NEW YORK, NY, USA - The Round of 16 concludes on Labor Day Monday, as World No.1 Karolina Pliskova, No.4 Elina Svitolina, and two young Americans take the court in search for a quarterfinal appearance at the US Open.
The Insider Team recaps the Round of 16 action from Day 7 and previews Day 8 on the new episode of the US Open Daily Dispatch.
Here's what's on the slate for Labor Day Monday:
No.1 Karolina Pliskova vs. Jennifer Brady (first meeting)
Karolina Pliskova once again takes the court with the No.1 ranking on the line, as she has to make the final in order to retain her No.1 ranking. Pliskova has made no bones about it: she has not played anything close to her best over the first week, having to save match point against Zhang Shuai in the third round and edging out Nicole Gibbs in the third set in the second round.
"I think I'm playing in quite big waves this tournament so far," Pliskova said after her third round win. "So I think sometimes I think I play good shots, good rallies, and then there are hundreds of mistakes and not a good shot."
Despite her struggles, she's winning, and her US Open run so far recalls her run to the semifinal of the French Open earlier this year. Just as in New York, Pliskova struggled mightily against a series of lower ranked opposition, yet scrapped and clawed her way to the semifinals, where she played her best match against Simona Halep.
Pliskova takes on No.91 Jennifer Brady, big serving American who nearly knocked out Kristina Mladenovic at the French Open and took Maria Sharapova to three sets earlier this summer. Brady has had a phenomenal tournament, beating Andrea Petkovic, Barbora Strycova, and Monica Niculescu to make her second Round of 16 at a Slam this year.
In an odd statistical quirk, all of Brady's tour-level main draw wins this season have come at the Slams. Brady is 7-3 in her career at the Slams, while just 2-11 at WTA tour events. The soft-spoken American finds a way to bring her best at the majors, but to pull off the upset over Pliskova she'll have to do what the Czech's last two opponents failed to: shake off the nerves when trying to close out a No.1. Gibbs and Zhang both felt and succumbed to the occasion and the moment. Brady will try and write a different ending to the script.
No.4 Elina Svitolina vs. No.15 Madison Keys (Keys leads 1-0)
Like Pliskova, Svitolina once again plays a match to keep her No.1 hopes alive, as she needs to make the semifinals to have a chance at the No.1 ranking -- and if she plays Pliskova in that semifinal, that match will determine the No.1 ranking. The difference for Svitolina is that she's been able to play her tournament with the external pressure and expectation that follows Pliskova. Her run through the first week, in which she dropped one set, has been a good one.
The question for Keys is how well she can get past an, at times, shakey performance against Elena Vesnina in the third round. The American needed nearly two hours to get past the error-prone Russian, winning 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a late night match that ended at 1:45am. Svitolina is precisely the type of opponent that unwinds Keys' powerful game, as the speedy Ukrainian can absorb and redirect her pace and force her to hit extra ball after extra ball.
No.20 CoCo Vandeweghe vs. Lucie Safarova (Safarova leads 3-1)
CoCo Vandeweghe was born in New York and she was born for the New York stage. The 25-year-old American has flourished in her outings on Arthur Ashe Stadium, most notably getting a big win over a player who has tormented in the past, beating Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in 2 hours and 46 minutes in the third round.
Vandeweghe will have to upend another unfavorable head-to-head against a veteran player in Lucie Safarova. Vandeweghe is 1-3 against the Czech, who has won their last meetings, including a three-set win earlier this year in Indian Wells. Safarova upended a powerful opening round opponent in Anett Kontaveit and has taken advantage of a broken draw since then, beating Nao Hibino and Kurumi Nara with relative ease. A win here would put Vandeweghe into her second major quarterfinal of the season.
Daria Kasatkina vs. Kaia Kanepi (first tour-level meeting)
The only non-seeded Round of 16 of the day also happens to be the most intriguing. Just two years ago, 20-year-Kasatkina played her first main draw match at a Slam here in New York, into the draw as a lucky loser. Now she's made her first Round of 16 at a Slam and will face off against a five-time Slam quarterfinalist for a shot at the quarterfinals.
Kaia Kanepi, sidelined for months battling injury and illness, has always been a fickle talent on the tour. Gifted with a powerful game that could win on any given day, the 32-year-old Estonian had to battle her way through qualifying to make the US Open main draw and will now face a woman 12 years her junior. For Kasatkina, her win over Jelena Ostapenko in the third round should serve as good preparation for the power she'll see from Kanepi, and the contrast in styles should be incredibly compelling.