US Open Popcorn Matches: Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz facing intriguing tests
The US Open action rumbles on into Day Five on Friday, with Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz among those in action.
Here are a selection of the popcorn matches you won’t want to miss.
Jenson Brooksby v Carlos Alcaraz
It is definitely a case of when Carlos Alcaraz wins a major, not if, and you sense that once he starts winning them he might not actually stop.
He will face a really interesting test against Jenson Brooksby in this one. The American is brilliantly unorthodox and has an ability to get under an opponent’s skin.
That will test both the temperament and problem-solving skills of Alcaraz, so we should learn a little something about the teenager either way.
Richard Gasquet v Rafael Nadal
Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal have been playing against each other for literally two decades now, and the Spaniard has won every one of their 17 previous matches.
There will be few who believe Nadal won’t extend that perfect record here, but that doesn’t mean there is not intrigue within this match-up.
Nadal has not looked quite right this tournament, and he is noticeably trying to take a bit of pace off his serve. That was largely responsible for his awful start in his second-round match against Fabio Fognini, and it is leading to specualtion that his abdomen injury may not yet be completely healed.
The simple fact is that Nadal will have to significantly raise his level if he is to win this tournament, so everyone will be keen to see whether he can do that in this one.
Garbine Muguruza v Petra Kvitova
When two major winners meet as early as the third round at a Grand Slam, it is always an unexpected treat.
You could say that both Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova have seen better days in their careers, but both are still easily capable of reigniting their fortunes.
Both will be considering themselves genuine contenders for the US Open title too – and seeing each other as a springboard from which to achieve it.
Denis Shapovalov v Andrey Rublev
If this match was being played twelve months ago, you would have assumed Andrey Rublev was the favourite and not given it much of a second thought.
The Russian is having a tough year by his standards, though, and has seen his usual consistency abandon him during the US hardcourt swing.
To be fair, Denis Shapovalov is the master of inconsistency on the ATP Tour and he arrived in New York in even worse form.
That said, we are talking about two of the most talented players on the ATP Tour, so it will be intriguing to see which one can come out on top here.
Yue Yuan v Jessica Pegula
If there is one serious dark horse in the US Open the women’s draw then it is probably Jessica Pegula.
The American has been in brilliant form lately and she will be backed by a partisan New York crowd looking for a new home favourite after the retirement of Serena Williams.
She should have more than enough to take out world number 142 Yue Yang, although it will be very interesting to see how she responds to the pressure of expectation in the biggest stadium in tennis.
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