US Open 2015: Round of 16 Day 1 preview - Will Williams, Djokovic and Fognini fire?
With the fourth round clashes slated to begin, here are the matches to look out for on the first day:
The top half of the men’s draw features Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic as the highest ranked players. This half has seen some high profile upsets in the form of Nishikori, Ferrer and Nadal.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (23)
Head to Head : 2-0
It has been another routine first week at the US Open for Novak Djokovic. Winning all his matches in straight sets, Djokovic has faced little trouble in the first three matches. His next opponent will be Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard had a difficult path to the last 16, including a five setter against Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round and a trail of two sets to one down in the third against David Goffin before the Belgian retired. But his match against Djokovic is unlikely to be long. The Serb has won their previous two matches and is likely to win this one too.
Prediction : Djokovic to win in straight sets
Feliciano Lopez (18) vs. Fabio Fognini (32)
Head to Head : First meeting
In what could be one of the most interesting clashes in the round of 16, Fabio Fognini faces Feliciano Lopez. While the former came from two sets and a break down to defeat Rafael Nadal, the latter downed Milos Raonic in straight sets in the previous round. It is one of the few matches where among the men two second rung players will battle it out for a quarterfinal spot. In fact, both will be looking to make it to the quarterfinals at a major outside their surface of comfort- clay for Fognini and grass for Lopez.
After a dull grass court season, Lopez made it to the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati masters, beating Nadal on the way. His second round match against Mardy fish extended to five sets, but he found his way against Raonic just as he had at Cincinnati.
Fognini, on the other had, entered the tournament having scored his last hard court victory at the Valencia Open last year. Given that fact, his wins, especially the one against Nadal, are commendable. What remains to be seen is whether he can sustain the form against Lopez. With both the players in fine form, the match could well extend to the decider. Despite both being on tour for some time, this will be their first meeting on tour.
Prediction : Feliciano Lopez to win
Benoit Paire vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (19)
Head to Head : 0-2
In the only same country clash, France’s Benoit Paire and Jo Wilfried Tsonga face off for a last eight spot. Paire is playing the tournament of his career. This is his first fourth round at a major. He started his campaign with a five set battle against last year’s runner-up Kei Nishikori, which he won to prevent the Japanese from defending his points from last year. Following an easy match against Marsel Ilhan, he defeated Tommy Robredo in straight sets in the previous round. Paire had a decent run in August with a title at Bastad and a quarterfinal finish at Hamburg. Incidentally, he had defeated Robredo at both the tournaments.
Tsonga is not in new territory, having reached the quarterfinals previously in 2011. He is one of the frontrunners to take the semifinal spot in the second quarter. Having won their previous two encounters, Tsonga will look to extend the record against Paire.
Prediction : Jo Wilfried Tsonga to win
Marin Cilic (9) vs. Jeremy Chardy (27)
Head to Head : 1-1
Marin Cilic could not have asked for a better draw to defend his title. With Nishikori falling in the first round and David Ferrer being ousted in the third, the Croat faces no higher ranked opponent until the semifinals. What remains to be seen is whether he will make use of the easy draw.
After being stretched to five sets by Mikhail Kukushkin, he faces a tough customer in Jeremy Chardy. The Frenchman took out David Ferrer, who is just returning from injury, in four sets. While Chardy had the measure of Cilic on clay in Hamburg in 2009, Cilic got the better of the Frenchman at Wimbledon last year. This will be their first meeting on hard courts. Top ten wins are not unfamiliar for Chardy and a sub-par Cilic will be an ideal opponent to score one more such win.
Prediction : Marin Cilic to win