] Elise Mertens

In a rematch from Cincinnati, Stephens will look to avenge her loss to the rock-solid Belgian. In this high-stakes matchup, Mertens will need to use the only advantage she may possibly have: her mind. Physically, there is not one thing Mertens does better than Sloane. In Cincinnati, she frustrated Sloane by simply refusing to miss. Sloane is the fastest player in the world right now, and her defense is impenetrable. If Victoria Azarenka can’t get the ball past her, Mertens has no shot of hitting Sloane off the court.  

When you force Sloane to be the aggressor, oftentimes she plays worse. She would prefer to capitalize on the angles her opponents give her rather than create them for herself. Mertens had the perfect game plan in Cincinnati; she used her patience and steadiness to defeat the world No. 3. She will need to execute her game plan once more if she has any chance to defeat her for the second time in two weeks.

The Pick: Stephens


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