The picks from the US Open, day 5

FROM THE US OPEN — Serena and Venus Williams will face off in the third round at the US Open. That is pretty unusual, because over many years, they were ranked extremely high — such as No. 1 and No. 2 — so they would not meet until late — very late, in the final, or in the semis. 

But this time, their face-off is in the first week of the Grand Slam. Serena had a baby, and she returned in March, and she is ranked No. 26. Venus is ranked No. 16, and while the 38-year-old is aging, she still is a huge hitter.

Listen to Matt on US Open radio!

Many, many years ago, around 2002, I was asked to write a big newspaper piece, as to who would have more Grand Slams when they retire. I voted for Venus. I thought, she would improve her forehand, her second serve and her volley. She did, over the years. Still, Venus’ second serve is somewhat weak, and her forehand can be erratic.

But, Serena grew much better. She became faster, her serves are supersonic, she cracks her forehand and her backhand, and is focused all the time.

Today, Venus has won eight Grand Slams, while Serena has won 23 majors. Many of those victories were at her bigger sister’s expense.

When they retire, maybe in two years, Serena will likely be considered the best player ever, while Venus will be called a great champion. In general, though, both of them, Serena pushed a little harder, and employed a better strategy.

But on Friday, it should somewhat close. They have played 29 times, 17 wins for Serena and 12 for Venus. At the USO, in 2001, Venus whacked her 6-2, 6-4. But that was it in Flushing Meadows. In 2002, Serena beat her 6-4, 6-3. In 2008, Serena edged her 7-6(6), 7-6 (7), a wonderful contest. In 2015, Serena beat her again 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. 

On Friday, it will be close, too. They last time they played, when Serena returned at Indian Wells this year, Venus won 6-3, 6-4. As Venus said, she is just getting back on the court. That was correct, because Serena was pretty slow. However, now, she is getting faster and faster, which helped her reach the Wimbledon final.

So who wins? Venus looked pretty decent, upending Sveta Kuznetsova and Camila Giorgi, while Serena won easily, smoking her serves. Perhaps Venus will club her backhands and her 120-mph first serve and win it, but Serena is just too strong, and she will win in three tough sets. 
 
Men’s picks
Here is a terrific match, with Stan Wawrinka versus Milos Raonic. The Swiss is rising, while the Canadian is battling. There should be tremendous rallies, back and fourth, side-to-side and swinging away. The former USO champ Wawrinka will win in four sets.

Juan Martin del Potro will be able to attach Fernando Verdasco’s backhand, but the Spaniard is forceful. It sounds like a five-setter, and the Argentine will win it with his heavy forehand.

 

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