World #7 Elina Svitolina, for all her unquestionable quality, is yet to deliver on the biggest stage and has just two Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances to her name. A deep run in New York would thus be particularly welcome and she faces world #52 Wang Qiang on in the third round. Wang has only made it to this stage of a Grand Slam once before - earlier this year at Roland Garros - and she will be eager to make it a career-best showing with a victory against the Ukrainian. Who will advance?
These two have played one another on two previous occasions, both of which were on a hard court, both of which were in the last 18 months and both of which Svitolina won. However, neither were comfortable victories as she was taken to a deciding set both times. The first of these, at the Indian Wells Masters last year, she won in a final set tiebreak before winning 6-1 5-7 6-2 on her way to the title in Dubai earlier this year.
Path to the third round
Svitolina started off her US Open with a minor scare when local hope Sachia Vickery took the second set off her 6-1, but she recovered to advance through to the second round with a 6-3 1-6 6-1 victory. In the second round, she faced the net-rushing Tatjana Maria of Germany, who beat her in the first round at Wimbledon in July. But in New York, Svitolina was untroubled and advanced a deserved 6-2 6-3 victor.
Wang kicked off her tournament in impressive fashion, disposing of the 31st seed Magdalena Rybarikova, last year a semifinalist at Wimbledon and this year a finalist at the Birmingham Classic (lost to Kvitova), 6-2 6-2. That win set up a second-round clash with world #59 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania and Wang delivered another impressive performance. She won 6-3 6-1 in a little over an hour to reach the third round at the US Open for the first time.
How do they match up?
Svitolina is a good all-round player, boasting no dominant strengths but equally no glaring weaknesses. She is strong on both wings and has the power to hit through opponents without being able to match the Tour's biggest hitters. Her backhand is probably her best shot, but she also hits the inside-out forehand particularly well. Svitolina is also amongst the better movers in the sport and defends well even under heavy pressure.
Expect both players to cover plenty of distance in this match, with Wang at least Svitolina's equal in that department. Her offensive game has improved in recent years as well though she is unlikely to beat the Ukrainian in a slugging-match from the back of the court. But with both such accomplished defenders, it may well prove to be consistency that is key. Unforced errors are likely to have a greater bearing on the outcome of this match than winners.
With Wang playing some high quality tennis coming into this match, Svitolina will need to be on her game to avoid being upset. Wang has already taken out one seeded player so far at this event, and Svitolina has made a habit of being knocked out around this stage of Grand Slams in the past. Having said that, she should be able to get over the line here, albeit narrowly. Expect the seventh seed to prevail in three sets.