Week one of the U.S. Open is in the books. Here is a look back as well as a look forward to week two.
Federer/Djokovic remain on a collision course: When the draw came out, everyone’s eyes were instantly drawn to a possible quarterfinal between (2) Roger Federer and (6) Novak Djokovic. We are now one match away from those two all-time greats facing off once again. The winner of that projected match becomes the favorite in most people’s minds to oppose (1) Rafael Nadal in the final.
Djokovic beat Federer pretty handily in the Cincinnati final, but the gap between the two has narrowed in New York. Federer has not broken a sweat in his three matches, Djokovic has dropped a set twice. He has gone from a significant favorite in a possible match with Federer to a slight one. In another note about the men’s draw, it is foolish to discount (3) Juan Martin del Potro as a title contender.
Serena sharp: Serena Williams had a pretty solid first week. She did drop the middle set to Simona Halep’s vanquisher Kaia Kanepi in the fourth round, but was never in any real danger. Apart from that, she has not dropped more than four games in a set. The serve is borderline unbreakable as always, but her consistency off the ground has been much better at this event. No one really knew what to expect from the five-time U.S. Open champion, but her ruthless demolition of her sister Venus in round three proved that she is a realistic title contender.
Williams will get a unique challenge to start her second week on Tuesday. (8) Karolína Plíšková beat both Williams sisters in New York in 2016. The Czech is always among tour leaders in aces and is one of very few players who can come close to matching Serena in the serving department.
Sharapova has a huge opportunity- Much like at Wimbledon, the ladies draw in New York has been gutted thanks to a slew of early upsets. Four of the top five seeds failed to reach the second week.
However, (22) Maria Sharapova is into the round of 16 without dropping a set. Nothing has been easy for the 2006 U.S. Open champion since she returned to the game a year and a half ago. Still, few people have better mastered the art of winning ugly better over the years. The Russian served seven double faults in her first two service games of her second round match, she won them both. In short, that is Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova has not done much since the spring and is still very capable of having a really bad day out of nowhere and not being able to overcome it. However, it has got to be hard for anyone interested either positively or negatively in the Sharapova story not to be looking ahead. There are eight players left in Sharapova’s half of the draw. Sharapova has lost only five times in her career to the other seven players combined.
Anyone who would have said that Sharapova has a legitimate shot to reach another major final after her opening-round loss at Wimbledon this year would have been laughed out of the room. However, that is the situation.
Sharapova’s toughest test between now and the final may very well be (30) Carla Suarez Navarro on Monday. The unorthodox Spaniard is a great counterpuncher who can also play offense with her one-handed backhand. She will force Sharapova to hit seven or eight good shots to win points from time to time. This is something Sharapova has not been asked to do during this tournament or able to do since she returned to the game last spring.
Still, if the 22nd seed can come anywhere near matching her service numbers from her third-round win over last year’s French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, Suarez Navarro will be helpless. Sharapova hit six aces and won 78% of points behind her first serve in Saturday night’s win.