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Three to See, US Open Day 5: Wozniacki vs. Brady, Muchova vs. Townsend, Paul vs. Davidovich Fokina
How many of these third-rounders will Americans win?
Published Aug 31, 2023
WATCH: TenniStory with Tommy Paul
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Jennifer Brady
The comeback kids—or adults, I should say—face off. Wozniacki, at 33, after marriage and motherhood, is playing her third event since retiring in 2020. Brady, at 28, returned this summer after a two-year injury layoff. The Dane is currently ranked 623rd, but has been as high as No. 1; the American is currently ranked 433rd, but has been as high as No. 14. On Wednesday night, they put on the best performances of their comebacks so far: Wozniacki beat Petra Kvitova in two close sets in Ashe; Brady tore through a 6-2 third set against Magda Linette in Armstrong.
If you saw some of those matches, you know how much of a contrast these two players present with their games. Wozniacki was her traditionally steady self, doing what she needed to do to coax an error from Kvitova. Brady was her traditionally athletic self, powering her forehand from corner to corner and finally past her opponent. She also did her Novak Djokovic imitation and flapped her arms to get the night-session crowd revved up.
Brady and Wozniacki have never played each other, and the key to their first meeting will likely be Brady’s consistency. We know Wozniacki will make balls; how many will Brady be able to put past her? Neither is all the way back to her finest form, but each is close enough that this should be a competitive back and forth contest. Winner: Wozniacki
Karolina Muchova vs. Taylor Townsend
“That’s a challenge,” Townsend said when she was asked about the prospect of playing this year’s Roland Garros runner-up. “She can do certain things different than other players.”
Still, Townsend said she was looking forward to her first meeting with the Czech.
“These are the types of matches that really get me going because it’s a test and it’s a challenge, because she doesn’t play like everybody else.”
It’s true, Muchova uses a fuller shot palette than most of her peers. She likes the slice and the drop shot; most of all she likes to hit a big ground stroke and charge into net behind it. She’s skilled at all of these plays, and she has been using them as well as she ever has in 2023. Along with Roland Garros, she reached the final two weeks ago in Cincinnati, and is up to a career-high ranking of No. 10.
But Townsend also does a few things that her peers don’t. She serves and volleys, she charges in behind her returns, and she changes paces from one ground stroke to the next.
This match will offer a full range of shot-making. Both woman have the same weakness: inconsistency. The question may be who can get to the net first, and who can pressure her opponent into more errors. Muchova is the logical choice, but Townsend has ridden the U.S. crowd’s support to surprising victories here in the past. Winner: Townsend
Tommy Paul vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
If you’re a fan of U.S. tennis, you may be asking: Is this Tommy Paul’s moment? The No. 12 seed is in a quarter that has lost its two highest-ranked players, Casper Ruud and Holger Rune. He’s coming out a month in which he nearly beat Carlos Alcaraz twice. He just came back from two sets down for the first time in his career. Is his first Open semifinal on the horizon?
Of course, if you’re a fan of Spanish tennis, you may be asking the same question of Davidovich Fokina. He’s only ranked seven spots behind Paul (No. 14 to No. 21), and is coming off a semifinal run at the Masters 1000 in Toronto earlier in August. He may be due to make a Slam semi himself.
Paul and Davidovich Fokina have already played twice in 2023, and Paul has won both times; that includes a five-set, second-round struggle at the Australian Open. Both guys are athletes and shot-makers with controlling forehands and two-handed backhands. They should put on a lively show wherever they face off. I’ll choose to say this is Paul’s moment. Winner: Paul