Five things to watch, US Open Day 8, Ahn vs. Mertens, Bencic vs. Osaka

Five things to watch, US Open Day 8, Ahn vs. Mertens, Bencic vs. Osaka

Kristie Ahn and Taylor Townsend hope to continue their Cinderella stories in New York, while Naomi Osaka looks to defeat Belinda Bencic for the first time.

The fourth round of singles continues Monday at the US Open. These are five storylines to look out for on Day 8 in New York.


“I’m going to work on my passing shots tomorrow,” a smiling Bianca Andreescu said when asked about her upcoming matchup with Taylor Townsend. The 23-year-old American qualifier has approached the net a ridiculous 171 times in her last two matches. Townsend owns some of the best hands in the game and has always excelled around the net, but this week she has taken her aggression to mind-boggling new heights.

Both players will enter new territory on Monday, as neither player had reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam before this week. Fitness may play a factor for Townsend, who has has already played six singles matches in New York, including four three-setters. It’s difficult to imagine Townsend dispatching Andreescu, who may be the most confident player in the world right now. Andreescu is a staggering 41-4 on the year, and should have no trouble finding a way to win against the crafty American. 

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No one is hitting their forehand bigger or better than Andrey Rublev at the moment. The 21-year-old has been living in the zone for the past month, racking up convincing wins over Federer, Wawrinka, Tsitsipas, and Kyrgios. A mid-court forehand for Rublev is a death sentence for his competition. His opponent, the hard-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini, is in the midst of a career year, winning two ATP titles on the season. They have played twice before, with Rublev notching a win on indoor hard-court in Marseille, while Berrettini dispatched the Russian on clay in Gstaad last year. There’s an aura surrounding Rublev this week, and unless Berrettini can somehow disrupt the Russian’s rhythm (many have tried), look for Rublev to blast his way to his second career US Open quarterfinal. 

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Belinda Bencic is long overdue for some Grand Slam success. The 22-year-old, who owns eight Top-10 wins on the season, hasn’t reached the quarterfinals of a major since the 2014 US Open, a befuddling drought for a player of her caliber. Bencic has twice dispatched world No. 1 Naomi Osaka this year, but now she will need to do so on the game’s biggest stage. Osaka may want to consider taking some pace off her shots against the Swiss. Bencic relishes her opponent’s power, using her spectacular timing and racquet skills to redirect the ball with laser-like precision. Osaka is the favorite given her championship pedigree and clutch performances on the big stage, but this matchup should be thrilling nonetheless. 

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American wild card Kristie Ahn will look to continue her Cinderella run at her home Slam when she faces off against Belgian Elise Mertens for the second time in just over a month. So far, the former Stanford Cardinal has been the story of the tournament. The 27-year-old has won every match in straight sets and should feel especially confident in this matchup. Just over a month ago, Ahn defeated Mertens, 6-3, 6-3, in the San Jose second round. Now that New York is aware of her compelling journey, the crowd support will be off the charts. New Yorkers love a good underdog, after all. 

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If anyone can stand in the way of Rafael Nadal and his eighth career US Open semifinal, it’s Marin Cilic. No remaining player in Nadal’s quarter of the draw besides Cilic has notched a victory over the Spaniard. Nadal is 7-0 against Diego Schwartzman and 5-0 against Alexander Zverev. That being said, Nadal is obviously a tremendous favorite against the 2014 US Open champion. Cilic is one of the few players on tour without a weaker side from the ground. He owns one of the best returns on tour, and at 6’6” most of Nadal’s forehands will bounce into his strike zone instead of above it. 

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