NEW YORK – For the first time during this U.S. Open, the weather may actually come into play.
One thing is certain: it's hot, and humid, and sticky. So even if rain doesn't perturb play too much, the other conditions are going to be a factor – perhaps even more than they were earlier in the week when there were many instances of cramping.
Given that, there are some third-round matchups on the men's side that have the potential to be marathons, and the conditions will play an additional role. The women are into the round of 16.
MATCHES TO WATCH - MEN
Two completely different body types and temperaments here, but a similar approach to winning tennis matches. Neither is blessed with top-level size or power; they more than compensate with tireless legs, impressive will, great returns and great defensive skills.
That said, Simon has definitely stepped it up on the "trying to hit winners" front so far in this tournament. Ferrer hasn't played enough to truly assess his game. His first round was a fairly routine four-set win over Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia. And he received a walkover in the second round when scheduled opponent Blaz Kavcic injured his foot – as it happens, during a practice session with Roger Federer.
Surprisingly, Ferrer is up 5-1 in their head-to-head. Three of the wins were on clay; the only match that is close to a direct comparison came in 2011 in Cincinnati, one of the warmup events to the U.S. Open. Simon won that one, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4.
These two could light up Louis Armstrong Stadium late today – weather permitting. Just three months apart in age, the two are part of a pretty good French generation that also includes Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Monfils leads their head-to-head 6-4; five of those were played in France. Both are so flashy in their own way; Gasquet pretty much lets his game do the talking, although he has become more demonstrative on court in recent years. His one-handed backhand is among the gold standard strokes in that category.
As for Monfils, well, there are sure to be a few highlight-reel shots. That happens every match.
The two were were complimentary to each other in the French media in anticipation of this one:
Gasquet on Monfils: "He has a difficult game. he doesn't make mistakes. He serves hard. His ranking isn't up to his level of play – he should be top 10, with the game he has."
Monfils on Gasquet: "Given our styles of play, we have the type of games where we like playing against each other. Often it rides on who is more aggressive, who goes for a little more. We all know that Richard can do everything on a tennis court. And he's a lot stronger mentally than people think."
MATCHES TO WATCH - WOMEN
This is the only matchup in this section of the draw that actually went according to plan, in terms of players making their seeding.
Both players have been world No. 1, although Sharapova's credentials include the multiple Grand Slam titles that Wozniacki is still searching for.
Sharapova leads their head-to-head 5-2; Wozniacki defeated her at the U.S. Open in 2010. Sharapova has had her issues this year, although winning the French Open hardly ranks among them. She's had some slow starts in hard-court matches this summer and since that French Open win, has lost to Angelique Kerber, Carla Suárez Navarro and Ana Ivanovic (in an absolutely nutty match in Cincinnati that was women's tennis drama personified).
For her part, Wozniacki has weathered the breakup of her rather public relationship and engagement to golf superstar Rory McIlroy with grace and determination. She's never looked fitter, and she's playing some pretty good tennis.
When the Sunday schedule came out, there was some head-scratching at the relative lack of star power for the night session. But the Sunday night session on Labor Day weekend at the U.S. Open, once CBS signs off, has always been a bit of an afterthought. Up until a few years ago, it wasn't even televised.
That said, you'd think tennis purists would be happy that even if there is no Federer or Serena, there are a couple of matchups that are intriguing, tennis-wise, and offer a glimpse into the future. The men's match is No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov against David Goffin. The women's match features No. 9 Jelena Jankovic – who LOVES the U.S. Open – against up-and-coming Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
Bencic, a player more in the mold of countrywoman Martina Hingis than, say, Sharapova, has all kinds of talent of the less-obvious kind. And in a way, Jankovic is a similar type of player – a beautiful mover, able to change the direction of the ball and direct it down the line, and with skills that are highly underrated.
Jankovic is already 29; Bencic is just 17, and upset No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber in the second round. She said in her press conference after the win over Kerber that Jankovic was a player she looked up to.
WEATHER FORECAST (from weather.com)
The sun was peeking out some as play got under way, adding to the already oppressive humidity. And when it's that bad, it HAS to break some time.
Here's what's in store later in the day.
- Sports & Recreation
- Gilles Simon
- David Ferrer
- Richard Gasquet