Day 5 Preview: Del Potro Faces Verdasco, Nadal & Wawrinka Return
Juan Martin del Potro moving with ease to wallop one of his thunderous forehands is one of the most crowd-pleasing sights for a tennis fan and one of the most daunting prospects for the man across the net. Fit and healthy again, the Argentine has already put in two resounding performances – complete with ample thunderous forehands for the highlight reels – in his opening two matches at this year’s US Open.
The 2009 champion is sitting pretty at a career-high No. 3 in the ATP Rankings and judging by his early form at Flushing Meadows he is again firming as a serious title contender. On Friday, he meets Andy Murray’s conqueror, Fernando Verdasco, for a place in the fourth round.
On Wednesday, Verdasco, the No. 31 seed, posted his first win over Murray since the 2009 Australian Open – the site of his lone Grand Slam semi-final. The Argentine holds a 4-1 lead in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including their most recent clash in the semi-finals in Stockholm last year.
“Fernando is a really good player,” Del Potro said. “I don’t like to play against a lefty because they can mix it up all the time. They play different angles of the game. They make variations all the time. It’s not going to be easy for me.
“I will try to play even better than today. I also have a lot of fans who give me good energy to always try to keep winning. I will try to take that advantage.”
After a five-set defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Del Potro reached the hard-court final in Los Cabos, where he fell to Fabio Fognini. He was bidding for his third hard-court title of the season after consecutive victories in Acapulco and his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy in Indian Wells.
Top seed Nadal continues his title defence on Friday when he meets Russian Karen Khachanov for a place in the fourth round. The Spaniard is on a roll, having won 24 of his past 25 matches. He was completely dominant in his straight-sets triumph over former world No. 25 Vasek Pospisil on Wednesday. This will be the first day match of his campaign.
Khachanov, 22, has never taken a set off Nadal but played him close in the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto earlier this month. The Russian downed Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego to reach the US Open third round for the first time. He captured his second ATP World Tour title in Marseille, downing two Top 20 opponents in his final two matches to do so.
Returning to the site of his maiden Grand Slam final 12 months ago, fifth seed Kevin Anderson is steadily building momentum again in New York. The South African got his campaign back on track on Wednesday with a convincing victory over Jeremy Chardy, after struggling to put away Ryan Harrison in five sets in his opening match.
The New York Open champion, a runner-up at Wimbledon last month, will meet #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov for the first time for a place in the fourth round. Shapovalov did it the hard way, fighting back from two sets to one down against Italian Andreas Seppi to book his place. Twelve months ago, the 19-year-old took down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Arthur Ashe Stadium on his way to a maiden appearance in the fourth round at a Grand Slam.
In a battle of former World No. 3s, 25th seed Milos Raonic meets Stan Wawrinka for a place in the fourth round on Friday. The Canadian pushed eventual champion Novak Djokovic in a three-set quarter-final at the Western & Southern Open leading in. A resurgent Wawrinka is continuing his steady climb back from two knee surgeries.
After beating Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in back-to-back Grand Slam first rounds, the Swiss held off #NextGenATP Frenchman Ugo Humbert to reach the third round on Wednesday. Wawrinka leads the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1, although they haven’t played since Raonic’s five-set triumph in the Australian Open fourth round in 2016.
In a showdown between two of the most promising talents on the ATP World Tour, No. 20 seed Borna Coric will look to claim his third victory in four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. The Croatian won their first clash, in the round-robin stage of the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017, but Medvedev sprung the upset in the opening round at Wimbledon this year, after Coric had just won his first grass-court title in Halle, defeating Roger Federer in the final.
The Croatian gained revenge in the first round of the Western & Southern Open this month. Medvedev rebounded to win his second title of the season last week in Winston-Salem. He felled #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round.
Other Matches To Watch:
 Dominic Thiem vs. Taylor Fritz
 John Isner vs. Dusan Lajovic