21-ANDY RODDICK VS. JACK SOCK
This is an all-American battle between 2003 US Open champion Roddick and USTA 18s Nationals winner Sock, two boys from the Cornhusker state who are self-confident talkers who love to fight. Sock did a terrific job in figuring out the French veteran Marc Gicquel in the last round, while the rusty Roddick hit plenty of balls in his win over Mike Russell. Back in 2000, when Roddick played his first match here, he faced Spanish strongman Albert Costa and played him tough for while, but eventually fell. As Roddick said, that was difficult draw for a young player facing a guy who has no trouble belting deep balls for hours.
The same might be said of Sock here: Roddick knows how the kid plays as he has hit with him, and realizes how tough it will be for Sock to walk on to the cavernous Ashe Stadium with the spotlight shining on him. Roddick will mix up his attack and won't give Sock many of the same looks. Sock will have to dictate in this match if he wants to win it. He does sport power off the ground, but he’ll have to contend with a swirling wind and court size he has never dealt with before. Sock will entertain the crowd for two sets, but Roddick will take him down in three.
28-JOHN ISNER VS ROBBY GINEPRI
After a very rough first six months of the year where he lost his confidence and wasn't convinced he was employing the right game style, Isner revived on US summer hard courts. After winning Winston-Salem last week, came into the US Open with more than fair amount of confidence. The 6-feet-9 North Carolinian is serving big, controlling rallies with his forehand, keeping his backhand a little deeper and making more intelligent forays to the net.
Given that Isner holds serve at an incredible rate, if he can manage to break once a set, he has a very good of winning matches against anyone outside of the big four. That includes Ginepri, the 2005 US Open semifinalist who returned from an elbow injury in mid-July and has been struggling to find his form and confidence. The veteran is solid all-around player when he's fit, but he has trouble with his confidence when he's not and it's hard to see him being able to stay with an in-form Isner for more than a set. Ginepri loves these courts, so it's more than possible he'll catch a whiff of US Open magic and zone in for a bit. In the end, Isner will rain aces down upon him and come through in four.
ANDY MURRAY will wind his way past ROBIN HAASE, but the young Dutchman has a lot of talent and if not for a decent sized injury, he might already be mentioned as one of the tour's real up and comers. Armed with big serve and plenty of power, he is now, but he doesn't have enough savvy to raft his way down Murray's tricky current of shots.
RAFAEL NADAL did not play well in the last round but he managed to get through, so one has to figure that he will add a little more depth to his backhand, take more risks with his forehand and pass Frenchman NICOLAS MAHUT again a straight set win.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO is one of the few men in the tri-state area who has actually seen fellow Argentine DIEGO JUNQUEIRA play. The left-handed Junqueira is a bit of a shotmaker, but won't be able to match DelPo's power or experience.
STANISLAS WAWRINKA is not a great match up for DONALD YOUNG because his game is so hard to read and he won't mind matching his hard one-handed backhand against Young's lefty forehand. I'll concede D-Young one set but no more.
I guess DAVID FERRER is feeling healthy again, which means a lot of trouble for JAMES BLAKE as he moves just as well, is just as effective off the forehand side, has a better backhand and return and owns a more consistent serve. Blake plays better in NYC than he does anywhere else, so I'm thinking that he can take it to five based on enthusiasm alone, but I can't see him running until dawn with the fleet Spaniard.
Here a toss-up: DAVID NALBANDIAN vs. IVAN LJUBICIC. The winner of this match will face Nadal and both play him tough, but the feeling here is that Ljubicic is a smarter player and will find ways to keep the ball out of Nalbandian's strike zone. Take the Croat in four.
3-MARIA SHARAPOVA VS. 26-FLAVIA PENNETTA
Even though these two players have only faced each other three times, it seems like I've had a highlight reel of their contests is constantly turning in my brain. This is a classic match up of two veteran players with contrasting styles: one, Sharapova, who feels like she must be the more powerful player on the day to win all of her matches; the other, Pennetta who feels like she must be the smarter, more resourceful competitor to win hers.
Sharapova has had a far better summer than the Italian has, but Pennetta has reached the quarters here twice and believes that her game is rounding back into form. She can outrun Sharapova and will be able to hang with her in crosscourt rallies, but she must serve extremely well to have a chance in this contest because Sharapova is returning like a demon. What Pennetta is going to try and do is get Sharapova out of position and then go for her money shots, because she knows that she can't go toe-to-toe with her when both have their feet planted firmly on the ground. Sharapova will try to keep Pennetta off balance by being unpredictable and going hard at her with forehands crosscourt.
The 29-year-old Pennetta and the 24-year-old Sharapova have played three times, all which were close three set contests. Sharapova owns a 2-1 record against her and this one will go three again, where the Russian will topple Pennetta with a few keys blasts that will clip the lines.
25-MARIA KIRILENKO VS. CHRISTINA MCHALE
I'm looking forehand to watching this contest because I like to watch both players go about their work: McHale because she's improved so much in the past nine months, and Kirilenko because she has become a master of point construction.
McHale's upset of Marion Bartoli certainly signaled that she'll be heard from in years to come. Not only was she able to dictate with her forehand, but she hit her backhand strong both crosscourt and down-the-line while showing off a well-placed first serve. More importantly, she moves extremely well, doesn't seem to tire easily and competes as well as any American player currently on tour outside of Serena Williams.
Kirilenko will likely never win a major, but she has soft hands, quick feet and can mix it up. She's too small to hang with some of the super elite players, but if you look at her record over the past two years, when she's been healthy she's a tough out for anyone.
This match will be a grind fest that could last two and half hours. Some may think that this match up Kirilenko will be easier for McHale than the Bartoli clash, but it won’t be because the Russian will give her a lot of different looks. Still, McHale has shown she can be resourceful all summer long and will come through in three daring sets.
I was very impressed by how Manhattan's IRINA FALCONI stayed with Dominica Cibulkova in their second round match and then wore her down in the end. Can she do the same against SABINE LISICKI? From the baseline she can, but what she will not be able to do is match the German in the serving department, which is why the Wimbledon finalist will take out the American in two grueling sets.
VERA ZVONAREVA will hit through ANABEL MEDIA GARRIGUES in straight sets, but I no longer see the Spaniard as just a clay courter because she has added depth, angles and more power to her groundies. But that doesn't mean she can contend with the Russian's straight-ahead attack.
LUCIE SAFAROVA was nearly upset by 16-year-old MADISON KEYS, but the lefty played very tough in the end. She's an under achiever to me but maybe the Czech can finally make a real push. She'll push past MONICA NICELESCU in two sets.
The SAM STOSUR vs. NADIA PETROVA match is a real toss up for me. Stosur has finally begin to make progress this year, while Petrova has shown flashes of her former top 5 form, too. I'm figuring that Stosur will try and impose her huge kick serve and heavy forehand routine, while Petrova will attempt to stymie her with her own heaters and big blasts down the liens. I'll take Petrova for one more decent US Open run in three sets.
It's good to see JULIA GOERGES playing well after a summer slump, but assuming that SHUAI PENG's sore hip is healed, I'll see China's No. 2 player winning in straight sets because she takes the ball much earlier and plays further inside the court, which is a more effective way to play on hard courts.
If ANGELIQUE KERBER can stun Aga Radwanska, you have to like her to take out the enthusiastic ALLA KUDRYAVTSEVA.