Fixture: (2) Aryna Sabalenka vs (15) Elise Mertens
Date: 5 September 2021
Tournament: US Open 2021
Round: Fourth round (Round of 16)
Venue: New York, United States
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: $40,560,000
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel & ESPN/ESPN 2 | UK - Amazon Prime Video | India - Star Sports / Disney+ Hotstar VIP
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens preview
Second seed Aryna Sabalenka will square off against Belgium's Elise Mertens in the fourth round of the US Open 2021 on Sunday. The two players have been doubles partners in the past, so they would know what to expect from each other.
Sabalenka is currently in the middle of her career-best season. Having won a couple of titles and reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, the Belarusian embarked on the US Open Series with a lot of confidence.
The World No. 2 continued with her stellar form by making the semis in Montreal, to arrive in New York as one of the top contenders for the title.
Sabalenka didn't start her US Open campaign in the strongest fashion, losing a set to the lower-ranked Nina Stojanovic. But she has improved considerably since then, blasting her way past French Open semifinalist Tamara Zidansek and 26th seed Danielle Collins to enter the fourth round for the second time in her career.
Sabalenka has won a couple of Grand Slam titles in doubles while partnering with Mertens, her next opponent. Their most recent triumph, in fact, came at the Australian Open in February.
A thigh injury slowed Mertens down during the clay swing after she had made a brilliant start to the season by winning the Gippsland Trophy. The World No. 16 struggled for form during the grasscourt swing, but she finally found her rhythm back in San Jose, where she made the semis.
At the ongoing US Open, Mertens showed tremendous resilience to save as many as six match points before beating Rebecca Peterson 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in the first round. That performance freed her up, and the Belgian has cruised through her last couple of matches without dropping a set - which includes a win over 20th seed Ons Jabeur.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka leads Elise Mertens 5-2 in their head-to-head, and has won their previous four meetings.
Their last clash was in Madrid earlier this year, where the Belarusian won 6-1, 4-0; Mertens retired from the match in the second set due to an injury.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens prediction
After committing a few too many unforced errors in the first round against Nina Stojanovic, Aryna Sabalenka has been able to control her aggression well in the last couple of matches. She powered 34 winners past Danielle Collins in the third round, while keeping her unforced errors count to just 13.
Elise Mertens doesn't hit the ball as hard as the Belarusian, but she makes up for that with her excellent court coverage and ability to take the ball on the rise. Mertens' counterpunching style and excellent fighting spirit could extend the rallies and help draw errors off Sabalenka's racket.
But to be able to truly make an impression on the match, the Belgian needs to serve well throughout the match. That is a cause for concern right now; against Jabeur in the third round, Mertens committed five double faults and landed just 58% of her first serves.
If Mertens' numbers don't improve, the uber-aggressive Sabalenka won't hesitate to pounce on her second serve and take control with her ferocious returns.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in straight sets.