By Jake Davies

  • The three Men’s Round 4 matches to see on Day 7 of the US Open
  • Rafael Nadal [4] vs Lucas Pouille [24]
  • Jo Wilfried Tsonga [9] vs Jack Sock [26]
  • Gael Monfils [10] vs Marcos Baghdatis
NEW YORK, USA  – Rafael Nadal leads a mouth-watering cast as the first of the quarter-final places will be decided on Day Seven of the US Open.

 

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Rafael Nadal [4] vs Lucas Pouille [24] H2H: Nadal leads 1-0

2016 has turned out to be a breakthrough year for the young Frenchman Pouille. Coming into this season, Pouille had not won a single match against a Top 10 player, but that all changed at Miami of this year. A career win over No.8 ranked David Ferrer in Miami really contributed to a certain sense of self belief oozing from the Frenchman’s game.

A tremendous quarter-final showing at Wimbledon and a new career high ranking of No.21 demonstrated that the high expectations set for Pouille were realistic after all.

Nadal’s year at majors are far from what he would have liked, falling early in Australia, withdrawing at Roland Garros and having to skip Wimbledon, but there are reasons to be positive about Nadal’s game as he gets ready for a rare fourth round grand slam match.

During Nadal’s slump in form and injury, he has struggled enormously with the depth and precision of his forehand. When Nadal is feeling confident he will strike forehand winners down the line with regularity. The consistency of his ball striking on the forehand against Andrey Kuznetsov really did send a message to the rest of the field, but it still remains to be seen whether he has what it takes to win another grand slam in singles.

Nadal has blasted his way through his opposition in straight sets, whereas Pouille had to come back from near elimination in both his first and second round. Nadal is feeling as confident as he has ever been at any stage of 2016 and I think he should beat the inexperienced Pouille in three sets.

Prediction: Nadal in three sets.

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [9] vs Jack Sock [26] H2H: Tsonga leads 1-0

Tsonga and Sock is the only Round 4 Men’s match on Louis Armstrong on Sunday – they lock horns in a battle of the brutal ball-strikers.

Tsonga, now 31, is still trying his hardest to compete for that sole grand slam title, having come so close in the 2008 Australian Open where he made the final. Many argue that Tsonga has missed his perfect opportunity of delivering a major for the French public, but a semi-final performance on the grass courts of Wimbledon suggest that he is not going away quietly.

Sock, a promising player in his own right, played a phenomenally faultless match to beat 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic. The variation of shots gave Cilic no rhythm to work with and eventually led to a comfortable straight sets victory for the American.

One of several factors that have prevented Tsonga from winning a major is the fact that he has a very attackable side that the Top 10 players in the world feast on – his backhand. Very rarely is his backhand a force to be reckoned with, which puts him at a major disadvantage against the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Nadal, who play so well off both wings.

It will be interesting to see if Sock plays to that side consistently, because if he does, he will make life a lot easier for himself. Tsonga’s forehand is an indestructible force when he is feeling good about his game, and Sock should be wary about even entertaining that wing of the Frenchman.

Sock’s chances of making a first quarter-final at a major is considerably high in this one. His mind is in the right place and the spin he generates off his forehand is enough to trouble the best players.

Prediction: Sock in five sets.

 

Gael Monfils [10] vs Marcos Baghdatis

The first time these two players clashed was a decade ago at the 2006 Cincinnati Masters, where Baghdatis won a close match in three sets – another extremely tight match should take place at Flushing Meadows tomorrow too.

Baghdatis has looked very good at this year’s US Open, which included positive victories over Benoit Paire and Ryan Harrison in the last round. This tournament marks the first time that Baghdatis has made the fourth round at a major since Australian Open 2009, which is remarkable considering the injuries he has had over the course of his career.

Monfils is a player that many believe is one of the biggest underachievers in our sport. His supreme athleticism is as good as anyone’s and his serve is unquestionably a weapon that can get him out of sticky predicaments on court.

The most alarming addition to Monfils’ game in 2016 is his efficiency. It feels like he has more focus on the task at hand, which is something that could not be said in previous years. In years gone by he has concentrated mostly on the value of entertaining rather than the importance of delivering the victory. This seems to have changed significantly this season.

A dialled in Monfils is a serious contender to go far in any tournament in my opinion and should get past Baghdatis in an electrifying fourth round bout.

Prediction: Monfils in 4 sets.

 

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