By Jake Davies
- Three matches that should not be missed on Day 1 of the US Open.
- Svetlana Kuznetsova  vs Francesca Schiavone
- Novak Djokovic  vs Jerzy Janowicz
- Garbine Muguruza  vs Elise Mertens
NEW YORK, USA – It is time for the final Slam of the year, and what a way to kick off with Grand Slam champions galore in our US Open 2016 Day 1 Three to See.
Svetlana Kuznetsova  vs Francesca Schiavone
The scheduled first round match between two former Grand Slam champions, Schiavone and Kuznetsova, is the most gripping match of all the opening round match ups. In 2016, Kuznetsova probably edges this particular duel and the Russian would be heavily favoured on a hard court over the Italian, who thrives on a clay court – a surface where she won her sole grand slam in 2010 at the French Open.
The H2H is currently siding with Kuznetsova at 9-6, but Schiavone came out on top in that memorable last encounter at the French Open in 2015, where the relentless Italian prevailed 10-8 in the 3rd set after Kuznetsova missed a sitter at the net on match point.
Kuznetsova and Schiavone also played a classic in the 2011 Australian Open in which Schiavone narrowly won a 16-14 final set match – it is the longest Women’s match at a Grand Slam in the Open Era lasting 4 hours and 44 minutes in duration.
Some would argue that the best performances of these two competitors are firmly behind them, but Kuznetsova is now back in the Top 10 and still winning titles on the WTA Tour.
Schiavone, now at 36 years of age, is drifting considerably in the rankings and will go in as the underdog against Kuznetsova. The No.10 player in the world is still a force to be reckoned with when she is feeling confident and considerably good about her tennis – she is still firmly a threat to the very best when in good form.
Prediction: Kuznetsova in three sets
Novak Djokovic  vs Jerzy Janowicz
This match sees arguably the best returner in the Men’s game against one of the biggest servers. Janowicz is still finding his rhythm after a lengthy absence from the tour with multiple injury problems – first, a back injury and also, more recently, a knee problem halted his return to the tour.
Djokovic, the two-time US Open champion, has a lot of question marks hovering over him in the build up to the last Grand Slam of the year. In Toronto, he was hindered by a shoulder injury, but ultimately won the title. Following his Round One loss to Juan Martin Del Potro at the Olympics, it has become apparent that he is nursing a wrist injury.
You also have to wonder where Djokovic’s head is at going into a mentally draining two weeks at a Grand Slam tournament, where every move of a player is scrutinised on a larger scale than you would get at lesser tournaments. It was no secret that Djokovic was desperate for that Olympic gold medal, especially at this stage of his career at the age of 29, where you could argue he had his best shot at winning a singles gold.
Djokovic’s superior return game should neutralise the serve of Janowicz when these meet in the night session in the Arthur Ashe arena. Janowicz has a serve to rival the very best in terms of pace, but he serves a second serve as if it is a first serve, so in turn lacks consistency. The World No.1 will force Janowicz to go for even more, because of the threat he poses on the return of serve.
Janowicz has just started his comeback to the tour, so Djokovic has to be the favourite to come through unscathed.
Prediction: Djokovic in four sets
Garbine Muguruza  vs Elise Mertens
The current French Open champion will have a new test in the shape of Belgian qualifier Mertens on Day 1 of the 2016 US Open. Mertens is a very good and promising young player that is starting to make serious strides on the WTA Tour. The 20-year-old has a fantastic forehand that becomes a potent weapon when her serve is finding it’s mark in the service box.
Mertens made her first WTA quarter-final in Rosmalen where she beat Eugenie Bouchard with the loss of just two games on the battered grass surface. Mertens has undeniable potential, but Muguruza can discover a few limitations to the Belgian’s game. The qualifier is pretty fearless and will attack the majority of the balls coming her way. The advantage that Muguruza has is that she strikes solid off both the forehand and the backhand, whereas Mertens backhand is limited in comparison to her bludgeoning forehand.
Mertens will be a name we hear more of in the coming years, but she has to adapt to the change of surfaces at the top level in order to make that swift transition from the ITF circuits to the WTA.
Muguruza’s familiarity with the bigger courts and the bigger stage will see her through this match, but I expect Mertens to show what she is made of in this battle.
Prediction: Muguruza in three sets
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