2017 US Open: The story so far

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    As we enter the second week of the US Open, let’s take a look back at what has shaped this year’s tournament and preview the second week of the final major of the year.

    As expected, men’s heavyweights Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have progressed to the fourth round, with the possibility of a first-ever meeting between the pair at Flushing Meadows increasing by each passing day.

    But neither man has had it go all their way, with Nadal having to fight his way back from a set down in his last two matches and Federer having to endure consecutive five-setters in his first two matches just to stay alive.

    Having played to the edge in his first two rounds, Federer had it much easier in his third match, defeating Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in straight sets to line up a fourth round showdown against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.

    Nadal, on the other hand, had to come from a set down to defeat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer to earn himself a shot at Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov in the last 16.

    The biggest threat to the possibility of a ‘Fedal’ semi-final meeting is 24th seed and 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro, who has again reached the fourth round where he will face Austrian sixth seed, Dominic Thiem.

    Del Potro is projected to face Federer in the quarter-finals, and if that match-up eventuates it will be their first meeting at Flushing Meadows since the 2009 final, in which the Argentine stunned Federer in five sets to win his first Grand Slam title before his well-documented injury woes started.

    Roger Federer

    The fact that Nadal and Federer are projected to face off in the semi-finals has created a contentious talking point, especially after the withdrawal of second seed Andy Murray due to a hip injury after the draw was released.

    Many have argued that Federer should have taken Murray’s place in the bottom half of the draw, but the official rules when it comes to withdrawn players after the tournament draw has been made official but before the order of play for the first day of the main draw suggest otherwise.

    Page 25 of the official Grand Slam tournament rules stipulates that:

    • If the withdrawal is among seeds 1 to 4, the fifth seed is moved into the open position, the fifth position shall be filled by the 17th seed, and the 17th position shall be filled by the next highest ranked player eligible to be seeded.
    • If the withdrawal is among seeds 5 to 16, the 17th seed is moved into the open position and the 17th position shall be filled by the next highest ranked player eligible to be seeded.
    • If the withdrawal is among seeds 17 to 32 it shall be filled by the next highest ranked player eligible to be seeded.

    In this case, the fifth seed, Marin Cilic, who originally started in the fifth section of the draw, moved into the slot vacated by Murray’s withdrawal, and 17th seed Sam Querrey, who originally started in section three, took Cilic’s original slot in section five.

    As the highest unseeded player before the draw was released, Philipp Kohlschreiber thus became the 33rd seed and took Querrey’s original slot in section three, while Lukas Lacko entered the main draw as a lucky loser.

    Cilic was unable to make the most of his revised draw, going down to Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in his third round match in four sets.

    Coupled with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s second round loss to Denis Shapovalov, and Murray’s aforementioned withdrawal, it means that there will be a new Grand Slam finalist in the bottom half of the draw.

    Of the men remaining in this half of the draw, only Sam Querrey has reached a Grand Slam semi-final, doing so at Wimbledon earlier this year where he lost to Cilic.

    Alexander Zverev might be one of the rising stars in men’s tennis but if his second round loss to Borna Coric is anything to go by, then he still has a lot of work to do before he can be considered a true Grand Slam title contender.

    Despite what he has achieved in the past twelve months or so, his best result at a Major remains reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon earlier this year, where he lost to Marin Cilic.

    Other notable early round casualties include Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov, two opponents whom Nadal may have had to face in his path to a third US Open title.

    Tomas Berdych

    We now swing our focus to the women’s side of things, where the presence of Maria Sharapova remains a huge talking point, depending on whose side you are on.

    The Russian, contesting her 50th Grand Slam tournament but first since last year’s Australian Open, was drawn to face second seed Simona Halep in what shaped as the biggest first round match at a Major in recent history.

    What unfolded was a match that was deserving of a Grand Slam final, rather than a first round match, as the two women duked it out over the course of three sets on the opening night of the tournament.

    In the end, Sharapova prevailed to not only send one of the tournament favourites crashing out but also suddenly become one of the favourites to lift the US Open trophy next weekend.

    But while the fans have warmed to her comeback, fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki was the latest player to offer her opinion, saying it was not fair that the Russian got to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium while she was relegated to an outside court for her second round match against Ekaterina Makarova.

    The two-time finalist was defeated by Makarova in three sets, the result meaning she will drop a significant amount of points when the rankings are updated at the end of the tournament.

    Wozniacki’s exit, as well as those of Simona Halep and Johanna Konta, leaves Sharapova and Garbine Muguruza among the favourites to reach the final from the bottom half of the draw.

    Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros

    Muguruza has moved into pole position as far as the race for the world number one ranking is concerned, her third round victory over Magdalena Rybarikova in a repeat of their embarrassingly one-sided Wimbledon semi-final seeing her hold the most points (after last year’s points are removed).

    The Spaniard, as well as top seed Karolina Pliskova and fourth seed Elina Svitolina, are still in contention to leave New York as the world’s top-ranked female tennis player.

    Last year’s finalist, Pliskova, must again reach the final if she is to have a chance of holding onto the world number one ranking at the end of the tournament

    The Czech saved a match point in her third round match to defeat China’s Zhang Shuai in three sets and stay alive in the tournament. Her next opponent is unseeded American, Jennifer Brady.

    Svitolina, on the other hand, defeated Shelby Rogers in straight sets to line up a fourth round showdown against another American, Madison Keys, who required three sets to defeat Elena Vesnina in a match that started just before midnight and finished at 1:45 am local time.

    Both women are shooting for their first quarter-final at Flushing Meadows, and for the Ukrainian, the stakes will be very high as a win would keep alive her chances of inheriting the world number one ranking from Pliskova.

    The race for the women’s world number one ranking, and just who will reach the final from the bottom half of the men’s draw, will be one of the several subplots to watch out for in the second week of the US Open.

    The round of 16 gets underway this morning (AEST) with the likes of Maria Sharapova and Garbine Muguruza expected to reach the quarter-finals, while all eyes will once again be on Canadian teen sensation Denis Shapovalov to see if he can break through for his first Grand Slam quarter-final appearance.

    Matches to watch on Day 7

    Arthur Ashe Stadium
    Day session – play starts at 11:00am (Monday 1:00am AEST)
    Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs [12] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
    [16] Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) vs Maria Sharapova (RUS)
    Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs [9] Venus Williams (USA)
    Night session – play starts at 7:00pm (9:00am AEST)
    [13] Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs [3] Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
    [17] Sam Querrey (USA) vs[23] Mischa Zverev (GER)

    Louis Armstrong Stadium
    Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)
    Two doubles matches, followed by
    [30] Julia Goerges (GER) vs Sloane Stephens (USA)
    Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) vs [28] Kevin Anderson (RSA)

    Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)
    One doubles match, followed by
    [16] Lucas Pouille (FRA) vs [29] Diego Schwartzman (ARG)