In a potentially intriguing encounter, 13th seed Diego Schwartzman from Argentina will face off against world #19 Kei Nishikori of Japan in the third round of the US Open. Schwartzman made the quarterfinals in New York last year and did the same at the French Open this May. He will surely hope to continue his good form against the experienced Nishikori, who was a finalist in New York in 2014 and long a top ten stalwart. But who will come out on top?
These two have met twice in the past, with both matches being contested on clay courts last season. Both matches also took fairly similar turns with Schwartzman taking a one set to love lead before being pegged back and then overrun by Nishikori in the second and third sets. In Buenos Aires last year, Nishikori won 5-7 6-2 6-2 in the second round. He then bested the Argentinian again a couple of months later at the Madrid Open, 1-6 6-0 6-4.
Path to the third round
Schwartzman began his 2018 US Open campaign with a comfortable victory over compatriot Federico Delbonis, who has never shown much aptitude for hard court tennis, winning 6-2 7-6 6-2. In the next round, he faced Spanish young gun Jaume Munar, the world #85, and though it was not one of his best performances, he was dominant throughout much of the match. He emerged a 6-2 6-0 5-7 6-2 victor.
Nishikori hasn’t had to spend a great deal of time on the court so far in New York. In his first match, he brushed aside the challenge of Germany’s Maximilian Marterer, who earlier this season reached the fourth round at the French Open, 6-2 6-2 6-3 in just over an hour and a half. That win set up a potentially difficult clash with former world #6 Gael Monfils. But the Frenchman was forced to retire with a wrist injury trailing 2-6 4-5.
How do they match up?
Schwartzman is one of the smallest players on the Tour, standing at just 5’7”. Thus will the 5’10” Nishikori be in the unusual position of having a significant size advantage over his opponent, though height, or rather the lack of it, has never seemed to hold back either player. The reason for that is that both men have proven themselves excellent technicians on the court, with the ability to hit winners from both forehand and backhand.
Nishikori's groundstrokes are particularly effective and his backhand is unquestionably amongst the best in the game. Both men do, however, struggle on serve, particularly when forced to resort to their second delivery. Though both have thus far posted respectable numbers from the line, with Nishikori winning a remarkable 91% of the points behind his second serve against Marterer, their serves will come under forensic scrutiny in this match. Expect a fair number of breaks.
This will be tight. Schwartzman has risen rapidly to prominence over the last few seasons and is a dangerous opponent for any player in the draw. So too, however, is Nishikori, whose relatively lowly ranking belies his quality. He has also been able to put together several deep runs at the Slams, including his breakthrough final appearance at this event four years ago. His greater experience and slight advantage off the ground should be enough for him to edge this one in four.