Nick's Picks is back for the US Open and we are in New York City for the entire tournament to provide live coverage! Once again, we've partnered with Tennis Week for even more coverage and you can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr!
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK)
Serena really had to fight to beat Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the third round. Martinez Sanchez is one of the very few serve-and-volley players on the women's tour, and I think that style threw Serena off for a bit. She looks extremely confident out on the court right now, and you have to think she is the favorite to repeat as champion.
Hantuchova knocked off American Vania King in straight sets and is into the fourth round of the US Open for the first time since 2002. She has spent a lot of time at the Academy over the years and is one of my absolute favorites to work with. You won't meet a nice person off the court than Daniela Hantuchova!
Serena is 7-1 against Hantuchova and beat her in the fourth round of Wimbledon earlier this year. Hantuchova is a veteran and has been in this position numerous times. She conducts herself beautifully on the court and off, and has some of the most consistent, well-placed groundstrokes of anyone on the WTA tour. She is also a very good doubles player with a solid return of serve, a respectable serve of her own, and she isn't hesitant to come in when needed. I look for Serena to take the ball early and be relentless with her powerful groundstrokes. However, Serena must be patient and not start over-hitting, because that is when she gets into trouble. She must keep Hantuchova on the move, hitting behind her and down the line whenever possible. I believe the physical power of Serena will eventually wear Hantuchova down and I look for the American to advance.
Nick's Pick - S. Williams in 2 sets
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) vs. Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
Zvonareva advanced with a straight-set win over Elena Vesnina in the third round and is into the fourth round for the first time since 2004. Zvonareva has had a couple of injuries this year that have kept her off the court, but she is looking healthy once again and she has demonstrated in the past that when healthy she can beat anybody.
Pennetta has had a very good summer and comes into the tournament ranked a career high of #10 in the world. She has captured two titles already this year - Los Angeles and Palermo - and has been to at least the semis of five other events. Last year she reached the quarters here and that is her best result at any Grand Slam thus far in her career.
Zvonareva and Pennetta have met twice with each girl winning a match. They just met a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles and Penneta won that in straight sets. Pennetta is a fighter, she moves well, has good groundies (especially on the backhand side) and is playing the best tennis of her career right now. Zvonareva is confident as well and her movement is some of the best I have ever seen in my career. She doesn't make many mistakes on the court, has a good serve, and has an excellent return of serve. This is going to be one heck of a match because these two just met and are familiar with each other's games. Neither one will go down easily and this is a tough one to call. I am going to have to give a slight edge to Zvonareva, but don't count Pennetta out.
Nick's Pick - Zvonareva in 3 sets
Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Nadia Petrova (RUS)
Oudin came up with her second-straight huge upset, this time she beat 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in three sets. She has now taken down three top-ten players after losing the first set this summer: Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva, and Sharapova. She is becoming a huge crowd favorite with her flair for the dramatics and it is also great to see a young American knock play so well!
There isn't much talk about Petrova, but she is one of these girls that can definitely hang with anyone. She beat Jie Zheng in straight sets in the third round and is looking to get back to the quarters for the first time since 2005.
This is the first career meeting between Petrova and Oudin, and it gives Oudin the chance to knock-out her third straight seeded Russian! Petrova is a very strong woman who reminds me of a great warrior. She is a fierce competitor who doesn't make too many mistakes on the court. She has great groundstrokes from both sides and a good serve. Unlike Sharapova, Petrova will not give Oudin a free set just on double faults. Oudin is going to have to work harder than she did in her last match to beat Petrova. At the same time, Oudin is on a roll and doesn't fear anyone. She has very solid groundies and her movement is excellent. Her ability to compete and stay in there during the big points is what has really impressed me. She is great for the sport, especially in the USA. For Petrova to win, she will have to get this match over quickly in two sets. The longer it goes the more it favors Oudin. With the way Oudin is fighting out there, I am going to give her a slight edge in three sets.
Nick's Pick - Oudin in 3 sets
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Since winning this tournament back in 2004, Kuznetsova has had mixed results. She lost in the first round in 2005, the fourth round in 2006, went to the finals in 2007 and fell in the third round last year. The lack of consistency in the Grand Slam tournaments has hurt her over the years, but along with the Williams' sisters she has to be considered on the favorites here.
Wozniacki has never been to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, but is definitely one of the best young players on the tour. She has all the tools necessary to one day be a Grand Slam champion, I just don't know if she is ready just yet. She had a relatively easy win over a tough opponent, Sorana Cirstea, in the third round and looks as confident as ever on the court.
Kuznetsova is 2-1 against Wozniacki and beat her earlier this year in the quarterfinals at Miami. Kuznetsova's groundstrokes are absolutely fantastic. She hits them with plenty of depth and they really keep her opponents on the defensive. She has a powerful foundation and is as strong as anyone. She doesn't make too many unforced errors and when she gets her first serve in, she is extremely dangerous. Her biggest weakness is her mental strength, but she proved earlier this year that she is still capable of winning Grand Slams. Wozniacki gets so much power out of her frame and really covers the court well. She is going to have to take some chances in this match and put some pressure on Kuznetsova whenever possible. I look for Wozniacki to stretch this to three sets, but in the end, Kuznetsova's strength will be the determining factor.
Nick's Pick - Kuznetsova in 3 sets