Of the twelve American men who qualified, gained direct entry, or were granted a wildcard into the Australian Open men’s singles event, only two remain in the third round… and at least one of them—maybe both—wasn’t who most people predicted.
Sure, Sam Querrey has shown in the past that he can be competitive in big events but his tough second round matchup with the dangerous—if oft unmotivated—Ernests Gulbis didn’t exactly look favorable. Factor in Querrey’s string of injuries and bad luck over the past few years and you don’t exactly have a player who is inspiring tons of confidence at a Grand Slam event. Even so, he’s the 2nd ranked American so it’s not a total surprise.
In any case, I’m happy to see Sam looking dominant and playing great. His next match up against Fognini looks winnable, but Fognini is currently ranked 16th in the world. Last time I checked, the ATP isn’t just handing out top-twenty rankings, so Fognini is a good player, but I think Sam’s got a good shot. If he can pull that win out, his road will get much tougher as he’ll likely face Djokovic in the fourth round—assuming, of course, that Djokovic can dispatch Denis Istomin.
Donald Young, on the other hand, wasn’t even on my radar as a potential last-American-man-standing candidate. The story of his career has been a roller coaster ride that’s taken him from the youngest junior world number one ever and the future of American men’s tennis, to a journeyman pro and the poster boy for the United States’ shaky player development system. The fact that success as a junior doesn’t necessarily translate to success as a pro is no big news story, and it sure seems like the tennis world has moved on from Donald Young. Even so, here we are.
Young hasn’t had a particularly tough road so far and was especially benefited when his first round opponent retired at the beginning of the fourth set. His second round match against the seeded Andreas Seppi was much tougher, but Seppi’s game really isn’t dominating and lacks an outstanding weapon. Young’s next match is against Kei Nishikori and that will be a very tall order for the mercurial but talented American.
The American women, on the other hand are looking stronger with Williams, Davis, Riske, and Stephens all still alive. Tournament favorite Serena Williams will next face the 31 seed Daniela Hantuchova and based on Serena’s 8-1 career head-to-head advantage, she should roll right through. Riske and Davis both have tough matchups against Kerber and Bouchard respectively. I also expect Sloane Stephens to advance against 47th ranked Elina Svitolina, but assuming she does win, Sloane could set up a fourth round clash with world number 2 Victoria Azarenka.