In a tournament that has been as much about saying goodbye to familiar faces as it has been about saying hello to some fresh ones, it’s the Americans, both young and old, who are looking to take the stage and break some brackets. Serena Williams takes the stage looking to avoid the upset and get some revenge. The rest of Team American plays underdog, with Sloane Stephens, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and James Blake looking to cause a stir.
Here’s what we’re watching on Day 6 at the U.S. Open.
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs. Serena Williams (USA) (second match, Ashe Stadium): If there’s one list you want to stay off of in tennis it’s Williams’ revenge list. Makarova stunned Williams earlier this year in Melbourne, knocking her out of the fourth round at the Australian Open in straight sets. The Russian hasn’t done much since January, and she was winless against top-10 players in her three U.S. Open lead-up tournaments. Her lefty advantage can be tricky, but it will take an A-plus day for Makarova to bother Williams, who isn’t leaving anything to chance this year. Frustrated by her form after beating Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the second round, Williams went straight back to the practice courts to hit after the match.
Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Ana Ivanovic (SRB) (first night match, Arthur Ashe Stadium): It’s 2011 all over again. These two met under the lights on Ashe last year in this very round, with Ivanovic prevailing 6-3, 6-4. A year on, Stephens has improved greatly in her consistency, though she’s still prone to a mental walkabout when things don’t go her way. A strong start will be key for Stephens as Ivanovic has looked sharp through her first two matches. She hit over 30 forehand winners on her way to a straight-set defeat of Sofia Arvidsson in the second round and has a tremendous opportunity to make the quarterfinals of a major for the first time since 2008. The draw has opened up nicely for both of these talented, charismatic players to make a second-week run.
Sam Querrey (USA) vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE) (fourth match, Louis Armstrong Stadium): These two played just a week ago in the semifinals of Winston-Salem, with Berdych coming through easily in straight sets. This will be another test for Querrey, who despite his strong play recently has yet to beat a top-10 player this year. Berdych impressed with his fairly straightforward win over David Goffin in the first round, and it seems that his run to the finals of Winston-Salem last week has helped regain confidence lost over the summer.
Mardy Fish (USA) vs. Gilles Simon (FRA) (second night match, Ashe Stadium): Simon leads their head-to-head 2-1, though they’ve split their two meetings on hard courts. The good news for Fish is Simon hasn’t played much on hard courts this summer (his only lead-up match was a loss to Tommy Haas in Toronto), and he’s already played nine sets of tennis through two matches. Simon needed five sets to get past Michael Russell in the first round and four to defeat Jimmy Wang, a Taiwanese qualifier. Based on recent form, you have to like Fish’s chances.
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL): (first match, Ashe Stadium): Does Jankovic have one last dose of magic left in her? This match feels like judgment day for the former No. 1, who has tumbled in the rankings this year. She’s struggled with her confidence all season, and just when it looks like she’ll finally get a win that matters, she sputters. This is a great opportunity for her to reassert herself as a threat, as Radwanska has some some vulnerability. She was lucky to get past Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round after being down a set and break before the Spaniard imploded.
Courtney’s Pet Picks: Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Fernando Verdasco (ESP), Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Feliciano Lopez (ESP), James Blake (USA) vs. Milos Raonic (CAN), Marin Cilic (CRO) vs. Kei Nishikori (JPN).