World #2 Caroline Wozniacki, twice a runner-up in New York, will continue her challenge for a maiden US Open title when she takes on Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the second round at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Wozniacki finally ended her Major-title drought in Melbourne, but has since struggled to replicate the form that took her to that title. But will Tsurenko be able to upset a second Grand Slam champion in as many tournaments or will the Dane be too strong?
Wozniacki and Tsurenko have met just once previously, which is perhaps surprising considering the amount of time that they have both spent competing at the highest level. That previous clash also came at Grand Slam-level when they met in the third round at Melbourne Park in 2013. Wozniacki won it fairly comfortably, dispatching the Ukrainian 6-4 6-3, but lost in the last 16 to Svetlana Kuznetsova in a three-set thriller.
Path to the second round
Wozniacki endured a difficult start to the North American hard court swing, losing in the second round in Montreal to Aryna Sabalenka in three before retiring from her first outing in Cincinnati. Her mood may not have been improved upon learning her first-round opponent would be 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur. But Stosur is not the player she was in 2011, and Wozniacki emerged a comfortable 6-3 6-2 winner.
Tsurenko was forced to retire from her first hard court match of the summer in Montreal, but rebounded with an impressive run to the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, beating former-French Open and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza en route. However, in the last eight she was beaten handily by Halep. Nonetheless it was surely a confidence building run for the Ukrainian and she took that positivity into her first-round clash with Alison Van Uytvanck who she dismissed 6-3 6-2.
How do they match up?
Neither Wozniacki nor Tsurenko is particularly inclined towards aggressive tennis. Wozniacki has no need to go on the attack, for she is amongst the best defensive players in the game. She excels at soaking up pressure and remaining in the point, often forcing opponents to go close to the line and miss as a result. But she has shown greater confidence in her ability to strike first in recent years, particularly off the forehand side, which was once a real weakness.
She hit that shot with impressive accuracy against Stosur and the Australian was caught out by it more than once. Tsurenko tends to impart a fair amount of spin to her forehand, which should serve her well in New York this year with the courts bouncing higher than most hard courts. But it is her backhand that is her major weapon. She is confident drilling it down the line and that shot often rewards her. But she will need to hit it well to find a way through Wozniacki.
Tsurenko has the quality to make this complicated for Wozniacki. But the world #2 enjoys playing in Flushing Meadows and has five times made it to the semifinals or better. She also looked confident and sharp against Stosur, and her performance in that match was one of her best of recent months. If she can find that level again, and there seems little reason to suspect that she won’t, she should have enough to get past Tsurenko in straight sets.