NEW YORK, NY, USA - Angelique Kerber continues her quest for No.1 as the bottom half of the draw contests its third-round matches in New York on Friday. Chris Oddo previews a busy schedule at wtaennis.com.
Friday, Third Round
Angelique Kerber will bid for her 50th win of the season against a 17-year-old fan favorite that relishes the big stage. That 17-year-old would be Catherine Bellis, a diminutive Northern Californian with a surprisingly big game. Bellis came through in three sets on Wednesday, defeating Shelby Rogers to reach the third round at the Open for the first time. Bellis famously became the youngest player to win a match at the US Open since 1996 when she defeated Dominika Cibulkova as a 15-year-old two years ago. On Friday her challenge will be even greater. Bellis will face No.2-ranked Angelique Kerber, a player very much in form and in her prime, and the American knows she's in for a tough test. Kerber is in the hunt for the No.1 ranking and will bid to reach the second week at the US Open for the fourth time, and first time since 2013. "She's No.2 in the world obviously and an amazing player," Bellis said of the German. "It will be a lot of fun for me." Kerber, who leads the tour in wins, hardcourt wins and Top 10 wins this season, will do her best to ensure that the youngster doesn't have too much fun.
Pick: Kerber in two
What has Petra Kvitova been up to on her off days at the US Open? Oh, just not practicing. It may sound strange, but it's true. The Czech says she has been doing everything she can to avoid the stress of the big city, so she passes on the New York City commute on her off days and instead practices on the day of her matches only. "I didn't practice yesterday," Kvitova told WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen on Wednesday after her straight-sets win over Cagla Buyukakcay. "I had a day off, so I didn't come on-site. So that's a new tradition I think from last year." Kvitova says she instead does fitness off-site and spends the time saved luxuriating with a coffee in Manhattan. The Czech will hope the new routine leaves her rested and ready for her second meeting in less than a month with Elina Svitolina. Kvitova pummeled the Ukrainian 6-2, 6-0 at the Rio Olympics. The No.22-seed has needed three sets in each of her first two matches in New York.
Pick: Kvitova in two
After Garbiñe Muguruza's sudden departure from the draw on Wednesday, 21-year-old Madison Keys is the highest-seeded player remaining in her quarter of the draw. Will she take advantage of the opportunity? To do so she'll have to get by the young, powerful Naomi Osaka of Japan in a first-time meeting. Osaka has yet to fail to reach the third round in all three of her career Grand Slam appearances, but has yet to go beyond. To do so at the Open, she'll have to upend a blossoming star on her home soil. Keys trounced 16-year-old Kayla Day, 6-1, 6-1 on Wednesday, but the American knows her next test could be a tricky one. "She's an aggressive player," Keys said of Osaka. "She's been playing well. She's steadily been moving up the rankings. She's going to be a tough opponent."
Pick: Keys in three
Johanna Konta barely survived a harrowing struggle on Day 3, but the top Brit lives to see another day in New York. Konta wilted in the heat and collapsed to the court during her second-round encounter with Tsvetana Pironkova, and was immediately treated by medical staff. Remarkably, the 25-year-old made a stunning return to form to complete her victory over the Bulgarian. It took courage and resilience for Konta to continue; now she's hoping for a strong recovery before she meets Belinda Bencic on Friday "We push our bodies to the limits... I definitely hit, you know, one of my limits," Konta said, before adding: "I feel very fortunate that I have one more chance to play here, to give my best again." Bencic had a much simpler second-round match. She emphatically moved past Andrea Petkovic in straight sets to reach the third round in Queens for the third consecutive year.
Pick: Konta in three
By the Numbers...
3 - Players with a shot at the No.1 ranking at the end of the US Open (Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska).
20-13 - Roberta Vinci's US Open record. The Italian was 12-12 at New York through 2014.
1 - Number of players in Top 10 to have yet to play in a Grand Slam final (Madison Keys).