Azarenka-Muguruza headlines bumper Day 5 at US Open

  • Matt Trollope

Fans are in for a treat on Friday, because the US Open has unveiled an incredible schedule of play.

The third-round singles action is headlined by a blockbuster showdown between Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza, one of several exciting match-ups set for the various stadiums at Flushing Meadows.

These are the three clashes we’re most excited about.

[18] Victoria Azarenka v [9] Garbine Muguruza

Describing this match as worth of a Grand Slam final is hardly hyperbolic – the two women have appeared in a combined nine major finals, winning two each.

Three of Azarenka’s finals have come at the US Open, most recently in 2020. She is yet to win one, but is looking more impressive with every outing this week and owns more career match wins in New York than any other woman in the field.

“I know that it's going to be a very difficult match. She's a dangerous opponent, a Grand Slam champion, so (she) definitely knows what it takes to be on big stages, win big matches,” Azarenka said of Muguruza.

“But I love those kind of challenges. To win the titles, you need to beat the best players. That's what I'm looking forward to do is to play those big matches.”

"I love those kind of challenges. To win the titles, you need to beat the best players."
Victoria Azarenka on facing Garbine Muguruza

While Azarenka has flourished at Flushing Meadows, the US Open is the only major at which Muguruza has not progressed beyond the fourth round.

But after impressive straight-sets wins over Donna Vekic and Andrea Petkovic so far, the Spaniard is looking increasingly comfortable at the year’s final Grand Slam event.

"I'm so looking forward for those type of matches,” said Muguruza, who has split four career meetings with Azarenka and won their most recent clash in the 2020 Rome quarterfinals.

"I think that's the best, just to go out there and play with people that are top level.

"She's one of the best players out there.”

[3] Stefanos Tsitsipas v Carlos Alcaraz

Stretched to five sets against Andy Murray in the first round, Tsitsipas stepped up his game in his next match to dismiss Adrian Mannarino in four.

But he is yet to face someone as confident and free-swinging as Alcaraz, in what will be the pair’s first meeting.

The Spanish teenager continues to enjoy a terrific debut season of Grand Slam main-draw play, powering into the third round round in New York for the loss of only one set.

"I see him as a potential contender in the future for Grand Slam titles and other big events.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas on Carlos Alcaraz

His first win came in straight sets over in-form No.29 seed Cam Norrie, just a few days after Alcaraz appeared in the Winston-Salem semifinals.

His brutal forehand and explosive court speed should give Tsitsipas plenty to handle on a quick surface and at a tournament where the Greek has never truly shined.

“He's a young talent that has been doing very well recently,” Tsitsipas acknowledged. “I want to play the best of my game against him. I see him as a potential contender in the future for Grand Slam titles and other big events.”

Should Tsitsipas subdue his inexperienced opponent, it would be the first time he has reached the US Open’s second week.

[16] Angelique Kerber v Sloane Stephens

This clash, like Azarenka-Muguruza, is another that would not be out of place deep in a Grand Slam tournament.

Kerber, a three-time major winner, comes up against 2017 US Open champion Stephens, who has, interestingly, won their past five matches without dropping a set.

“I know what to expect against Sloane. We played so many matches. She's always a tricky opponent. She can play everything. I know that especially here, she is always playing her best tennis,” said Kerber, whose only win over the American came back in 2012.

In their most recent meeting at the 2018 WTA Finals, Sloane Stephens (L) beat Angelique Kerber (R) 6-3 6-3. (Getty Images)

“I'm really looking forward and I'm excited to play against her again.”

Despite her head-to-head dominance, Stephens is wary of what Kerber can produce, especially considering the German has recently returned to the top 20 after reaching semifinals at Wimbledon and Cincinnati and winning 16 of her past 18 matches.

“I look forward to playing her every time,” Stephens said. “We've had very competitive matches at big stages in my career.”

Stephens, like Kerber, is on the upswing, progressing to the last 32 at her third consecutive major.