US Open 2015: Round of 16 Day 1 preview - Will Williams, Djokovic and Fognini fire?

Eshwar

With the fourth round clashes slated to begin, here are the matches to look out for on the first day:

Men’s Draw

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

Women’s Draw

The top half of the women’s draw is definitely Serena Williams’. Will anybody be able to stop her juggernaut? Here are the quarterfinal contenders.

Serena Williams (1) vs. Madison Keys (19)

Williams with Madison Keys at their Australian Open meeting earlier this year

Head to Head : 1-0

Chasing a historic calendar year grand slam, Serena Williams continued the trend of playing three set matches in the early rounds at majors this year. With the three set win against Bethanie Mattek-Sands, she is now four wins away from a second calendar year grand slam. She faces another American, Madison Keys, in the fourth round. Nineteen year old Keys has had a good year at the majors with a quarterfinal finish at the Wimbledon and a semifinal loss to Serena at Melbourne, in their only meeting so far. It looks quite difficult to unseat Serena at this moment and it remains highly doubtful if anyone can even deter her from progressing further this US Open.

Prediction : Serena Williams to win in straight sets


Venus Williams (23) vs.Anett Kontaveit (Q)

Head to Head : First meeting

For the first time since her 2010 last four finish, the elder Williams has progressed to the fourth round. With a convincing win over Belinda Bencic in the third round, she now faces Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit. The Estonian is the lowest ranked player in the top half. On her way to the last 16, she defeated Casey Dellacqua, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Madison Brengle. Needless to say, she would pose a tough challenge to Venus, but a Serena-Venus quarterfinal clash looks to be a likely matchup come Tuesday.

Prediction : Venus Williams to win in straight sets


Kristina Mladenovic vs. Ekaterina Makarova (13)

Head to Head : 0-2

With both Mladenovic and Makarova apparently cutting down on doubles participation to focus on singles, the results have been good. Mladenovic took down former Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round. In the matches that followed the upset, she was handed winnable matches and made use of them to reach the round of 16 for the first time in her career. Ekaterina Makarova had to leave some matches incomplete during the earlier tournaments due to a niggling injury. As a result, she decided to skip the doubles event, where she is the defending champion along with Elena Vesnina. Though the injury seems to not have disappeared, she managed some convincing wins in the first three rounds, including the last one against in-form Elina Svitolina. The defending semifinalist looks to better her chances this year as she will not face a higher ranked player till the semifinals.

With the French Woman looking to reach her maiden quarterfinals and the Russian southpaw intent on defending her points, it could be a close one, if the latter’s injury does not spoil proceedings.

Prediction : Ekaterina Makarova to win


Roberta Vinci vs. Eugenie Bouchard (25)

Head to Head : 1-0

While the Italian veteran has reached the quarterfinals at the US Open twice before, for the young Canadian, this is the only major where she has not reached the semifinals or better. Even before she could do that, the momentum that helped her reach the last stages of the majors waxed. After a troublesome year where she had won just nine of the twentysix matches that she played, she has regained some of her lost form, as evidenced from the battle against Dominika Cibulkova in the previous match.

Roberta Vinci did not make the headlines for long after the split with Errani. Now she faces another opportunity to reach the quarterfinals at the age of 32. Her matches have been relatively easier.She had recently defeated the Canadian at the New Haven tournament. It remains to be seen whether she can raise her level to quell Bouchard’s challenge for the second time.

Prediction : Eugenie Bouchard to win

DISCLAIMER: Following Bouchard’s injury in the locker rooms yesterday she has withdrawn from the mixed and women’s doubles events at the tournament. No word yet on her singles participation.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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