SmashTalk: US Open reflections and predictions

Published by Tennismash

Novak Djokovic is a popular pick for the US Open men's title; Getty Images
Week 1 of the US Open is done. What’s been the biggest surprise? The best match? And what excitement looms in the second week? Our Tennismash team gives its thoughts.

We’re at the halfway point of the US Open, the perfect time to look back on the best matches and biggest surprises of Week 1.

At the same time, some pretty special match-ups loom in the second week and we are closer to finding out who will walk away with the men’s and women’s singles trophies next Sunday.

The Tennismash editorial team of Piers Newbery, Vivienne Christie, Matt Trollope and Leigh Rogers got together to discuss their thoughts on the tournament so far – and what might unfold in the coming days.

Biggest surprise of the first week?

Piers: I should have learned my lesson by now but I’m still surprised that only two of the top-10 women have made the quarters – and also by the lack of major gripes or stories around the shot-clock.

Viv: That Roger Federer has progressed to the fourth round for a 17th time without losing a set. We know he defies all age rules but at 37, and in his 18th US Open, the five-time champ is looking remarkably fresh.

Matt: Maria Sharapova advancing to the fourth round. After an underwhelming lead-up, she played terribly against Schnyder, struggling with a wrist injury and looking completely devoid of confidence. Yet she somehow survived and has improved with every match. If not Sharapova, then Dominic Thiem reaching the quarters – where did that come from?

Leigh: Sloane Stephens was the only top five-ranked woman to make the fourth round. World No.1 Simona Halep’s loss was particularly surprising given her impressive lead-in form.

Favourite match of the US Open so far?

Piers: It has to be De Minaur v Cilic, and the Aussie’s amazing fightback in the fifth set in front of a 2am crowd. About as New York as it gets.

Viv: I loved watching Alex de Minaur’s epic battle with Marin Cilic. Huge heart from both men, with an electric atmosphere to match. That there was so much support for the 19-year-old shows that as much as we love the old timers, tennis needs its exciting new names too.

Matt: Hard to go past Marin Cilic v Alex De Minaur. Incredible ball-striking from Cilic, stunning speed and fighting spirit shown by De Minaur, and a five-set, late-night finish before a charged crowd on Armstrong. The highlight reels keep coming.

Leigh: Alex De Minaur might not have won his late-finishing five-set battle against Marin Cilic, but the Australian earned a lot of respect for his fighting qualities. Cilic’s effort to recover from a two-set deficit should not be overlooked either.

The match you’re most looking forward to – and why?

Piers: Sabalenka v Osaka – a first meeting between two 20-year-olds with huge games and a real chance of winning the tournament.

Viv: The Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova quarterfinal will be a must-watch, given the Czech served up a win over the superstar to reach the final in 2016. First, though, I’m excited to see the first career meeting between Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka. Both 20-year-olds bring big momentum – Osaka winning three straight sets 6-0 and Sabalenka stunning No.5 seed Petra Kvitova to reach this stage at a Slam for the first time.

Matt: Serena Williams v Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova said she wanted to play Serena on Ashe again like she did two years ago, when she won their US Open semifinal. Talk about loving the big occasion! After Serena went on to beat Kanepi to make that match-up a reality, you can only imagine how fired up she will be for revenge. The stage is set.

Leigh: Aryna Sabalenka and Naomi Osaka should be interesting. Both are in super impressive form and the winner will be favoured to reach the semifinals in a wide-open bottom half of the women’s singles draw.

Who’ll win the men’s and women’s titles?

Piers: I’m narrowing it down to the winner of two potential match-ups – Federer v Djokovic and Serena v Stephens. And I’m going for Djokovic and Stephens.

Viv: The winner between Serena and Pliskova (my heart says Serena) will lift the women’s trophy. Djokovic is vulnerable, especially as Federer looms, but he’s still my pick for the men.

Matt: Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.

Leigh: Juan Martin del Potro and Sloane Stephens.

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