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Three to See, US Open Day 6: Pegula vs. Svitolina; Sinner vs. Wawrinka; Alcaraz vs. Evans
Before each day's play, we'll preview three must-see matches.
Published Sep 02, 2023
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Jessica Pegula vs. Elina Svitolina
The third round is when seeds begin to collide with seeds, and things begin to get real for the title hopefuls. Both of these women qualify as the latter. Pegula is the third seed, while Svitolina is coming off a semifinal run at Wimbledon that has likely raised her expectations for what she can achieve. Each woman will be motivated by patriotic causes: Pegula to win her home Slam, Svitolina to win for her war-torn country, Ukraine.
They’ve played four times, and Pegula has won three of those matches, including their most recent, in Washington, D.C., earlier this summer. That was a tough three-setter, though, that Svitolina was in until the end. Despite the difference in their seedings right now, there’s not much that separates these two on the court. Neither are power players, and neither has a knockout serve, but they aren’t purely wallboards either. Each hits solid forehands and two-handed backhands and relies on depth and steadiness rather than pace to win them points. Svitolina is probably the better mover, and Pegula the stronger hitter.
It should be hard-fought, and close. Will Pegula’s recent summer momentum carry her through, or will the fact that Svitolina came back from a set down to win her last match help her mentally in this one? Winner: Pegula
Jannik Sinner vs. Stan Wawrinka
Just two guys who are slowly rising up the rankings, right? The only slight difference is that one of them is 21, and the other is 38.
Each is attempting something equally difficult in different ways. Sinner is trying to make the final push into the Top 5, and into Grand Slam title contention. Wawrinka, after multiple surgeries, is trying to make himself competitive with opponents 10 years or more his junior. Both are getting there. This summer Sinner made his first Slam semi, at Wimbledon, and won a Masters 1000 title in Toronto. Wawrinka, for his part, reached the final in Umag, blazed past Frances Tiafoe in Cincy, and cracked the Top 50 again.
The Italian and the Swiss have played five times, and Sinner has won three. The difference between them has slowly grown in Sinner’s favor; they’ve played twice in 2023, in Rotterdam and Indian Wells, and Sinner won 6-1, 6-4, and 6-1, 6-3.
But Stan is a different man now than he was then. Sinner, who may be thinking ahead to a rematch of his 2022 quarterfinal classic with Carlos Alcaraz, is the favorite. He’s also the more reliable performer right now; Wawrinka has his good days and his bad days, as many 38-year-olds will. Stan’s got a shot if it’s a good day, but I’ll play the percentages here. Winner: Sinner
Carlos Alcaraz vs. Daniel Evans
What, if anything, bothers Alcaraz, and can Evans create any of it in this third-round match? The head-to head evidence says no: Alcaraz is 2-0 against the Brit, and neither match has been close.
But Evans does have an unusual game, one that you might think Alcaraz would need some time to adjust to. He has a one-handed backhand that he can float with no pace or use to come forward. He’s skilled around the net and likes being there. And he’s not going to try to slug it out from the baseline. In other words, he’s not a worse version of Alcaraz. Evans has ways to disrupt him.
The question may be: Can Evans stay with him long enough to do that? Alcaraz’s most recent losses have come to two of the ATP’s best athletes, Novak Djokovic and Tommy Paul. Both of those guys can run and hit, create and defend, with Alcaraz. It would take a special effort for the unprepossessing Evans to do the same for three sets. But he might make it interesting while he tries. Winner: Alcaraz