First-round play continues on Day Two of the 2014 US Open, as a host of tennis’ top names take to the courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, each hoping to take a first step toward tennis’ toughest title. Five-time US Open men’s champ Roger Federer and two-time women’s defending champ and top seed Serena Williams headline this evening’s card, while John Isner, Gale Monfils, David Ferrer, Jack Sock, Petra Kvitova, Eugenie Bouchard, Samantha Stosur, Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka and Ana Ivanovic are slated to shine under the sun.
At 33, Federer is competing in his 60th consecutive Grand Slam tournament – just another of the myriad records held by the former No 1. The all-time men’s leader with 17 career Slam singles crowns, Federer also is the Open era leader in hard-court titles with 54. Winner here from 2004-2008, Federer can become the first man in the Open era – and just the fourth man in the history of this event – to capture six U.S. titles. Certainly, Federer’s chances at adding another impressive entry into the record books got better with the withdrawal of his chief nemesis, Rafael Nadal, but in truth the Swiss was looking very much like a contender in his own right coming off a summer in which he finished runner-up at Wimbledon and Toronto and took the title in Cincinnati. Tonight, he takes on Marinko Matosevic, a 29-year-old Aussie who’s reached four quarterfinals this year, including at Queen’s Club, where he knocked out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route. Matosevic has some weapons, but he’s nowhere near the caliber of Federer, as evidenced by the 6-1, 6-1 thrashing he was dealt by the Swiss in their only career meeting, earlier this year in Brisbane. Federer in three.
Williams, also a five-time US Open champ, lost in the fourth round in Australia, the second round at Roland Garros and the third round at Wimbledon, a staggering series of finishes for a woman with 17 Grand Slam singles titles on her remarkable resume. Still, Serena, 32, seemed to find her feet on the hard-court circuit this summer, winning titles in Stanford and Cincinnati and reaching the semis in Montreal. That sizzling showing earned her a first-place finish in the Emirates Airline US Open Series Bonus Challenge, meaning that she’s playing here with a shot at a $1 million bonus should she claim her third consecutive US Open crown. What’s more, if she can pull off that feat, she’d be the first woman to three-peat here since Chris Evert strung together four consecutive titles from 1975 to 1978. The challenge begins in earnest tonight, as Williams takes on fellow American Taylor Townsend, an 18-year-old wild card playing in her first US Open main draw – and just her third major event. Townsend, the 2012 Australian Open junior champ, did reach the third round at Roland Garros in her debut there this spring, but under the lights on the big stage of Ashe, against a woman with a career 55-1 record in first-round Grand Slam matches, the talented teen figures to be overwhelmed by both opponent and occasion. In two, Serena advances.
Isner is the lone American man in the sport’s Top 20, playing this event as the No. 13 seed. The 6-foot-9 Isner owns an explosive game, based around a supersonic serve. He’s won two events this year, both on hard courts, in Auckland and Atlanta, and seemed on his way to a third at last week’s Winston-Salem event when a sprained ankle forced him to withdraw after reaching the quarters. But all told, it was just a so-so summer for the American, whose big game makes him a particularly large force on cement. After winning Atlanta, Isner won just four matches in the four Series events that followed. The question now is whether he can put aside the ankle injury and the summer funk to flourish here in Flushing. Today, he faces off against fellow America Marcos Giron, a 21-year-old Californian who’s playing in his first US Open main draw, receiving his wild card after winning this year’s NCAA championship as a sophomore at UCLA. This should be a great experience for Giron – if not a particularly pleasant one. Even on a bad ankle, Isner – and his awesome firepower – have a very large leg up on the inexperienced Giron. In three, Isner blasts through to round two.
Bouchard, the No. 7 seed, is the only woman to reach the semifinals of all three majors this year, advancing to the final of Wimbledon, where her spectacular run was unceremoniously halted in a 6-3, 6-0 loss to Kvitova. Post-Wimbledon, the 20-year-old Canadian, tagged as the “next big thing” in the women’s game, has failed to produce any large results, winning just one match in the three events she entered. The 2012 Wimbledon girls’ champion, Bouchard won her first career title on the women’s tour in May, capturing the clay-court event in Nurnberg. Clearly, the Canadian can handle the hard stuff, as evidenced by her run Down Under, but she’ll need to find her form quickly here if she’s to repeat her showings at the earlier Slams. Today, she’ll attempt to take the first step against Olga Govortsova, who turned 26 on Saturday. The Belarussian has three times advanced as far as the third round at a Slam, including here in 2012. This match ought to provide Bouchard with an opportunity to find her hard-court feet and start to regain the game that made her a major success on the game’s biggest stages. The two have met just once, with Bouchard earning the victory. Expect a similar result today, as the Canadian takes this in two.