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. Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
From the outset, Serena dominated Daniela Hantuchova, overpowering her with relentless groundstrokes. Serena has still yet to drop a set in this tournament and is definitely the clear favorite to repeat as champion. There is only one person who can stop Serena, and that is herself!
Pennetta faced six match points against Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round, but she was able to fight off each one and take the match in three hard-fought sets. Pennetta has been playing some of the best tennis on the WTA Tour over the last couple of months and is full of confidence. This is the second consecutive year she has reached the quarters of the US Open and she is looking to reach the semis of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Serena is 1-0 against Pennetta, with that win coming last year in Miami. Pennetta is fun to watch, very competitive (what a contrast to the Italian men!), and has excellent groundstrokes. She has great footwork and can turn a defensive shot into an offensive one very quickly. She isn't afraid to come in and will not roll over in this match just because she is playing on a big stage. Serena has to continue serving well, she must remain on the baseline and come in whenever she can to hit that big swinging volley. Serena will not take Pennetta lightly as she understands how well the Italian has been playing. Don't be surprised to see this match go three sets, but in the end I have to give the edge to Serena.
Nick's Pick - S. Williams in 3 sets
Na Li (CHN) vs. Kim Clijsters (BEL)
Li beat Francesca Schiavone and is really on a roll right now. She has demonstrated in the past that she is capable of competing with anyone when she is playing well, she just hasn't been able to do it consistently. This is her first appearance in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since the 2006 US Open.
Clijsters knocked out Venus Williams in three sets in the fourth round and her great story continues. After taking the last two and a half years off it is amazing to see her comeback and jump right into the action immediately! She is the first wild card entrant to reach the quarterfinals of the US Open and it is absolutely fantastic to watch her play again.
Clijsters is 3-1 against Li, so these two know each other's games extremely well. Li has excellent groundstrokes, good footwork, and a solid serve. She plays with a lot of passion and will not give anything away easily. Clijsters displayed some of her greatness against Venus, but can she keep it up now that we are into the second week of the US Open? Remember, Clijsters hasn't done this in a long time and it will be interesting to see if her intensity and her fitness can hold up. Can she continue to play as offensively as she did against Venus? Well, she better, otherwise Li will jump all over her. Clijsters must control play and keep Li on the move, like she did against Venus, to win this match. I really think the longer this match goes the more it favors Li. I look for Clijsters to win this in two, but if it goes three, watch out!
Nick's Pick - Clijsters in 2 sets
Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Oudin continues to be the biggest story in the US Open. The American fans are entranced every time she plays and her spunk on the court is contagious. She has beaten three seeded Russian women in this tournament and each time she has lost the opening set. She is the youngest American to reach the quarters since Serena Williams in 1999.
Wozniacki hung tough against Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round and was able to win the last two sets in tiebreakers. This is the first time she has reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, and something tells me this won't be her last. At the age of 19, she is one of the top young players on the tour and she has demonstrated that she is capable of hanging with anyone.
This is the first career meeting between these two youngsters and it promises to be very exciting. Oudin has had a magical run, and having to comeback three times against higher ranked players may eventually take a toll on her. Wozniacki, like Oudin, plays with no fear, has powerful groundstrokes, and covers the court extremely well. Both girls are fiery and bring plenty of competitiveness to the court. Now that Oudin has beaten three higher-ranked players, the pressure is going to be on her to continue to do so. How will she handle that in front of the New York fans? That will be one of the story lines to follow throughout this match. As much as I would love to see Oudin win and continue her great run, you have to be realistic here. Wozniacki is a little older, has more experience, and her game is top-notch. I have to give the edge to Wozniacki, but if Oudin wins I will be thrilled!
Nick's Pick - Wozniacki in 3 sets
Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) vs. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
Bondarenko did something you hardly ever see in the fourth round of a Grand Slam: she double-bageled her opponent Gisela Dulko. Perhaps it was a bit of revenge as Dulko beat her older sister, Alona, earlier in the tournament. This is her first appearance in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, and in fact she had never been past the third round of any Grand Slam before this one.
It took Wickmayer three sets to beat Petra Kvitova in the fourth round and she is into the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. Wickmayer came into the tournament ranked #50 in the world and at the age of 19 she is a budding young star. This is the first time she has ever been past the second round of any Grand Slam tournament!
Bondarenko is 2-1 against Wickmayer and just beat her a couple of weeks ago in Toronto. Both girls are big hitters and move well. Bondarenko is very quick out there and hits the ball really excellent from both sides. Wickmayer is a little taller than Bondarenko and probably hits with more power than her opponent. This match could really go either way, and it is going to come down to who makes fewer unforced errors and takes advantage of their opportunities. If Wickmayer wants to win this match she needs to get it over quickly, because the longer it goes the more it favors Bondarenko.
Nick's Pick - Wickmayer in 2 sets, Bondarenko in 3