Serena Williams vs. Varvara Lepchenko
Williams was on fire in her first two matches here at the US Open, and it seems to be that all of her strokes are working. The world No. 1 has owned her first and second serves forever – few players can, or have, come close to her power during her run atop the sport.
Yes, Williams had a so-so season in 2014, but after her Wimbledon exit, the 17-time Grand Slam champion has begun to clean up her game, as evidenced in a pair of tournament victories at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, followed by two match wins in New York against fellow Americans Taylor Townsend and Vania King. A third American, Lepchenko, is next.
However, Lepchenko is very strong, can dictate with her big left-handed serve and can play for hours. Lepchenko has put together some especially good wins, including victories over Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci on clay in Italy – no easy feat.
Over the past three years or so, Lepchenko has truly improved. Her backhand has always been good, but her forehand became stronger. She is muscular and can twist her serves on the line. She likes long rallies, and can push her opponents deep into long sets until they’re exhausted.
In reality, that is the only way that Lepchenko can win: attack, attack, attack. She has to show Serena that she’s here to stay, which could make her opponent nervous. If Lepchenko can stay in the long rallies, will she be able to crush aces if and when the third set comes along. The prediction here is that Lepchenko will push this one deep into the third set. But, in the end, Williams will escape with the win.
John Isner vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
“Big John” really wants a victory over this difficult opponent. The German Kohlschreiber has beaten him in their last two US Open matches, both in this third round, no less. Kohlschreiber has a terrific one-handed backhand, and loves to contest longer rallies. Isner can bomb first serves and forehands, but he knows that his opponent will yank him around, which means that he must forget about tiring options and move ahead.
Interesting, Isner owns a 4-2 record against Kohlschreiber, meaning that the only time he’s lost was here. In 2012, Isner fell in five sets. Last year, Kohlschreiber won in four sets, with a tiebreak to seal the match. Their matches tend to be extremely close.
Isner has to try very hard to keep his returns deep and come toward the net as soon as possible. Isner cannot allow Kohlschreiber to dictate his play. This is a pick ‘em match. While Kohlschreiber will enter in this match at the US Open believing he can do it again, Isner will finally grab his victory, but like in 2012, it will take five.