Alexander Zverevovercame huge service difficulties to beat Kevin Anderson in the first round. The Australian Open semifinalist, hardly bursting with confidence, won 32% of his second-serve points in the match. If he hopes to advance to his maiden US Open quarter-final, he will need a more reliable second delivery.
The German ranks just 76th in second-serve points won this season, a lowly 43%. These standards could make things harder for the No.5 seed in his second-round clash against former NCAA standout Brandon Nakashima, coming off a first-round exit at Masters 1000 Cincinnati qualifying. Voted Rookie of the Year at University of Virginia last year, he began his maiden season as a pro with a quarter-final exit in Delray Beach.
A former US Open junior semifinalist, Nakajima shows a solid backhand, a good serve and a strong attitude. He’s quick, level-headed, definitely a good test for the German.
Making his eighth main draw appearance at US Open, the 2016 finalist Karolina Pliskova will meet Caroline Garcia. No.1 seed for the second time in a major, Pliskova became the first Czech to reach the title-match here since Helena Sukova in 1993. She owns a 20-7 record at the US Open, her best win percentage across the Slams, but she’s tied at 3-3 in the head to head record against Caroline Garcia.
The Frenchwoman won their latest clash, beating Pliskova to win the Tianjin title in 2018. It was her second win in four meetings on hard-court. Garcia clinched a significant win during the 2016 Fed Cup final, Pliskova prevailed at 2013 Cincinnati in a qualifying match and at 2017 Doha.
During the hiatus, the top seed contested the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual competition, undertook charity work by supporting key workers with free coffee, kept fit with bike rides (her first in 15 years), held her Foundation’s first junior tournament and played several exhibition events in the Czech Republic.
Garcia remained stuck to her new training system she introduced before the Australian Open, characterised by heavier routines to come back to her usual fitness levels. In New York without her father, whom she calles via Facebook or Zoom after her matches, she needs to believe in her body when she’s forced to defend to counter-attack quickly, as she did in the opening round building points more patiently here and there. This renewed explosivity could help her against Pliskova, particularly on return.
This is definitely one of the most intriguing second-round matches in women’s singles. Former World No.1 Naomi Osaka against Italian hard-hitting Camila Giorgi.
In her 17th Grand Slam appearance, the Japanese began her campaign beating Misaki Doi to bring her Grand Slam record to 40-14. Last weekend, she had to pull out of the Western and Southern Open before the final due to a hamstring injury. During her debut match here, things began to slowly get worse.
She managed the situation, but surely this is not the ideal condition to face an uncomfortable opponent able to generate powerful shots from both sides, as her first-round comeback win over Alison Van Uytvanck testified.
Osaka steamrolled to victory in their lone previous meeting at 2018 Tokyo semifinal. Predictably, serve and return will make the difference again in New York.
Prediction: Osaka in three sets.
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