U.S. Open Day 3 preview: Murray, Stephens and Venus take the stage
NEW YORK – Here are the storylines and matches to watch on Day 3 of the U.S. Open. Tennis Channel begins its coverage at 11 a.m. ESPN2 picks up coverage at 1 p.m. Click here for the order of play.
Andy Murray behind the eight-ball: If the U.S. Open insists on spreading out the first round of the men's tournament over three days (the women are played over two), then tournament organizers will have to be prepared for at least one disgruntled top seed every year. This year it's defending champion Murray, who doesn't sound too happy that he's beginning his title defense on Day 3:
That scheduling means Murray will have to play his seven matches in 13 days, which will require him to play back-to-back matches without a day of rest at some point if he makes the final. He takes on Michael Llodra in the first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Murray is 3-0 against the Frenchman. In their last meeting, at the 2012 Australian Open, they played a highly entertaining match with some ridiculous rallies:
James Blake retirement watch: Blake announced on Monday that the U.S. Open will be his final tournament. Could his final match be against the big-serving Ivo Karlovic (fourth match, Louis Armstrong Stadium)? Karlovic leads the head-to-head 4-3, though the two haven't played since 2010. Win or lose, it will surely be an emotional match for Blake.
Sloane Stephens faces another tough test: Stephens survived a third-set tiebreaker in the first round, and she'll be tested again against 38th-ranked Urszula Radwanska (second night match, Arthur Ashe Stadium). In their only match, Radwanska defeated Stephens 6-3, 6-4 at Indian Wells this year.
Matches to watch
Venus Williams vs. Zheng Jie (second match, Louis Armstrong Stadium): Venus played her best match in a months in defeating Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-2 in the first round. The most encouraging take-away from the performance was how well Venus served, getting more speed on her first serve than she has since her back injury. Zheng's retrieving abilities could be enough to frustrate Venus, but assuming her body has recovered well from her match, she should get through here.
Lleyton Hewitt vs. Brian Baker (third match, Louis Armstrong Stadium): Baker makes his Grand Slam return after a knee injury sustained at the Australian Open ruled him out for much of the year. Hewitt had a strong summer season, making the final of Newport, R.I., on grass and the semifinals of Atlanta the following week. He hasn't played since then, though.
Jamie Hampton vs. Kristina Mladenovic (fourth match, Grandstand): This is a tricky match to call between two rising young stars. It's one of the most competitive second-round matches on paper, with Hampton, who scored her first U.S. Open main draw win on Monday, ranked No. 26 and Mladenovic ranked No. 36. If Mladenovic is connecting on her big, flat ground strokes, it's going to be a tricky match for Hampton. She needs to serve as well as she did in her first round to keep the Frenchwoman at bay.
Jelena Jankovic vs. Alisa Kleybanova (fourth match, Court 13): It's an old rivalry renewed. Kleybanova, playing in her first Slam since being diagnosed with cancer in 2011, leads their head-to-head 4-3 but will probably be overmatched against a solid Jankovic. But sometimes when you play a familiar opponent, something can just click in your game both tactically and mentally. It would be fun to see that happen here. Martina Hingis & Daniela Hantuchova vs. Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci (third match, Court 17): The Hingis doubles comeback continues and, as luck would have it, she and her partner have drawn the No. 1 seeds in the first round. Though the Swiss star's return to the tour has received its fair share of hype, she hasn't won back-to-back matches at any of the four tournaments she's played this summer. Hingis and Hantuchova lost to Errani and Vinci 6-4, 6-4 two weeks ago in Cincinnati.